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5 Ideas to Improve Your Association’s Member Experience

When was the last time you checked in on your members? If you had to think before you answered, chances are your association needs to take a little time to catch up with its membership.

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When was the last time you checked in on your members? If you had to think before you answered, chances are your association needs to take a little time to catch up with its membership.

According to GrowthZone’s 2018 Association Annual Survey, 12% of associations have seen a decrease in new memberships in the past year. In addition, 19% of associations have also seen a similar decrease in membership renewal. You don’t want your association to be apart of that statistic. If you’re concerned about your membership growth and retention rates, it might be time to think about member experience as a whole. Member experience embodies your member’s entire journey with your association.

From first becoming a member to many years of membership (and hopefully, not their resignation as a member). With that in mind, your association has a lot to think about when it comes to improving member experience. It can seem overwhelming, but there are plenty of easy ways to improve member experience that won’t take up too much of your association’s time and resources. Here are 5 unique ideas to get members on the right track with your association.

1. Create an experience cycle

There’s a reason people don’t eat the same foods, listen to the same songs, and watch the same movies every day. As humans, we love variety. Although we have our favorites, experiencing the same thing day to day becomes uninteresting and can almost make us sick of those activities.

So, think about this in terms of your association. Have your repeats events seen a decrease in attendance? If so, it might be due to repetition. Colleen Dilenschneider explains this type of interaction on her blog. Using the example of a museum, she states that first-time visitors often rate the experience higher than those who are returning to the exhibit. The novelty of an attraction or activity loses its appeal the first few times around. If your association has become complacent in its events, it might be time to switch things up and create an event cycle.

What does this mean? Well, creating a cycle allows your association to keep its traditional events and activities, but mix in new experiences. Think of it like a mixtape- it’s good to mix classic songs in with some new tunes. Take your association’s annual event and add in some new activities for your members. Or, a stronger approach would be to create an entirely new event plan. You can test out a new event and archive your traditional event strategy for later years. Cycling out experiences will keep members on their toes and excited about the next surprise from your association.

2. Strengthen your communication.

Chances are, members joined your association for a number of reasons. And most likely, one of those reasons was to network with like-minded professionals in their field. Believe it or not, your association holds a lot of opportunity for meaningful communication. However, without proper preparation and administration, your members could be losing out on the networking opportunities they’re looking for.

For example, many associations have turned to the likes of Slack and Line to provide optimal communication for their members. Slack, introduced to the internet and to the business world in 2013, is a private community “chatroom” service. Users can create specific channels, chat about ideas and projects, and connect with network with other users.

Line is a similar service that also allows for free voice and video calls to those within the private community. Both Slack and Line are available for download on a mobile device- perfect for associations looking to enhance their mobile strategy! Create a new channel for member-only communication in order to attract audiences looking for maximum engagement. You can also open up a line for direct member-association communication. This way, members with questions or concerned can easily reach out to an association representative for any answers they might need.

If your association already has online community software, fear not. Slack comes with an API, which can easily be programmed and integrated in with your existing software as well as your association’s blog. Adding an extra method of community outreach and network communication will only enhance your member’s experience with your association.

3. Substitute tools for experiences.

We know how important career tools are to your association. They’re what help to strengthen and grow your members’ professional journey. While career tools are essential, don’t underestimate the power of a career experience.

According to EventMarketer’s brand survey, 67% of marketers believe in experiential marketing as a successful strategy. In addition, 65% of brands states that in-person events directly correlate to sales. It’s clear that the live experience seems to have an effect on increased engagement. We’re not saying your association should ditch career tools. They’re absolutely a crucial benefit to provide to members.

However, your association should encourage career experiences as a supplement for these tools. For example, has your association tried hosting an event dedicated to networking/mentoring? If not, it could work wonders for members looking to enhance their career opportunities. Consider hosting an event specifically for career advancement. Invite guest speakers or professionals in your member’s career field. Create time for members of all career levels to meet and network with one another. If you’re an association with a younger membership or if you offer special benefits to students, consider hosting a career fair. The Clemson Alumni Association hosts a career fair specifically for its members. They even provide a web page for it, full of information on what is necessary for job seekers or employers looking to participate in this event. Try incorporating career events and experiences in with your career service opportunities and see how members respond to this boost in opportunity.

4. Introduce a webinar.

Does your association host a webinar for its members? If not, here’s why it should start. Webinars are both a way to engage members and score a new channel for non-dues revenue. They can be used in lieu of an in-person meeting, or even as an added on benefit for members looking for more information.

Incorporating a webinar into your association’s member engagement strategy is a great idea, but what is the best way to host a webinar? To start, you want to pick a relevant topic that your members will both find interesting and benefit from. Think about what problems your members might have or what insight they would like to hear from your association.

Then, make sure you have a platform to host your webinar on. Sites like AnyMeeting and GoToWebinar are great online hosting platforms. These platforms offer the option for your webinar to be video and audio, or just an audio stream. When it comes to a webinar, you also want to make sure you leave time at the end for any questions. According to Medium, 92% of webinar attendees want time for a Q&A at the end of every webinar. You don’t want your members to leave your webinar feeling confused and wanting more. Be sure to encourage attendees to ask any questions they may have. A webinar has the potential of enhancing your member’s experience while also creating a new revenue stream for your association.

5. Team up with a partner.

You know what they say: Teamwork makes the dream work. In this case, your association can team up with a business or another association to bring new opportunities and discounts to members. This is known as an affinity program, and it’s something many associations have seen success with. With an affinity program, both partners gain something while also improving your member’s experience.

An affinity program works by creating a deal agreed upon by both parties. Then, this deal creates a discount or service for members only. Members have access to this service as part of their benefit plan. Essentially, an affinity program promotes engagement with members while also creating a steady stream of revenue. There are a few things to know before jumping into a partnership with a business. First, you want to pick a business that reflects the same beliefs and values as your association. You want your members to enjoy the business you partner with as much as they enjoy your association.

Second, you want to create offers that members will actually want to use. You don’t want to offer members services or discounts that they aren’t interested in. Survey your members to find out what they’d like to see in an affinity program. You can also ask them which companies or associations they’d like to see a partnership with. Consider introducing a partnership to members to improve their experience and get them excited about brand new offers.

Introduce experiences that members care about.

Your member’s experience is vital to the success of your association. Prevent them from losing interest by creating new, unique ideas to keep them engaged. Try incorporating some of these ideas into your association’s retention and engagement strategy.