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Member Engagement: Are You Doing All That You Can? (And Should?)

Arrow showing growth
Every association executive is constantly on the lookout for new, improved ways to build and sustain member engagement. (If they aren’t, they should be.) But the results of Greenfield Services’ 2012 Pulse Report show that only a few organizations are making best use of their most powerful engagement tools.

There’s no shortage of good intentions. Nearly two-thirds of associations (63.2%) cited member engagement as one of their top three priorities for the next year. But the research revealed that associations face a tough road if they hope to build a strong, enduring connection with a large share of their membership base.  The report shows low levels of volunteer commitment, along with low participation from members on social media networks and small levels of non-dues purchases.

The Pulse Report held a glimmer of good news for one type of association: About a quarter of organizations reported that at least three-quarters of their members were involved with certification programs, roughly the same proportion of respondents—27.2%—who said affiliation was mandatory for some or all of their members. That means mandatory certification is a good enough lifeline for associations that offer it, even though one-fifth of survey respondents said members joined their associations because they had to, not because they wanted to.

In an uncertain economy, nobody should second-guess a reliable source of membership and revenue, and there are very good reasons for the mandatory certifications that many professions require. But we’re only doing part of our job if people affiliate with their associations because they have no choice, not because it’s where they want to be. And that goes back to the community-building tools that most associations are still learning how to use.

  • With the right engagement and outreach strategy, members build their own networks and find their own ways to maximize the value they get back for their annual dues.
  • An effective social media program creates a steady flow of valuable news, information, and education, while creating pathways for members to pick the content that is most useful to them.
  • Associations already know that volunteering is a virtuous circle—the more actively members engage, the more likely they are to stay involved. By placing members themselves at the centre of your membership strategy, you can give them many more reasons to volunteer.

The 2012 Pulse Report showed that there’s a lot of work ahead for associations that want to re-envision and recreate their member relationships. But unless you’re delighted with your member engagement and revenue, this might be the right time to get started.


Top 12 Blogs of 2012

Gold medal in social media
I thought I would start to wrap up the year with my favorite blogs of 2012.  These bloggers engage the association community, inform, and suggest new ways for association executives to take a look at their current processes.  They offer tips and best practices on changing the landscape of associations for the future:

  1. Sarah Sladek’s blog “5 steps for continued association growth in a changing market”:  Passionate about changing demographics, Sarah blogs about what is affecting the association world in general.  This blog walks you through focusing on goals, and the steps to achieve the same status associations had with Baby Boomers as the primary membership base.
  2. I came across this blog by accident one day a few weeks ago, and love it!  Andrea Pellegrino’s “Engagement, Value, and Blaming the Member” post does not beat around the bush – it speaks directly to those who believe Engagement is the fix-all solution.  “Engagement does not drive value, value drives engagement.”  Demonstrating value to your members through various outreach and programs is the key to engaging your membership.
  3. Another blog I came across by accident, Shelly Alcorn, CAE blogged “Is Your Mission Bigger than What You Can Measure?” – which drives home the point that statistics, or “quantitative” metrics can only be used to a certain point in most organizations.  She believes that “qualitative” metrics need to be looked at more often.
  4. Jeff Hurt posted a two-part blog, focusing on learning styles & education opportunities – Part 1 focused on Learning from 1957-2004, and Part 2 focused on learning 2004-present day and the future.  Two key questions came out of this series that I believe are very important to take a look at:  what barriers exist that keep your education/learning opportunities from transitioning to newer models? And, how can organizations transition to being more learning-centric? 
  5. Jay S. Daughtry posted “The Greatest of Great Ideas in Less than 180 Seconds”.  Jay uses these 180 seconds of reading to showcase the top ideas, thoughts and feedback from the conferences he attends – this one being the ASAE Great Ideas Conference.
  6. Yes, I am repeating a few bloggers, but their content is worth it!  Sarah Sladek posted asking the question “Is your association’s culture helping or hurting member recruitment and retention?”, which addresses some red flags to look out for.
  7. Jamie Notter posted “Strategy Means Change” – when you are strategizing, prepare for change.  Need I say more?
  8. How could I have a top 12 list without including one of my own?!  I looked at the number of readers on each of my posts this year, and by far the most popular was “The World Is Changing.  Are Associations Falling Behind?” which was created as a result of our 2012 Pulse Report on Membership Marketing in Canada.
  9. Bernie Colterman’s “Social Marketing and Sponsorship Marketing – Are they really that far apart?”  discusses some trends that were discovered while attending an International Conference.
  10. Jeff Hurt (another blog I follow religiously, as you can see) published a post relating to Generational Differences and Conference Planning.  What barriers do generational differences have on traditional conference planning, and what are you doing to change it?
  11. The Association Management Blog posted a great reminder about mid-year – it is a great time to check in and review your goals and operation to make sure you are on track.  If you see a disconnect, it may be time to Tune-up Your Association.
  12. Affiniscape’s Blog posted a guest post from Shelley Alcorn, CAE earlier this year – talking about the END of Associations.  END meaning Education, Networking and Democracy.  Shelley’s belief is associations did not lose their relevance, they have lost their way.  Great post!

Any other favorites that you did not see here?  Submit your feedback below.  Have a great holiday, and I look forward to an engaging 2013!


Five Ways for Small Associations to Reach Critical Mass

Hands counting to five
The last few years have been challenging for most non-profit organizations. But in many ways, the smallest associations have had the toughest road.

These are the organizations that lack the staff and resources to mount the consistent, relentless membership programs that will bring them the next wave of resources to build and maintain critical mass. It’s a Catch-22 that is familiar to too many of the associations that participated in Greenfield Services’ 2012 Pulse Report.
A large proportion of survey participants were scrambling to cope with serious limitations in financial and human resources.

  • More than two in five respondents (42.2%) identified limited funding as one of their top three concerns, and one-third (32%) listed limited staffing.
  • Associations with annual budgets under $1.0 million accounted for 56.5% of survey respondents, but 72.5% of the group that listed limited funding as a top concern.  
  • Associations with five or fewer staff constituted 47.6% of the survey group, but 59.7% of the respondents with funding concerns.
  • Nearly half of survey respondents (47.1%) reported that their organizations had no membership marketing plans in place.

It’s a well-worn platitude that you have to spend money to make money—and the platitude is cold comfort when money is limited. But now the good news: targeted membership strategies that build communities and relationships can be a good deal more affordable than an all-out advertising blitz. And by generating fierce loyalty among new recruits and established members alike, they can boost retention rates and build a foundation for a more stable organization.

