Under the Spotlight is a concise quarterly report addressing the current challenges and issues facing the Australian association sector, created in conversation with association leaders and presented by Clade Solutions, the developers of cloud-based membership management solution CAMS.
Each quarter a group of association leaders get together for a Lunch and Learn, hosted by Clade Solutions to discuss the key issues facing associations. The aim of this is to share information, learn from each other, and stay abreast of trends and emerging technology.
This quarter’s Lunch and Learn covered many topics, such as staffing challenges, diversifying income difficulties and ideas around reducing administrative tasks. However, the topic of member engagement came up repeatedly in conversation, thus takes the focus of this month’s Under the Spotlight Member Engagement is a critical issue for all associations. In an evolving commercial landscape, the role of the traditional association has shifted, leading members to question why they pay member fees and what the association is doing.
Issue 1: Measuring Engagement
Measuring engagement is tricky. To implement an effective system to accurately track engagement requires time, money and technology.
Obstacles vary depending on the size and audience of an association. You can measure event and webinar attendance, committee involvement, length of membership and contributions to policy amongst other things. But there is no easy way of doing this other than to extract data from various sources and manually compile the necessary information – it is not a simple process.
Furthermore, most associations, especially those who have relatively small teams, struggle with resourcing and executing member engagement strategies. So even if they had the data, because of the lack of marketing automation, increasing member engagement would be a challenge.
“Measuring engagement is complicated because there is no best practice as there are too many variables. But associations need to try so that they can identify and reconnect with at-risk members,” says Christian Capper, Chief Operating Officer at Associations Forum.
Tip: Implement a system that flags members who have not had any membership interaction for an agreed period. Create a standardised process to contact and re-engage at-risk members.
Issue 2: Member Expectation
There was a broad discussion about how to communicate with changing member audiences including millennials and what challenges this creates. But we don’t often hear about how to manage diversifying member expectation.
Often lower tier members (who pay the least money) have the highest expectation. To improve engagement, associations need to understand exactly what members want and what different segments of their membership expect.
By doing this, association leaders can determine a clear plan to meet these expectations and then measure engagement against the expectation.
“As Association Leaders, we should constantly be asking ourselves are we delivering what the members expect? Does our offering resonate with the full membership or single segments? Does our strategy allow for different messaging and service delivery for different segments?” says Dean Brakell, CEO, Australian Cabinet and Furniture Association.
Tip: Implement regular member engagement surveys to understand what members have enjoyed, have not enjoyed and would like to see more of. Regularly sourcing this information will allow Association executives to tailor strategic plans to meet changing expectations.
Managing expectation should be a major consideration when you are looking at member engagement.
Issue 3: Member Communication
Member engagement is typically tracked by pulling data from member management platforms. To gain an accurate insight you need to consider all communication channels – not just event attendance and member portal engagement.
Ideally, associations need to look at social media, newsletter open rates, referral rates and more. Any channel of communication provides engagement opportunities. The challenge is that there is no one method of measuring that can be applied and implemented across all communication channels to truly monitor every association / member interaction.
“For some associations, it can be a real challenge to track which channels of communication are best. I think this all comes down to your member segmentation. Some may like phone calls, others may like email, and some may even prefer face-to-face. It’s a case of building up this information, and then having the right tools to implement”, says Madeline Dermatossian, War Widows NSW.
Tip: Don’t assume one message on one platform is enough to reach and engage all of your membership. Consider tailoring membership tiers and benefits to different segments and identify the best communication tool and strategy for each segment.
Regular reporting and analysis of monthly data would be the first step to identifying engagement issues and acting upon them.
If associations can determine a holistic engagement measurement process, then they would be able to identify positive and negative engagement and implement a strategy that is driven by this insight.
Technology can assist with this, especially technology powered by advanced analytics. But there also needs to be a plan created to identify what you need to measure and how. This needs to be consistent against any measurable interaction in order to create truly accurate data to drive Board decisions and strategic plans.
Using member engagement benchmarking would also be of use to assess strengths and weaknesses, allowing staff to specifically address emerging and current issues.
Clade Solutions have also created a new measurement tool, available to CAMS users. The CAMS functionality includes a tool to measure and track member engagement, known as the MX Index. Once CAMS is implemented, the system tracks the number of interactions members have online and provides an MX index score per member.
“Tracking member engagement is crucial but to do this effectively you need reliable data pulled, ideally, from one single source of truth. You need to measure your association’s engagement but also be aware of how others fare, all associations face the same issues so benchmarking can help provide a better overview of how well your association is doing,” concludes Duncan Journee, Clade Solutions.
- Duncan Journee, Clade
- Thai Phan, Clade
- Christian Capper, Associations Forum
- Madeline Dermatossian, War Widows NSW
- Dean Brakell, ACFA
- Nick Bradshaw, Osteopathy Org
- Leigh-anne Shannon, Internal Medicine Society of Australia and New Zealand Ltd (IMSANZ)