A membership organization’s most valued benefits can vary widely depending on the organization and the individual member. One person might appreciate educational opportunities above all else; someone else might pay their dues solely for the organization’s advocacy work. Those two people probably are aware other benefits exist, but what exactly do they know about them?
Even members who take advantage of all available benefits might appreciate reminders and snapshots of what you offer and what you’re doing for them. If nothing else, it reminds them why membership to your organization is important and what they’re getting out of their dues. Regardless of precisely what your membership benefits are, clearly communicating your organization’s value to members is one of the most important tasks for member retention.
One of the first steps in focusing your efforts is to assess what members actually value. Often times organizations assume they know what the most valued benefits are, but they never end up actually asking their members.
Surveys can delve into people’s wants and needs, and what they like and what they don’t. A well-devised survey can highlight a lot of valuable information. Sometimes these data points may reinforce your existing assumptions (which is good!). However, other times you may find that one benefit you thought was important is rarely used or even known by your member base.
Tools like Survey Monkey (we use them at Accredible for our own customer surveys) offer multiple ways to devise and distribute a wide number of surveys. They also have some great resources on how to write good survey or poll questions.
Remember when you’re writing your survey: Don’t forget to ask how your members want you to communicate with them. Do you send too many emails? Do they want to be engaged in ways you’re not currently reaching them?
Leverage Social Media
Your owned social media channels shouldn’t just be a place to promote events or your latest updates. It’s the perfect channel to remind your members (and potential members) the value provided in your membership. Your presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and how often you post, depend on your industry and member base.
Some organizations have tech-savvy members who leverage all forms of social media. Others find their members on only one or two social networks (or none). Even use within a single social network can vary greatly among individuals. Some professionals use LinkedIn only as a career advancement and networking tool, whereas others check it daily to keep informed about news in their field.
Think about your members and ask yourself:
- Where are we posting now, and where should we be posting based on our members?
- What kind of content do we regularly post?
- What new types of content would our members find useful?
We find that some organizations tend to post too much about themselves, and not enough about their industry. Take stock of what content you usually post, and then set up a content calendar. Make sure you’re posting a good mix of:
- Organization news and updates
- Relevant industry news and resources
- Membership benefit posts
Once you have a good grasp of where you’re posting and what type of content you’re using, make sure to understand how your members are interacting with your social media. Do your Facebook posts invite discussion, or do they just get “likes”? Do your members tag you on Twitter? Do you tag them and share their tweets and posts? Some organizations treat social media more like a news outlet, and others treat it more like interactive conversations. Ideally you want to strike a good balance between the two.
Highlight Education and Professional Development
This is most likely one of the main reasons you were able to attract members, so make sure to spend a significant amount of time ensuring these efforts are well marketed.
Sometimes, the annual convention is the member favorite. Does your convention marketing emphasize the most compelling parts of it enough? That could include the keynote speaker, the volunteer event, or the session on the topic everyone’s talking about.
For certifications and educational programs that your members complete, what do they get at the end of it? If it’s a brief webinar, they might not get anything that acknowledges their participation. If it’s a more extensive certification, they probably get a paper certificate or a digital one, which they can share easily on social media. When they do, their contacts see their accomplishment as well as your brand, which might increase your reach and your visibility. These credentials also help the member advance his or her career. Accredible’s digital certificates, for example, are easily accessible and verifiable by third parties, so the recipient doesn’t need to show a paper certificate, and potential employers can verify what they say they’ve accomplished.
Use Publications and Other Information
Many organizations use their flagship magazine, newsletters, email updates, or other vehicles to help their members stay up to date on developments in the industry, as well as to provide practical tips on how to do their jobs better. This is an often-overlooked value-add, and it can be a great way to continuously engage your members.
When there’s a buzzworthy article or piece in one of them, do you tell members about it, beyond your regular promotion of the publication? If there’s an article written by a particularly popular expert or on a hot topic, some organizations call it out on the home page or a special Facebook post. Members may be more likely to read and appreciate your publications if you pique their interest with some specifics.
Understanding Value Improves Retention
It’s important to remember that no matter how much value you pack into your membership, it goes to waste if your members don’t know about their benefits and if they can’t tangibly experience them.
If you make it easy for your members to keep connected with you and informed about everything from last week’s meetings on the Hill to next week’s networking event, they might have a deeper understanding of what they can get out of their membership and what you do for them every day. The best way to accomplish this is to:
- Survey your members to find out what benefits they value most and to gauge their general understanding of the entire list of benefits.
- Leverage social media outlets to foster two-way communication while also reminding members of their benefits.
- Highlight professional development and education, since this is most likely one of the main reasons your members joined.
- Use your publications or other outlets as ways to keep members engaged.
The better informed your members are on the benefits you offer, and the more they are engaged, the more likely they are to stick around as longtime members.