Following Your Members’ Footsteps

The path your members take when they interact with your association provides valuable information about what they want from you. At #ASAE17 this week, two sessions honed in on the value of giving your members room to move while paying close attention to their footsteps.

I’m returning today from my first ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, and boy do I wish I had had a FitBit. My guess is that my step count each day in Toronto exceeded what many fitness junkies try to hit daily—20,000 steps. The marathon that is #ASAE17 was exhilarating, exciting, and, yes, inspiring. But looking back on it, a fitness tracker might have been helpful to document the experience.

Two sessions on two completely different topics—an emerging technology (beacon sensors) and a members-choose membership model—got me thinking about the value of member footsteps and actions.

This type of behavioral data, whether it’s heat map data tracked inside a conference hall or email click-throughs on a new-member offer, can tell you a lot about your members’ mindset and mood.

At a session on Monday, Brian Scott, chief information officer with Experient, and colleague Valerie Cox, manager of business analysis, gave an overview on rapidly growing tracking technologies for events.

Beacons and tracking devices are quickly becoming the go-to tool for event planners, and the data that these devices produce can be even more beneficial when married up to an association management system.

About half of the attendees in the room raised their hand when asked if they use either trackers, scanners, or sensors at meetings and events. While this technology may seem personally intrusive, only about 1 percent of registrants opt out of being tracked, Scott said.

In the age of Google, Facebook, and wearable devices, the key is transparency. “In the registration process, there should be a clear explanation and definition for what the technology is and how the data will be kept private,” he said.

Identifying Blue-Shoe Members

So why should membership teams get excited about beacons and sensors that track attendees in the convention hall? Because this behavioral data can unlock “blue-shoe” members, Cox said.

Blue-shoe members are people who come to your conference looking for a specific solution—instead of blue shoes, maybe it’s a specialized training on project management. With trackers and beacons, it’s possible to gently nudge that member in the right direction.

Sensor data could tell you if the attendee found his or her way to a session on effective collaboration and project management. And if the attendee missed that session, your membership team could follow up after the conference regarding professional development opportunities, including webinars or courses on the topic.

“That power and technology, of knowing the real-time experience, is just so valuable,” Cox said. “Very advanced associations are asking: How do you bridge your sensor data with an AMS? If you’re going to make a persona and treat members differently, the idea is to take all actions into account.”

Choose Your Own Adventure

Member movements are also significant as you’re thinking about changes to your membership model. On Sunday, Amanda Myers, director of member strategy with Abila, talked about one of her favorite things to read as a child—the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, which lets readers pick a path in the story to reach a unique ending. This “you decide” mindset applies to membership too.

“You’re giving members a little leeway,” Myers said. “There are no right or wrong choices, just choices.”

Whether you’re contemplating a strategy to offer free-digital access, recruit younger members, or win back lapsed members, the “choose your own adventure” approach means your team can chart a strategy and test it with members to see if it succeeds or fails. And if it fails, your team can retrace its steps to find a new approach, Myers said.

To design a decision tree for members, it’s important to consult your association management system and observe noticeable trends within membership segments. According to Abila’s Member Engagement Study, most organizations (81 percent) analyze these segments by membership category, but you can also break down membership by age, experience level, or career type, Myers noted.

“Segmentation is largely based on organizational needs,” she said. “It’s the kind of information that can give you confidence in making smarter choices.”

Once these segments are established, the real fun begins. You can narrow down your membership and test very small groups—the ones Myers called the “choosiest of the choosy.”

Essentially, you’re trying to determine which micro benefits resonate with segments of membership and why. While young members might be excited to join because of micro benefits—career networks or professional credentials—a veteran member might be interested in macro benefits—raising awareness about the industry or a code of ethics.

“As members look to make choices, there are certain sets of priorities,” and charting out several different paths to can make your association the hero of the story, Myers said. Armed with this information, you can “ultimately help to shape your membership model moving forward.”

(KeKi_MVC/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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