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Marketing automation: Using sequenced emails to onboard new members

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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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American Heart Month: Do you know the risks and signs of heart attack and stroke?

Go Red 2017 cropped
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed February as American Heart Month — a federally designated month to help remind us to take care of our heart so we can continue to enjoy all of life’s precious moments. It’s a month to encourage us to get educated and get involved. By knowing your risk factors and learning the signs of heart attack and stroke, you may save a life — possibly yours!

Go Red For Women is the American Heart Association’s movement dedicated to the growing number of women affected by heart disease and stroke aimed at advocating for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health.

Male or female, consider the following:

  • 44 million women in the U.S. alone are estimated to be affected by cardiovascular diseases
  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke lead to 1 in 3 deaths annually — the number one killer of both men and women
  • 90% of women have 1 or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke
  • Fewer women than men will survive their first heart attack
  • Symptoms can be different in women vs. men
  • Heart disease and stroke know no age, ethnicity or socioeconomic levels, though some are more at risk than others.
  • 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education
  • More and more young people are affected by heart disease, in part because diabetes and childhood obesity are on the rise. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least 2 risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

KNOW THE RISK FACTORS

Risk factors that can be managed
You can control or treat these risk factors with lifestyle changes and your healthcare provider's help:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Lack of regular activity
  • Obesity or overweight
  • Diabetes

Risk factors you can't control
You can't change these risk factors:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Heredity (family health history)
  • Race
  • Previous stroke or heart attack


KNOW THE SIGNS

Heart Attack
For men and women, the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It may last more than a few minutes, or may come and go. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the following symptoms:

  1. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  2. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  3. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Bottom line: trust your gut! If you aren’t feeling normal or experiencing any of the symptoms above, head to the ER!

Stroke
A stroke occurs when blood flow through an artery to the brain is cut off either by a blockage or because the artery ruptures and bleeds into the brain tissue

The American Stroke Association developed this easy-to-remember guide to help identify the signs of a stroke.

F – Face drooping. Is one side of the person’s face drooping or numb? When he or she smiles, is the smile uneven?
A – Arm weakness. Is the person experiencing weakness or numbness in one arm? Have the person raise both arms, Does one of the arms drift downward?
S – Speech difficulty. Is the person’s speech suddenly slurred or hard to understand? Is he or she unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Can he or she repeat it back?
T – Time to call 9-1-1. If any of these symptoms are present, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Check the time so you can report when the symptoms began.

Getting treatment within the first three hours after stroke onset is critical for minimizing permanent damage.

BEYOND F.A.S.T. – Other Symptoms You Should Know

  • Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden TROUBLE SEEING in one or both eyes
  • Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause

There are risk factors for heart disease and stroke that you can control through healthy lifestyle, and others such as family history that you cannot. It is important to know that not all heart attacks and strokes come with obvious warning signs so there is no substitution for routine, preventative health care.

 

On a personal note . . .
My husband, at the age of 52 suffered a massive stroke. By all accounts he ate healthy and exercised vigorously 4-5 times per week. He had no unhealthy habits to speak of. However, hypertension, family history, and ignoring regular physical check-ups outweighed his odds of a major-medical emergency. Two days prior to the stroke he experienced intense headache – a warning sign we were both unaware of. Thankfully, recognizing changes in speech and seeking immediate help saved his life, thus allowing our family to preserve and create many more precious memories.

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Staying out of the weeds: Allow your leaders to lead

decision matrix

Volunteer leaders are ambitious. They own businesses; they have full (or more than full) time jobs; they conduct research; they join their professional or trade association to learn more, to be involved, to make a difference in their field – whatever that may be.

As association professionals, it is our job to allow our leaders to lead and help keep them out of the weeds. Volunteer leaders should be doing the big, strategic thinking and planning that moves the organization forward. They shouldn’t be deciding how much coffee to order during a meeting break. There are a few great ways to empower your leaders to really lead and staff to manage operations.

1. Create a decision matrix
A decision matrix is just what it sounds like, it lists decisions that need to be made by the association and clearly lays out who should be making the related decision. A decision matrix can be used for the board of directors and for committees. Staff and volunteer leaders create the matrix together ensuring that everyone is on the same page in terms of who the decision maker is, who should be consulted for advice when making the decision and who simply just needs to be informed.

2. Leadership Manuals
If your organization doesn’t have one, it would behoove you to create a manual that contains the following:

  • Your organization’s mission, vision and values
  • A brief history/overview of the organization
  • Responsibilities as a volunteer leader
  • Policies and standard operating procedures
  • Roles and responsibilities for board members, committees, staff
  • Important resources

Creating a manual or handbook allows volunteer leaders to clearly understand their roles and responsibilities.

3. New Board Member Orientation
To go along with your Leadership Manual, new board members should receive an orientation — a personal welcome from the executive director and current president or designee that provides a general overview of what it means to be a board member and what specifically that means to the organization they are going to serve.

These tools provides leaders with transparency and clarity in decision making and are essential in keeping them looking at the big picture instead of all the small brush strokes.

