Optimizing the Member Journey: 5 Tips for Associations

Feb 13, 2020

For every association, the member experience is a top priority. Many people join associations to engage with like-minded people and advance in their own field. Maintaining a good amount of informed and loyal members not only ensures that your association is successful but also creates an engaging and meaningful experience for your members.

Consistent dues renewals, is an essential source of revenue for your association. You need to create value and offer unique opportunities to keep members coming back. This is why it’s so important to build relationships with your constituents.

You likely depend on an association management software (AMS) system to help with the daily processes and oversee all of your members, but it’s always a good idea to take a step back and see if you’re doing all you can. In this article, you will learn several tips to improve member relationships by closely following a typical member’s journey. Hopefully, it ends in a renewal!

We’ll be discussing:

  1. Optimizing your website
  2. Encouraging online community-building
  3. Individualizing the member experience
  4. Hosting attractive and unique events
  5. Centralizing member data

Depending on online tools and software solutions is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it should be part of your larger plan to deliver an optimized member experience. If you’re unsure of how an AMS can specifically help your organization, Fonteva’s guide to association management software is a great place to start.

1. Optimizing your website

It’s likely that the first stop in a member’s journey will be your association’s website. That’s why it’s critical to invest in a comprehensive content management system (CMS). Your website needs to be easily navigable and relay relevant and valuable information in an intuitive way.

This website will also serve as a resource for active members checking out upcoming events or other exciting opportunities. Remember, it’s a place that members will continuously come back to throughout their journey— long past filling out that initial application.

While it’s easy to look up quick tips on how to improve your website, it’s more worthwhile to invest in a CMS that specifically considers associations’ needs. This way, it can evolve and adapt as your association grows. For example, there are certain website builders that are specifically suited to host event registration forms, online member portals, and other membership-based organization needs.

For more guidance, check out Morweb’s top membership website builders.

On-line community building

On-line community building

2. Encouraging online community-building

In order to have a truly sustainable association membership, it’s critical to develop your online community. Once a member joins your association, there might not initially be events or live meetings for them to jump into and gain a sense of the community.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to go beyond your website and provide an online hub for members to gather and engage.

With the right AMS, you can offer a member portal to promote online engagement. Using their personal accounts, members can access this portal on a microsite associated with your main website. From there, members can browse through an online member directory and learn about new opportunities and events.

As soon as individuals become a part of your association, they can easily engage in your online community with these key features:

  • Searchable member directory. Members can seamlessly browse through a member directory and put names and faces together. This is a great way to encourage collaboration and help new members gain a better understanding of the community. 
  • Member profiles. In the member directory, each member will have their own profile. This includes personal details, contact information, role in the association, and even certifications in their specific field. Members can be easily contacted with a simple click on their profile. 
  • Self-service tools. Your association should be constantly evolving to meet your members’ needs. Offer self-service tools so they can edit their own member profiles and update their membership statuses if needed. This not only empowers your members but also saves time for your staff. Members no longer have to email back and forth with staff just to change their phone number. Additionally, this reduces the risk of data inaccuracies. 
  • Message boards and forums. Online message boards and forums are a great way to facilitate dialogue and open communication between your members. This not only gives them a space to engage with each other but also gives you reliable feedback and clarity on how you can make their experience better.

Make sure that you have these online engagement resources fully fleshed out. This way, members can experience your association’s benefits instantly!

3. Individualizing the member experience

As individuals continue their memberships, it’s not uncommon to feel less important over time. This is something you don’t want, so it’s important to consider some ways to personalize each member’s journey and continuously nurture a positive relationship. 

An easy way to personally connect with your members and boost engagement is to reassess your current marketing strategy. You likely use your communication tool to send mass emails of event announcements and dues reminders. However, this can be a lengthy process and may result in errors if your AMS doesn’t have a dependable constituent relationship management (CRM) as a part of its system.

A CRM system acts as a member database and can help you gain a better understanding of who your members are. Usually at the core of your AMS system, your CRM should integrate with your communication tools to help you write stronger email marketing content. Even better, find tools that are native to your CRM.

With your data centralized in your CRM, your communications tool will automatically pull out relevant personal details from your CRM and use that information to create tailored communications. For example, you can ensure each email is individualized with the recipient’s name.

With your CRM, you can also segment your members based on certain traits. Using your communications tool, send out targeted messages to one relevant segment, eliminating the risk of distributing irrelevant content. Nobody likes receiving emails that don’t apply to them, so it’s important to avoid entering spammy territory.

Here are several common member segments to consider:

  • Payment preference
  • Communications preference
  • Membership status
  • Event attendance
  • and more!

You should be communicating with your members throughout their entire journey with your association. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure that your communications tools are as intuitive as possible.

Attractive and unique events

Attractive and unique events

4. Hosting attractive and unique events

Your events are one of the best ways to engage members. Meaningful experiences should be a key priority, because why else would a member continue to renew?

The best association management software also has event management software capabilities, offering a comprehensive view of your members and the entire planning process from one platform.

There are a couple of features to look out for in your event planning tools that can help increase member registration. Nobody wants to go to attend an event that doesn’t appeal to them. And as attractive as an event may be, a long and complicated registration process could turn them away entirely. With your event management tool, you should be able to:

  • Customize your event registration form. Don’t flood your form with unnecessary fields and questions. Limit your content to critical information to create the most efficient registration process possible.
  • Manage all speakers, sponsors, vendors, and your venue. Your staff will be able to better address your members’ questions and needs when they don’t have to worry about event details. Oversee your speakers, sponsors, vendors, and venue all from one platform. 
  • Access a secure payment processor. Registrants don’t like when the payment page takes them to a third-party site. Make sure your event tool has the right connections to trustworthy payment processors!

To incentivize your members to attend your events, you can provide perks like early registration discounts. Help your members feel special by offering exclusive benefits.

Centralized member data

Centralized member data

5. Centralizing member data

As your members renew their memberships and continue relationships with your association, you should be effectively recording various data points and engagement metrics. As one of the top data management best practices, this approach helps you understand which processes and engagement strategies can be improved.

The best way to review your data holistically is within your CRM. As mentioned earlier, your CRM system acts as your member database. However, to maintain a comprehensive profile for each of your members, associations integrate their management tools to their CRM. This way, data from your online member portal, event registration form, email inbox, and more, can seamlessly flow into your CRM.

Your best bet is to find a comprehensive association management software with event management capabilities that is native to your CRM system. This means that there is no lengthy integration and all your management processes will be reviewed from one place.

With your data centralized, your member profiles will include data from your:

  • Email marketing tool. Note each of your members’ communication preferences to ensure that you’re reaching them in the best way.
  • Learning management system. Your member profiles can include each learning opportunity the member took advantage of, whether it’s an online course or in-person class.
  • Event registration tool. Many CRMs have event partners and tools, which can provide data such as member attendance, event ticket levels, and more. For example, if you use the Salesforce CRM, you can browse a list of event partners

Additionally, some comprehensive CRM systems can compile reports for your team to review. These reports take the metrics from your various integrated or native association management tools. By reviewing reports on your events and member engagement strategies, you can gain a better sense of how to improve. For example, you can evaluate your marketing reports and see which email tactics worked best.

Reports offer more clarity on how to optimize the member journey, which helps ensure that they stick around. Make sure that your CRM system can easily compile these reports so you don’t have to manually perform this task.

It’s important that your association puts consistent effort toward optimizing the member experience. It can be initially daunting to meet your members’ varying needs, but the  right AMS and event management tools can effectively prepare you and your staff for success. Good luck!

Jake Fabbri
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.