Here are five tips to get started:

  1. Identify, understand, and micro-target the specific audiences that have the most to gain by joining your association. You might need a different set of facts and arguments to catch each group’s attention, sign them up, and keep them engaged.
  2. Get your audience’s permission to communicate. The law may require it, but even if it doesn’t, why would you waste resources and generate ill will by sending repeat messages to people who don’t want to hear from you?
  3. Keep the messages flowing, before and after they sign up. Marketing theory says it takes eight to 10 touchpoints to reach a target audience with a message that requires a decision and action, but the 2012 Pulse Report found that only 8.5% of associations followed up seven to 10 times as members’ renewal deadlines approached.
  4. Vary the format and sourcing of your membership messages. A single touchpoint might be an email, a phone call, a text message, a direct mail letter or post card, a survey, a contest, a magazine ad, or social media messages, and you can alternate the contact members receive from staff, board members, volunteers, or other opinion leaders.
  5. Maximize your use of social media to build communities, establish your organization as a thought leader, and keep tabs on the issues that are most important to different audience segments.

These community-based strategies take more thought and planning than a single, one-size-fits-all marketing campaign. But they can be surprisingly affordable—and, more important in the long run, they work. If you haven’t been building critical mass with the same old approach to membership development and retention, maybe it’s time to shift gears.


Six Ways to Guarantee Your Event Sponsorship Program Fails

Compass measuring success and failure
In the last few months I have received solicitation emails and calls from various organizations wanting our company sponsor their conference. In each case their approach was such a turn off that it prompted me to write this post.

Here are six surefire ways that will ensure your sponsorship solicitation gets you nowhere:

1.  Know nothing about my business:

In two of the sponsoring offerings I received, it was very clear that the person soliciting my dollars had never even looked into what Greenfield Services does, and what kinds of audiences we might want exposure with.

[For the record, our focus includes the supply side of the meetings industry -- hotels, CVB's, and convention centers, and professional or trade associations].

Why would I want to fork over $10,000 to sponsor an opening reception for group of business people that doesn't even have a need for our services?  The proposal was so preposterous that a diminished my view of the Association, and of the executive initiating the communication. But you could improve your chances of attracting my attention if you build a case for your events, and your audience, and how it relates to my business and my goals.

2.  Send an email into the ether and don't follow up:

Assuming I even read your email (and that in itself is a gamble), if you don't follow up with me there is a near-zero chance I will pick up the phone or email you saying, "I'm in!"  Make that a 100% chance that I will not respond if I've never heard of your organization before, never attended one of your events or seen any connection between your audience and mine.
The remedy is simple: follow-up to make sure I received the information, and engage me in a conversation about what my business goals are, so we can see if there is a fit.

3.  Send a generic email or letter:

With all the tools available today that allow you to personalize communication, it is inexcusable to send a "dear marketer" email or letter. If it isn't accurately personalized I'll press “delete”.
Incidentally, if you are going to personalize, make sure your software addresses me properly.  A “Dear Doreen Ashton Wagner” opening won’t do.  You must know whether you should say “Dear Doreen” or a “Dear Ms. Ashton Wagner”.

4.  Contact me just once or give up easily:

Let's say your event draws my target audience and I'm somewhat interested, unless you court business I'm not likely to buy. It's not because I have a big ego, it’s that I get busy. Too many things/people are vying for my attention, and yes, I get sidetracked.

Most executives do. It's a documented trends that new business-to-business sales relationships require the seller (in this case the event sponsorship marketer) to reach out anywhere from 7 to 11 times for the prospect respond. Yet most sales reps give up by the third attempt.

5.  Don't build your case:

If you are just asking me to sponsor, and you don't articulate your event attendees’ purchasing power, or show me who else is sponsoring, I will not be interested.

Show me you are worth my hard earned cash. That means you need to know your attendees inside and out, including age, gender, position, purchasing power, decision-making process, etc. and show me testimonials of other sponsors and what they got out of your event.

6.  Contact me just a few months or weeks before the event:

This shows me your sponsorship program is just a cash grab. My budget is set a year in advance and while I try to plan for bit of extra money for unexpected opportunities, I rarely can divert big bucks unless I know it's coming. This means letting me know well in advance about your opportunity so I can make an educated decision.

For many organizations, event sponsorship revenues can make the difference between an "oh-hum" conference and a GREAT conference.

Selling sponsorship for your event requires advanced planning in a well thought out process. Ignore the basics and your efforts will be in vain.  Conversely, follow these best practices to attract and secure the highest quality relationships possible.

Profile your Delegates and Save on Member Frustration

Business man getting frustrated with his computer
Every year, associations that have a tradeshow (either as a stand-alone event or as a component of their conference) seek out sponsors and exhibitors.  Some are great at matching these suppliers to their delegate needs and requirements, some are not.  I am going to address those who do not.

I was recently at an industry conference and tradeshow, and as a delegate had the opportunity to hear some feedback from the professionals in the room.  They were extremely frustrated with the way they were inundated with emails in the two weeks leading up to the conference.

Here is an example:  A provincial, west-coast association was receiving invitations to stop by the booth of hotel properties and CVBs across Canada.  As much as this delegate understood the importance of supporting the tradeshow, as the contribution of the exhibitors and sponsors directly impacts conference fees, he did not understand why Sales Managers at these hotels/CVBs would ever consider sending him an email.  He will NEVER have potential for them, unless he changes organizations.  And, if he did, he would do his research at that time, not now.

As a result of this conversation, and a few others, I got to thinking about the supplier side of the business (such as myself).  I believe sponsors and exhibitors really should only be marketing to those who have immediate and/or future opportunities and interests.  But that will take some profiling of your members, which is not something we are provided with now.  When your next tradeshow is done, reach out via a survey campaign and uncover the following information:

  • Products and/or Services they are in need of NOW
  • Products and/or Services they are interested in for the future
  • Whether they are an influencer or decision-maker in the buying process
  • Confirm the format they would like to be contacted by suppliers/sponsors for the following year (i.e. by phone, by email, through social media channels such as LinkedIn, etc).

Maintain this information in your system.  Then, when it comes to sending out the conference/tradeshow attendee lists pre & post show, filter on those who selected the product/service type that matches the exhibitor/sponsor, and send them ONLY that list; or, house the information online and allow suppliers to filter it themselves.  Does it not make more sense to send them a list of pre-qualified contacts to place in their sales funnel, instead of sifting through hundreds or thousands of people to find the diamonds in the rough?

And how can you ensure your sponsors and exhibitors follow the new protocol?  In the final stages of your exhibit sales process, when they sign the contract, add in your terms and conditions a clause that requires them to only contact those delegates who visited them at their booth, or that have been spoken to at a session, or how have provided a profile that matches what they offer.  Take the high road and point out that a complaint from a delegate who receives marketing information by someone outside of their profile, could result in non-admittance of the exhibitor in the future.

For many show exhibitors, this will sound extreme, but this could help improve delegate satisfaction, and exhibitors will see value in a smaller, qualified, more manageable list.


