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What is your association’s competitive advantage?

advantage

Anyone who has been part of managing an association knows one thing for sure: there is an association for everything. The down side to this is that there are usually two or three or four associations for everything. That means that every association must set themselves apart from other associations that are competing for membership dollars. You’re not just trying to get industry members to join, you have to constantly be proving your value over other associations.

It's not unlike business in the for-profit arena. Those types of organizations must constantly be proving their competitive advantage to current and future clients in order to succeed, and the same goes for associations. In my opinion, there are two things that set every association apart from their competitors: their members and their content.

Members
Being a member of your association gives people access to your other members. With most associations, that means access to some of the “biggest and brightest” in your industry or niche. This is absolutely one of the most powerful attractions for potential members, and probably why a large number of your current members renew each year. If they know that becoming a member and attending your events means they can rub elbows with some of the biggest names in your industry, it’s almost a no-brainer.

There's a great opportunity for you to leverage your membership in your growth efforts. Let people know that the Elon Musk of your industry is a member and part of the board, with their permission, of course. Share the fact that your industry’s biggest names are part of your association and I guarantee others will want to be part of that. We all want to be part of success, and showing that those who are already successful value your association will inherently grow perceived value to potential members.

Content
The second thing that sets your association apart is content. There isn’t (or shouldn’t be) any other association that offers the content that your association does. Every single association produces content, whether you know it or not, and I don’t just mean the content you put on your website or your blog. Anything your association produces for your members' benefit is content. This includes things like certifications, guidelines, best practices and more. Members are constantly looking to see what others in the industry are up to, and you can be the voice to allow people to see things like that.

One source associations overlook is member-generated content. Enable your most active members to share their experiences with the rest of your members by making it easy to get that information to you. The number one reason I hear that active members aren’t willing to submit content is it’s too time consuming. If you can make it as easy as possible, and show them how, your member-generated content pipeline will always be full.

Taking the for-profit approach when preparing your association for 2018 might be just what your association needs. Take the time to layout your association’s competitive advantages and you’ll quickly be able to identify the things you should be focusing on and promoting in the year to come.

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Cheat sheets and references: Pocket guides can be valuable membership tools

pocket

One of the most popular pieces in our inventory is a humble little pamphlet, inexpensive to produce, but containing some of the most sought after technical information in our industry. It’s a simple, tri-fold brochure that is given out to new members, tradeshow visitors and sold to our membership for less than a dollar. This pamphlet explains an industry standard with helpful tables and references. Technicians who use this information take it with them on the job, on the road and whip it out when trying to explain the principles to interested customers.

Every industry has information that would be helpful if available at the fingertips. Whether it’s technical renderings, graphs, standards, guidelines or principles, if you are able to put this information into a convenient and portable medium, your members will promote it.

Once we realized how popular this information was to our community, the Board requested that we post it on our website. We added the key words to our SEO metadata and published it’s availability in Facebook, Twitter, our magazine and e-notices. We are now considered “experts” in this standard. When searching the keywords, our organization shows up in searches. Our outreach to the public increases with each passing year.

What information does your membership consistently ask of you? What questions do you find yourself constantly fielding? Consider putting this information in a pamphlet, you can add your contact information, website and list of other publications. Tables, graphs, formulas, phone numbers all can go on a pocket sized guide for sale or as an additional giveaway. Do your members go on field work? What information would be handy to them on the job? Make it available online so it’s easy to download.

If your organization specializes in the food industry, make a cheat sheet of cooking terms, weights and measures or conversions. Are your members scientists? Add graphs or formulas they use daily. What do graphic designers find handy? A color wheel. Travelers will surely appreciate a quick reference guide featuring “hello,” “thank you,” and “good-bye” in a variety of languages. The ideas are limitless.

Add your organization logo, contact information and list of other publications, you now have a valuable tool to giveaway, post on your website or sell.

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Getting personal: Using hand-written notes to connect with members and increase retention

stack letters 447579 1920

I received the loveliest note from a dear friend yesterday. Handwritten on a humorous greeting card only she and I could truly appreciate, she thanked me for our friendship and for just being me. It was simple and unexpected and I’ll cherish it forever.

I have another friend who mails me postcards every few weeks — kitschy relics he picks up at antique stores and re-uses. My favorites are vintage photos of old supper clubs and motor inns. I save them all.

I have, in fact, a box full of special notes, letters and cards that go back to my childhood — precious messages written by hand from high school friends, my mother, my grandmother, my husband. They mean a lot to me and I wouldn't dream of throwing them away.

