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7 min read

Keeping Your Trade Association Relevant by Leveraging Online Community

Trade Associations can use online communities to understand members, identify rising leaders, earn more revenue, and stay relevant to members year after year.

Tags: Community Strategy,Trade Associations

Broadening Your Member Contacts and Keeping Up with Change

Trade associations that fail to develop relationships beyond their main point of contact often face an uphill battle when it comes to renewing their member companies – especially when their contact person retires or leaves. In an ideal world, you want to ensure that a broad group of staff – from the admins to the CEO – understand the value that your association provides and stay engaged throughout the year.

The more members you reach and get to know, the better. When you have a better understanding of your member personas and their needs, you can improve your marketing personalization, create more relevant products, programs, and events, and ultimately draw in more revenue. You’re also better positioned to engage the next generation of young members who can leverage your association as a vital part of their career success and become a pipeline for leadership development.

So how do you achieve these better, broader member connections? An essential component of your strategy to reach more members is your online community.

“Since launching, we’ve seen the community and our email list grow from around 240 to 500 people. And on our Zoom events, we’ve seen new faces we’ve never seen before. Higher Logic Thrive helped us reach and get to know a whole new group of people who we didn’t have access to before.”
Gray Rodriguez, Director of Communications, Film Festival Alliance


Community Helps You Understand Your Members Better

Online communities provide associations with an invaluable platform for gaining a deeper understanding of their members. By observing your community and the discussions that take place there, trade associations can access a wealth of information about their members’ needs, challenges, and resource usage. This 24/7 accessible space becomes a hub for member conversations and opens up a goldmine of insights.

Why it Pays to Know Members Better

Deliver Better Programs and Products

With heightened insights into member preferences, you can tailor programs and products more effectively. By addressing the specific wants and needs of members, associations increase and maintain relevance with each passing year, enjoying higher member engagement and more product and program purchases.

Sell More with Stronger Buyer Personas

Understanding what members want helps associations refine their marketing efforts. With real data in hand, associations can craft precise and compelling buyer personas and personalized messaging, thereby boosting marketing and sales effectiveness.

persona cards

Create Personalized Member Journeys

Online community platforms offer engagement tools that enable associations to craft personalized journeys for each member. This approach ensures members encounter the right content at the right time, resulting in more relevant and gratifying engagements with the association’s offerings. For example, Higher Logic Thrive’s automation rules help you send personalized nudges to each member based on their activities – easy engagement with less effort.

Creating Strong Connections with the Next Generation of Leaders

To remain relevant, trade associations must not only maintain connections with current members but also cultivate relationships with the next generation of leaders.

Your online community helps you achieve this by creating a robust online resource for young and early career professionals. It’s a place where members can easily access the association’s research and resources, as well as gain advice and knowledge from their more senior and experienced peers. This ties your association directly to their career growth – which is exactly the kind of engagement that helps establish strong connections with upwardly mobile leaders in the industry.

“We’ve used technology, including our online community, our learning management system, and our benchmarking database to empower our members, help them do more for themselves, connect with them, and expand services without expanding staff.”
Tom Morrison, CEO, MTI Management


Save Time on Operational Activities

Online communities aren’t just about understanding members and fostering relationships; they offer a practical solution for streamlining operational activities.

Associations use their online community to manage and host their committees, board, advocacy initiatives, and other small groups. The online community can host multiple sub-groups, providing a private and secure space for discussions, document sharing, and critical topic coverage. Not only that, it also creates historical documentation of the committee’s work and discussions for the association.

And when members have questions, they can turn to the community for answers, reducing the need for one-on-one support.

“In terms of saving staff time: the fact that we’re using the Higher Logic Thrive to facilitate the awards committee has been a huge time-saver – especially for me as a newer staff member. I rarely have to go digging through old records or emails from former staff. The process and communication were handled primarily through our online community, NRPA Connect, so I can see the cadence of those past internal committee discussions, processes, and deadlines. Having that archive is really awesome.”
Michael Biedenstein, Volunteer and Awards Manager, NRPA


Lead the Industry

Your association’s online community can evolve into the primary resource hub for professionals in your industry – like a forum, resource library/knowledge base, and social media combined!

Within your private member communities, you can provide educational documents, webinars, and videos. You can also host resources from your events – like recordings and event materials. All this makes your community the go-to place for professionals to discuss industry-related challenges, questions, and ideas. Even associations with limited staff are empowered by community to create significant growth because any and all assets become searchable, scalable, and something their members can discuss in real-time.

“Our Higher Logic community takes ACHP staff out of the middle when it comes to members sharing learnings and making connections with their peers. Members are able to have real-time conversations with their colleagues about pain points and challenges, allowing them to make informed decisions, or at least share thoughts and ideas.”
Molly Edelman Hauber, Manager of Membership, ACHP


Ensure Membership Renewals Year After Year

Online communities have become indispensable tools for trade associations seeking to navigate the changing landscape of member engagement and association growth. They’re instrumental to communicating the association’s value to your whole membership base – and members who have a clear understanding of their benefits are more apt to renew when it’s time.

Moreover, with the insight gleaned from community interactions, associations can enhance marketing strategies and increase or fine-tune exposure to their products and services. So not only do members fully understand current value, but they are also continuously introduced to new and innovative value propositions.

Worrying about the future?

Trade associations can’t afford not to evolve. Online communities are a lifeline that helps even the smallest association keep up, connect, and stay relevant.