Effective member engagement is a function of organizational mindset , modes of communication, methods of interaction, motivation to act, and measurement .
Most membership associations would agree with the statement “It’s all about the members”, yet many lack the organizational mindset to back it up. The statement should actually be “It’s all about personalization”. When an individual joins an association, she isn’t interested in what the association can do for everyone else. She’s interested in what the association can do for her - i.e. It’s personal. The more an association interacts with individual members in a personalized way, with member needs, preferences and pain points at the heart of the dialogue, the more engaged its members will be.
Connecting with members/prospects is all about meeting people where they’re at . In the context of communication, this means understanding how and where they obtain information and consume content, as well as how they interface with their professional community; and connecting in a way that is meaningful to them. So it’s not enough to know who your members/prospects are...You also need to know what’s important to them and how they behave - That knowledge will guide your decisions regarding the most appropriate modes of communication.
Membership associations that excel at member engagement recognize the power of relationships, and work hard to support an interactive dialogue both WITH and BETWEEN members. In dialoguing with members, the goal is to understand members’ needs, preferences, and pain points in order to 1) facilitate awareness of and decision making with regard to current content and offerings, and 2) plan future content and offerings in response to unmet or emerging demand. In promoting dialogue between members, the goal is to build community and create an environment of information exchange and shared learning. The stronger these dialogue-based relationships are, the more loyal members will be.
“Build it and they will come.” Sounds quaint, right? Even if it were true, attracting new members is only the first step in what you hope to be a long-term relationship, and no guarantee of success. You publish content and create offerings to deliver value, but unless you can motivate members to leverage those content and offerings in support of their own needs (therein unlocking the value), you may have difficulty keeping them as members. As you might imagine, success in terms of motivating members to act is tightly linked to, if not a culmination of the first three M’s.
As with all things strategic, you won’t know if your member engagement strategy is successful unless you define measurable goals and objectives, establish metrics for assessing them, and track outcomes over time. Done well, measurement will not only help you to understand the efficacy and financial impact of your membership engagement efforts, but could also inform decision making regarding current and future content/offerings, as well as supporting technologies.
So as you think about member engagement in your own association, first take a deep breath. Then exhale. Then think about the 5 M’s.
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