In a world of knocked out texts and emails, hand-written notes are an anomaly. Think about the last time you received a hand-written note by mail. I bet it got your attention and made you slow down so you could appreciate the message. Maybe it was nice enough that you tacked it to your office wall for everyone to see. It made you feel good didn’t it? Kind of special?

What if you extended that same feeling to your association members? Imagine the impact a sincere, hand-written note would have on member satisfaction and retention.

It starts with prospective members. What if you had a targeted list of pre-qualified prospects and your CEO hand-wrote a special note to each inviting them to join your association or attend one of your events as her guest. Wow! At the most, they’d join or attend. At the least, you’ve opened a door of communication that will likely be reciprocated, but most certainly remembered.

For new members, a hand-written welcome, along with your “new member kit,” is a great first step to building relationships and engagement.

Get yourself a set of branded notecards or stationary and start reaching out today. Consider these ideas:

Letters of congratulations for

  • Certifications
  • New jobs
  • Promotions
  • Births
  • Marriages
  • Retirements
  • Business growth
  • Industry awards

Letters of thanks to

  • Sponsors
  • Event volunteers
  • Authors or blog contributors
  • Speakers
  • Board and committee members

There are so many ways to connect personally with your members and make impressions that last. It requires extra time and thought, for sure, but that extra touch will be remembered and appreciated, and will likely translate to greater member satisfaction and increased retention.

Now, grab a pen and make someone feel special today!

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First impressions: How to welcome new members

welcome mat

Members are the driving force behind any organization, and a new member’s first impression could be the deciding factor in their length of stay, participation and whether they, return should they ever decide to leave.

New members and prospects must be a high priority, focus should be on answering their questions, familiarizing them with the goals and mission of the organization and getting them involved with the various groups and committees as soon as possible.

Here are a few extra actions you can take to ensure an affirmative lasting impression:

  • From initial contact as a prospect, to the actual approval of membership, the organization’s staff is in a unique position to impress the new member with a positive (or negative) experience. It is a simple task; always be responsive and attentive to any new member or prospect.
  • A new member welcome packet, whether by direct mail or email is essential. You can include a welcome letter, membership certificate, informational brochures, by-laws of the organization, information on the next conference, your business card and anything else that may be useful.
  • Board members or elected officials should be assigned to contact the new member personally, either by phone or email. They can explain why they are members and what benefits they receive as members. They can also act as additional contacts for questions. The new member is hearing from someone who is in the same industry and can relate to issues unique to the industry they share.
  • Invite the new member to the next conference, webinar or tradeshow, at a discounted rate, if possible. The main reason most join an association or trade group is to network with peers in their industry. Don’t let the new attendee become adrift at sea. You need to take the reigns and guide their first experience at a major function, to make it as profitable and worthwhile as possible.

For your next conference:

  • Create an ambassador program designed to let those who care deeply about the mission of your organization guide new members through the first years of membership. The ambassador can also introduce them to peers within the organization to encourage networking.
  • When promoting an event, in social media posts and newsletters, include the names of new members who will be attending. Add their picture and a brief biographical sketch, so everyone can get to know them before meeting face-to-face. If you have an online directory, consider posting member photos next to their listing.
  • Host a new member reception to introduce them to the governing members of the organization.
  • Create new member ribbons, or provide a way for the new member to be identified at an event.
  • Don’t forget to follow up with all attendees of events, especially new members. Ask them to complete follow up event evaluations so you can improve upon the experience, find out what they want to see next and if they need any assistance in networking with members they met. Get them to invest their ideas into improving the association.

All these suggestions will ensure new members feel they are welcome and important components of the organization. The goal is to encourage new members to renew their memberships, increasing retention.

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Certification program is opportunity to recognize key members

CSIA Accessories Photo anon

Working in association management, it is important to find ways to connect with and recognize association members. The certification program offered by our client, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), provides a great example – the chance to recognize member companies that have achieved CSIA Certification or certification renewal.

Recognition of companies that successfully complete an audit is a good way to boost the visibility of the certification program. More importantly though, we understand the amount of hard work and dedication that members put into preparing for a certification audit and are eager to acknowledge this achievement!

These are some of the ways CSIA members’ certification success is recognized.

Social Media Recognition
One of the most immediate ways we acknowledge CSIA Certified and recertified companies is through social media. In a matter of minutes, a post announcing a company’s certification can reach so many people. In terms of simplicity and effectiveness, social media is certainly one of the most successful recognition tools we use.

