Lotta De Smet
At Intuto, we work with a number of different Associations and while every Association has different needs and wants - they all ask us the same question “how can I engage more members and create substantial value?”
Think back - it used to be relatively simple, put together a professional development course, promote that course through your member newsletter and most people would happily complete the course and sign on to be a member the next year. However, getting it online isn’t the hard part, it’s about separating yourself from other Associations. Today's members can be very picky about the Association they are a member of and in turn, the professional development courses they undertake.
Understand Your Members
To drive the most engagement, you must know your members and take a data driven approach. For starters, talk to your members and understand the challenges they face. Take a multifaceted approach as every part of their life needs to be scrutinised - the issues that crop up outside work and in their personal lives can have a huge impact on engagement levels. Use Google Forms or Survey Monkey to take a snapshot of your member base and present those findings to them.
You might find some startling trends - perhaps, your Association members are experiencing significant stress or they want to understand new trends in their industry. The trap that some Associations fall into, is that they are overly restrictive around the content and the information that they provide to members. For example, if a large portion of your member base is suffering stress and anxiety due to their job, it would be a complete disservice to discount this fact. To drive engagement, you should focus on providing resources and helpful content that will help address the issues relevant to your members' lives.
You will also want to look your members' learning style to determine how courses should be structured. A significant portion of our customers have moved away from long courses and are instead creating bite-sized 20-30mins of learning. We find that the engagement rates for such courses are higher, with learners able to dip into learning during quiet moments in the day. For most members, having a dedicated block of learning is not very realistic in today's busy modern world. Flexible learning will help set you apart from all the other Associations competing for your members' attention.
With an in-depth survey, you'll have a a plethora of new topics you can introduce to your member base. You can also design courses and webinars around those topics.
Develop Great Content
Well planned and beautifully executed content is a key part of improving member engagement. There are many great e-learning platforms (also known as an LMS) on the market that help put courses together without you having to do that much work. However, before purchasing, make sure you test out the authoring tools - you'll want a platform that allows you to include a range of media. Different media (such as video and quizzes) will help to catch and keep your members' attention, and drive home key points.
You'll also want to make sure that you are taking feedback after each course, reviewing the course engagement data and checking how your members are progressing. If you think that the engagement has dropped, put a plan together to overcome that challenge. You can also outsource the creation of courses, for example, Intuto has a content production team that specialises in putting courses online. You'll have the benefit of an expert team looking at your content and they can figure which design elements to incorporate.
Once you start taking a data driven approach, you will be able to tell what type of media your members like and the topics that interest them.
Change it up!
In the Association space, you cannot afford to stay static. You need to make sure that the courses you are developing and providing to members are hitting the right spots. To ensure that you are going in the right direction, make sure you are getting input from industry experts around the changes you should make and hit push on them.
You could even split test the courses - one with changes, and the other without any, and analyse what the data says. From your data, try swap courses around, give them new titles, introduce new mini topics, play around the course sizes and the types of interactions.
We also recommend that you have a feedback form after every course so that members can tell you what they liked about the course and what they didn't.
Reward and Motivate
Remember, how excited you used to get at school when your teacher handed out a sticker or a certificate for participating? While your members are now grown up and might not appreciate a sticker, they will still appreciate being told "well done". Make sure that all your members get certificates for completing courses. The certificates should list all the details of the course, including the CPD points, and should be branded under the Association.
You could also send out a "well done" text to the first member who completes a course or, the member who gave you the most feedback. Additionally, if you have the time, you could pick up the phone and congratulate your member, ask them how they found the course and the areas they enjoyed most. You'll make that member's day and they will appreciate the time you're putting into them. Most people enjoy the chance to talk to a real person. Don't forget, recognition and feeling part of a community is a powerful motivator.
Learn and Improve
The pace of life and technology has accelerated and it will continue to do so. In light of this, it's important to keep ahead, look carefully at processes and at your Association's needs. Your members need to see an Association that is member focused and keeps up to date with changes within the sector and outside.
With the amount of information that is available online, the courses you create and information you provide to your members needs to be extremely useful. In order to keep up with this, you need to be dedicate time and energy to learning each day. We recommend keeping up to date with Associations that are similar to yours and check on what they are doing (worldwide and locally). You could also consider joining groups on LinkedIn that discuss common trends in the Association space.
If you want more information around how Intuto can help your Association, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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