In a perfect world, all your association’s members would attend your conference, read every piece of content that you offered them, and be ready to volunteer or mentor at any time to further the profession, the industry, or your organization’s initiatives.
However, that isn’t the case.
You want to lean on your engaged members’ expertise to benefit the industry and your organization, but how do you know when to reach out?
Many organizations take the classic approach to member engagement: When a member joins, the association welcomes them to the organization. Yearly, they spend time with them at the annual conference. They’ll make sure members receive their monthly, weekly, daily newsletter, and when the time is right, they will remind them that it’s time to renew – and repeat every year.
While this can work for some members, it’s not the best member engagement strategy. It also leaves you and your organization in the dark about each member’s engagement levels.
Many associations will rank members simply based on tenure. Of course, renewing over and over again is one good indicator of loyalty and involvement, but there are plenty of other indicators you might be missing, like attending an event, reading resources on your website, or contributing in your online member community.
What if there was a way to score members’ engagement to help you identify the right time to reach out? Turns out, there is – and it’s called engagement scoring.
What is Engagement Scoring for Associations?
You may be familiar with the term “lead scoring,” which is a foundational concept for email marketing and sales.
Lead scoring is a way for marketing and sales teams to automatically rank leads based on their interest. It’s usually a point system that assigns fewer points to low-value interactions, like opening an email, and more points to higher-value interactions, like attending a webinar.
The goal of lead scoring is to build a systematic process for conducting outreach to sales prospects. By determining sales readiness, lead scores help ensure outreach to prospects remains respectful and helpful. In a way, lead scoring is equal parts art and science, in that you can choose what numbers to assign to your list.
Similarly for associations, engagement scoring helps you tell a story about the members of your association. While you might use engagement scoring for member sales, we see it more frequently used to gauge engagement levels for existing members. How engaged are they? What are they most interested in? For instance, you can group people by tenure, participation in events, contributions to discussions, and involvement with the overall organization.
Like lead scoring, one way to build these engagement scores is through a point system. The idea is to assign points based on their level of involvement.
For instance, you may assign 5 points to someone who opened an email, or 40 points to someone who completed a certification. You can also add points based on other variables such as tenure, organizational involvement, and whether people are responding to emails.
This exact science of your point system depends on the unique dynamics of your organization. It’s up to your team to determine what’s considered “highly engaged, moderately engaged, minimally engaged, or disengaged.”
How to Get Started with Engagement Scoring
Engagement scoring might seem like an overwhelming prospect – who has the time to go track down every member’s activity? No one does – that’s why we recommend using marketing automation or email campaign software to help.
You can use technology like Higher Logic’s Communications platform to develop these benchmarks and assign scores to individual members based on their real-time activity. For associations who want to engage members more strategically and communicate in a personal way, automating your email campaigns and engagement scoring is a necessary technique for keeping track of moving parts.
3 Levels of Engagement Scoring
Let’s walk through three levels of engagement scoring – starting with the basic level. If you’ve never used lead or engagement scoring in an email campaign tool before, this is where to start.
Level 1: Start simply to gather base levels of data.
- Identify who is engaged or not engaged.
- Add points for any actions: all web, email, or online community interactions.
- Add points for renewals, volunteering, mentoring, contributions to your online community.
- Subtract points for unsubscribes. They’re indicating they don’t want to receive email or digital content from you. Subtracting points can also be a way to account for inactivity or when your member has taken an action that means they don’t want to receive more content from your organization.
Tip: Engagement scoring doesn’t only have to be based on engagement data. For example, you have information in your database you can use to reward them with points so they get ranked or enrolled in a specific workflow.
Level 2: Start to add some complexity to your engagement scoring.
- Score on repeated activity or frequency. For example, add points after they’ve clicked through 10 emails, or maybe they’ve posted in your online community 3x in one month.
- Add varying levels of scores for more valued activity. For example, maybe a website visit or a webinar attendance is worth more to you than an email open, so give that more points.
- Start thinking about adding recency to the frequency. Did they participate in the last month vs. the last year?
- Start to alter the formula as you learn to create better benchmarks.
Level 3: Identify what the member is most interested in.
- Break out categories and topic, like advocacy or education. By doing this you can start to see which categories they have the most points in – and where they’re the most engaged.
- Use the Level 1 approach for each topic area so you can assign points.
- Use the Level 2 approach to observe interest.
- Add more categories as needed.
- Alter your categories and topics as they evolve.
Future State: Here’s what a possible member engagement score might look like when you’ve gone through Levels 1-3.
In Higher Logic’s Communications platform, you can set up lead/engagement scoring and have it run automatically. Then when you’re ready, use the data to find members who can:
- Present at an event or a webinar
- Volunteer or mentor
- Engage in the online community
- Contribute to advocacy efforts
- Respond to surveys
These are great results – but it’s not the only plus. Check out four other ways your association and your members will benefit from engagement scoring.
- Create your own benchmarks. With engagement scoring, understand how many members are engaged by month, quarter, and year. Then you can see increases or decreases based on those numbers.
- Find content gaps or successes. When you can track member engagement, you can also track whether your content is working to engage members or not and where you need to improve. If you need more data on why content is or isn’t working, a good first step is to conduct interviews with your association members. What information do they want? What are some of their challenges? Then look to other sources of data – what are the top discussion posts in your online community? What are the top community searches?
- Engage your members in a way that creates Higher Love. Your members will benefit because you can target email messages based on their interests and based on what you know they want and need. With more personalized communications they have less noise and distraction – and the messages they receive from you are relevant, leading to increased engagement, and ultimately, Higher Love.
- Identify the right time to engage with members or prospective members. When is it the right time to invite them to join your association? When is it the right time to ask them to get involved? Now you’ll know.
The best part of your engagement scoring system is the built-in feedback loop. When you consistently match members with valuable content, they will discover more value. The more engaged they are, the more your association will thrive.
For this reason, creating an engagement scoring structure in your marketing automation platform has the potential to become one of the most valuable investments and positivity-drivers in your organization.
Senior Product Manager
David Jovel is a Product Manager at Higher Logic focused on Communications. He spent most of his career working with Associations in the SaaS space with the Communications and Marketing Automation platforms. At one point he even helped develop the product. Now he spends his time working closely with customers to help guide and build the Higher Logic Communications platform.
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