Certified Membership
Upon successful completion of the certification audit, a company is classified as a Certified member. By providing this membership category CSIA Certified companies are easily recognizable. This membership category also provides unique benefits such as access to certification-specific materials and a larger discount off the purchase price of an online profile on CSIA’s online marketplace, the Exchange.

Certification Materials
Certified companies receive a packet of information from CSIA soon after their certification is processed. Materials sent include:

  • Certification plaque (sent to companies certifying for the first time). 
  • Date bar showing the current certification term that is attached to the company’s plaque. A new date bar is sent each time certification is renewed. The plaque is designed so that a company can attach each date bar in order. 
  • A certificate is sent via email (so that the company can share it electronically with clients and post it on their website) and in paper form for display.
  • Stickers – These have proven to be popular with members. We often receive requests for additional stickers and companies have enjoyed sharing photos of the creative ways they have found to display their stickers.

Annual Conference Recognition
The annual CSIA Executive Conference brings the industry together and we have found that it is an ideal time to recognize Certified members. Conference recognition methods have included:

  • Slides/signage listing CSIA Certified members
  • Name badge ribbons
  • Recognition of CSIA Certified members during a conference event (such as a dinner or awards ceremony).
  • Photo ops

We are always searching for new, creative recognition methods to try. No matter our approach, the primary intent of certification recognition is to connect with the member and to demonstrate that we take their accomplishment seriously. It is our experience that members who feel appreciated by and connected to their association add a great deal to its success!

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Marketing automation: Using sequenced emails to onboard new members

hello phone

Welcoming new members into an association is exciting! Their new ideas, enthusiasm and fresh approaches add a lot to the vitality and dynamism of an organization. When it comes to welcoming new members, one of our first priorities as association professionals is to make sure they feel engaged and encouraged to participate in ways that are meaningful to them. To accomplish this, it is important to get to know new members and to take the time to understand their backgrounds, experiences and values and then use that knowledge to help them personalize a membership experience that works for them.

It is also important to develop a new-member onboarding process that is both dynamic and effective. To enhance our already robust new-member onboarding process, I have recently been developing a series of automated emails to send to new members during the first few months of membership. This project is still in the development stage – we have yet to implement the emails. But I wanted to share my approach.

My first step was to evaluate our entire process and how the new email sequence would fit into that process. After all, our new emails are intended to complement and enhance our existing welcome messaging. To evaluate whether the email sequence would accomplish this goal, I asked myself some basic questions: Would adding this component improve the effectiveness of our communications with new members? Would reaching out to new members in this way help them feel involved in the association and welcomed? Do the new communications reinforce our intended messages without being redundant?

Once I had determined that the new email sequence would provide value to our process, I turned my attention to the substance of our messages. When I began composing the emails I decided to work with content we already use in existing new member communication. This serves dual purposes – it saves time by not requiring us to draft messages from scratch and, more importantly, it reinforces the messaging we already have. Since we know the topics highlighted in our existing messages are of interest to new members, the emails provide an opportunity to present the information in a fresh way. We have added a bit of new content and tried to customize some of our messaging to specific membership categories. However, the bulk of our email content mirrors existing messaging. My hope is that by introducing members to certain topics in multiple formats (such as an email and then a mail piece) they’ll be more likely to take notice of and act on the information being shared.

With our messaging in place my current area of focus is implementation. I am very conscious that our members are busy working professionals with their own hectic schedules. Since we are establishing an automated sequence of emails, my primary consideration is setting up the system in a way that avoids potentially inundating members with too much too soon. We want the emails to be spaced so that they capitalize on a new member’s enthusiasm, while allowing them enough time to take in the information being presented. Emails sent too close together might overwhelm the member. However, spacing the emails too far apart runs the risk of the messages getting buried in a busy inbox.

I am thinking very carefully about the best approach to sending these emails. One idea I’ve had is setting up each email in the sequence to be sent based on action taken from the previous email. For example, our first email encourages new members to visit a certain online community and they receive the second email only after they have visited that community. Whatever the implementation approach ends up looking like, I will be paying close attention to member feedback and adjusting as needed over time.

What are your experiences with new member onboarding? Have you worked with automated email sequences or other automation tools? I would certainly welcome your thoughts or advice!

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Planning a successful membership renewal campaign

renewal call

Each client association has its own specific goals for member retention, but we like to keep ours in the 85-90% range. Below are some of the processes I use to make sure we hit these goals annually and in an efficient manner.

