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The secret to improving member experience

The key to improving member experience

Whether a subscription to a membership organization or professional association is mandatory or voluntary, providing a good member experience is critical to driving engagement and ensuring that subscribers gain value from their membership.

Understanding precisely what it is members want to gain from being part of your organization is critical to tailoring your engagement, retention and attraction strategies. Having a clear overview of member satisfaction and knowing what you’re doing well, and what you can do better, is the first step in improving member experience. This, in turn, encourages sign-ups and renewals.

Why do membership organizations and professional associations exist?

Membership organizations and professional associations exist to connect and serve people who have shared interests. These can either be interests relating to their professional careers, or hobbies they undertake outside of work.

There are some professions where it is a requirement to join a membership organization, such as accounting, social work and medical roles. In many cases, these associations will provide regulation and ethical guidelines for employees along with traditional membership services.

Prospective members (or their employers) pay a subscription fee to join the organization. In return for this fee, members typically gain access to a range of services, including:

  • Professional recognition
  • Training, courses and certifications and other forms of continuing professional development
  • Events
  • Information and advice, including industry news, reports and magazines
  • Exclusive job postings

Membership associations work best when the people who join them are engaged. For voluntary memberships, this is most apparent through the number of people organizations attract and retain. However, even compulsory membership associations need to drive engagement to ensure members and their employers see the benefit of renewing.

Economic uncertainty requires organizations to demonstrate value

The need to provide tangible value for members is even more critical at present. With consumers and businesses facing increased costs from spiraling inflation, they will be looking to cut unnecessary spending. Marketing General’s 2021 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report found that 45% of associations reported drops in renewals during the pandemic. Therefore, if people don’t view their membership as a clear need, then it’s something they could dispense with to save money come renewal time.

This means it’s vital for you to understand the member journey and to constantly try improving member experience. Just like any subscription service, knowing how your members feel about your offering and what value they feel they receive is crucial to ensuring that you can tailor your services to deliver a good outcome – which drives subscriptions and renewals.

Even for associations where membership is compulsory, engagement is vital. Disengaged members are unlikely to invest in higher membership tiers if they aren’t realizing value. A lack of engagement also creates a vicious cycle that impacts other members’ perceptions of the association and affects the morale of the organization’s employees, often to the detriment of the organization’s offering.

Creating a situation in which membership is seen as a gateway to a thriving and engaged community is foundational to shifting perceptions of mandatory membership organizations from a cost to an investment.

Improving member experience starts with a good listening strategy

So, how do you know whether you’re providing value? By listening and understanding.

GrowthZone’s annual survey of membership associations found that ‘more targeted communications’ was the number one tactic to improve engagement and gain valuable customer insights. Understanding your members and targeting them at the right point, with the right communication, will drive member satisfaction and retention.

However, that is easier said than done. There are many questions you should ask yourself:

  • While you’ve likely already established methods of gathering member feedback, such as surveys, do you have a strategy beyond collecting responses?
  • Are you getting feedback on every part of your member experience, or just certain aspects?
  • Is your feedback limited to an annual member satisfaction survey?
  • Do you gather feedback across all stages of the member journey?
  • What are you doing with the responses once you’ve collected them?

Collecting members’ feedback is only the first step in better understanding them and improving member experience. Turning this feedback into actionable insights, and in turn, a member engagement plan is the next step.

When working with large volumes of member feedback, manually sifting through survey open-ends can be laborious and time-consuming. Despite being cumbersome, the importance of analyzing your feedback (and analyzing it well) cannot be overstated. Rather than dismissing open-end responses as too difficult to work with, invest in tools that can help make member listening and understanding more efficient.

Text analytics technology like Relative Insight makes it easy to analyze and interpret text-based member feedback, such as survey open-ends.

To learn more about how analyzing unstructured text data can help your organization attract and retain members, take a look at some of our customer insights examples for businesses.