The Permanent Campaign: Member Renewal Begins the Day They Join

Some of the tools to Market your content
You can always spot the associations that value their members the most. They’re the ones that kick off the member renewal process the day a new recruit joins.

But here’s the key: They don’t do it by launching a non-stop marketing blitz that only ends when the member renews, asks them to stop the cascade of outbound messaging, or quits in dismay. They make themselves a continuous, unique, irreplaceable presence in their members’ working lives by understanding why they joined and how they define an outstanding return on their membership investment.

Some day, I hope we’ll reach a point where every Canadian association can see itself in this picture. But we aren’t there yet. When Greenfield Services produced its 2012 Pulse Report, the survey results showed that:

  • 47.1% of respondents have no membership marketing plans in place.
  • Only 31.9% of associations retain more than 90% of their members through one renewal period.
  • 71% of associations begin the renewal process no more than three months before a membership expires. 

Most worrying of all, 52.1% of associations follow up with only one to three member touchpoints as renewal deadlines approached, when marketing practice calls for eight to 10 touchpoints to break through the clutter of competing media and priorities.

As the Pulse Report states: “In a relationship-based approach, the renewal effort begins the day a member joins, but it probably goes by a different name: with the right engagement strategy, members are so engaged and receive such visible value from their association that it would never enter their minds not to renew.”
Here are some of the elements that should be right at the centre of your membership renewal and retention plan:

  • Listening more than talking: Yes, associations need to be on their members’ radar, despite an unprecedented din of competing content. But how can you plan your next wave of communications if you don’t know what your different audiences need to hear? With a deep understanding of why the people in each of your membership segments decided to join, you can tailor programs, content, and messaging to their needs.
  • Reaching out monthly: Your members should hear from you 10 to 12 times per year, more often if one of their priority issues or topics has suddenly “gone critical” for your profession or industry.
  • Varying your touchpoints: Don’t use the same medium every time. A single touchpoint might be an email, a phone call, a text message, a direct mail letter or post card, a survey, a contest, a magazine ad, or social media messages. And you can select or alternate the contact members receive from staff, board members, volunteers, or other opinion leaders.
  • ALWAYS deliver more than they expect: Your members will see value if you offer it. Every touchpoint should delight them with a product, a service, or a piece of information that makes their day, or at least makes them stop and think. By relentlessly building value, you pull them into a closer relationship with their association, rather than pushing out a messaging campaign that quickly gets tired, then annoying.

We’ve also been talking about a step beyond that might be a focus for a future Pulse Report, and certainly for a future blog. The U.S. election was won with micro-targeting techniques that combined careful definition of different target audiences with a deep understanding of their demographics, interests, and consumer preferences. The techniques came out of the world of marketing, and could open up a whole new world of analysis for associations. We expect we’ll be pondering this point for the next little while. What do you think?

If you would like to receive a copy of our 2012 Pulse Report's Executive Summary, click here.  Or, for a list of member retention best practices, click here.


Member Renewal Marketing: Are You Cutting Through the Clutter?

Cutting with Scissors
Member retention is one of the biggest challenges facing Canadian associations, according to participants in Greenfield Services’ 2012 Pulse Report.

While about one-third of the association executives who completed the survey said their organizations renewed 90% of their new members for a second year, nearly one-fifth retained 80-89%, and another 10% retained 70-79%. Those numbers matter because, as any association knows, the member retention battle is never over: Carried over five years, a 20% annual attrition rate would leave an organization with only 32.75% of the members who signed up five years ago, while a 30% attrition rate would leave them with only 16.8%.

But what if associations could begin turning those numbers around by applying basic sales and marketing theory to one of their most important marketing moments?

Ask any account manager, and you’ll probably hear that it takes eight to 10 touchpoints to break through the clutter of competing media and priorities to deliver a message that requires a decision and action. Yet the Pulse Report revealed that more than half of associations limit themselves to one to three follow-ups as member renewal deadlines draw near. Another one-tenth of respondents either didn't know how many times their organizations followed up, or didn’t follow up at all.

We didn’t ask survey respondents why they were doing so little to make sure their members renewed. We suspect they might have scaled back by popular demand, after members complained about being overwhelmed by a continuous flow of renewal requests.

But the eight to 10 touchpoints don’t all have to be delivered the same way, and they shouldn't all be outbound, “push” messaging. A touchpoint can be an email, a phone call, a text message, or a direct mail letter or post card, a survey, a contest, or a social media message, and it can come from association staff, board members, volunteers, or other opinion leaders. A broader approach to member renewal means a more effective campaign that reminds members of the value they get back for their membership dollar—and delivers even more value along the way.

To receive your copy of the pulse report, email us at to request your copy.


The World is Changing. Are Associations Falling Behind?

Time for change construction sign
When you’re scrambling to keep up with demands that are already overwhelming your to-do list, it’s tempting to put new ideas on hold, just long enough to catch your breath. And we know that Canadian associations have been buffeted by a tough economy, changing technologies, and new expectations from members who are drawn from more diverse generations than ever before.

But results of Greenfield Services’ 2012 Pulse Report suggested that too many associations are missing the moment for innovations that will delight their members, boost member retention, and set the stage for future growth.

In their responses to the survey, participants cited traditional association priorities—membership growth, member participation, and higher visibility—as their top three measures of success. But while membership growth was a leading priority for 63.9% of the group, only 12.2% translated that interest into a focus on renewal rates. It’s hard to see how organizations will meet one priority without the other:

It should almost always be easier to retain a satisfied member than to identify and attract a new recruit.
For associations with a limited pool of defined prospects, there’s nowhere to go to replace prospective members who decide not to affiliate.

When the survey focused in on associations’ membership goals for the next year, participants listed the familiar top three—member recruitment, retention, and engagement. But fewer than half saw it as a top priority to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) members receive from the associations. Only about one-quarter placed strong emphasis on new product or service offerings, and two-thirds of respondents’ associations invested less than 10% of their operating budgets in membership marketing.

Even assuming (since it’s probably true) that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources at their disposal, this is still a troubling picture for the association sector. If organizations don’t consistently emphasize member retention, demonstrate ROI, and entice members with exciting, innovative services, they’ll end up chasing themselves in circles: as membership declines and resources shrink, they’ll have even less time and space for strategies that will help them grow and thrive.

The Pulse Report: Member Connection is the Golden Thread

Statistics with Heart
Over the next few weeks, you’ll be hearing about The Pulse Report, a survey of Canadian associations that Greenfield Services will be releasing at the Canadian Society of Association Executives’ 2012 National Conference and Showcase, November 1-3 in Ottawa.

We’ve worked hard on the survey over the last several months, and I can’t tell you how much we’re looking forward to sharing the results with you.

