by Amy Pagano
Everyone you meet is on some kind of journey. Each person has a goal or a destination, and the lucky ones know how to get there. They have obstacles to overcome, but they also have people who’ll help them succeed.
Ideally, your association should be one of those helpers. When they’re starting out, you offer guidance. When their career is growing, you help them make connections. When they reach the top, you help them become an industry voice.
But what about the member’s journey within your organization? How do they go from discovering the association, to becoming a member, to getting involved with programming?
All of this represents the member journey, from prospect to member to champion. Every member’s journey is different, and understanding these journeys is the key to success.
Why data-driven journeys are important
The traditional (association-centric) member journey goes something like this:
- Pay to join the association, ideally around the time of graduation
- Take out a subscription to the association magazine
- Buy registrations to the annual conference
- Pay more money to keep up with industry certification
- Repeat these steps every year until retirement
In the past, members didn’t have much choice. They tended to go along with this journey, even if it didn’t entirely cater to their needs.
These days, however, people want options in every aspect of their life, particularly incoming generations. Services like Uber and Netflix have thrived because they offer people flexible choices and the ability to consume programming at their own convenience and liking. And these services also thrive because they use data to figure out what choices their customers want.
Imagine if each member followed a journey that was tailored to their requirements. It might look more like this:
- Automated marketing creates a bespoke value proposition, so members know how the association can support their career goals
- Email preferences allow members to choose which communications they receive
- Content preferences highlight all relevant programming
- Member personas help anticipate each member’s needs
- Behavioral analysis identifies what the member is likely to spend money on
What would happen if your association adopted this approach? Would recruitment increase? Would engagement rise? Would members get more involved in association activity, or spend more money on premium content?
It’s possible to create this kind of member journey if you have the right data. Here’s how.
Data approaches to fuel your journey
Every system in your tech stack is generating data. The typical association has systems like:
- Marketing automation – data about leads
- Email automation – data about member engagement
- Association Management System – data about member activity and preferences
- Event Management System – data about conferences and live events
- Learning Management System – data about programming and certification
If your systems are properly integrated, you’ll have a 360o view of your member base. To create an effective user journey, you’ll want to use this information to create a persona matrix.
Personas are detailed archetypes that accurately describe a section of your audience. For example, senior managers at large companies are one persona; while recent graduates who want to start their own business are another. A persona matrix is a collection of personas that describes your entire audience.
Creating a persona matrix is a three-step process: segmentation, profiling, and prioritization. After that, you’ll need to refine and measure your approach.Step 1: Segment your dataIn the example above, we segmented the audience along two axes. Our two examples—the senior manager and the graduate—are at different career levels. One works at a large company, while the other is an aspiring entrepreneur.
You can segment data along any axis, as long as it provides some meaningful detail. Common segments include:
- Career level: This has a big impact on the type of programming and certification the member needs.
- Generation: Each generation has its own characteristics. For example, Baby Boomers tend to be hierarchical, while Gen Z is more collaborative. If you understand the difference between these groups, you can segment by generation.
- Geography: Location is a vital segmentation axis – people in Boston don’t want news about events in San Diego. Remote working has made this type of segmentation a little more complicated, as people may not necessarily live anywhere near their place of work.
- Job function: This will vary according to your industry. You might choose to make distinctions like customer-facing vs. back-office, or operations vs. managerial.
- Discipline/Specialty: Another industry-specific division. Associations need to keep a finger on the pulse of their sector so that they can be aware of emerging disciplines within the field.
- Industry/Vertical: Members may intersect with other industries. For example, a corporate accountant working in manufacturing might be interested in both accounting and manufacturing news.
Segments should be just the right size to describe a section of your audience. If the segment is too broad, it won’t help you predict member behavior. Too narrow, and it won’t apply to enough people.Step 2: Build your personasNow that you have meaningful segments, it’s time to flesh them out. What do these members need? What are they worried about? How can the association help them?
A persona should paint a picture of a real, living person. For that, you’ll need to look at the segment data and figure out the following:
- Demographics: What are the basic details of this persona, such as age, gender, average income, etc.
- Skills and attributes: What are this person’s current levels of experience and education? How do they compare to other members?
- Goals: Where does this person see their career going in the coming years?
- Obstacle to upsell: Why might this person not fully engage with the association? What objections might this person have if they are offered premium content?
- Opportunity areas: What opportunities does this person have for growth? And how can the association help them?
- Challenges: What’s preventing this person from achieving their goals?
A good persona definition is all about balance. It needs to be broad enough that it describes an entire segment of the audience. But it also needs to be specific enough that you feel like you’re talking about a single person.
Getting this balance right is the key to delivering a personalized experience at scale. Accurate personas will help you identify the right content and offers to include in each user journey.Step 3: Prioritize your personasNow that you have a persona matrix that describes all members, you need to decide where to focus your resources.
To do this, you’ll need to create a persona hierarchy. The hierarchy might look at things like:
- Remaining lifetime value: If you calculate the lifetime value for each persona, you’ll be able to identify members who will contribute the most revenue in the future.
- Engagement: Personas with low or declining engagement levels may fail to renew their membership in the future. Targeting those now will help to reduce churn.
- Need: Personas that have the greatest need for membership are the ones most likely to provide engagement and value in the future.
Rather than targeting all personas equally, you can create an outstanding user journey for the personas with the greatest potential.Step 4: Allow members to customize their user journeyWho understands a member’s needs better than the member themselves? If you allow people to customize the user journey, they are more likely to create an experience that best suits their requirements.
There are two essential customization tools you can offer users on your website:
- Email preference center: Allow users to specify which communications they want, or to opt out of emails entirely.
- Content preference center: Allow users to choose from a list of topics so that they only see relevant content in their member newsletter.
By offering choice, you increase the level of engagement with the user journey. What’s more, you’ll gather important data that will help you refine the journey for the corresponding persona.Step 5: Define and measure successMember journeys should deliver tangible value to your association. There are several ways of measuring this value, such as:
- Measure by engagement: Track the engagement levels for targeted segments, which may include looking at programming consumption, digital activity, event attendance, or spending.
- Measure by conversions: Look at successful outcomes, such as sign-ups, registrations, downloads, or renewals.
- Measure by return: Compare the value of conversions to the cost of marketing. Alternatively, look at the increase in member lifetime value and assess your return on investment.
Measuring success will help you see if your efforts have been worthwhile. It will also help you to identify the strategies that are working, so you can improve your efforts in the future.
The member journey is the destination
Defining member journeys is an ongoing process. As you acquire data and learn about members, you’ll be able to refine and enhance each of the individual journeys.
This is why campaign tracking is so important. You need data that links member actions to specific marketing activities. You can get this data through UTM codes, campaign builders, and synced views. You also need to ensure that your tech stack is properly integrated and that you have the right tool in place to do this.
Ultimately, your members will be grateful that you’ve taken a data-driven approach. From their perspective, it means having a smarter, more responsive association that understands their needs and always has their back.