MGI Tipster – Volume 13, Issue 2

February 18, 2014 |   Vol. 13   |   Issue 2
Stay in Touch: Member Preferences to Improve Engagement



Are you dependable about keeping in touch? Many of us are and many are not, but for membership organizations, keeping in touch is essential.

In today’s world keeping in touch should be easy. We have phones, Skype, email, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, blogs, memes, and a dozen other channels. Membership organizations have never had better opportunities to keep in close contact with members than they do today. Yet, many fail to do it.

Effective engagement

Member engagement is vital to retention and association growth, particularly keeping new members aboard in that difficult first year when they are taking your association for a test drive. Surveys and newsletters are two often-used methods for keeping in touch. Blogs can be effective, too. At the same time, associations can learn about their members’ activities and preferences by tracking attendance at meetings and webinars, and monitoring product purchases.

Although common to many membership organizations, these engagement techniques may not lend as much to members’ passion for an organization as many believe.

It’s a fact

The more two-way communications an organization has with its members, the more engaged they will be. Parents implicitly know this. So do classroom teachers, corporate and fitness trainers, and so do the most astute associations.

Most dues paying members want to get their money’s worth from the association they have joined, and they want to learn all they can from your group. But they also want to be heard.

Active listening

It’s an association’s responsibility to listen to its members, hear what they say, and make it actionable. Here are three ways to put better communications programs in place that will engage your members:

1. Market scans

Each time you speak or write to members, ask for an easy answer to a straightforward question as an opportunity to discover something new about them. For example, insert a one-question “scan” into your email newsletter. Ask them to select a topic for the feature article in next month’s newsletter or where the next conference or trade show should be held.

It’s best to offer a yes/no check-box for members to choose rather than open-ended questions that can be difficult to tabulate. Most importantly, don’t let their feedback fall fallow. Report results as quickly as you can to show you listened.

2. Favorite channels

Many organizations use the most convenient channels for them, not necessarily for their members. For example, email is cheap, readily deployable, almost instant, and has reach. But email is dropping as a channel of choice for member communications. So use alternatives: a face-to-face chat at a convention or an SMS text over the weekend. There is one way to find out what members prefer—ask.

And while you are asking, make sure you find out these three things:

  • What information feeds their passion about the organization (preferred content)?
  • What’s the most effective way to deliver it (not the easiest or most convenient)?
  • How often do they want to receive it (spam vs. valued information)?

3. Google Analytics

Use Google Analytics on your web page to discover time on page, time on article, click paths from article to article, bounce rates, and total time on site to find out what members are doing with your information. These quantitative metrics allow you to rank content in order of importance to your website visitors.

You can also attach Google Analytics to blogs, Facebook pages, and just about anything with code that resides in your web presence. But the most important consideration is to use these findings to deliver more of the most valuable and less of the least valuable information your members want.

Make a plan

Once you have deployed active listening, develop a formal engagement plan with a calendar of communications events by channel, topic, and frequency. Then use the same market scan techniques to set up feedback on everything you do. Then deploy, remeasure, improve, and redeploy.

That’s how you stay in touch.

For more information about the importance of keeping in touch and how it can work for your organization, contact MGI Managing Director of Account Services Harold Maurer at hmaurer@MarketingGeneral.com or call 703.706.0391. If you’d like to see previous Tipster Newsletters, click here to access our online archives.

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