If your organization manages a membership program, you know that it can be a real challenge keeping your members fully engaged while developing ways to grow your program.
After all, no matter how many new members you attract, it’s your retention rate that drives real growth. Member engagement drives retention, and communication is the key to boosting engagement.
Data-driven and unified communication strategies are the best way to ensure you and your members get the most out of your program. There are a few essential elements to consider as you develop smarter communication strategies for your membership program.
To strengthen your communication strategy through smart data usage, try these three tips:
1. Integrate your database to see the bigger picture.
2. Keep in touch with members through automated messaging.
3. Ensure effective communication with member self-service options.
Whether your organization is developing its membership program or just looking to make improvements, make sure you start with a strong foundation and that your underlying membership CRM is up to the task of managing your member data.
If you’re ready to learn more, then let’s dive in!
1. Integrate Your Database to See the Bigger Picture
Did you ever play the game Telephone as a child? Someone thinks of a phrase, and then whispers it to the person next to them. The message keeps getting passed until everyone has heard it, and the final listener says the new, totally different (and usually mangled) phrase aloud.
This is what can happen when you manually retrieve and enter data between different software platforms. Don’t fall into this trap with your membership program management tools. Integrating your software stack creates stronger data management and decreases the chance of entry error.
The foundation of your association’s software strategy is a Customer Relationship Manager, or CRM. This is the place where all your member information is stored. But that’s only one piece of the puzzle: you also have finance software, marketing software, and event planning and management software.
To strengthen your communication strategy, integrate all your software solutions into one system that shares data. For example, prioritize using a native Salesforce app for event planning if you use Salesforce as your CRM.
With easier access to all your data, your communication strategies can improve in a few ways:
- If the statuses of your members’ dues are clearly displayed in their member profile, you can more easily follow up with them for payment.
- If your event planning software and CRM are integrated, you can keep tabs on which members are frequent attendees and which need more encouragement to attend.
- Integrations between your marketing software and CRM can show you important trends about different email campaigns, like which subject lines are the most effective and what buttons lead to the most event registrations.
Having access to all your member and program data in one place will allow you to more easily identify what keeps members engaged and what doesn’t.
Whatever tools you use, it pays off to take the time to explore your CRM’s app marketplace. Some top nonprofit Salesforce apps can seriously boost your program’s communication strategies simply by organizing and integrating your data in more useful ways.
Key Takeaway: Integrate all aspects of your software strategy so that you can use all available member data when planning and sending communications.
2. Keep in Touch with Members Through Automated Messaging
Automated messaging can be a double-edged sword. When implemented poorly, it can irritate members, wasting their time and reducing the chances of continued engagement. We’ve all gotten terrible impressions of businesses and organizations that flood our inbox with marketing emails and repeated appeals.
When driven by smarter data, however, automated messaging is a powerful tool for getting updates to the right members, at the right time, increasing engagement and driving growth.
This tip works hand-in-hand with the previous one. Never underestimate the value of working with integrated management and data platforms! With all your different teams working with the same data, you can strengthen your strategies across the board.
Consider these automated marketing tactics:
- Promotional emails often go unopened because their subject lines are written poorly or because they were simply sent to the wrong group of members. Segment your members by what interests them, and then target that group with interesting and relevant content.
- Automate renewal reminder messages to your members. Set a schedule of automated emails to be sent to your members 60 days, 30 days, and 14 days before their renewal deadline. Make sure that once they renew, they don’t get any more reminder emails!
- Measure engagement with your webinars and other educational events to gauge interest and target specific segments of your membership. High engagement levels around a particular event indicate a lot of interest. When you know which members are interested in which types of events, you can automate emails to them about upcoming events.
When used correctly in targeted ways, automated messaging tools provide the double bonus of generating more data to help you develop even smarter strategies in the long run. Use it to better engage your members in ways you know they’ll appreciate and identify the techniques that have proven to the catch the interest of new members.
A few essential features in any management system can go a long way when it comes to automated messaging. Check out Fonteva’s rundown of what to look for as you fine tune your membership program or start building from the ground up.
Key Takeaway: Use the data in your membership CRM to automate emails. You’ll save time every month, and your members will only get the messages they want and need.
3. Ensure Effective Communication with Member Self-Service Options
Integrated databases and automated messaging work to unify your strategies by generating and utilizing data in smarter ways. But there’s another way to generate useful data, and it can be extremely effective for programs with highly engaged members.
Simply giving your members the ability to get more involved is often enough to encourage them to actively share more information about themselves.
If your members feel fully engaged with your program, events, and perks, they’ll happily provide you with the information you need to improve your communications across all channels. That’s why offering self-service options in your management platform is a smart choice.
Members should be able to freely perform important tasks, update their profiles, and engage with your program’s content on their own. There’s a wide variety of ways you might offer direct self-service options to your members. Use management platforms that allow them to:
- Update contact information
- Easily renew membership
- Download articles or other content
- Manage email newsletter subscriptions
- Purchase merchandise or event tickets
- Provide feedback and suggestions
- Attend free webinars or streamed panels
Plus, when you encourage members to update their contact information on their own, you ensure that you have accurate and up-to-date ways to reach out to them. When members are empowered to take engagement into their own hands, you can get a better understanding of what drives them to get involved.
Once your members are using your management software to own their engagement, look at your data and ask some of the following questions:
- What tiers of membership are the most popular, and have the best renewal rates?
- What articles are the most frequently downloaded?
- Do certain topics or authors get higher download rates than others?
- What types of events have the highest registration and satisfaction rates?
- Which webinars are the most popular?
Use this data to calculate a concrete ROI for your membership tools and identify specific growth targets. Take advantage of your data to create more targeted communication strategies based on your members’ proven interests. Once you have a better idea of what your members like, provide more of it!
Your overarching development and programming strategies will be more targeted and effective than ever, simply from offering more options to your members.
Key Takeaway: Your members are the most reliable source of data about themselves. Empower them to own their engagement, and then just listen to what they have to say.
Whether you’re building a brand new membership program or adjusting your current program, these tips can make a huge difference for your team’s efforts.
Use the techniques and examples outlined above to unify your data and communications strategies. Leverage data to support your communications, and refine your communications to generate more useful data! The result? Serious engagement boosts for your program.
Chief Marketing Officer, Fonteva
Jake Fabbri is the Chief Marketing Officer at Fonteva with over 20 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.
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