If you’ve ever had an amazing dinner at a restaurant, you’ll understand how every micro-interaction impacts your impression of the night. When it comes to member experience, your association is similar.
What your members feel, think, and gain from your association can affect their involvement. And that can ladder up to your growth and revenue. If their experience is positive, that strong relationship can support your membership renewals and even lead to people championing your organization.
But remember: their experience isn't just their first or last touch with your organization. It's not just the appetizer! The repeated interactions, over time, are most important.
So what is member experience and why does it matter?
What is member experience?
Member experience is defined as how members feel about your association, how they interact with it, and then the value they attribute to it. A positive member experience promotes membership retention and expands your association’s reach to new members, often via referrals. It directly impacts the success and revenue of your association.
Why does member experience matter?
Across the board, businesses like Netflix, Lyft, and Instacart are seeing success by putting their customers first. In a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience . This shift towards a customer-oriented perspective also benefits organizations.
The emotions your association elicits frames how members see you—and how likely they are to renew. Whether this responsibility falls to a member experience manager, a member experience ambassador, or a volunteer, member experience is a crucial investment. It’s the golden ticket to improved member retention, via:
- Ensuring you're adding value
- Solidifying association and member relationships
- Creating a foundation for growth and furthering your mission.
12 Tips for Better Member Experiences
To help you get started, here are twelve tips for improving your membership experience.
1.Understand your members.
We can give you a ton of advice on general membership management. But what ultimately matters most is what your members want.
So...a great membership experience starts with a profile of your members. To build that profile, send out a survey that will help you understand the needs and pains of your membership base. This will serve as your compass for improving your member experience.
Sue Froggatt, a consultant and thought leader in the membership development and growth sector, recommends recording information like why members joined, what issues they’re experiencing, what successes have impacted them, and what questions and emotions they've had at different stages of your member experience. That way, you can ensure your communications are serving the members you have, and not the members you think you have.
2. Improve your welcome touchpoints.
Communication is key to making your members feel valued and connected. Make a good impression from the start with a strong welcome email. Your first interaction with a new member should acknowledge their motivation for joining and guide them towards the channels for meeting other members. You can automate these emails and even personalize them with a membership management system.
Regular newsletters, active forums, and social media groups are also important for retaining members. Through these channels, you can communicate news and updates, and promote more ways for members to get involved. These channels add to your members’ sense that they are directly contributing to the organization through their questions, comments, and conversations with one another.
Stay consistent and don’t go silent—a quick way to disengage members is to leave them in the dark. If your organization has a quiet season, where communication needs to pause or slow down for a period, set clear expectations. In that case, consider preparing content that reviews past achievements or builds anticipation for what’s ahead.
Feeling ambitious? You can also develop a full welcome program for new members.
3. Personalize your communications.
No one likes to feel like a number. When crafting your messaging, don’t go generic! Focus on personalized, thoughtful communication.
There’s two ways to personalize: first, the contents themselves. Develop your brand identity, leverage a friendly approach, throw in humor (where appropriate, and if it suits your audience!), and provide content they care about. You want to make your members feel good, and the best way is to make motivating the focus of your communication.
Second, if you’re using a central database for your members, you can personalize your messaging with names, behaviours, and what they’ve already engaged with.
Before you hit send (possibly too many times), though, consider quality vs. the quantity of what you're sending. More doesn’t necessarily mean better. Every communication should have a purpose, and add value. If you’re too in touch, you could lose your members’ attention.
4. Conduct regular member satisfaction surveys.
How strong is your membership program? The answer is with your members.
Regular member satisfaction surveys help you analyze member satisfaction levels. You can get feedback, define your successes, and identify room for improvement.
A great way to survey your members is through an annual member needs assessment. Consider involving your members in the process by inviting them to help create the survey. They can give a valuable perspective on what questions to prioritize.
