Savvy association executives know that technology is a key driver in serving membership—from user-friendly websites to apps that help keep members connected and engaged. What may be a surprise, however, is how pivotal technology is at making a member feel like they are part of the community.
A recent study by software provider Community Brands makes strong links between how well associations leverage digital tools to serve members better, and how connected—and satisfied—those members feel.
The study, Examining the Gap Between Member Expectations and Association Technology, surveyed more than 1,000 members of professional associations and 400 staff members in fall 2017. The takeaways show that associations have significant opportunities to drive member loyalty through technology, but many organizations are not taking advantage of them. The ones that are investing in technology to connect members—primarily through personalization of communication and content—are reaping tremendous benefits.
“In our study, we discovered technology and personalization play pivotal roles in driving member loyalty, but there is a growing disconnect between where members believe their organization is delivering the best experiences and what they value,” said Sig VanDamme, membership software evangelist at Community Brands. “The experience gap is especially pronounced with personalization. Members who believe they are receiving personalized content feel significantly more satisfied and connected with their organization.”
The survey shows that most associations—at least 60%–are using four primary digital tools: email marketing, CRM software, events-related tools, and webinar services. Other tools that align with member needs and priorities—such as job boards and learning management systems for training–are less common. Mobile apps are used by only half of the organizations surveyed as well.
A look at the members’ desires shows a disconnect. Among those born from 1965 to 1999—think Generation Xers and Millennials—at least 65% say technology plays a “big role” in their lives. More than 80% use a mobile device every day, and the same number pay for at least one digital subscription, such as Netflix.
It’s no surprise, then, that among the different ways that members can connect with their associations, the mobile option is the only one where more respondents said they wanted to engage than were actually engaging. This shows a gap between what associations are offering, and what members want.
“Organizations need to take these technology experience gaps seriously and progress to more seamless experiences that align with evolving digital behavior, and meet increasing member expectations for flexibility and personalization in everything they do,” VanDamme said.
What’s the easiest way to begin closing these gaps? Start with personalization. More than 70% of respondents said that personalized content appeals to them and makes them feel more connected with their organization. The type of content can vary—from discounted offers to conferences based on a member’s history or skill set, or specific articles on topics of interest based on a member’s profile.
“A majority of members (69 percent) feel more engaged with an organization after receiving personalized content, based on their past activity, because it shows the organization is interested in meeting their needs,” the study said.
Start small: birthday wishes, congratulatory notes when certain certifications are reached, or even products and services that align with the member’s profile. The key is to ensure the data you have is up to the task.
Grassroot Communications specializes in data analytics—and our team would be happy to help you! And if you’re wondering how to jump-start building a valuable database that stretches beyond your membership, contact us.