The MemberWise Network is introducing a new monthly feature called Network Views – an opinion piece on a set monthly theme.

The purpose of this feature is to give a voice to the thought leaders of the membership and association sector and acknowledge and celebrate their wealth of knowledge and experience. The theme for October is ‘harnessing the web’ and I am delighted to introduce Joel Turner, Membership Marketing Manager at The Chartered Insurance Institute.

Let’s see what Joel has to say on this important topic.


Harnessing the web: avoiding the Tabasco fiasco….

(Opinion Piece by Joel Turner)

Source: By Stefan Erras [GFDL]

While sleepily fumbling around the kitchen one morning this week, I mistakenly spilt Tabasco sauce from the home-made lunch I was making onto my cereal. This taught me that;

1) I thought I could multi task. I can’t.
2) Personalisation gone wrong is like an unexpected shot of Tabasco.

I’m really looking forward to the “Harnessing the Web 2015”  conference and expecting to hear lots of good case studies about personalisation and using the web to deliver an exceptional member experience. For example, the presentation by YHA at this year’s conference – I find the approach they take to their members is interesting and probably different to a lot of the membership organisations who’ve attended “Harnessing the Web” conference previously. I’m intrigued how YHA will be using the web to link all their diverse locations to a centralised member experience.

But what about if, in your own membership organisation, you haven’t yet been able to offer true web-personalisation and go to the lengths of an integrated web and CRM system serving up bespoke content to each individual?

To get it wrong and present wrong or irrelevant content to your members is akin to the milky-sugary-burning-hot-crunch of Tabasco on your All-Bran (ok, ok, it was actually Frosties…). Yes, we’d all like to present totally spot on messages hitting members with timely and relevant content, but in some cases (and let’s be honest it can be a big step to achieve this) it just isn’t possible.

So can you ‘harness the web’ without the ability to implement an all-singing, all-dancing solution? I think you can and these steps can help:

1. Be clear on your message.
There will be a uniting factor which connects all your members and that they can all relate to. Yes, there will be different motivating factors; segments who respond to different propositions and members who react to certain messaging. But in lieu of being able to target all these effectively, you need to be extra-clear on the one overriding purpose of membership. Tell a clear story with strong messages. If you don’t have the technology to implement a segmented, personalised web-solution, it is even more important to keep it consistent. What is the one uniting factor that brings all your members together? Find it, stick to it, be proud of it and display it so your members are clear.

2. Make your copy work.
Getting copy right is as important as any number of clever segmentation and personalisation devices. If you can’t offer the personalised, individual experience via a technological solution then good copy is even more important. It’s easy to use throwaway comments like “a world of membership benefits” or “everything you need for your career”, etc. I’m not saying these are bad, but are they working hard enough for you? Is it enough to say “career tools and resources”? What actually are they, what do they do and how do they benefit your members? It’s hard, but try and succinctly explain exactly what they do and why they are an essential part of the membership proposition.

3. Keep it simple.
This really ties together 2 and 3. Don’t overcomplicate things and clutter your website by trying to display every single benefit you have and every single service you provide. Clear layout and easy navigation will be more beneficial than the belief that members can fumble their way round bucket loads of content, eventually finding what they want. Sure, it may all be relevant – but without the ability to target it and present it as part of a data-driven segmented offering, to simply unload it on your website for a member to sift through is probably doing more harm than good. Without the technology to drive personalisation, less is definitely more!

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t follow all the logical steps of finding out what your members want, researching segments and implementing propositions tailored to them. I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t aim high and seek to create an intuitive, data driven solution based exactly on what your members have told you they want. Clearly that is a goal we should all be looking to achieve and it is one of the best ways to demonstrate your value as an organisation and that you truly ‘get’ your members. However, where this isn’t possible, all is not lost. You can still achieve relevance to your members through clear and consistent messaging, simple layout and written in good old plain English. In other words, don’t get carried away chasing a complicated solution and forget the basics. And don’t put Tabasco Sauce on your Frosties.

Disclaimer: all views are my own and are based on my experience and observations of a number of different membership organisations. 

4 November 2015, London,  Harnessing the web 2015” conference: the key event in the association and membership sector calendar. Educate, network, celebrate. Book your place now at:

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