On nearly every association professional’s wish list is to convert unengaged members into engaged members. Every time we start a member research project there’s enormous pressure to interview unengaged or inactive members. Sometimes even non-members. But, and here’s the kicker, unengaged members can’t actually tell us how to make them more engaged.
Unengaged members cannot help us solve member engagement
- Don’t really understand why they are unengaged. What they can tell you definitively is they don’t derive value from the association and largely they don’t know much about the association. Talk to them and you will learn they have not been able to link their problems to your solution. We don’t need member research to tell us this.
- Tend to tell untruths. It is painful to tell the truth if you know that someone’s feelings will get hurt. Unengaged members have no skin in the game. Hey, what’s a little white lie if I can make this conversation easier and get off the phone faster?
- Are notoriously hard to recruit. They don’t have time to read emails, or learn to navigate the website or attend events so they certainly don’t have time to talk to someone on the phone or take a survey.
These unengaged members are an elusive crowd in more ways than one! If we can’t get opinions from the unengaged how do we figure out how to help them be more engaged? New members and your best members hold the key.
New members can help us solve low member engagement
New members will either take one of two paths. They will either go on to become very engaged and active in the association. Or they won’t. The first few interactions with the staff, the first time at the conference and the first pivotal year set the stage. This is a very fragile time and either they get value or they don’t.
Talking to members who have been members for between 1 and 3 years can help us understand:
- At what moment or during what event did members realize the value of the association?
- What is going right and what is going wrong with our on-boarding process.
- What expectations members had when joining and how those expectation are being fulfilled.
Learn the answers to these questions and we can tailor experiences for our new members designed to help them pull value from their membership faster. We can change our member marketing messages to show how we can solve their problems. We can develop or refine our on-boarding process by member segment.
Our best members can help us solve low member engagement
Our best members are engaged but this doesn’t mean they don’t what the association to be even better. Very engaged members can also tell us how to appeal to others like them, others likely to become very engaged too.
Talk to your best members, however you define engaged, and we will find:
- What the value of the association is.
- Why engaged members keep renewing.
- What problem the association solves for them.
- The big problems they have that the association isn’t solving for them.
Combine a mix of insights from our new members and our best members and we will learn how to improve the association’s strategy, marketing and innovation plans – all of which can help more members become more of your best members.
Amanda Kaiser helps associations develop member insights-based marketing, innovation and strategy through qualitative member research. Find more articles like this on her blog www.SmoothThePath.net or follow her on Twitter @SmoothThePath.