Keep track, and don’t reinvent the wheel. 
For each of our clients, I make a yearly table to keep track of when a reminder was sent, how many open invoices there were when the reminder was sent, and how many members renewed after that reminder (our clients’ AMS – or association management systems – make pulling reports like this quick and easy). This allows me to have a good picture year after year of what types of reminders get the most attention, as well as what timing seems to be best for each organization. I use this information to plan for the current year. If a specific method or text prompted a higher response rate, I’ll make sure to include something similar this year.

Plan for multiple mediums
We really try to be green here and utilize digital communications for the first month or so of a renewal campaign. This allows the open renewals to dwindle down a bit before we actually need to send a paper invoice. That said, I cannot tell you how often I hear “I was surprised to get this invoice in the mail – I had no idea my membership expired!” Sometimes seven email reminders just go under the radar. My point is that our membership bases are diverse and not everyone receives information the same way. For this reason, I ensure that our campaigns include a mix of email, social media, print, and even phone calls.

This year, we are also utilizing the Higher Logic platform on which some of our client websites are based. Higher Logic integrates with the member database and instantly notifies members at log-in when their membership expires and gives them a simple way to click and pay. Once the renewal is paid, this notification disappears.

HL member renewal

 

Make a schedule, but be flexible
As I discussed, I keep track of renewal campaigns annually so I can see when reminders were sent. I use this data to plan for the current year, shifting dates around based on holidays or other important messages going out for each client. That said, these dates are not set in stone. If renewal payments just do not seem to be coming in based on email reminders, I might move up the date that I send out paper invoices. I continuously adjust the plan based on how each client is performing.

Involve the Board (or a membership committee)
This step is vital. As association staff, we can only remind a member of their benefits so much. Board members can share experiences of exactly how the membership or a connection they made through the organization has improved their businesses or their careers. Last year, the past chair of one of our associations had a lengthy email exchange with a member who was on the fence about renewing — they had not had the time to commit to really be “plugged in” with the organization and therefore had not seen the value. The past chair shared a story of how he had seen his business quintuple in size over the past ten years, attributing it to relationships he had developed through the organization.

I cannot stress enough how much of an impact this can have, so I try to make it as easy as possible for volunteers by never giving them more than ten names to call, providing both phone and email contact information, and giving them a summary of the communications I’ve had with the members so far.

Teamwork!
Make sure that everyone on the client team is aware that the renewals are ready. The “front line” office staff can help a member renew over the phone without being passed to a membership coordinator. The meeting planners can remind vendor members about their renewal while discussing their exhibit space for the coming year. Our marketing staff make sure to include reminders in newsletters and social media. I share the master “renewal calendar” so that the whole office is aware of the plan for each client.

Membership renewals are a big deal for associations – after all, members are the “lifeblood” of associations. They are why we do what we do! It’s important to keep track, have a plan, and involve multiple parties to reach members and remind them why their association is so great!

 

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Quick! Tell me about your association's member benefits

member benefits II

Why should I join [input name of your organization here]?

I used to fear this question. Not because I didn’t know, but because I never took the time to put together a clear and concise list of the benefits of membership. Even though I’ve been with the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA) for 10+ years, this question could make me freeze in my tracks.

After working with AMPED for a few months, they suggested I put together a list of benefits – why had I never thought of this before? At first it was a little intimidating, I could only think of three or four reasons that had been clearly defined. However, when I sat down and brainstormed (and peeked at other organizations’ lists of benefits) I realized just how much NAFA had to offer!

Go through your certifications, publications, member’s access, affiliate associations and by-laws. Look at every program in your association and realize the magnitude of benefits. Use this list while on the phone, with email and through U.S. mail. You will look like the expert you are in no time. Now I can confidently state why you should join NAFA.

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Recognizing volunteers – the backbone of an organization

love your volunteers

Associations rely heavily on volunteer members, many of whom do much of the work of moving the organization forward. That’s why it’s so important to recognize their efforts and keep their enthusiasm high.

The National Air Filtration Association (NAFA), a client partner of AMPED - Association Management Partners & Executive Directors, is comprised of dedicated individuals with years of experience — experience they are willing to share with other air filtration professionals. It is not a difficult endeavor to solicit volunteers within NAFA. Most are willing to dedicate their time to work on projects both large and small. Having such wonderful people within your organization is a blessing, but it is vital to appreciate their hard work every way you can.

