Who Are Your Members?

August 20, 2015   |   Vol. 14   |   Issue 8
By Barbara Armentrout, Relationship Director

Who Are Your Members?

This year’s Tipsters have explored a variety of topics to help association and other membership professionals do a better job of defining value proposition, optimizing marketing, converting to inbound marketing, deploying cost-effective online remarketing, and more. Now, let’s take a step back to look at the same picture through different lenses.

What all these strategies and tactics are built on is knowing who your current and future members are—not as amorphous ID numbers, but as individuals pursuing their own interests and careers. What do you really know about them? What do they know about you and your association? How can you improve your relationship with them for the benefit of the member as well as the organization?

After all, healthy membership organizations are changing to meet the very real and very current needs of Gen Xers and Millennials while getting ready to anticipate the needs of Gen Z/Centennials. Boomers (like me) need to embrace changes in how association business is conducted, because those who don’t change are likely to end up in 2016’s version of the La Brea Tar Pits.

What do you think getting to know members means for those in membership, marketing, and conferences? It’s simultaneously very easy and very difficult.

The easy part: ASK your member about themselves.

Why did they originally join? Is that still a solid rationale for paying dues or have things changed (in their lives, in their career path, in their geography)? What do they want and need from your association…and are they getting it in the format and frequency they desire? Hint: monthly or quarterly publications will barely register as a blip to those who grew up in a purely digital age.

And find out what members need at different milestones in their careers.

MGI recently helped a medical society measure which of the dozens of benefits members actually value. We examined the survey answers and added age and career tenure data, and then were able to see very clear patterns of member benefit bands by age or career milestone. That information spurred test messages where we only listed the benefits likely to appeal to targeted audiences.

  • Response rates zoomed on renewal, retention, and acquisitions.
  • The association still offers the same overall list of benefits, but messaging focuses on matching target benefits with target audiences.
Be careful to distinguish between chronological age and where someone is positioned in their career, because this is where my Boomer generation can really trip you up—many of us are launching into all-new careers where we may be “new practitioners” but arrive with some aces up our sleeves in terms of life experience. That means we won’t value what new graduates might value, but still welcome career help. And keep in mind that today’s new Millennial graduates are following different career trajectories than followed by prior generations. For example, many medical professionals are taking the “employed physician” path instead of setting up practices, so they have little need for old-school benefits offered by many medical societies. But they very much want to belong to “a group of people like me,” which is a unique professional camaraderie that all associations offer.

Okay, so what’s the difficult part?

Truly challenging for many busy people is making the time and maintaining the discipline to gather those additional datapoints about your members and prospective members, and then carefully analyze the data to inform your decisions. After all, most of us are crunched just keeping up with daily pressures, and this adds more tasks.

The time spent, though, will prove to be valuable in keeping your association relevant and accessible to members new and old.

Contact MGI Relationship Director Barbara Armentrout at 703.706.0337 or email her at BArmentrout@MarketingGeneral.com to learn more.

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