Member engagement is such a buzz word these days. Associations are struggling to engage members, in an effort to retain current members, and be set up for success in the future. Email has become one of (if not “the”) simplest way to reach out to your community. You create a message and send it to hundreds (or thousands) of people in your network at a click of a button.
It sounds easy, but is it engaging? The short answer is: It can be, if done properly.
One list for everything: Your association has a centralized list of varying member types, suppliers, outside stakeholders (including government bodies), and the general public/media who have expressed interest in your organization.Deploy one message for everyone: Your communications department produces one message, which is generic, in hopes to appeal to everyone on your list. It does not get into specific interests, rather re-directs them to your website in hopes that they will find the information that is relevant to them.Send your emails on an “as needed” basis: Your list receives emails from you that are obviously planned, but there are too many that appear to be after thoughts, and they end up getting several emails from you per month (or, worse, per week).Little statistical information: Yes, you know how many people are opening your emails, and how many are clicking through, but you cannot differentiate what are unique vs. total opens or clicks. You also have no idea who is opening and clicking through, and which subject line worked best.No sharing capabilities: Your email (or, the articles within) have no sharing capabilities for social media, or forwarding to a colleague.
Do any of these sound familiar? If you are nodding your head in agreement to some of the above examples, let’s turn that around. Email is still a valid way to engage your members (yes, even the Millennials!) So, let’s think positive and look at what you can do instead.
People have asked to be added to your list for different reasons. To engage by email, it is highly recommended that you understand their objectives for the relationship with your organization, and only send relevant information. That may be everything you have for one member, but only personal development credit courses for another. It’s better to understand upfront.
With your segmented list, you are able to do a better job developing the right message to send to each contact. It does not mean you have to re-invent the wheel for each email message, but developing a campaign around each segment will help you engage your Baby Boomer members in one way and your Gen Y members in yet another. Internship or emerging leader opportunities, for example, may be well-received by your Millennial members but your Boomer members probably don’t need to read that communication.
You cannot possibly foresee every single message that will need to be sent by your organization to your lists, but if you collaborate with all of your departments, you likely can account for over 80% of them. Messages that can be accounted for should be planned out on a content calendar at the beginning of the year–so that you know when they should be delivered, and you know that many of your members will not be frustrated with the number of emails received. That way, when there is a last-minute message to go out, your community will pay attention, instead of it being lost in the shuffle.
There are several email marketing and marketing automation programs out there that are ready to work for you (and, with you). Pick one that suits your budget, and provides you with the stats you are looking for. You should be able to track who is opening what email, clicking on what link, A/B test your message with different subject lines, and pull detailed reports on each message.
Adding social sharing buttons so that the recipient can share the article (or, entire email) as they see fit is imperative. It will expand your reach to the greater community, based on their network of followers. And, the social sharing options should be trackable through your stats.
Making these modifications to your association’s email strategy will ensure that your email efforts to members are not being wasted, ignored and under-valued by your community.
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