We realized earlier this year that Greenfield was perfectly positioned to conduct a study on the state of Canadian associations. We know the sector well, and our infrastructure and systems make it easy for us to invite participants to a survey, then follow up by phone. We also knew this was the right time to ask associations some probing questions, to find out how they were coping and changing in a business environment shaped by a tough economy, new technologies, the rise of social media, and profound generational change.

The survey reached 147 respondents, 44.2% of them executive directors or CEOs, 43.5% in national organizations, and 68% in associations operating with 10 or fewer staff. The response rate wasn’t quite high enough to make the results statistically valid across the sector, but the Pulse Report still gave us strong indications that Canadian associations:

Scramble to cope with revenue generation, limited funding, and insufficient staffing to meet their objectives
See the need to increase revenues without raising membership dues
Value member recruitment and retention, but may not be using the latest member engagement tools to seal the deal
Often report low levels of volunteer involvement, social media participation, and non-dues purchases.

The common theme? Member connection is the golden thread that can hold members close to their associations—and when that thread unravels, nobody wins.

Stay tuned for a series of blog posts on the detailed findings in the Pulse Report. And if you’re in Ottawa November 2, drop by our booth at the CSAE Showcase to let us know how the results apply to your organization.

Effective associations: Make yours hit the mark

This guest post was provided by Sarah Sladek of XYZ University.  Sarah is an expert on demographic shifts, talent turnover, and generation gaps. She is the founder of XYZ University and author of three ground-breaking books. She launched the nation’s first business conference focused on bridging talent and leaderships gaps in the workforce and became a sought-after speaker and consultant to organizations nationwide. Her goal is to help organizations remain relevant to future generations.

I've spent a lot of time working with association leaders and I've come to know what works and what doesn't in order to grow membership and sustain organizations. The effective associations of 10 years ago are not the same today. Today, members are fast-paced, driven and they want information and access to exclusive information now.

How do you reach your members? How do you take what used to work as a way to sustain your organization and turn it into something members new and old still want?

The truth is, you don’t.

Hitting your target
With your association’s mission in hand, now is the time to think about how you will stand out and what new, innovative member benefits you can provide in order to grow and sustain your organization in the new era of membership–of life–as we know it.

In order to be an effective association, you need to think about communication, customization, technology, talent development and your association’s significant value.

Communication and customization

It doesn't matter if you are doing everything well if no one knows about it. Your association members need to hear from you and understand the value you provide. Show your members that you value you them and give them private access to events and information. Make your association’s members genuinely feel a part of your organization–don’t provide the same services and information to nonmembers. Make it exclusive.

Customize your members’ experience and understand that communication is a two-way street. Encourage your members to provide feedback and talk with you. Use surveys, social media, focus groups or events as ways to communicate with your membership and listen to what they need.

Get hip to technology

Change happens. That’s life. And right now, shifts in technology and the way we communicate are big changes for associations. Work with it. Think about your current membership and those who will sustain your organization for the coming decades. Gen X and Gen Y want action. They want value. They want to know what’s in it for them. And they’re using technology to scope you out and figure out if you’re worth their time.

Use technology–social media, online communities, blogs, updated websites–or you will lose your chance with Gen X and Gen Y. This generation will simply disengage. Even if the majority of your membership is of Boomer age (and I can argue that these members are still using technology as well), think about your future. You won’t move forward if you don’t embrace the technology that will push you there.

Strong leadership and membership involvement

Effective associations find ways to brainstorm with staff and members to move to the next level; to grow membership. Create a developing leaders group, a community where current members and prospective members can participate in discussions that have an impact on the future of your association. Give your members ownership. Show your next generation of leaders that you support their quest for continued growth and learning. Provide the space for members to develop their talents.

Association committees provide learning opportunities for members and also help keep your executive team and Board focused on association goals and strategic planning. Create focused committees with clearly defined objectives and encourage your new members and young members to participate on committees. Get them involved right away so they can see the value and remain engaged. Gen Y can bring innovative ideas and new perspectives to your committees. Develop your association’s future leaders.

Know your value

The most effective organizations are innovators. They add value to members by going above and beyond what members could find elsewhere. Networking is NOT your association’s value proposition. What tangible item can you give to your members that no one else can give? What makes your association stand out? What brings members back for more?

Effective associations don’t happen over night; you need to work at it. And it’s not business as usual. Now is the time to be big. To be bold. To go where no association has gone before. Now is the time for change.

Want to Boost Member Engagement? Launch an Online Community – Part 2

This two part guest post was provided by Annette Balgord, Vice President at Equation Technologies.  Equation assists associations to implement Social CRM, private online communities, and association management systems (AMS).  Annette is on the CSAE Trillium Chapter Communications Committee and a board member at Information Technology Alliance.  You can visit Equation Technologies at the Avectra Booth (# 178) at the CSAE National Conference & Showcase this November in Ottawa.

Connecting with People
Groups, Reputation Scoring and Member Matching:  Foundation of Peer-to-Peer Online Collaboration

Three areas that contribute to robust online collaboration are groups, reputation scoring, and member matching.

Online collaboration provides a virtual meeting place for groups working on behalf of the association.  Group projects may include event planning committees, communication committees, member outreach, and so on.

Groups are defined segments of your community with an online space to conduct focused discussions and projects, house resources relevant to the group project, distribute surveys and announcements, and plan events.  Online collaboration tools allow you the option of making the space public for all to see or to have a variety of privacy permissions to limit the visibility of online group activity.

Groups can be managed by staff or by a member leader according to your preference.  Because information is online, it reduces inbox clutter and is readily accessible to group members whenever it is convenient for them to log in.

Reputation scoring
Who are the members who are the most active, connected and engaged?  Reputation scoring is one way your association management system can help you gather information about member engagement levels.  What are the actionable items you’d like to track and encourage among your members?  And which are the most important actions that contribute to a more energized online community?

Assign points to actions such as completing one’s member profile; answering a survey question; sharing resources; starting an online discussion; replying to an online inquiry, etc.  You can use the point value to decide which actions are the most important to fostering the online member experience.

Member matching
Easily aligning members is another benefit of online collaboration.  Through your association management solution or online community platform, you should be able to map a series of questions, responses and criteria that allows you to segment and match members.  For example, for a networking focus, set up questions such as “Would you like to be a mentor?” to match with “Would you like to be mentored?”, coupled with questions on interest and specialties to create a specific relationship between members.

A more meaningful member experience is facilitated because you can route information most relevant to the member based on their interests.

Ottawa-Gatineau CSAE Partners with Greenfield Services for Social Media Management

Social Media World Image
We are pleased to officially announce that the Ottawa Gatineau Chapter of the Canadian Society of Association Executives (OG-CSAE) has selected Greenfield Services Inc. as their strategic partner for Social Media Management, effective Monday, October 1st.

Greenfield Services will research and gather feedback from members, committees and CSAE National to produce social media guidelines, policies and procedures.  These documents will be shared with various committee members and volunteers of the chapter.

