Following this year’s national Association and Membership Professional web focused conference, Harnessing the Web 2016, we gain insight on the day via a Guest Blog from Sarah Alder, Co-chair of #digitalhack seminar stream (adudience led seminar stream).
What did we do?
During the course of the day we hacked away at 8 different topics, sharing ideas, experiences and challenges. Noise in the room ranged from a low steady hum of concentrated discussion (or was that actually brains whirring that I could hear?) to near-deafening debate and laughter. There was lots of note-taking and for every session discussion continued as delegates left the room.
What did we learn?
I hope people who were part of the conversations will add comments here to say what they learned individually but I have highlighted here a couple of points from each session, the ones that seemed to get lots of head-nodding around the room.
Triggers for automated emails
• Move beyond just time or event triggers. E.g.welcome emails, renewal notices (but still use those!)
• Look for more sophisticated triggers that indicate engagement or interest. E.g. visiting several pages on the website on a particular topic over a short period of time
Measuring content in a SMART way
• Focus on the Key aspect of KPIs, measure what matters, not what is easy to measure
• Don’t collect data unless you know what you are going to do with it, and make time to review the data and act on it
Reaching non-members online, driving acquisition
• Big decision needed – what content should be paid-for by member fees and what should be made available free
• Free membership for a fixed period can allow prospective members to see the value of membership and drive recruitment
Social media networking
• Social media activity may be more successful at certain times of the day for different platforms/channels
• Measuring social media activity is one thing, but you need to ensure it feeds into organisation strategy.
Taking content online
• Cater for increasingly short attention spans
• Images, videos and infographics make content work well online
Online member personas
• Use data to create these but also make sure you understand attitudes, beliefs and emotions. For instance, why do they join?
• Personas don’t always map directly to membership categories or to traditional segments
And finally …
We took some time to think about wacky ideas that membership organisations might use. As one delegate said:
“10 years ago we would have dismissed the idea of using Facebook but not now. What will we look back on in 10 years’ time and wish we had thought of sooner?”
We amused ourselves in the discussion but a couple of things stood out:
• The membership card – does this have the potential to be much more with the advent of combined cards, smart cards and contactless payment? Or will it disappear altogether?
• Payment methods – how are we going to keep up with contactless, mobile, fingerprint-enabled payments?
• Is gamification a solution for increasing engagement with CPD?
• Creating ‘Day in the Life Of…’ videos
• How can we bring live video streaming in to play for fundraising and engagement? A Boomerang video on Instagram (a short but continuously repeated video) might be the answer, with the chief exec wagging her finger and saying “Pay your subs!”.
Reflecting on the whole hectic day there were examples of great use of online to engage with members, growing confidence in using data and stats tools. The combination of online and offline channels is still the norm and that seems likely to continue, as does the need to set targets and measure against them.
But there are things still troubling us as we try to provide the best possible online experience for our members and prospective members.
1. Understanding the member journey – recognising the importance of this is only the start, actually creating clear, comprehensive journeys that are backed up by fact is much harder. Some organisations have done a lot of work on this, often as part of a web or CRM overhaul. Others, with less resource, have taken an admirable roll-up-your-sleeves approach and looked at what they do know, made some assumptions about the gaps and tested that. Both approaches have worked. There’s a great blog post here about how to use customer journeys.
2. Creating online personas – personas are crucial for ensuring that time and resources are used to deliver value to members. Creating a persona and validating it with others in the organisation gives a shared view of members’ needs and helps to get everyone heading in the same direction. If this is an area that interests you, read The Customer is Always Right by Mulder & Yaar.
3. What should be free and what should be paid for? This was a recurring question throughout the day, with no conclusive answer. Some organisations had successfully given free membership for a fixed period so people could see how useful membership would be. Others were more cautious, wanting to maintain the value of membership by providing exclusive content. There seemed to be some consensus that some content needed to be made available free but it was not just a hard economic decision, there was resistance from within in some organisations. There’s a need to have a more innovative approach to this, and this blog post from Ben Cocke sets out the challenges of creating an innovative mindset.
4. What really makes members value their membership? This is still a perplexing question and online is not making it any easier to answer, perhaps making it harder with the range of channels and the raised expectations. Why do members join? For professional bodies, how do member benefits sit alongside the professional status? This is not a question we answered, but this blog post from Sue Froggatt on creating resilience by building value is food for thought for us all.
No doubt these are themes we will return to in our programme of events for 2016-2017 so keep an eye on the MemberWise emails to see what’s happening.