It’s no secret that developing retention messaging efforts involves effective communication. Research from the ASAE Foundation insists that executives must routinely connect with and learn about their members in the optimal ways, if they want their organization to stay relevant.
They encourage leaders to strategically “meet members where they are”, “create opportunities for newer members to get involved”, and emphasize that - from the perspective of association due-payers - “value remains key”.
What this means is that posing the right questions to the correct people (namely your members), and heeding the data you receive continues to be a critical developmental process within any association.
So, what exactly is spurring your association retention disruption, and how can you learn about your members’ foundational goals and challenges well enough to develop effective messaging?
We’ve outlined here not only why the landscape is changing, but also provided the right types of questions to ask when gaining insight into membership perspectives.
First and foremost, we want you to understand how to think about the modern professional environment, and then your industry-specific actions toward modernizing your engagement tactics should stem from this knowledge.
1. Formal education
Formal education is undergoing radical change and becoming increasingly less valued as a direct path to success. As an example of this trend, workers are gaining professional experience (and seeing their results pay off) through self-taught online courses and freelancing engagements - a low-risk, apt solution to the growing trend of employers prioritizing immediate skill implementations over “potential value” offerings.
The point here is that the modern workforce recognizes the value of establishing their professional presence in less traditional ways. But could individuals be missing out on unique learning experiences that your organization could potentially provide?
This is the type of understanding that will give you the opportunity to show worth to your members when it comes to the shifting educational landscape.
(For deeper reading into the self-directed learning approach, have a look at Bill Gate’s enlightening take on how online courses have the potential to create real change in the developing world.)
What to ask members in light of alternative learning strategies:
- What are the most important insights you attribute to learning in college classrooms?
- In the past year, have you spent any money on digital courses?
- If so, what factors played into the decision?
- In your opinion, what are the most important factors when it comes to acquiring new skills, implementing them in the workplace, and growing professionally?
2. Hyper-relevant industry content
In an HBR article that encourages association executives to take a product strategy approach to membership relevance, Denise Lee Yohn notes how “the proliferation of online content has led to vast and often free access to the types of information, insights, and training that professionals used to be able to access only through association membership and industry conferences”.
Sure, you might be enticingly nudged toward checking out a company’s service or app during your reading, but the barrier to entry for mass amounts of expert-developed information is mind-numbingly low.
This means that quite literally, all you need is an email address with the sole purpose of receiving promotional content to efficiently download hoards of well-researched eBooks.
What to ask members in light of relevant, free, and high-quality content:
- What are your favorite ways to stay up to date with industry information? (e.g. blog posts, eBooks, weekly industry meet-ups)
- Do you or your peers attend any formal professional events? (e.g. conferences)
- If so, what upcoming events are you most excited about, and why?
- If not, what do you think would make you want to attend?
3. Social networks
Digital social networks catering to your industry are thriving. LinkedIn and Facebook groups are currently among some of the best free tools to stay connected. And if a professional wants to build strong lifelong professional connections by spending $150 on a highly-rated (insert any business niche) digital course that leverages all the best aspects of these social tools, that’s an easy decision for them to make.
The value they receive from like-minded peers and on-demand support for their challenges is unprecedented and unrivaled. Your messaging response? Answer why members should include you when thinking about their networking budget.
For tactical creative material, you might consider taking cues from DECA’s recent social efforts.
What to ask members in light of robust, low-cost, professional networking opportunities:
- How do you leverage social media on a daily basis for professional gain, and why is doing so important to you?
- What are your thoughts on the world’s increasing attention toward a connected digital environment?
- In what capacity do you value the importance of face-to-face communication? Why?
- How does this fit into your conception of a rich professional life?
The importance of effective communication with your members
With so many easy-to-access opportunities and resources at everyone’s disposal, it’s no wonder why members - regardless of their professional stage - are questioning the value of your membership offerings.
But while these are all very real challenges confronting association retainment strategies today, it can’t be overemphasized that they do not necessitate an imminent death sentence.
Ongoing communication with your membership is an essential foundation when modifying organizational strategies designed to adapt with the modern world. It’s also the most accessible antidote to combat your declining association member rates.
At eBallot, we’re experts in supporting your processes en route to this knowledge, and our voting platform is uniquely designed for associations like yours.
Learn more about the types of votes we run for associations like yours here.