Greenfield will also manage the chapter’s social media posts and interactions, ensuring that the chapter remains positioned as the “go-to” source for association management news and best practices in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.  This will include sharing of relevant content, starting and maintaining discussions with members, prospective members, and the community at-large, and the promotion of professional development and events.

The team will be led by Meagan Rockett, Director of Client Solutions, who sits on the Membership Committee and the Communications Committee of the Chapter.  Meagan also participates in the newly developed Mentorship Program.

Greenfield Services President and Chief Strategist Doreen Ashton Wagner stated, “We look forward to this partnership, helping the CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter demonstrate the effectiveness of social media for event promotion and member engagement.

For more information on the program, please contact Meagan Rockett at 613-288-4517,, or @rockettm on Twitter.

Want to Boost Member Engagement? Launch an Online Community - Part 1

This two part guest post was provided by Annette Balgord, Vice President at Equation Technologies.  Equation assists associations to implement Social CRM, private online communities, and association management systems (AMS).  Annette is on the CSAE Trillium Chapter Communications Committee and a board member at Information Technology Alliance.  You can visit Equation Technologies at the Avectra Booth (# 178) at the CSAE National Conference & Showcase this November in Ottawa.

Connecting with different groups
Imagine an energized community of members who are contributing time, resources, conversation, input and excitement to the opportunities and issues your association highlights.  This probably occurs at your events where people are able to interact face-to-face.  Now imagine this happening online.

Fueling the engine of renewals and recruitment

Increase the likelihood of renewals: increased participation of members serves to strengthen their commitment to the organization

Attract additional renewals: Their excitement is contagious and their contribution draws in more members to association discussions and activity

Improve recruitment effectiveness: The higher level of member engagement helps the association enhance existing member offerings (improved quality of conference sessions, better resources); and identify new ones

Using online collaboration to build the engine

With almost universal online access among members, the best association management systems provide an integrated online collaboration platform perfect for meeting, sharing, and commenting on the issues, events, and resources members wish to explore and utilize.

One type of online community that may work particularly well for associations with few staff is a peer-to-peer community.  A peer-to-peer community is characterized by highly motivated and involved members dedicated to populating the community with content.  The association can feature its member experts as a go to source.

Investing in a private online community

Will the investment of time and money in creating a private online member community be worth the effort and expense?  Why not simply use a free tool such as LinkedIn or Facebook?

With a private community, you can control the look, messaging, community and group access based on member data stored in your association management system database.  For example, setup custom demographics to gather attributes unique to members of your association.  Present them in your online membership directory along with the member’s profile.   This will enhance the member’s experience and accelerate member engagement.

The key is to ensure that the purpose of the private online community aligns with the mission of the association and the aspirations of the members (the reason they joined the association).  And that should not be left to chance; it needs to be a key component of your planning.

Sound planning leads to sound results

As you prepare to put technology to work for your association, plan, benchmark, educate and promote your online collaboration offering.

Ensure the success of your online collaboration by establishing SMART goals that support the purpose of the community.  SMART goals are:

Specific – to focus the members, groups, staff (community) and your resources
Measurable – to verify achievements and to identify which efforts are successful
Actionable – to empower your membership to take positive steps to achieve results
Relevant – to ensure that all stakeholders add and receive value
Trackable – to provide the data to maintain efforts long term and course correct when needed

How will you measure success?  How do you quantify the activities that are happening in the community?  Ideally your online community software will include built in analytics and reporting.   Some common metrics to track are:

Number of logins or page views
Number of new and total members
Number of member profiles created or edited
Number of discussions started and replies posted

Keep your association relevant and attractive to members by deploying and staying abreast of technology that allows your staff and community to perform at a much more effective and fulfilling level. Online collaboration helps you accomplish this by bringing together technology, people and purpose; providing a structure and venue for a greater member experience.

Greenfield Services to Exhibit at CSAE National Conference & Showcase

DOreen and Meagan Exhibiting at CSAE
For the second year in a row, Doreen Ashton Wagner, Chief Strategist and Meagan Rockett, Director, Client Solutions will be attending and exhibiting at the CSAE National Conference & Showcase.  This year, we are excited to see it come home November 1-3, 2012.

In looking at the educational lineup, there are several sessions we are looking forward to attending, and learning alongside Association Executives.

For more information on the conference, or to register, please click here.

If you are planning on attending, we invite you to stop by our booth (#153) during the Showcase on Friday, November 2nd – we will be offering to set up a free 2-hour social media assessment for conference participants.  If you would like to pre-book your appointment, please email us.

We look forward to re-connecting with old friends, and establishing new relationships!

Real Friends and Virtual Strangers: Building a Testimonial Strategy

Strategy Banner
We’ve been talking about testimonials as a crucial piece of the promotional puzzle that that can help your message stand out in a crowded field. Whether you’re planning a membership renewal drive or looking for new conference audiences, your campaign will be stronger with a great group of opinion leaders.

A few months ago, our hospitality blog encouraged clients to take a look at Testimonial Director, a company that offers a simple, templated process for collecting testimonials and making sure they contain the right information. Testimonial Director has come up with a seven-step “return on trust” strategy that rests on a crucial piece of data from the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey: In Nielsen’s words, consumers (which means your members, sponsors, exhibitors, and participants) “trust real friends and virtual strangers the most.”

The 2009 survey of more than 25,000 Internet consumers in 50 countries found that 90% pay attention to recommendations from people they know, while 70% rely on consumer opinions posted online. Compare those figures with confidence levels of 37% for online video ads, 33% for online banners, and 24% for text ads on mobile phones.

Testimonial Director’s seven strategies [sign-up required] map out a coherent path to getting word of mouth working in your favour:

  1. Make testimonials pervasive by featuring them throughout your website, not on a single page. Just make sure the content on each page relates to the actual testimonial.
  2. Deliver the message in multiple ways, using a variety of presentation types to appeal to the widest range of tastes and interests among your website visitors.
  3. Don’t overlook the power of written testimonials in the rush to add video to your site. Use both formats to maximum effect.
  4. Make your video productions affordable. Testimonial Director comes down in favour of in-house production to get “good quality results for the web with relatively inexpensive equipment.”
  5. Use social media to build social proof. “The real power behind social media is how it can help transform you from being a complete stranger into a known quantity, even among groups of people you’ve not even met yet.”
  6. Reach out and ask. Asking members, participants, exhibitors, and sponsors for testimonials should be a standard step in your communications and outreach cycle.
  7. Take stock. Then take action. Testimonial Director offers an implementation worksheet to help you develop and execute a coherent strategy.

In Nielsen’s terms, do you know who your “real friends” are? By finding out and inviting them to tell their stories, you can kick-start a cycle that will bring you to the next tier of new and repeat revenue—and, from there, to your next group of new best friends.

