People join associations for a number of reasons - professional development, networking opportunities, certifications and ongoing education, etc. But regardless of why they join, there are a few underlying expectations people have of your association - things they expect you to adhere to, regardless of size or industry.
So what exactly are your members expecting from your association? We’ve identified four key qualities/behaviors:
1. A seamless online user experience
People are used to interacting with sites like Amazon and eBay - super personalized and super simple. That said, when they go to other websites - your association’s website included - they’re expecting a similar experience.
- Simple and intuitive navigation - Is it easy for people to get around/find information on your website? Do you have broad, yet clear tabs along your website header? (For example, home, about us, membership, education and events, etc.?) Do you have more detailed subheads beneath those fairly broad headers? (For example, under about us, do you have subheads for board of directors, staff members, bylaws, etc.?) Don’t clump that information together. Organize it in a way that makes sense for your members (and prospects) to find. (Tip: Because you’re likely overly familiar with your association’s website, have an outsider - whether it be a member or not - walk through your association’s website. They’ll be able to tell you - quickly! - what makes sense and what doesn’t.)
- A fairly streamlined purchasing process - If you allow members to pay dues and register for events online (which you should - again, they’re expecting that), that process should be seamless. Go back to the example of Amazon. If you’ve bought from Amazon before, the company stores that information (your billing address, your shipping address, your credit card info, etc.), so all you have to do is edit that information (if necessary) and click ‘purchase.’ It’s dangerously simple. Make online transactions that easy for your members as well. Use something like an association management system to safely store their data. That way, when they go to purchase something (whether it be another year of membership or admission to your next event), all they have to do is update their information (if necessary) and click ‘purchase.’ (A simple process leads to more transactions!)
2. The latest industry news/updates
You’ve likely positioned your association as an expert in the industry - and for good reason. You have the technical know-how and the network to receive information quickly.
That said, because you are the expert, your members are expecting you to be on top of the latest industry news and trends, and not only that, but relay that information - quickly! If there’s a new industry regulation on the table or even a funny industry-related video that’s trending, your members want to know about that. And they’re expecting you to provide that information before they find it themselves.
So how do you do that? How do you keep your members constantly in the loop, particularly if you’re a staff of only one or two? Try sending out a weekly e-newsletter with curated content from your particular industry - news articles, blog posts with industry best practices, case studies, etc. Emails like that are valuable, and for the most part, pretty easy to put together. (For more tips on how to actually curate content, check out our post, A Practical Content Strategy for Small-Staff Associations.)
3. For you to facilitate engagement/interactions
This one’s a tough one to accept. You want more than anything for your members to go online and engage with you - without you having to really push that behavior. But here’s the thing: For the most part, your members are expecting YOU to facilitate that engagement. If there’s an upcoming webinar, they’re expecting you to tell them about it (via newsletter, email reminder, etc.). They’re not necessarily just going to check out your online event calendar.
This can be discouraging, sure. But don’t interpret this as they’re not going to engage with you. They’re just waiting for you to make that first move. (And that’s totally doable, particularly with a good member engagement strategy in place.)
4. A certain level of professionalism
This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many associations get this wrong. Professionalism doesn’t just boil down to one or two things. It’s a multitude of factors that together give your association that professional (or unprofessional) image.
A few factors that tie into professionalism at your association:
- High-resolution images - Does your association have high-resolution images on your website and social media pages? These are things people look for that instantly give credibility to your association.
- Consistent formatting - What’s the formatting like on your website, in your newsletter, in your blog posts, etc.? Is it consistent from week to week? Is it consistent within the same post? (Spacing, especially!)
- Minimal typos - We get it, typos happen. But the more typos you have, the more those chip away at your association’s professional image. Be careful when writing and publishing. (This applies to social media as well!) (Tip: When using Twitter, because you’re limited to 140 characters, you may be tempted to abbreviate a lot. But abbreviate with caution - one or two words, max. The more you abbreviate, the more obscure - and less professional - your message becomes.)
- Up-to-date website pages - Are your website pages up-to-date? And we don’t just mean in terms of content, but links as well. Are people getting a lot of 404 errors? Is your 2017 event registration link actually going to your 2016 event page? These are things people pay attention to and that impact your association’s overall image.
Members expect a lot from you, and sometimes, that can get overwhelming. If you need help managing your association (in a way that’s bound to leave your members impressed), check out our Ultimate Guide to Membership Management below! It’s filled with best practices for membership recruitment, engagement, retention, and more!