For any membership or professional body, the membership is the lifeblood of the organisation. Without members, there would simply be no organisation. As Wild Apricot, award winning membership software company, says, “members are their reason for being, so getting and keeping members truly engaged in the organization is critical for survival”.
How the organisation’s engagement with the membership is met might depend on the organisation (for example, through online communities, social media or marketing campaigns) but there are three key ingredients that all membership bodies must follow to ensure happy members that are engaged.
Furthermore, it is widely accepted amongst membership organisations that it is more expensive to recruit a new member than to retain a member, with Memberwise asserting that it is 8 times more expensive to recruit than retain.
So it is clear that engagement with your membership is vital – so what are the three key ingredients to happy, engaged members?
Read on to discover what Alice Dartnell, Membership Engagement Manager at the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA), thinks is the secret behind those all important happy and engaged members!
As a professional membership body you are there to support your members (and often other stakeholders such as the public) and offer guidance, support and most likely industry standards. Whilst you might not be there to regulate the industry, you’re certainly there to maintain the highest level of service or safety within your industry and your members have to trust you with this. It is no mean feat, so don’t take this responsibility lightly. Before engaging with members, ensure that you have the respect and trust of your members, and if you don’t, start working to gain it.
So how do you build trust? I think trust is built over time, by being seen to act as the champion and voice of your members, being transparent and clear, and supporting them when the goings get tough.
There is no point having a functioning website, interactive social media and fancy marketing if when someone calls you with an enquiry, they are greeted with a “what do you want” and an attitude like they have interrupted your day. As a membership organisation, you are there to serve your members so you can’t answer queries begrudgingly. You need to make your member feel welcomed, supported and valued. Their enquiry is important. The ingredient to success here is good customer service. Actually, make it excellent customer service if you can!
So how do you offer great customer service? Firstly listen to your members, then act on it… and then some more. Don’t just give them the answer to their question but also any other relevant information that may be helpful for them in the future even if they didn’t ask for it. The other day I called Amex as I couldn’t remember by club membership number for the British Airways air miles scheme. Not only did the lovely lady joyfully help me, she also warned me that British Airways was having website technical issues and I should wait a few hours before going on there. I really appreciated being given additional helpful information I hadn’t asked for.
Additionally, use your name when communicating to them, to make them feel like they know you personally rather than a “department” or organisation, and ensure you follow up with them later on to ensure that they got the help that they need.
Before you start to engage with your membership, you need to validate what you are offering and ensure that it’s of use to them – there is no point engaging with members if you are not offering what they need and want. You can do all the engaging in the world, but it’ll be pointless if you are not offering value. Assess your Member Value Proposition (MVP) and adjust if needed.
So how do you offer great value? It is a simple formula – ask, listen and act. Use polls, surveys, focus groups etc., to find out from your members directly what their needs and concerns are, and how you can help. Listen to what they are asking for, but also be careful to listen to what they are not saying. If you have a benefit that they don’t want, don’t be afraid to get rid of it. Times and needs change, so not all benefits will stand the test of time. You need to adjust to offer value.
These ingredients are important because you can’t expect to create a happy membership just because you invest in the technology to facilitate personalisation or run a few fancy marketing campaigns. Members need to feel safe, appreciated and that they are getting value from being a member and that you’re there to help and support.
Alice has been working within the membership sector for over 6 years and is always seeking ways to improve engagement and value. Alice is currently the Head of Membership Engagement at the Royal College of Anaesthetists where she is responsible for improving the strategic aim of broadening their inclusivity and engagement with members.
Connect with Alice on Twitter @alicedartnell