The Power of Testimonials: Who Are You Going to Believe?

Testimonial Button on a Keyboard
It’s 5:40 PM. You’re 75 minutes into an urgent search request. Your director just followed up for the second time, reminding you again that she needs the information for an early meeting tomorrow morning. The request is in an area you know fairly well, but all you can find is online sales brochures.

You’re just about to cancel your evening plans when, suddenly, it appears: A promotional piece that combines product information with clear, succinct, specific testimonials. They come from several satisfied customers, and the customers are identified by name and organization. They tell a compelling story. Best of all, one of the testimonials comes from an association executive you saw (and liked) on a conference panel last month.

Who are you going to believe? Which potential vendor or information source earned your attention, your respect and, most likely, your business?

Testimonials are among the most powerful forms of promotional content, powerful enough that it’s astonishing to see associations that don’t use them, frequently and effectively. Testimonials work because they have the power of “social proof”: rather than relying on what you say about your own organization or service, a testimonial tells the story from the recipient’s point of view. That shift in perspective is often what it takes to cut through the clutter of competing messages—including your own, if it isn’t interspersed with independent voices.

Working through trusted intermediaries to deliver an effective message isn’t a new idea. Researchers first came up with the two-step flow theory of communication in a study of the 1944 federal election in the United States when they found that “opinion leaders,” not media messages, were most likely to influence voting behaviour.

What is new is the information overload—the overload on top of overload—that we all experience, at work and at home, every waking minute of the day. In 2008, one television blog reported that the average U.S. consumer is exposed to 5,000 brand messages per day. Last year, an Internet application provider proudly (but perversely?) reported that it had distributed a billion text messages in a single day. No wonder we all think we need to scramble for visibility and audience share!

A short testimonial will help you catch a reader’s eye, whether they see it on your website or blog or in a promotional email. If the message is credible, it might hold their attention long enough to set you apart from the competition (even if the competition is between working with your association or doing nothing at all).

That means a testimonial program could give you an edge that makes all the difference for your next membership, conference, or trade show promotion.


High, Wide, and Deep: Creating a Sponsorship Success Story

Group of people Meeting
In a previous blog, we looked at three definitions of data cleansing and talked about why your marketing program should include them all.

The same rules apply when you reach out to sponsors, current and potential. To build relationships that bring you significant investments from committed partners, you need the right information. That means doing the right kind of research.

If you think of sponsorship development as a sales process, a couple of things become clear. You need an accurate, up-to-date contact list, and you want to make sure everyone on that list feels appreciated. But going back to the three definitions of data cleansing, you also want to make sure the right contacts are on the list. Here’s what you can do to fully align your organization with every sponsor and prospect:

Go High: You may have identified your lead contact for a specific sponsorship opportunity, but what will you do if they suddenly change jobs? Entrench yourself in the company by developing a relationship with that person’s colleagues or supervisor.

Go Wide: If you’ve built a relationship with one department in the company, chances are there are conversations you could be having with other departments. Your main contact might help you figure out who else to approach.

Go Deep: If your contact is a director or a vice-president, they probably don’t handle the administrative side of the sponsorship, and they may not be onsite at your conference or trade show. The partnership will work best, for your organization and theirs, if you can build relationships with everyone involved.

It takes time and effort to build and maintain a healthy sponsor relationship. But as that relationship grows, you and the sponsor will both get more out of it…which makes it that much more likely to continue year after year. Count that benefit against the effort of replacing a sponsor who steps away, then start investing time in your most promising sponsorship success stories.

Canadian Pharmacists Association Executives Visit Greenfield Services Inc.

The CPHA Team Meets The Greenfield Team
On Thursday, August 16th, the Greenfield Team welcomed Susan Clarke & Patrick Tessier of the Canadian Pharmacists Association

This meeting was to further solidify the member retention and renewal program that Greenfield will be executing for CPhA. 

Greenfield Member Care Specialists have been tasked with contacting CPhA members whose membership is up for renewal.  The proactive outreach ensures that members are aware of new products and services, and facilitates the membership payment process.  They work towards reaching members at a time where they can have a conversation, and the renewal process is taken care of in one conversation, versus the member having to do research on their own time.

We look forward to the continued success of the partnership, and welcoming the CPhA team back to visit again soon!

What is Data Cleansing?

Group of people
Data cleansing is becoming a household term for association managers, online marketers, and database managers. But it can mean different things, depending on who you talk to or which website you visit.

Data cleansing software can help you standardize and correct your mailing list, to make sure your message reaches your target list.

De-duplicating (or “de-duping”) software flags possible matches in your database or spreadsheet, based on criteria that you set, to help you combine two or more lists and eliminate duplicate records (“merge and purge”).

Data cleansing is also about knowing who within an organization should be in your database, and whether they’re the direct sales contact, the ultimate decision-maker, or a supporting contact.

These three definitions support and complete each other. By standardizing and correcting your data and eliminating duplicates, data cleansing software makes you more effective and saves you money.  But how much more impact could you have if you knew your list contained precisely the right contacts for every organization?

In a previous blog, I wrote about the mailings I receive from a company that was right to treat me as a business prospect…until things changed. Their programs and services focus on project management, and for a long time, that was my role at Greenfield. But times change, and I’ve moved on. If they had reached out to cleanse their list, the company would have learned that someone else had been in that role for more than a year—and that she should be on their list.

Their subject matter is valuable and relevant. My replacement would probably attend the occasional program, course, or seminar. But I hate to admit it—there are only 28 hours in every day, eight days in every week (I know…it’s a calendar thing), so I discard the mailings when I receive them, rather than passing them on. Data cleansing software won’t catch the problem, because the mailing address is correct. But the information isn’t reaching the person who needs to see it.

If you want to stretch your marketing dollars, maximize the impact of your next mailing, and eliminate the cost of duplicate distribution, you should make direct outreach a regular part of your data cleansing program. With business information stale-dating at a rate of at least 30% per year, it’s a lot harder to boost conference attendance, raise exhibit or sponsor revenue, or recruit new members with lists that aren’t quite all they can be.

Dodging Ground Zero: Are You Visible Enough with Your Sponsors?

Single person breaking from a pack
The moment will come eventually, whether you’re ready or not: You reach out to one of your major sponsors, only to find out that your usual contact has left the organization.

Finding their replacement may be as simple as asking who’s taken their place. Engaging the new contact might also be easy, if you’re the only association they deal with for a particular purpose. But if you’re not their only sponsorship option, or if the new contact doesn’t see the value you bring to the table, the relationship has to restart from ground zero, and that part of your non-dues revenue may be in jeopardy.

Could you have avoided the problem? Probably. With many organizations facing high staff turnover, you’re in danger if your relationship with a company depends on a single contact. Without stepping on toes, there are ways to stretch your relationship within the organization and entrench yourself as an irreplaceable partner.

