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How to Increase Member Engagement with Personalized Communication

No one is swept away by your use of the [firstname] field anymore. True personalization means using technology to learn and super-serve each of your members.   

No one is swept away by your use of the [firstname] field anymore. True personalization means using technology to learn and super-serve each of your members.    

It’s happened to all of us – you get a “personalized” email. Maybe they got your name right, or maybe they used your last name as your first name. You open an email with the subject line promise of “just for you,” only to discover the content is unrelated to anything you’re interested in. You’re not feeling very special.  

If You Pay Attention to Them, They’ll Pay Attention to You  

Why has it become so critical to get personalized communications right? And how does optimized personalization help you achieve your association’s goals?   

It’s about engagement.   

In the real world, people deeply value friends who truly listen to them. If someone told you in September about a watch they absolutely love, think about how excited they’d be if you then gave them that watch as a gift in December. When done right, personalization isn’t creepy or disappointing, it shows caring.    

Personalizing your content helps you capture your members’ attention, generate appreciation, and quickly build a trusted relationship. It helps reinforce that you understand them and, as a result, the content you’re putting in front of them is more relevant and valuable. Creating that value is how you keep members coming back and lay the foundation for growing engagement, participation, revenue, etc.  

The Many Ways to Personalize Communication  

So how can you build impactful personalization into your membership engagement and marketing strategy? Let’s explore the types of data points you can capture and use to personalize or build out member personas: 

  • Age 
  • Gender 
  • Company/Industry 
  • How long they’ve been a member 
  • Geographic location 
  • Education level 
  • Certifications 
  • Professional/career level achieved 
  • Topics of interest  
  • Content subscribed to 
  • Login frequency 
  • Level of engagement in the community 
  • Communication preference self-selections  
  • In-person event attendance 
  • Content downloaded   

For your association, there may be others. Ask yourself what data you collect (or could collect), what it tells you about your members, and how you might be able to act on it. You can then plan how you want to use these data points to deliver what’s relevant while protecting members from the irrelevant.    

Your Technology Can Help You Personalize Efficiently  

Member data (and the personas you might create from it) is most value when it can be leveraged. Higher Logic Thrive offers tools, like the ones below, to help association communicators do that, and at scale.  

  • Community Automation Rules allow you to send scheduled or one-off emails to a specific group of users. For example, if you want to send an email to all users who haven’t logged in for 30 days (“We miss you!”), you can do that. You can also send emails to users based on their profile. If there are users with an interest marked in their profile, like AI applications in their industry, you could set up an email that highlights content on that subject and have it automatically send only to those users.  
  • Community Security Groups, though they may sound ominous, are really just a way to segmenting users based on permissions. You can use this tool to determine which content is visible or blocked from different users, depending on their categorization (that night include content on your community website, access to a particular group/forum, or copy included in the community newsletter emails). For example, you could show different, content to members vs. non-members, basic vs. premium account users, individuals vs. corporate members, etc. Security groups are effective for content strategy and management, allowing associations to control when, where, and under what conditions content is distributed.  
  • Email Targeting helps you take the power of automation rules to your members’ inbox. If you have Higher Logic Thrive Platform, or a combination of Higher Logic Thrive Community and Marketing Automation, you can use any data you have within either of those tools to target emails more precisely. And when you integrate your AMS, you have even more data to work with! Basically any data you can get into your email marketing platform (whether via a list manual or integrated list upload) becomes something you can act on.  
  • You might set up a personalized field to pull each member’s expiration date into the headings of your emails. 
  • You might segment your email lists by target personas, interest areas, or participation in past programs, and create completely unique email digests for each group highlighting other upcoming and on-demand programs on those topics.  
  • Or, you could use a feature like story-level targeting (also called dynamic content or dynamic segmentation), which allows you to send one email and show different content to different recipients by inserting and setting up a special, dynamic content block. For example, you could include a birthday promo for everyone whose birthday is in a given month, without having to send two different mailings (one with the promo, one without); story-level targeting lets you send one mailing to everyone with a specific trigger for that birthday promo zone so that it will only show up for people within the specified date range.  
  • List-builder allows you to layer the information you have get hyper specific, creating your own email lists with every combination of member data points imaginable. Want to send a highlight email of AI topics and tips for engaging only to recently joined members who are interested in AI and who haven’t engaged in the community yet? You can do it.
Benefits for Associations and Members  

There are numerous reasons you will want to personalize your association communications. First and foremost, you’re creating an improved experience for members. Their time is valuable, and they want the time they spend with your association’s content to be maximized. That means trying to share the most useful information to them with every interaction. Your technology can help you accomplish this, allowing you to achieve more with a small staff and gain insights into overall membership wants so you can vastly improve engagement and retention metrics.  

Turns out your members are well worth knowing.   

Not yet a Higher Logic Customer? Schedule a demo to explore these features and more.   

Michael Pappas