  1. Recognize the volunteer at every opportunity. Thank them publically at conferences; give them plaques or tangible items that remind them how important they are to the organization. Use Facebook or Twitter to post updates with photos of the volunteers in action.
  2. Keep in close touch. Check in with the volunteers occasionally. Ask for their suggestions and feedback to show them how important their participation and opinion is to the group’s overall wellbeing.
  3. Refer technical questions to them. Rely on their expertise. When a technical question arises, seek them out for their knowhow. This will show them you recognize their authority, and gives them the opportunity to promote their businesses.
  4. Document their efforts in print. Periodicals, publications and newsletters offer the opportunity to recognize their work and publicize committee efforts.
  5. Don’t forget the volunteer’s employer. Be sure to include the employer’s name when recognizing the volunteer. Businesses sacrifice a lot in order to allow employees to attend conferences, work on committees and share their time. A way to recognize this and get the support of the employer is to always include the name of the volunteer’s company.
  6. Be sure to include their designations/certifications. NAFA has a certification program and the designation is always included when mentioning an individual. Not only does it help promote the program, it demonstrates the importance and value you place on the certification.

Most important of all, thank your volunteers. Send them a thank you card or call them personally. In the age of email and social media, the handwritten letter is a novelty. Personalize the note or call to thank them for a specific task they did during their time volunteering.

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Growing your association and yourself through real connections

Network seedlings
I heard someone say in a presentation recently, “Don’t let technology rule you. Be a champion of personal relationships.” As an association manager, I do exactly that – pick up the phone and meet face-to-face as often as I can to grow relationships and, in turn, my association clients through personal contact and real connections. This face-to-face time with our clients and members is the foundation that our associations were built on and it benefits us all both professionally and personally.

I’ve seen the power of these connections first-hand with one of my clients. A year ago I invited a woman who was a long-time member, but not very involved, to be the subject of an executive profile in the association’s magazine. The profile led to a face-to-face meeting about a program that her organization offered and an additional article in the magazine. She then agreed to serve on a panel at our annual meeting and, there, met a contact from a large organization. That contact led to an opportunity to meet with them about one of her organization’s programs and now they’re working on a future collaboration. It’s the perfect example of how a small outreach can lead to bigger things and turn a checkbook member into an engaged and happy one!

Here are some quick ways to make personal connections.

Pick up the phone. With all of the ways to contact people these days, we often neglect to pick up the phone and actually make a call. Sure, you may get voice mail, but even that counts.

Handwrite a note. In the age of email and the multitude of other ways to contact people, the art of the personal handwritten note may seem outdated. However, people appreciate when you spend a few extra minutes to write a note. On more than one occasion, I’ve received a handwritten thank you in response to my note!

Visit members. Making an appointment for a quick visit with a member is a wonderful way to make that personal connection, get feedback on your association’s offerings and learn what else you can do to assist your members. If it’s not possible to visit your members due to geographic or financial constraints, see if they’d be willing to Skype.

Make a personal ask. The next time you’re looking for volunteers to serve on a committee, participate in a panel discussion or write a blog or article, reach out personally as opposed to sending a blanket call for volunteers. People will love that you recognize they have a talent you’re interested in utilizing and appreciate that you are taking the time to personally invite them to participate.

I challenge you to start connecting by making one phone call, writing one letter and asking one person to participate in your organization at a more engaged level this week. I promise you’ll be glad you did!

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Be a problem finder: How member support can grow your association.

Help

Whether working with clients or members, individuals or organizations, there will always be the need to offer support. It could be answering a quick question or walking someone through an issue. Being able to provide excellent support will earn their appreciation and their trust. But what makes up excellent support? Three things that come to mind are knowledge, the ability to listen and a little bit of patience.

Knowledge: Know what you’re working with backwards and forwards. It could be membership for an association, the specifics of a product or service, the ins-and-outs of a website; familiarizing yourself will allow you to quickly answer those questions. Much of this will come from experience and helping others, so it’s important to learn from your past clients or members as well.

Listening: Sometimes you hear a familiar question and are already thinking of how you are going to respond. But if you make an effort to listen, you can pick up on issues they may not even recognize they have, or may be the root of everything else. Some of the best support you can offer is finding those hidden problems and providing your products or services as an answer. Being a problem finder is just as impressive as being a problem solver.

Patience: We’ve all encountered situations where we’ve tried everything and the issue still isn’t fixed. So we may be a bit flustered when we do ask for help. That’s a very common and understandable response, and in those situations what works best is offering the support that we would want in turn. Be personable, get to know who you’re working with and really listen to what they have to say.

Resolving an issue will build confidence in your company or organization, and being friendly and approachable will only further garner their support. It could be a prospect that you just won over, or a lead that you just converted. It could even be a member willing to pass your information along to others in need of similar support. Great support can garner that member or client advocacy, and further grow your association.