Step One: Ask your current contact. They may not be the only person involved in deciding on sponsorship investments.

Step Two: Resilience is a two-way street. You may not stay in your current job forever, so invite your contact to meet your executive director, your marketing and communications manager, or some other key contact, in person or via conference call.

Step Three: Make it an occasion. Suggest a larger group (from your organization as well as theirs) to review the value you both get out of the partnership and explore any new opportunities on the horizon.

If you aren’t sure your contact will share the information you need, do your homework. Most associations list their staff teams online, and LinkedIn is the ultimate network—you can see what a company says about itself, find out who works there, and usually view your contact’s online connections. That way, you’ll be prepared for a bit of name-dropping (“Should I include Ms. Smith in the communication, as well?”), in case you need it. Even if your research turns up the wrong name, your contact will be more likely to give you the right information.

Everyone needs internal champions—in that sense, you represent your association’s value to its sponsors, just as your corporate contacts are the front-line face of your non-dues revenue. You need each other to succeed. And your organization’s funding is at higher risk if you don't know whom to call when—not if—your main contact eventually leaves the company.


Getting It Right: A Member Survey That Worked

Checkmark images
Survey fatigue is a risk for any association that wants to understand its audience, but this is the story of an organization that did all the right things when it needed information and advice from its members.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA) reached out to its members to find out whether it should invest the time, money, and effort to develop a national conference. CALA engaged Greenfield Services to conduct the research. Here’s what made this survey the most successful we’ve ever worked on:

The Announcement: In its quarterly newsletter, CALA announced the survey and let members know they’d be hearing from the third-party organization that was conducting the research.

Professional Tools:  CALA had us develop the survey questions and distribute an invitation to participate.

The Platform: An online format made the survey easier for participants to complete, and for the research team to analyse.

The Follow-Up: Members who missed the survey, or missed some questions, received a series of follow-up calls encouraging them to participate.

The Report: A detailed report gave the CALA management team and Board of Directors the strategic intelligence they needed to make a decision.

The CALA survey achieved a blockbuster response rate of more than 50% . Members wanted to share their input because CALA did all the right things to position the research: they made it clear that they had a bold, new idea that might benefit their members, but they needed those members’ advice before they could proceed. The survey did reveal a solid base of support for a new event, and CALA is now planning its first national conference for 2014.

This case study will give you details and data on the process we undertook for CALA and the mix of online and telephone services that made the survey such a smashing success.

Beating Survey Fatigue: How Much is Just Enough?

Button for your feedback
The best associations are serious about listening to their members, and listening usually means producing surveys. But here’s the tough question: How do you generate enough research to understand your members’ needs and wants, without giving them a bad case of survey fatigue?

When I talk to association executives about their member research, they usually rhyme off a familiar list: the annual satisfaction survey, a follow-up after every conference, event, or networking opportunity, possibly a needs assessment every two or three years. If your organization produces more than two events per year, that’s a lot of surveying, and without a healthy dose of advance planning, your research program may not be performing as well as it could.

The best way to maximize member participation in your survey program is to plan the series in advance. You don’t have to decide the specific questions, but you should lay out your goals for each set of data, and space the surveys at regular intervals.

Here are six tips to help you along the way:

1. Plan your surveys in time to start your fiscal year. Talk to all the departments involved, to make sure you gather the information they need to keep your members satisfied.

2. Reach out to your members before launching a major survey to let them know it’s coming and why it’s important to participate. You won’t have time to phone them all, but consider announcements on your website, over your private member network, and in your newsletter. Tell them what you’re looking for and what you will do with the information you gather.

3. Take a close look at whether you can combine questions or whole surveys to reduce the load on members.

4. Be careful about survey timing. Try to send one every few months, to give your members a break from providing their feedback.

5. Share your results, in as much detail as possible! For bonus points, tell members what you’re doing as a result of the information you gathered. You can distribute survey findings as a downloadable resource attached to your e-newsletter, or send out a special email to thank people for participating. Either way, surveys are a great source of current, compelling content that can help you keep your members engaged.

6. If you can offer an incentive for survey participants, even a small one, you’ll probably get a higher response rate in return.

What are your favourite tips for making surveys shine and combatting survey fatigue?

Are You Retaining Your Members? Engagement Matters!

Business Team Clapping
I sit on a Membership Committee of a local chapter of an association – and as a result of this, and the various conversations I have been having lately, it seems that we can all be doing a better job of engaging members – right from the beginning.

Sending a satisfaction survey should be part of your communication strategy, but it should not be the only way you are measuring engagement.  Typically, the response ratio to a survey is 25-30%, and comprises of those who are REALLY engaged (who are on the committees, volunteering, attending your events, recommending the organization to their colleagues), and those who are REALLY not (they have become dissatisfied with their membership for whatever reason, and this is their forum to say something about it).

Where you are missing the mark is with those members who sit on the fence – the ones who come to some of your events, who may respond to an occasional request, but from whom you never really hear from on a regular basis.

Based on my experience both with my clients and with my local membership committee, here are some tips that I have found useful:

Immediately After Joining:  Send the new member the collateral they should have.  I have found of late that it has become an ad-hoc process; at times associations just send a welcome email and advise that the website has all of the information they need.

At the Two Week Mark:  Make a follow up welcome call.  Ask them questions about why they joined, and if they need help finding anything. The welcome calls I have made to the new members of my association were very well received, and people thanked me for taking the time.

Check in at the 90-day Mark:  Use this as an opportunity to get a fresh perspective on the association – they may have suggestions on what to improve/add/remove as benefits or other offers.  This can be done by email, by phone or in person (if the member is local), or at a networking event.  Have the conversation in whatever means you can.

At the Six-Month Mark:  Take a look at the member’s purchase history.  Are they purchasing any research that you have conducted, taking your professional development courses, attending local networking events, or registered for your national conference?  Purchase history is not the only measurement of engagement, but it is a place to start.  Based on what you find, you have to think through what is your next step.  Should this member be contact personally again to see what is going on?

At the Nine-Month Mark:  Its getting close to renewal time, so it is the perfect time to start re-marketing to these individuals.  Send them the renewal material, and check-in to ensure it was received.

At the One-Year Mark:  Many of these members will likely renew.  Those who do without further intervention should be rewarded – recognize them in some way (on your website, in a newsletter, or do something fun and send them a certificate of appreciation).  Those who do not should be contacted right away, versus waiting to see if a late renewal will be coming in.

How are you currently maintaining a relationship and understanding the needs of your members?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you are looking for tips, please click here, and download our Member Retention Tips Sheet.

Your Non-Member List May Need More Help Than You Think

Mountain of paperwork
I got an email the other day from an organization inviting me to their upcoming summit.

