In a cluttered, competitive digital space, how can associations drive value and enhance their brand?
Providing a high-quality member experience is an important component of an association’s engagement strategy, and while member engagement is something many associations strive for, they often have difficulty defining and pursuing it.
Associations are not exempt from the consequences of today’s consumer age, when countless organizations offer an overwhelming variety of products and services through multiple channels. Having the right value proposition alone is not a guarantee for successfully capturing prospects and turning them into engaged members. Indeed, for the purposes of engagement, it’s helpful — and in some ways crucial — to think of your members not merely as members but as customers. Engagement is simply the depth of the relationship they have with your brand; it is the result of many interactions between the member and the association. Hence, your association’s engagement strategy must focus not only on service offerings but also on the customer journey and the interactions and experience that build a meaningful and deep relationship.
When it comes to relationship strength, it’s particularly important for your association to think not just of members but also of customers. Why? Because you have customers outside your core membership. The question then becomes, why are these customers not members? How can your association build a relationship with them and convert them into engaged buyers, members, and contributors?
The multiplier effect
In addition to being loyal, engaged members and customers act as multipliers. They tell their colleagues and friends about the work their association does, the value they derive from it, and the products and services they consider invaluable. Referrals are the most impactful — and the most economic — promotional tool any organization can have. As part of our research for the Global Engagement Index, MCI talked to thousands of members of associations and found that few associations could claim a substantial number of multipliers among their members and customers. While associations could boast 31 percent of “loyal” members, only 8 percent of member respondents could be classified as “multipliers,” meaning that they serve as positive brand “promoters.” A stronger relationship generates engagement, which in turn generates multipliers, which in turn generate more members and more customers — who are potential members.
Five drivers to build engagement
We have identified five specific categories that contribute to driving engagement as seen from the user’s point of view: overall perception, benefits and value, offerings and customer services, communications and information, and products and services. When your association understands the importance of these drivers to creating total engagement, you can develop a specific engagement strategy to enhance the relationship and loyalty of your members and customers. This in turn will lead to increasing your brand “promoters,” converting the “passives,” and lessening the effect of the “detractors.”
Technology as an enabler
In the increasingly connected, customer-driven, hyper-personalized world, the relationship between members and associations is changing rapidly. Membership and engagement models will need to reflect the needs, preferences, and customer journey of the connected and distracted consumer. Rigid membership models must adapt to the need for inclusive association communities in which members and customers have access to value through multiple online and offline channels. One possibility is that membership models will evolve into subscription models, giving access to products, services, and interactions of choice. Putting added pressure on this is the COVID-19 crisis, which has accelerated the digital transformation of the world economy and radically altered traditional notions of member-based organizations. For many associations, a reset of value creation, engagement, and relationship building will result. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) will transform associations and online communities into powerful marketplaces, enabling highly personalized interaction, content, and services. Digital relationships, virtual interaction, and AI-driven access to customized content will live alongside the “new” experience of live and hybrid meetings and conferences. At the center of it all will be the engagement you build with your members and customers.