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Leave These 7 Membership Mistakes Behind

Kick these membership bad habits to the curb to shift your focus on creating an engaging member experience.

As we inch closer to the New Year, it’s common for people to reflect on the past year and consider making a New Year’s resolution. Many resolve to focus on a healthy habit or a desired new one...but what about leaving some undesirable ones behind? 

Next to achieving an association’s mission, member retention is the most critical measure of success. And engagement is key to making the association’s value appreciated by its members. Members who perceive value will renew their membership and influence others, potentially bringing in other members. This is just one way member retention directly increases revenue, making it possible to deliver additional meaningful member services, thus advancing the cycle to increased engagement. To achieve this, you must have an articulated engagement strategy for your members. 

This all sounds great, right?

Unfortunately for many membership organizations, this is one of the top mistakes they make. They lack a meaningful and measurable member engagement strategy. Let’s take a look at seven common membership mistakes your association might be making, and some guidelines to help to kick these bad habits.

1) Lack of Measurement

“52% of executives believe lack of engagement is the primary reason members do not renew their membership” (source)

While you might have a member engagement strategy in place, many membership professionals struggle with the actual measurement piece. Think about these measurement insights:

  • How easily are you able to evaluate and measure your member engagement?
  • Are you gathering member touchpoint data from several systems?
  • Are you missing engagement data touchpoint data?
  • Is your data all in one place for you to easily pull reports?

Once you have an engagement strategy in place, you need an effective way to measure its success. And only a dynamic, automated method of engagement scoring every touchpoint can reveal strengths and weaknesses. 

Accurate data-driven measurement is the only basis for effective decision-making leading to greater member engagement.

Team members looking at a dashboard on a screen


2) Absence of a Digital Transformation Plan

As more and more people are shifting away from the traditional, go-to-a-physical-office work life, there is a direct correlation to adopting and implementing digital technologies to facilitate the new remote work lifestyle. What is your association doing to facilitate this change? Think about these insights about your association’s tech stack: 

  • What’s in your association’s tech stack?
  • What did your department add to your stack in the last year? What about other departments?
  • How much of your tech stack directly elevates member engagement and improves the member experience with your association? 

Organizations that have not taken steps to fully strategize their digital transformation are out of step with the times and risk falling further behind. 

It all begins with a plan. 

Digital Transformation is all about using your technology to elevate your member engagement and provide a much more satisfying member experience. To do this, you need a strategy that sets direction and establishes priorities for your organization. It defines your organization’s view of success and prioritizes the activities that will turn this view into your reality. The strategy will help staff understand priorities. Without a clearly defined and articulated strategy, you may very well find that your priority initiatives — the ones that will drive the highest success are being given secondary treatment. Discover three critical steps to digitally transform your association with our recent whitepaper. 

It’s not just about technology, though.


3) Not Developing a Modern Mindset 

Organizations that do not encourage openness to new ideas and ways of doing things won’t compete in the marketplace. This is true for organizations of all kinds, but especially associations with defined missions in a constantly changing world. Developing a modern mindset for your association’s culture means that to stay the course and achieve the mission, you must keep evolving. Standing still won’t get you there. 

Key elements to a successful digital transformation are based on your organization’s culture, as explored in this recent blog article, An Associations Guide to Implementing a Digital Transformation Framework.

Does your association embrace these successful elements?

  • Does your leadership support a culture of innovation and change from every layer of your organization? 
  • Are you making data-driven decisions based on real-time analytics? 
  • Are you investing in cloud technology to improve your member’s experience with you? 
  • Do you have a trusted partner to help accelerate your goals? 


4) Failure to Personalize 

"56% of customers now expect offers always to be personalized” (source)

The right association software, like an Engagement Management System (EMS), can deliver personal experiences to all your constituents. The people with whom your association interacts – the members, supporters, volunteers, vendors, and others – all want to feel a personal connection with you from the moment they interact with you. How well do you really know your members?

  • Are you able to advertise new offerings based on past engagements?
  • Can you direct your members to register for events, training or workshops based on their interests and past behavior?
  • Are you able to deliver content that is formatted for the way each member consumes it, whether on a smartphone, tablet or laptop?
  • Do you provide your members with an exclusive, members-only portal, that fosters engagement with you and their member peers?

Whether it’s to make a purchase, register for a course, look something up, or just visit your website – you should know and cater to your members’ past touchpoints, their preferences, and their perceived desires from all the history you have shared.

Fictitious Mock Fake Mockup - association newsletter - in hands-900px-cropped


5) Maintaining an Outdated Web Presence 

Nothing reflects as poorly on an association as its outdated website. Your website is your organization’s public face, it is your business.

And technology moves fast. People visit dozens of websites in a single day. They know what looks old and dated. You wouldn’t be caught in public dressed like someone in the nineteenth century (unless of course you were headed to the local Renaissance Faire), and unfortunately that’s the equivalent considering how quickly websites age.

But it’s not just the look, capabilities are increasing rapidly, too. When was the last time you evaluated your members’ actual experience with your web presence? Think about the web experience you currently provide:

  • Are you creating tailored experiences for your website visitors?
  • Do you have an easy and engaging member onboarding process?
  • Do you offer recurring payment options for your membership dues/fees?
  • Have you mapped your member’s online journey with your association?

It’s hard to be perceived as relevant if your website is outdated. A dynamic web experience will entice members and keep them engaged.


6) Failing to Become a Learning Organization 

Teaching is a major part of an association's mission. By setting standards and educating members, associations become arbiters of excellence.

But...learning is also a major part of the mission. Associations must learn from each and every member to understand their needs and uncover their potential.

With the right technology and tools in place, coupled with a modern mindset, an association will be able to become a learning organization. A learning organization is simply one that learns about its members through every single touchpoint. Each touchpoint and every interaction is an opportunity to further understand, adapt and become proactive to member needs.

Think about what is necessary to become a learning organization:

  • Are you continuously tracking and monitoring all member touchpoints?
  • Are you able to compare historical trends in member behavior?
  • Do you have business intelligence tools in place that can evaluate all member interactions?
  • Are you scoring member engagement with your association?

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn. It will help you predict and model your association’s future growth.


7) Not Understanding the Value of a Single Source of Truth (SSoT) 

Data is key to successful decision-making. If your association’s data is scattered across multiple systems, it loses its integrity. It becomes impossible, and likely frustrating for your staff, to get a complete and accurate picture of what matters to your organization most – your members and the state of your mission. It’s that simple. Take a moment to reflect on the following data insights: 

  • Where exactly is your members’ data?
  • What measures are you taking to eradicate data silos?
  • Are you able to historically compare member retention and engagement to current trends?
  • And a repeat from #3: Are you making data-driven decisions based on real-time analytics?

Your data silos are likely frustrating members too. Find out what you can do about it in our “It’s Not You, It’s Your Data Silos” whitepaper.

Silos to Single Source - transparent-05


Assessing Your Members’ Total Experience

It’s totally understandable that as an association professional, you get caught up in the day-to-day. But don’t neglect the importance of taking a step back and assessing your members’ overall journey with your association as part of your engagement strategy. Set aside time to regularly go through these checks: 

  • When was the last time you assessed your members’ total experience with YOU? 
  • What does the member journey look like today? 
  • Can you anticipate member needs and wants? 

It goes without saying, as you launch new member programs and technologies, make it a priority to evaluate the real impact on your members. Get consensus from your teams, your colleagues, and your leadership to ensure that each decision will not only improve but enhance the overall membership experience with your association. This is the key to success for any member-centric organization.

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