Even the process of giving feedback can make your members feel valued. But for them to really feel heard, your organization needs to apply that feedback to your daily operations and benefits development. Put your members’ feedback into action and you’ll be able to deliver value that matters to them.
5. Keep your calendar active.
Give your members plenty to look forward to! Offer a variety of events that cater to the needs and interests of your members, while supporting your goals. Naturally, you’ll have larger-scale events—such as conferences, panels, fundraisers—that may happen less frequently and require more planning. Balance these out with other ongoing events like networking opportunities and mentorship programs.
Be mindful of format! Hybrid or fully virtual events can make attendance more convenient for your members—and the technology has improved greatly in recent years.
Planning your yearly or quarterly calendar ahead of time also keeps you out of a reactionary mode of operating. It creates a structure while giving you flexibility to add or adapt in ways that are responsive to your members’ interests.
One last tip: Keep up the hype! Continue to engage your members after events. Acknowledge their attendance and get them excited about what’s next on your calendar.
6. Provide opportunities to connect.
Your network is a huge plus for your members. Make connecting easy for them, whether it’s through networking events, mentorship programs, access to discussion forums, or a membership directory. They’ll build new relationships with one another, access their community, and create a space where ideas and growth can be naturally fostered.
Even better: all that connection will ultimately ladder up to the value of your organization to your members.
7. Host events that speak to your members.
Events have been one of the biggest challenges over the last couple years. The first question you’ll want to ask is what type of event will serve your audience: in-person, hybrid, or virtual. Even when we’re back to normal, hybrid or virtual events might work better for your audience! so take a look at virtual event software that can help you create a digital experience that resonates.
Why? Because your events should always be convenient to your members, and fit into their lives. Be mindful of barriers that affect members like language, childcare, or transportation—put their needs at the forefront.
8. Create partnerships with other nonprofits, organizations, or corporations.
Securing corporate sponsorships can give your events and programs a boost. With the extra funding or donated goods and services, you can engage members in fun activities or offer incentives for participation. You can also partner with volunteer organizations and programs to provide new avenues of growth for members motivated by giving back.
Don’t be afraid to look beyond your organization for inspiration and resources. These are relationships that everyone benefits from—your association, your partners, and your members.
9. Give your members ironclad career progression.
Your members are looking for opportunities: opportunities to grow, and opportunities for their careers.
Creating courses for your members can give them the skills they need to become more competitive in the job market. Expand your offerings to include educational resources and enhance your online learning system so it’s easy to access and use.
Want to support them in finding new opportunities? Give them a way connect and network during sessions and events with speakers or thought leaders. Also: consider creating a branded association job board tailored to the industry and interests relevant to your members.
10. Create a central hub of information.
There are so many moving parts to your organization: you’ll need a central place your members can go to find key information.
Turn your membership website into a hub for all the ways people can get involved: events, social media channels, forums, learning, and professional development.
You can also use this central hub to better understand your members. Add your events calendar and pay attention to who registers. Include members-only pages with access to content specifically designed for them. Provide access to forums, e-lists, and other gated content. This gives you the ability to respond in targeted ways to those individuals and engage them further.
11. Reduce friction with easy membership renewal.
All these strategies will contribute to an experience that makes members want to stick around. So make sure when it’s time for them to renew, the process is seamless. Membership management software enables you to automate the process, with renewal reminders and automatic payments.
Their Good Experience is Your Good Experience
Putting care into every interaction is key to creating a positive member experience that affects your retention metrics. But remember: your association (and membership!) is a living, breathing organism that will go through changes and shifts. Continue to improve the member experience at your organization by keeping your finger on the pulse of what your members want, and adjusting accordingly.
While this may feel daunting, don’t fret! There are tools at your disposal to make it easy. A membership management software like MemberClicks is a great place to start, simplifying parts of your member experience by automating tasks like member renewals, dues collection, reporting, and more. You can request a demo here.
Looking for more strategies to engage your members? Check out our best practices guide here.