“My professor encouraged me to join.”
“It’s a way to network with other professionals.”
“It helps me stay up to date on the latest news and research.”
These are common responses we get when conducting stakeholder interviews on behalf of associations when we ask participants why they joined the organization.
Sometimes we hear things like, “They have great benefits that ultimately pay for the membership fee.”
We want to hear more of this. But often, association members are unaware of the full set of perks that come with their membership.
In the 2018 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, the top two communication challenges for associations reported were “information overload/communication clutter” and the “inability to communicate member benefits effectively.”
As an association, you have the ongoing job of retaining existing members and attracting new ones—there’s no better way to do this than by showcasing what’s in it for them.
It’s time to brag about your benefits.
Speak Your Members’ Language
Good UX teaches us to put users first. This means fitting your message to your members’ needs and expectations, rather than to your preferences. Hang up your organizational jargon and define your association’s benefits clearly and concisely, mimicking the way that potential and current members speak, search, relate, and seek value.
This also means that you may have to conduct some research to discover these things. In that same benchmarking report, three out of five associations said they need to better understand member needs, demographics, and goals. Stakeholder interviews, focus groups, and audience surveys are how you develop that understanding. This data can be converted into actionable insights that shape your message and better connect you with your members.
Repeat Often and Everywhere
We’re all overwhelmed with information. For a message to sink in, we need repeated exposure. So state your member benefits frequently and on various platforms.
Don’t make the mistake of only sharing your member benefits in an introductory new member email and considering the work done. At that point, the member is likely experiencing information overload. Set up scheduled, automated marketing emails to send in the future, reminding the new member of the benefits once they’ve gotten their feet wet.
Don’t bury your content on membership benefits deep within your website. Create a member benefits page that features prominently in the site hierarchy. But don’t consider your work done with this single page. Sprinkle the benefits throughout the site, in small targeted ways, adding links on the homepage and sitewide in calls-to-action. Site visitors—both potential and existing members—likely will not go hunting for this information, and they can’t search for something they don’t know exists.
Members access information in many ways so apply this messaging wherever they are. Flaunt the perks on social networks, resurface them via Google or retargeting ads, discuss them during meetings, add taglines to your emails, send a simple print mailer, highlight them in your newsletters, and end customer service calls with reminders of upcoming events or new resources.
Highlight One by One
Repeat often and everywhere, but do so strategically. Don’t overwhelm your members with a bunch of benefits information all at once. Explore how you can flesh out this content in pieces. You could organize a campaign around benefits—sending each membership type their tailored benefits one by one, reminding them of the specific perks, and sharing a story of how others are finding that benefit essential in their daily professional lives. Take the message to email, social media, and newsletters.
Customize the Perks
Different types of members want different things—and your benefits should reflect this. You may already be providing offerings that meet different member types’ diverse needs, but you could be doing more to promote it to each of them uniquely. According to that 2018 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, only 20% of associations feel they are effectively delivering a customized member experience.
In order to engage with all your members appropriately, map out member journeys by type—e.g. associate, student, retired, professional, etc.—to review the steps they go through to join and the opportunities for communication. Place simple, clear reminders along their path to remind them of how to get the most out of their membership. Consider how the experience should differ for highly-engaged versus less-engaged members so you can avoid irrelevant, redundant communications to those most active. Incorporate personal, customized calls-to-action that invite participation.
This is another important opportunity for research to assure you have an accurate understanding of your members. We have a hunch that the 20% of associations who feel they are successfully delivering a customized member experience are the ones who did the research into members’ needs. Take the important time to craft member journeys. Starting with defining user personas that provide concrete descriptions of your audiences and best practices for how these users will most often interact with your organization.
Quality Over Quantity
This one is simple: review your list of member benefits and make sure each one does heavy lifting. Less is more. Your members would rather see a list of three rock-solid benefits than of twenty that offer little value.
Community is built when like-minded members get together. These individuals can create a powerful network that promotes your organization by word of mouth. Associations should be the main facilitator of these connections and emotional ties, including extending the reach by working with local chapters to reinforce membership value at the local and national level.
There are easy ways your association can put these principles into practice. Take inventory of your current list of benefits and how and where you talk about them. Do some research into your members—where they’re looking, what they want, how they talk. Then assess how the two align and create a plan to start or continue the appropriate touch-points.
If you don’t currently have the bandwidth for this ground-up approach, you can minimally remind your current members what benefits are available by sharing the information in your next newsletter, social media post, or at an event.