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Guest Post: Developing Association Member Relationships for 2020

Review your association's tools to ensure they're in tip-top shape. As technology evolves and time goes on, there are certain nuances you have to be aware of (like the risk of data breaches) and tools that are worth investigating.

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The follow post is a guest contribution from Fonteva - a membership, event and eCommerce solutions company.

With the new decade in full swing, it's no secret that positive and thriving member relationships are key to your association's success. To keep members renewing, your association needs to offer streamlined experiences and meaningful opportunities that make paying dues beneficial to them.

While you should be gauging member satisfaction with surveys and emails, don't forget to also review the top association engagement trends that have emerged for 2020. Review your association's tools to ensure they're in tip-top shape. As technology evolves and time goes on, there are certain nuances you have to be aware of (like the risk of data breaches) and tools that are worth investigating.

In this guide, you'll learn the best ways to develop your most important relationships and grow your association using this year's top trends.

Consider these tips:

  1. Take advantage of marketing automation
  2. Focus on data protection
  3. Prioritize information and learning
  4. Don't forget it's an election year
  5. Offer mobile communication

To truly develop your member relationships, you'll likely be depending on some tools. According to Fonteva for Associations, you can leverage your association management tools to effectively engage your members and even encourage them to interact more with each other. Let's get started!

1. Take advantage of marketing automation

A trend that's not isolated to associations, automation is becoming increasingly popular for many companies and large corporations. Corporations often use automated tools to keep customers coming back, just as nonprofits do to increase their donor retention rates.

The same concepts and strategies can also be applied to your association and its members, especially within your marketing efforts. For instance, without campaigns for relevant announcements and upcoming opportunities, you risk member attrition and a lack of due payments to sustain the organization.

At the same time, you don't want to flood your members with unnecessary content that doesn't apply to them. Email inboxes and social media feeds are already extremely saturated. If you overload them there is a risk that your members will stop paying attention to your emails or unsubscribe altogether.

Marketing automation tools help you strike that balance. You likely already have a marketing tool for email communications and social media, but think about how an automation tool can make the entire experience more convenient. You can:

  1. Trigger communications based on member actions like sending a reminder email after a member abandons a shopping cart
  2. Save your staff time from sending out general emails such as dues payment confirmation and event registration thank-you
  3. Personalize emails by automating certain member details like name, status, and event attendance
  4. Schedule or automate social media posts in advance to multiple platforms as needed
  5. Segment your members based on common traits like membership status and location so that your content is automatically sent to only those who are relevant.

When you optimize your communication and marketing efforts, you're developing those member relationships in a positive direction.

2. Focus on data protection

As we are now working at a time where most data collection happens online, you are well aware of the importance of protecting your data. We know that the more devices connected to your network, the easier it is for your association staff and members to stay engaged. On the other hand, there's also a bigger risk for data breaches and hacks, especially if one device can compromise the whole system.

With popular platforms like Facebook being put under scrutiny for storing user data and the digital voting process of states like Georgia causing security doubts, consumers want to know their data is protected.

This is why it's so important that association leadership takes the steps to ensure that member data stays secure. This means:

  1. You're protected from malware and viruses with Firewalls and auto-updates
  2. Passwords are extra protected with two-step authentication or a password manager tool
  3. Wireless connection is secure with encryption codes

To optimize your data management further, review your customer relationship management (CRM) system and consider its integration capabilities. Manual data transfer leaves room for human error, duplicate entries, and missing information. With your tools integrated or native to your CRM, you record all necessary member data in one centralized location.

For example, Salesforce is a popular CRM with a wide range of partners. If you depend on Salesforce, check out this list of partners.

3. Prioritize information and learning

In an era of fake news, mass media, and clickbait, it's more important than ever to make sure that people trust your association and that the information you provide is genuine and helpful.

It's a huge risk if your association gains an untrustworthy reputation. More and more people will be averse from joining in the first place or renewing.

Set your association up as an industry resource that members can consistently depend on. With various engagement efforts, make sure the information you're offering is relevant and valuable. For instance, take a look at your:

  1. Website. This is likely the first place people will go to learn more about your association. Make sure the information on your website is accurate, up-to-date, and correct. On top of that, your website needs to be easily navigable so prospective members know where to go if they're interested in obtaining more information or joining.
  2. Email newsletters. Keep members updated on association changes and major news in your field. For instance, if you're an education-based association, changes to standardized test and new breakthroughs by universities are probably of great interest to your members.
  3. Online member communities. Many join your association to meet like-minded people and network in their field. Make sure your online member portal and member directory are free of duplicate records or outdated data.
  4. Other online resources. If your association has a blog, guides, white papers, or other resources, make sure that information is fact-checked and verified.

Beyond the resources and content your association provides, many members also join associations to access continued learning opportunities and further education in their industry.

With a capable learning management system, you can provide your members with official accreditations that are recognized by other professionals. Create a program full of online courses and in-person classes for your members to enjoy and learn.

4. Don't forget it's an election year

The year 2020 is especially unique because it is an election year (in America). With political new constantly trending and prevalent issues on the forefront of all our minds, you can't ignore that politics will affect your association and members.

This election year can help your association bring relevant issues up and even find new members. However, this doesn't always mean you should outright pick a side and support a specific candidate. This can risk alienating current members and prospects.

Your best bet is to gather information on your members and learn more about their political leanings. This way, you can better formulate your communications and marketing strategy to ensure you don't push some of your members away or receive backlash.

However, depending on the industry your association caters to, bringing up political points and issues can also help strengthen relationships with members. For instance, if your association is made up of people in the solar power industry, it makes sense to advocate for environmental issues. This way, your members know that you're actively working and supporting a cause that directly affects your association.

 5. Ensure mobile-accessibility

With 96% of Americans owning mobile phones, optimizing your association experience for mobile-use is extremely important. Simply ensuring that your association's website displays properly on mobile devices can make the entire user experience for members that much better.

Making your association more mobile-accessible will help attract new members and make your association look better in this modern space. For starters, Google actually prefers websites that are mobile-friendly and prioritizes them for rankings.

Take a look at your entire online presence and consider if you can access these features on your mobile phone:

  1. Your member portal. It's important that your members have a place to engage and communicate online, especially if your membership spans various geographical locations.
  2. Association website. It's pretty common for mobile users to do most of their online searches via smartphone. If a potential member wants to join your organization or a current member is trying to access certain data, it's imperative that your website is mobile-friendly.
  3. Event information. Many associations host live and virtual events to engage members and offer unique, meaningful networking and professional growth opportunities. A great tool to equip your guests with a mobile event app. Attendees can access schedules and other helpful information to elevate the event experience. Take a look at your current event management tools to see if you can offer an app, or check out Pathable's list.

Intuitive association management software can elevate the entire experience, from member registration to attending events. Don't forget to check for mobile-accessibility and ensure you can reach your members wherever they are!

If you've been in the association industry for a while, you understand that your members are a top priority. These relationships can thrive depending on your engagement efforts and the tools you utilize. Hopefully you now know how to better leverage your association software to your advantage. Good luck!

Author Bio
Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.