Do you remember the last job interview you had? Sitting in the hot seat, trying not to fidget as you were asked questions about your experience and what you could contribute to the company?
I remember my last interview, and there were a few questions that stumped me. What did my interviewer want me to say? How could I explain that I was qualified and ready to help the company?
Mind-reading would have been a nice skill to have at that moment.
Associations are constantly put in similar situations. They’re trying to understand their members and what they’re thinking in order to provide the most value and the best benefits possible.
Associations know they have value, along with the tools and expertise needed to help their members grow, but members’ needs change over time and it’s not always easy to keep up. Industries change, legislation is updated, and new technology requires new skills.
How do you get ahead of your members, and help them as their professional and personal lives shift? How can you tell what information, events, and programs would best suit different member groups, and what is important to them?
The answer, of course, is to read your members’ minds. HINT: Your AMS software can help.
Association management software tools help you gather information about your members through direct and indirect insight. That information will help you determine their interests, priorities, concerns, and what’s motivating them, so you can update your member benefits as time goes on and customize offerings to suit different groups.
5 Steps to Use Your AMS to Learn About Your Members
Action Item 1) Collect Activity Data
Indirect insight is information about your members based what you can gather from their activity on your website or at events, without directly asking them. You can collect activity data in your AMS system by reviewing discussion forums, looking at what blogs members have read, what files they’ve downloaded, and who they’ve talked to. Any activities that members perform in your membership management software, online community, or even at live events can be considered activity data.
All this information together tells you the content your members like and which engagement opportunities are most appealing. Areas with the most engagement, such as your top webinar, are topics that members find most important.
Act on your activity data to personalize communication and create more of the content that members want. Are people blowing through your new blog post on up-and-coming legislation? Write more about future legislative action. For instance, did new members love your course on new technology in the industry? Suggest the course in new members’ welcome emails to get them involved.
As members’ lives and needs change over time, their activity data will change as well. By staying current with recent activity data and using that to drive your member benefits and communication, your association will adapt with its members.
Action Item 2) Take Advantage of Reporting
Now that you’ve started collecting information about your members’ actions on your website, at events, and in your community, it is time to put that data to good use.
To get the most out of your activity data, analyze it with reporting tools. These tools will turn your members’ actions into spreadsheets, charts and graphs so you can easily spot trends and discover what the data actually means. It’s easier to tell that more and more members are interested in technology when you see the number of views on your technology blog graph grow steadily over 6 months, for example.
Reporting can also help you review other important data, such as page views and the number of visitors to your site, blogs, and online community. Reports with this type of detailed information will help you find out what is getting a lot of interaction from only a few people, and what’s popular with many different people in your member base. What do people care about enough to engage with, consume, and even come back to multiple times?
Action Item 3) Increase Your Use of Member-Facing Tools
The best association management software will include tools that your members can interact with on a day-to-day basis such as discussion areas and resource libraries, as well as crowdsourcing functionality.
Surveys and polls are two of the best ways to gather direct feedback from your members, and learn about their opinions. They’re particularly good options if your association has made recent changes, or wants to know how well new offerings, such as education programs, will be received.
By turning that traditional “association-to-member” communication into two-way feedback loops, your organization can drive contribution by tailoring question and response sections. If you want to give your members a more open way to communicate, however, you can use crowdsourcing tools. These tools let you collaborate directly with your members, and provide more freedom in submitting ideas for future initiatives, content, and areas to prioritize.
Action Item 4) Pay Attention to Transactional Data
What members do online is important, but it’s only part of the equation.
What have your members purchased? Have they been browsing in the online store? Recently renewed their membership? Was it on time? Upgraded? Like activity data, your members’ transactions give you insight into their mindset.
Anything that your members are willing to pay for, such as a higher membership tier or a webinar, is something that they’re interested in. Furthermore, transactional data tells you what your members find worthy of financial investment, which may mean that it’s an even higher priority for members.
Membership dues collection and your membership database’s online store are the two most common areas where you can find transactional data. For more information, you can also look at event registration and fee transactions, as well as donations and local or chapter events.
Action Item 5) Segment Your Member Base
Sending one-size-fits-all messages to your membership is a recipe for being ignored.
Divide your members based on geographic location, chapter subscription, and other demographic or membership data. These segments, which may also be known as groups or lists depending on your AMS software, can provide you with both direct and indirect insight.
Slice your membership data based on activity data and transactional data to get more specific views of your membership. This will help you see if different groups of members have different priorities.
Varying priorities is a common trend in member groups around the world. For example, members living in areas with a high cost of living may be more interested in resources dealing with budgeting than those living in areas with low cost of living. By not looking at your membership as a single homogenous group, you can identify these patterns and further tailor your member benefits to suit each individual group of members.
Member Insight Takeaway
Association management software isn’t just about collecting dues anymore. Your association management software provides many tools to help you get insight into your members.
To get into your members’ heads, however, you have to pay attention to both their words and actions, and analyze them to figure out what they’re telling you.
When you listen to what members are saying, you can discover patterns that explain interests, concerns, priorities, and the top reasons why members are participating in your organization. Use that insight to personalize your member communication, and provide benefits that address what’s most important to your members.
Most importantly, keep up with your members over time. Watch for shifts in interest, and how your members’ needs may be changing, then update your benefits to provide the most value possible.