I had looked at this organization back in 2010, for my previous role with Greenfield Services Inc. At the time I was interested in obtaining a designation to increase my knowledge and expertise base in project management.

There were two things about this recent email that made me laugh:  First, when I contacted this organization back in 2010, I got a very abrupt response regarding my membership inquiry (something along the lines of “all of the information you need is on our website”…), and so I never joined because no one was interested in talking with me.  The second thing that made me laugh is that this communication arrived two years later – I have not heard from the association since my initial inquiry and now they are reaching out to invite me to a conference?

Yes, at least they are reaching out now – but it is clear that they have not done their research in quite a while to determine who (if anyone) on their non-member list is still worth marketing to.

It may be relatively inexpensive to send a text-only email out to a list of contacts, but at what cost to the association’s image and reputation?  The same goes for the course catalogues I receive offering me courses in Project Management, Employee Engagement, and other Operations functions.  Since these topics applied to my former role, the company sending these to me is wasting a lot of money!   I do not even take them out of the plastic packaging anymore; I just toss them in the recycling bin.

There are several lessons here for associations, but here are my top three:

Know the Statistics:  In working with data cleansing, we’ve estimated that data becomes obsolete at a rate of 30% per year (or more in some cases).  This ratio is very industry dependent, but knowing what your industry or profession’s average turnover is very important.  Your prospective member or conference attendee may still be in the same job function, but what if they transfer departments, or move to different cities/companies?

Do your research:  Whether it is internet research to find if the person is still at the company, or if it is a call that needs to take place to update information, it needs to be done.  No matter what amount of money you are spending on marketing to your non-members, a lot of what is being allocated is being wasted if you cannot keep your list up to date.  We recommend that this is done annually, and that it is consistently planned for in your budgeting process.

Take the Leap:  A prospective member is more likely to provide you with their updated contact information if you demonstrate that you offer them some value.  As an example, if the association I reached out to for my initial inquiry had provided me with the assistance I was looking for, or even bothered to follow up on a regular basis, I would be more likely to have told them by now that I have completely changed roles and as a result am no longer interested.  I may have even given them the name of my replacement.

If you are looking to improve your numbers – whether it is for courses, conferences or membership – you need to know who you are marketing to – and that starts with a clean list (additional tips can be found here).  From there, you can assess the real costs of creating a strategic marketing plan.

What have been your experiences with your non-member list?


Greenfield Services Launches Free Resources on Website

Free Stamp
In an effort to share more valuable, the Professional & Trade Association section of our website now offers a Free Resources section for Association Executives.

On a regular basis, we come across Associations who have really stood apart from others in increasing member engagement (through recruitment & retention practices, as well as increasing the number of delegates at their annual event, social media practices, etc), and, with their permission, we gather the intelligence so it can be shared with interested parties.

Our goal is to ensure that Associations (in Canada, as well as North America) are aware of what industry peers are doing, to assist in reviewing and possibly updating their own practices and procedures.

On this page on our website, you will find exclusive interviews with industry executives, as well as tips & best practices we have compiled to assist with government and industry standards and association management in general.

As we compile additional information, this page will be updated.  Please check it out (and check back often):

If you have particular areas that you would like to see covered in this section, please reach out and tell us!

Free image courtesy of

How Do You Create Member Engagement?

Engaging your members
Members join associations with a specific goal in mind – whether it is enhancing their professional education, obtaining a designation, or for networking opportunities – they have a reason.

An association’s objective is to match their potential members’ reasons with their strategy & mission.  Today, running a successful  association takes more than just providing advocacy on behalf of an entire industry – you must have a purpose that resonates with individuals (and beyond that, live your purpose everyday).  Helping your members improve in any given area is a fundamental requirement.  The more you help them improve, the stronger the relationship, the more engaged the member.

Association managers may know how much their courses or publications can help members, but if the individual doesn’t see the connection, and only sees these offers as the association trying to SELL stuff, engagement ultimately will drop.

How do you create engagement?

According to his 2010 article in Associations Now, David Gammel, CAE defines engagement as: “Engagement is the result of a member investing time or money with the association in exchange for value.”

As a result, ensuring your members are as engaged as possible is fundamental to surviving.  In the B2B world, Gallup Business Journal says engaged customers deliver a 23% premium over average customers in spending, profitability and relationship growth.  Imagine what that could do for your association!

What can your association do?  

Create a strategic plan to increase member engagement, whether it is creating a position with your association, or partnering with an external company for additional support.

It’s not a “one and done” scenario – you must regularly be in touch with your members, seeking their input on changes, products and services.

Stick to the plan – many members will be impressed that you have sought their feedback initially.  And, once you have reached out and asked for the input, continue to do so – consistency is key.

Also, as an association manager, you will need to track these metrics, so that you know what the next steps for your organization are.  And these metrics cannot be gathered without constant communication.  Surveys will help you along the way, but this is only one component.  Most survey participants are those who think you want to hear what they have to say, or they have negative feedback they want to share.  Having a conversation with all members (respondents and non-respondents) on a regular basis will provide you with the most realistic metrics.

In the end, everyday you must show your members that it is all about them.  That will drive member engagement in the right direction.

Free images from

Member Engagement Benchmarking Study Still Open

Mini Greenfield
With 9 days left, the Member Engagement Benchmarking Study, covering recruitment, retention renewal and other engagement practices is receiving some positive feedback, and many are looking forward to reviewing the results!

We are looking forward to benchmarking the industry too!

See what people are saying about the study:

“I'd be curious how associations measure the "visibility" goal, as it seems one of the more challenging to get data on. I'm also curious as to whether "member satisfaction" or something similar was on your list and where it's currently running.” – Terry C.

"Thanks for the preliminary results, Meagan! I took the survey on behalf of my employer and I know my division is keen to see how we stack up against others in the area of member engagement. It's very timely as we devote more of our attention and resources to this area!" – Miriam T.

Why Should You Participate:

Association Executives have told us they want to compare their organization's levels of engagement with other Canadian associations. And while we could direct them to benchmark reports relating to one particular area (on social media, or email marketing), we could not find any Canadian study that truly covers all levels of communication.

As a result, we have launched our Benchmarking Study, which will cover off organizational structure, and membership engagement (recruitment, retention, renewal and engagement questions).

Who should participate:

Anyone who works for an Association in Canada is invited to participate. The study will take approximately 35 minutes to complete – and individual results will be kept strictly confidential. Results will be reported in aggregate and will not identify any specific response or respondent.

The survey is open until Friday, June 29, 2012. Those who respond will have the opportunity to request at the end to receive a copy of the report as our thank you (a $149 value).

I would be happy to further discuss the purpose of the study, and how we will be sharing the results. Thank you in advance for your interest, and your assistance in benchmarking the industry!

Meagan Rockett
Director, Client Solutions
Greenfield Services Inc.
866-488-4474 ext 4517