You work so hard to ensure your membership provides value to your members. But it won’t do you any good if your members don’t know about it. The last thing you want is for your communication be the weak link that prevents your relationships from being as strong as they can be.
Unfortunately, talking to members can sometimes feel like a one-sided conversation.
Whether you're sending emails, leaving phone messages, posting on social media or pinning flyers to message boards, you don't always get to see the response. Yet, the hope is everyone reads carefully and reacts enthusiastically.
Of course, you can and should be gathering as much data about member response as you can. That, combined with testing, will get you closest to to learning exactly how your unique member base wants to be communicated to. But this doesn't have to be an intimidating task. Fortunately, organizations large and small have studied what makes communications effective, and their years of collective findings can help others starts out on the right foot.
Here are some best practices to help you ensure you are sending the right message, in the right place, at the right time.
Communicating Value: What to Say and How
With any communication, be it a newsletter, social media post, blog article, etc, you have about 5 seconds to capture your audience’s attention. And if you capture their attention, what do you earn? Probably another 5 seconds to do it again.
You’ll want to make sure your message is laser focused, emphasizing value in the most efficient way possible.
Best Practice 1: Have A Goal for Communication to Accomplish
When planning your communication strategy, starting out with a clear goal in mind is essential if you want measurable results.
Is the goal to educate? To inspire usage of an association benefit? To encourage feedback? Each of these goals will require different messages and tactics. However, in every case you’ll need to understand your members’ needs and address them in your communications.
A clear goal will also help you perfect your call to action. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a call to action is a request for your audience to do something immediately after reading. This is how you’ll obtain your measurable results.
For example, if you send an email prompting members to sign up for a webinar, you’ll be able to calculate how many clicked through, how many signed up, how many actually attended, how many were more actively engaged following the webinar, etc.
All these metrics can help you gauge the effectiveness of your messaging and adjust as needed in the future.
Best Practice 2: Make it Easy; Make it fun.
People in general are unwilling to work hard for their benefits. Even a too-long enrollment form is enough to scare away 34% of Millenials. Loyalty program members will also abandon memberships when it takes too long (54%) or when it’s too difficult (39%) to earn a reward.
They’re hardly going to be more patient with boring or complex marketing efforts, especially at the beginning when trust is still being established. Therefore, try to ensure each communication contains a single, clear message. And if it fits with your organization’s image, make it entertaining too.
Think of it this way: members will rarely look deep to discover all that membership has to offer. So you can position the communication as informing them directly what is available, teaching them how to use it, and linking them right in order to make their lives easier. That’s a service by itself.
Most importantly, make it super easy for them to act on their inspiration right away, before distractions can make them forget. This means any emails that prompt members to use their benefits should link directly to those benefits.
Best Practice 3: Prove the Value of Their Investment
A member’s perception of your value will be as unique as they are. For example, in a professional organization, a new member will probably gravitate more toward benefits like continued education and networking opportunities, while a seasoned member has probably outgrown those benefits. The same message won’t elicit the same response from every member.
We’ve already outlined in detail the process for segmenting members into marketing groups depending on their own progress through the member journey. You can find it here.
One language most people understand, though, is money. They are investing in a membership believing that the value you provide will outweigh the cost. Your communication is a great place to showcase all the ways you can solve challenges and make life easier. In essence, you can assign a worth to the benefits and frame them as a return on investment. Once a member begins to see you as an essential partner they can turn to at any time, there will be less hesitation be when it comes time to renew.
Talking money and cost-benefit doesn’t have to be a downer. Especially when you offer lifestyle discounts as a benefit. It can be fun for both you and your members when you talk about all the extras you'll help them afford, like travel, dining out, fun with the family and more.
So what does this all look like in practical application? Let’s imagine an example where your goal is to get 300 people to use your local discounts mobile app this month. Using all we’ve learned above, your marketing strategy might look like this:
For people who haven’t downloaded the app:Messaging: “Members who use the app typically save 15% more than those who don’t.” (Showcase the value)Call to action: Download the app (with links to different app store options to download)
For people who have downloaded the app, but not redeemed a deal:
Messaging: “New deal alert! B1G1 entrees at The Brothers Mexican Restaurant.” (Highlight a popular, high-value discount)
Call to action: Redeem your coupon (with a link straight to the deal)
For frequent users:Messaging: “How are you liking the savings?” (Solicit review or referral)Call to action: Write a review (with a link to the organization website page designated for reviews)
Communication Timing: When, Where and How Often
Once you’ve perfected your messaging, the next step is to make sure people see it. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you’re using current outreach best practices. This will help you maximize each of the different platforms to their full potential.
Best Practice 4: Meet Your Members Where They Are
The first step to communicating with members is to know the best way to get information to them and from them. Email is still a staple many businesses rely on for communicating with members. Most organizations choose email to pass on important announcements, keep up enthusiasm and encourage important actions for members to take.
But what if you don’t have their email address? Or if they requested to not receive email? Or you’re one of 12,483 unread emails? (I can’t be the only person guilty of a messy inbox, right?)
Building a robust email list means convincing your members to give you their information and permission.
At Access, we’ve helped clients run registration contests to great success. In offering a chance at a valuable prize, they’re more willing to give you something of value in return: a point of contact through which you can then continue to keep them engaged.
Alternately, you can branch out your outreach program to find members where they are. Studies have shown that Facebook is still (despite the rumors of its imminent demise) an excellent place to post information where members will see it.
And younger generations are branching out further to Youtube (yes, videos are a great way to spark member curiosity and get them involved), Twitter, Instagram and smaller platforms that cater to niche groups. It’s important to find where your audience tends to congregate and meet them there.
Best Practice 5: Maximize each platform
Most marketing strategies emphasize consistency of communication. Having a steady and dependable presence is important all the time, but especially during times of uncertainty.
Getting the right frequency is another important factor, and it will differ between your platforms. Luckily, people have been studying for years to find that happy medium between too frequent (which may cause members to unfollow you) and too infrequent (which may cause members to forget about you.)
Posts to Twitter have a notoriously short life cycle. Some recommend a minimum of 6 tweets a day, others as many as 15 spaced evenly throughout the day. In that way, you can be seen in someone’s feed no matter what time they scroll. While Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram have posting recommendations of once per day.
Email is great at a frequency of 1-3 times a week, depending on the value you deliver. Higher value emails are always welcome at a faster pace.
These are just general rules. You’ll have to keep track of engagement to learn exactly when and how often your particular members want to hear from you.
Best Practice 6: Adapt as Necessary
Luckily, with most of the world becoming increasingly tech savvy, organizations can diversify their outreach options. That way, if one is temporarily available, there will still be other means by which they can reach their members.
Unluckily, with the world changing quickly, a willingness to adapt is no longer optional. Individuals change priorities, emerging generations bring different preferences, and even if you think you have it all figured out, 2020 has shown us that major world events can change status quo in an instant.
For example, when spring 2020 conferences faced cancellation, many were able to adapt by switching to a virtual conference format. Being adaptable allowed them to deliver on promised value.
Communication Goes Both Ways
Once you are creating solid messages that you’re sure members are seeing, the next step is to listen and respond to their feedback. But we’ll save the details for next time.
In the meantime, here are a few articles on communication to help you further refine your strategy:
- Communication and Loyalty Programs: Three Steps to Increase Engagement
- Speed Counts: Why it's so Important to Communicate Value Quickly
- How Better Member Benefits Communicate the Real Value of an Association