July 15, 2020
During the first few months of the pandemic, associations were in response mode. Members whose workplaces changed drastically urgently needed information and training, and you responded with resources and virtual education.
Members working from home or stuck at home had time to learn new skills and earn CE credits, especially if they were worried about losing their job—or had already lost it. They were a captive audience for webinars, virtual conferences, and online social events. Because you responded so quickly to these emerging needs, member engagement increased.
Soon, hopefully, we’ll enter a new phase of the pandemic—recovery mode. Some members will return to their workplace and some will continue working from home. But everyone is uncertain and worried about what the future holds. The challenge now is keeping members engaged during this next phase—the next normal, although nothing seems normal about it.
Members only engage if they’re interested in what you’re offering. Their needs and interests are changing as the pandemic wears on, so you must adjust quickly to keep on top of these evolving conditions.
Are members doing okay, barely hanging on, recovering, or in bad shape? How can you help them in this phase of their business or career?
You can learn a great deal about their challenges and needs from behavioral cues:
Some associations are contacting members individually to discuss their daily experiences and concerns. We also see associations displaying the results of biweekly or monthly pulse surveys. These surveys ask a few multiple-choice questions like:
Many surveys also include an open-ended question. If yours does, ask for their email in an optional field so you can follow up and dig deeper.
Let respondents see pulse survey results immediately and tell them to keep an eye out for your report on the final results. When the survey is closed, share your analysis of the results along with any related action steps you’re considering.
Once you have a better understanding of your members’ needs, interests, and desires, you can look at what you have to offer now—and should market more strongly—and what you can develop and deliver to better engage members.
You may decide to develop new resources, but don’t forget about curating resources already available from your association or external sources. Members will appreciate you saving them time by finding and sharing the information they need. You can add additional value by providing your own interpretation and helping members put the information in context.
Members love reading about their own. Share member stories, for example, how they’re dealing with different aspects of the pandemic.
Pay attention to digital analytics so you know what people are opening, reading, and sharing on all your distribution channels—and what they’re ignoring. Adjust your editorial plans as interests change.
Review the effectiveness of your distribution channels since consumption may have changed since pre-pandemic days. In your newsletters, social media, podcasts, and videos, always link back to your website and promote related resources.
Business transformation is underway in many industries and professions. In times of change, education is essential.
Education can no longer be focused on an annual in-person event. Members (and others in your market) need year-round access to virtual education. If you can build a virtual audience for your educational programs, you will be on your way to recapturing lost conference and sponsorship revenue.
People have the time and/or the need for education right now. Don’t let up on marketing your virtual educational events, recordings from those events, and other online learning programs. Remind virtual event attendees that they will receive more value from the event if they listen to the recordings. You can also extend the value of virtual events by bringing attendees back together for exclusive post-event discussions—a sponsorship opportunity too.
When normal life is upended, belonging to a community is more important than ever. Membership communities, like associations, provide psychological security. Within their professional community, members can find a support network, intellectual stimulation, opportunities to contribute, and a good time.
People may have Zoom fatigue but they still make time for virtual conversations and happy hours. They crave connection beyond the usual co-worker faces they see every day.
Members want to regularly connect with others for online conversations and networking:
Let members propose ideas for new groups and events on both professional and personal topics. If the thought of staffing all these events is overwhelming, rely on volunteers.
We all know volunteering is a great way to spend free time, give back, meet people, learn new skills, and boost your resume. Let your members know they can volunteer from afar. Identify all the different ways members can microvolunteer from their home or office.
Volunteer ambassadors can call or Zoom with new members, check in on members to learn about their needs, and talk with at-risk or lapsed members. These encounters give members the chance to expand their social circle while helping their community.
Many of your members are taking in the news, looking at the world around them, and wondering how they can make a difference. Identify community service projects that align with your association’s mission and your members’ interests. How can members help others, not just with their money but with their time?
Perhaps you can find a cause that relates to the diversity, equity and inclusion work your association is doing. Maybe you can find ways to assist young or disadvantaged people, or help those who are going through tough times right now. Working on a good cause together gives members the chance to realize their purpose and help your association fulfill its mission.
Member needs will remain a moving target for the near future. But you know they want to stay in the know, improve their skills and knowledge, spend time with old friends and new acquaintances, and give back to their community. By engaging your members virtually, your association can help them achieve these goals.
Click here to request a tour and find out how The Echo, our virtual event solution, can help you virtually engage your members.