A few years ago, I joined an online writing club.
I was hoping to start tracking my writing progress and connect me with other writers, and I hoped the sense of community would give me motivation to keep developing my skills..
Two months after I joined, however, I decided to quit.
It wasn’t because I no longer wanted to work on my writing.
No, it was just that I never received any updates on the forums that were supposed to be held, and I wasn’t sure how to connect to other members of the network.
Plus, when I tried to reach out to the club’s representatives, I was met with a boilerplate email that left me feeling like I was talking to a brick wall.
The whole experience left me with a sour taste in my mouth. What was supposed to be a fun, inspiring experience had turned into weeks of frustration -- and in the time I was part of this club, I never felt like a real member.
I took a break for a bit, and then decided to look for a new writing association. It was like night and day — this time, my experience was amazing.
I found myself coming back to their website over and over, because I felt confident that my membership was a valuable asset, and to this day, I’m still part of this organization.
While the benefits offered by both clubs were the same, I stuck with the second for one simple reason: its member experience was much better.
In this post, I’ll take you through some of the things that the second club did differently from the first, and what made me decide to stay a member.
Member experience is how someone sees, uses, and interacts with your association.
It’s also one of the most important tools at your disposal. How members deal with an organization shapes their view of it, so to keep them coming back, you want to engage them through their experience.
When someone becomes a member, they should feel like they’re buying a ticket to a virtual “it crowd”, complete with unique perks and even bragging rights.
The associations that we’ve seen become most successful are those that keep their members engaged, and make their experience as positive as possible from the second they join onwards.
Here are nine cost-effective tips your organization can use to improve its member experience, and to make people truly appreciate being a part of it.
1. Ask Yourself These Questions
Studying the type of people that take part in your organization helps you make their experience better.
Make a model of what you imagine a member of your association to look like:
Who’s already part of your organization?
How did they find you?
What attracted them to join?
What kind of interests do they have related to your organization?
How can you help them see more value from membership?
By developing this persona for yourself, you can better target your communications to the people who are right for your organization — and leaving out the ones who aren't.
This in turn makes the people on the receiving end feel like they truly belong in your community.
2. Add a Personal Touch
One of the reasons I’m still a member of the writing club I mentioned earlier is that the emails they send always made me laugh — a major step-up from the generic communication I was used to.
When I was a part of the first writing club, the updates I received were dry and unengaging. As a result, I didn’t take the time to find out more about the events they had going on. With the second club, however, I was drawn in by the detailed and funny messages -- they were direct, but creative. It got to the point where I was looking forward to checking my mailbox for new emails!
Make sure that your association stands out from the crowd with personal and engaging communication. When writing emails, write them in a way that feels personal and fun to read.
That way, they’ll feel appreciated, even if they’ve just joined.
3. Engage, Engage, Engage!
What does member engagement mean to you?
For some associations we’ve worked with, it means attending the majority of the events they put on.
For others, it just means reading the emails they send out.
Whatever way you slice it, members should want to involve themselves with your association and be active participants.
In the case of my writing club, I find myself coming back to their website multiple times a week. It feels like I’ve built a relationship with the association itself, so I want to invest more time in it.
A great way to do this is building community by asking members to involve themselves from the instant they join.
Some quick ideas we’ve seen work well are:
When they first join, ask them what kind of content they’d like to see so that you can create more of it.
Start a “Tips Tuesday” series (whether it’s through social media, videos, or blog posts) featuring best practices in your space from members.
Set up one-on-one meetings between new members and experienced ones to help them find their feet.
4. Set Yourself Apart
There are a lot of associations out there, some of which might be focusing on similar topics as you are.
So, how can you distinguish your organization?
Maybe it’s about getting specific — for example, forming a writing club only for fantasy writers rather than for all writers.
Or maybe it’s about offering something other organizations don’t, such as hosting in-person meetups rather than virtual ones only.
Whatever you decide, doing some research on other associations that exist in your space can also help. Going back to the questions we asked in the first point, you can start focusing on what your current members see as your strengths as opposed to things other organizations are already doing.
5. Give Them Something to Look Forward to
Sometimes the anticipation of having something to look forward to is better than the event itself.
That’s not to say that your events won’t blow it out of the park — but that keeping your event schedule updated will help members be much more excited than if they came out of the blue.
Plus, creating a sequence of events that flow from one to another helps maintain your organization’s presence in members’ lives.
If they’re constantly reminded of the value you bring them, they’ll be much more likely to keep joining in — and even established members will feel the sense of novelty they got from first joining your organization.
6. Build More Bridges
One of my favourite parts about the club I’m currently part of is how easy it is to connect with other members. I’ve met people that have helped me improve my writing through the club’s events and forums, and I really appreciate it.
And I’m not alone. A big part of the reason people join membership organizations is to build the connections they couldn’t find anywhere else.
So, creating opportunities for users to interact with each other whether online or offline can go a long way in taking their member experience to the next level.
Even something as simple as a member directory can allow members to reach out and learn more about each other. Asking members to add a funny fact about themselves, or what they hope to gain from your community, can help boost engagement and give other members a way to break the ice.
This can also apply to partnerships outside your community.
For example, you could consider creating a joint event with another local association, charity, or even a business to give your members more opportunities to meet each other and other people who are in the same space.
The more ways you can give your members a chance to connect, the better!
7. Keep in Touch
This tip is simple but effective: besides connecting members with each other, make sure they can easily reach you.
Whether it’s keeping a contact number on your website or having a contact-us form that actually gets checked, making sure members can contact your organization will help develop trust and will let them know you have their best interests at heart.
This can also be a benefit offered depending on membership levels. For example, maybe members who are part of the highest level get to have 1:1 coaching from a member of your team.
8. Start Creating This Type of Content
Events aren’t the only way you can interact with members.
Now that more and more people are finding organizations online, the more content has become key to improving member experience.
By creating interactive content, you’re giving your members something they can see and hear (if not touch) as it’s happening. Some examples of interactive content you can easily incorporate into your website or emails to members are:
Webinars with a Q&A portion at the end
Quizzes & polls – either fun ones that relate back to your mission, or surveys that you can use to get feedback on how your organization is doing
Quick videos that provide an educational tip or feature one of your members
People assign a lot of value to things they can engage with, so the more you get your members involved, the better!
Some kinds of content can also help you attract new members as well as providing value to existing ones. Check out our on-demand webinar on the three keys to growing your organization with content if you’d like to learn more.
9. Take It Outside Excel
You may have noticed that many of these tips assume or suggest that your organization has a website or uses online tools to engage members.
That’s because keeping everything in a spreadsheet can only get you so far (sorry!).
Once your organization reaches a certain size, incorporating more than just a mailing list into your arsenal can help you keep everything in one place and build a more robust membership model.
That’s where a tool like membership management software can really come in handy.
This kind of software, of which Wild Apricot is one, can help you manage your organization in a few different ways. These include:
Website: create and update your website with little-to-no tech experience.
Events: easily create and promote lessons, events, and rentals, with online registration, attendance tracking, and payment processing.
Payments: automate membership renewals, registrations and payments.
Database: maintain detailed member and admin records in an easy-to-search and filter online database.
Emails: send professional newsletter and email communications to your members.
Member Login: allow members to login to your website to access exclusive resources.
Mobile App: track event registrations, payments, and more on the go.
If that sounds like it could come in handy in your organization, then why not try out a free 30-day trial of Wild Apricot?
Implementing some of these strategies in your organization can help keep your members happy — and keep them involved for years to come. Let me know in the comments if your organization has tried any of these ideas out, or if you have any other ways to improve the member experience!