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A little hand-holding goes a long way toward member engagement

According to the Corporate Leadership Council, employees with lower engagement levels are four times more likely to leave their jobs than those who are highly engaged. Do you think the same can be said of our members? Those who we can get engaged will stay with us over the long haul while those who never feel a connection will move on fairly quickly?

I hear people talking about member engagement all the time. It’s definitely a hot topic for associations right now and it’s an important one. As our members have more and more things competing for their attention and dollars, it’s critical that we get them to feel a connection to our organization — to engage with us and their peers. The theory, of course, is that the more engaged a member is, the better our chances of having them stay with the association when renewal time comes along.

There are so many ways to involve and engage our members in our association. We can ask them to serve on committees, offer them the opportunity to attend programs where they learn and network with their peers, invite them to present at conferences and educational events and build online communities for their use.

One of the things our association partner, the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) will be focusing on this year is member engagement. We’re targeting their online community as one of the places we’ll start. Some believe that if you build an online community, people will flock to it and it will flourish with little to no intervention. I’ve worked with several organizations that have started online communities and I have yet to see this work without some gentle pushes from leadership and staff.

Some of the many things we’ll be doing in 2014 to increase participation on wsae.org include assisting leadership in becoming visible in the community, encouraging people to blog, utilizing it to communicate with committees and the board, making announcements and carrying on education program discussions long after the event has ended.

We often overlook the need to start with the basics when getting an online community up and running or trying to pump some energy into an existing community. First, we need to make sure all members know the community is available and encourage them to create their online profiles. WSAE is running ads in its magazine and newsletter that spell out exactly how to login and set up a profile. We’ll also encourage them to set up a daily or weekly digest, so they have new postings delivered to their inbox automatically. We’ll also be running questions that have been posted to the community in the association’s newsletter. We’ll share the topic question, but direct them to the website for the answer.

How will we know if our efforts are successful? The system we use tracks engagement and offers reports. We’ll be selecting some key metrics to measure our progress and see if we achieve our goals. I’ll let you know how it goes!

If you’re looking for a place to see what your peers are doing or pose a question, join me on the Member Engagement – For Online Community and Membership Professionals group on LinkedIn. There are over 2,100 members discussing all kinds of engagement issues. It’s always interesting to join a group and then see how many people you know that are already participating. I guarantee you’ll find peers dealing with some of the same issues you do.

What about your member engagement? Have you done something that’s worked particularly well or maybe something you’d never try again? I’d love to hear what you do or are thinking of doing to engage your members, and I know others would too.

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Lessons in Juggling: AKA Renewal Season at AMPED!

Managing membership renewals for one association can be a juggling act: finding what members need to renew, generating the invoices, getting the invoices in front of the members, getting them to want to renew, and then sending reminders to members who still need to pay. Now, managing the renewals for three associations? You can go right ahead and call me crazy. Lucky for me, we have a great team here at AMPED and it’s “all hands on deck” around renewal season.

Renewal season at AMPED starts in early October. We get the whole team in a room and hash out our action plan. The three membership-based clients for whom we manage the renewals require a variety of renewal reminders (emails, mailings, phone calls, and social media), so we need a way to keep it all straight. Enter the good ol’ Excel spreadsheet.

I create an initial renewal calendar in Excel with a color assigned to each association that easily shows us when we’ll send each email/reminder/paper invoice, as well as when we will make phone calls or social media posts. The spreadsheet makes it easy to edit based on the team’s input. It’s also flexible for moving things around based on how the renewals are going. I also find it helpful to drop reminders in my Outlook calendar the day before a communication should go out so that I can get it set up in our AMS (or get lists ready for phone calls, invoices ready for mailings, etc).

Once the calendar is set, I draft a “master” renewal reminder for each client listing the benefits of renewal and how to make payments. This master reminder is reviewed by our writing staff, as well as the staff who work closely on each respective client, to ensure accuracy and that we are highlighting the best benefits. Each reminder thereafter will be a variation of this master reminder, so it is extremely helpful to be able to pull bits and pieces out of the master to create smaller reminders. We also devise a list of catchy email subject lines to use throughout renewal season.

From here on out, it is a matter of keeping very good documentation on what reports to pull for what associations to get the right output—I never want to confuse a member who has already renewed with an email reminding them to do so. I also like to give the team a heads up when an email is going out so they can be ready to grab the phones if members call in with questions or want to take care of things over the phone.

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