In the first of two guest posts, we caught up with association professional and chair of the MemberWise Network, Richard Gott. By day he is the Head of Membership Development at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and by night he develops and runs his 1,400 association professional-strong (free to join) network.
A key issue facing associations is the provision of great member value in return for annual subscription fees. Over the past decade we have seen a significant shift from tangible/physical member benefits (e.g. journal/newsletters) to ‘virtual’ benefits (e.g. digital magazines and email updates) facilitated via the Web.
So how can we continue to provide REAL value when a lot of tangible benefits are disappearing and the world is becoming much more VIRTUAL?
In late 2012 we thought it was about time take a ‘temperature check’ to see what the top ten uses of the web actually look like and how these generate online member value (OMV).
In total, 316 associations responded to our dedicated online survey and the top 10 uses include:
Your first response will probably be that there are now surprises here. Correct. However, it is what is not here that concerns me. Where do online membership renewals feature? Answer – Not here!
We all understand that making online renewal journeys simply/straight-forward will almost certainly have a positive impact on member retention. However, I suspect online renewals doesn’t feature because of legacy processes/systems (e.g. membership databases) and limited budgets.
In the medium term we will really need to sort this out!
One area that is really taking off is the ‘mobile web’. Associations will need to ensure their online offerings are ‘mobile friendly’ in response to members wanting to access content whilst ‘on the move’. A similar belief was held about online social networking, however with only 1 in 10 members actively utilizing these services associations are starting to believe the social web ‘isn’t all that’ any more.
At present many associations remain skeptical about the ‘mobile web’ with only 15% agreeing that it currently helps them to retain and recruit members. Only a quarter are convinced it currently enhances member engagement, however many agree this will change in the near future.
One worrying finding was that some associations don’t actually know if their online benefits are generating value for their members. Online surveys, focus groups and online crowd-sourcing isn’t ‘rocket science’ so if you don’t have a handle on what is working and what is not there is a real need to find out dam quick! Getting it wrong will be costly.
So, if there is a need to focus on providing more value where should we focus our attention?
Our research indicates that members want access to high quality and relevant information and advice (at home and on the move). Some wish to network online and wish to access career-stage and special interest specific content. They want flexible online CPD/eLearning opportunities and also access to up-to-date region-specific information, advice and events.
My killer question to you – Is the above reflected on your website?
If yes – Fantastic! Hopefully member research and structured use of analytics is helping you to hone content to make it even more valuable to your members!
If no – There’s time to evolve! You first need to go back to basics. What are your members online ‘needs’? How can they be met? Are your systems and processes (e.g. CRM/CMS) up-to-scratch? Is a structured and actionable digital strategy/plan in place?
Hopefully there is some food for thought here. You access the full Harnessing the Web to Drive Membership Value and Growth survey summary report by joining the MemberWise Network (completely free-of-charge)
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