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Occupational hazard: Fives ways to keep moving at work

Caple health

It happens all the time, especially in the meeting/event planning world, your day does not go as planned. A meeting ran late, a new meeting was called, a snowstorm hit, a project needed more attention. Being stuck at work…it happens. Whether it’s having to put in long hours, or just a schedule that doesn’t allow gym time on weekdays, you can still squeeze in exercise—no matter where you are.

This topic is top of mind as I am currently participating in a research study through University of Wisconsin Health to reduce my sitting time and incorporate more movement throughout the day. According to research by UW Health, sedentary behaviors (typically in the context of sitting) have emerged as a new focus for research on physical activity and health. When you sit for extended periods, electrical activity in the leg muscles shut off, calorie burning rate drops, enzymes that help break down fat drop, good cholesterol HDL drops, and the levels of metabolic energy expenditures is greatly reduced. Incorporating periodic movement throughout your workday has numerous benefits such as:

  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved glucose and insulin levels
  • Improved metabolism
  • Improved digestion
  • Reduces stiffness in legs and joints
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers
  • Improved mental concentration and energy levels

Here are some ideas to easily incorporate baseline movement into your workday. They can be done all at once, or spaced throughout the day to keep you moving until quitting bell time.

Lower body
Chair leg lifts
Sit with your back flat against a chair and your right leg stretched straight out with your foot flexed. Lift and lower your right leg, concentrating on the quadriceps muscle to do the lifting. Since you’ll only be using your body weight, try between 15-20 repetitions, then switch to the left leg. Rest and repeat two more times. Repeat the exercise with your flexed foot facing out, concentrating on your inner thigh.

Chair squats and rear leg lifts
Stand behind a chair with your chest lifted, shoulder back, feet straight ahead and hands on the back of the chair. Squat down, as if you were sitting down in a chair, keeping your head straight and making sure not to roll your shoulders forward. Stand back up pushing through your heels. Do 15 repetitions. Then try single rear leg lifts. Stand in the same position, flex your right foot leg straight and lift to the back. Do 15 reps and repeat with the left leg. Take a 30-second break and start again with chair squats. If time allows, complete three rounds.

Upper body
Arm circles
While they may seem like an old-school exercise, arm circles work! Sit straight in a chair with your back flat against the chair and arms out to the side. With your palms facing down, circle your arms forward making small circles. Try to circle for 30 seconds, then take a short rest and repeat in reverse.

Water bottle curls and kickbacks
Again, sit straight up in your chair. Grab one or two full water bottles (if you only have one, do single-arm exercises; if you have two, work both arms at the same time). To exercise your biceps, hold the bottles with your arms straight down and palms facing out; curl your arms up just past 90 degrees, hold for a squeeze and then lower your arms. Do 15 repetitions, rest and repeat. For a triceps workout, hold the bottles with your palms facing inward and elbows up; extend your arms back. Do 15 reps, rest and repeat.

Just stand
During the day, remember to get up from your desk at least once an hour and just move around. Incorporate strategies to encourage movement such as standing during your phone calls, taking an extra lap around the office when filling your water bottle, taking the stairs whenever possible or exploring adjustable works stations.

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Enhance your attendee experience with an offsite event

MIlw museum

A great way to mix up your meeting and energize attendees is to plan an offsite event. By taking a break from the everyday meeting space, you can recharge your attendees with a fun, relaxed atmosphere to network and learn from peers.

Immersing your group in local attractions can take your attendee experience to the next level and give them a chance to enjoy the destination, which most attendees don’t plan for outside the meeting. And as the demand for face-to-face meetings continue to grow, the expectation for experiences to make valuable connections will become the norm.

So how do we find those one-of-a-kind venues for a memorable event?

Partner with your meeting destination’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Instead of the go-to Google search, ask your CVB for venue and activity recommendations. With groups in and out of their destination, CVBs can offer possibilities that other groups have experienced and found successful.

Ask a local planning committee participant or valued member. A resident of the destination can offer worthwhile insight into a venue from the perspective of an attendee. If you’re fortunate, they may have attended an event at a possible location and can give you a sense of the atmosphere and service.

Heading offsite can bust your budget but be up front and work with the venue to maximize your dollars. Think of creative ways to reduce equipment rentals and audio visual fees and watch out for hidden expenses. If you have a good partnership with the CVB, offer exposure incentives or sponsorship benefits to offset costs. I’ve found that most venues will work within your means and want events to be successful.

A great example of an offsite event and partnering with a destination is the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives Awards Celebration that was part of the 2016 Innovation Summit. We took attendees offsite to the Milwaukee Public Museum for a brief awards presentation and strolling reception. To maximize our budget, we chose to skip presentation slides to reduce audio visual costs and had inexpensive pop up banners made of each award winner to display during the awards ceremony. The banners not only served as decoration for the event but also nice gifts for the award winners. After the quick ceremony, attendees were transported back to a fall evening in Milwaukee at the turn of the 19th century as they enjoyed hor d'oeuvres and cocktails through the Streets of Old Milwaukee. We couldn’t have pulled off the event without the support from Visit Milwaukee as well as our partnership with the museum.

What offsite events have been successful for you? What have you done to enhance your attendee experience? With a few creative twists and fun elements, you can generate a meeting that will keep attendees coming back year after year.

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