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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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Defining the Membership Experience

As marketers, we too often become focused on “attributes of membership markets.” This focus is essential to membership strategy as it helps us understand the components of the membership decision and how those components of membership are similar and different across audiences.

The danger in this mindset, though, is that we begin to think about “markets” and “attributes” and start to forget that we’re actually trying to engage people, not things.

People do not think of their membership as a summation of attributes; they view it as an experience.

The challenge is to create a definition of the membership experience that allows for the objective development of strategy without losing the emotional and personal aspects of the experience.

This blog introduces a potential definition of a member experience that can be used to guide management action.

First, it is important to understand there is no singular membership experience. The more diverse your membership and the more complex your portfolio of programs, services, initiatives, and opportunities, the more potential experiences exist. In addition, the experience isn’t static. What a member desires this year may be different next year as their situation and needs change.

Second, to create a compelling membership experience for each market, the association needs to understand the desired member experience for each market and create a definition or description of this desired experience to guide decision-making.

A definition of an experience might include some of the following characteristics:

  1. Goals – what does the association want this experience to accomplish in the professional lives of each member of a key market?
  2. Attributes of the experience – what key characteristics of the member experience would each market find compelling and how does the association deliver on these attributes?
  3. Knowledge and information – what information do members of each market desire and what knowledge or training is the association interested in teaching these individuals?
  4. Participation pattern – how does the association expect members of each market to interact with the association and how many hours of participation are optimal given our goals?
  5. Communication – how does the association effectively communicate this experience to each market in a manner that addresses their interests and needs?
  6. Evaluation and modification – how does the association evaluate the success of this experience and make modifications?
  7. Financial goals – how much should the association invest in these individuals and what sort of financial returns should the association expect?

Following agreement on a definition, the association needs to decide how best to consistently deliver on this experience using the online, face to face, published, and other tools of the association.

In order to create a compelling member experience, the association must specifically focus on defining what such an experience would offer each market and incorporate this knowledge into the daily operations of the association.

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