There is a sign on my door, that says “it takes hours, it takes days, it takes weeks, to recruit a member – but it only takes seconds to lose one”. I truly believe that membership is everybody’s business. There is no way that a membership team could, or should, be solely responsible for recruiting, engaging, and retaining each member of an association. Every department plays a crucial role throughout the engagement and renewal process, because the member sits at the center of all our inter-departmental efforts.
How does member engagement and renewal infuse the particular work of each department, and what does each team’s specific contribution to the member journey look like?
EVENTS AND PROGRAMS DEPARTMENT
At Shop! Association we have eight different member segments, meaning that this is not a one size fits all organization. We have to discover – through surveys, through evaluations after programs, through individual conversations with our members – what they want, and what they’re looking for regarding development and education. From our findings, putting together our regional events then means targeting the content, honing the format, and assessing the speakers, to ensure that we are addressing these specific segment needs.
Programs and content then become personalized, and receptive to the actual demands and desires of our members.
Our organization is engaged in ongoing research that usually is updated each year, but this is fluid. If a member informs us about something pertinent to them, or requests information that speaks to an industry concern, we know that we have to provide new information in a more responsive and timely manner. Particularly with the retail industry being in such a flux at the moment, we need to stay on our toes. So it’s incredibly important that the Analytics department maintains communication with our members regarding what they need from our research publications and white papers.
PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA DEPARTMENT
We produce a magazine called Retail Environments that is published twice every other month, and all of the content within it is really driven by our members. We want to focus on them, and keep the stories we share engaging and relevant for them. We’ll do quarterly product focuses on different number segments and what they’re doing within the industry – so it is not just that we generate content ideas from our membership, but also that their endeavors themselves become print-worthy. The publication has a circulation of over 25,000, so it becomes a vehicle for communication about and between members.
The same goes for our social media, all of our newsletters, and our Member Connect platform in which members network with each other. We’ve got to be talking to them. We’ve got to be listening to what they want. We certainly wouldn’t have our advertisers or sponsors unless we were able to deliver to them tangible information about our members’ experience of sponsored programs and initiatives. If a partner has an ad on our website, we need to provide analytics to them so that they can see the ROI of their sponsorship.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
You have got to get your senior and executive leadership involved with the membership question, as well as your board of directors. And I know sometimes it can be challenging to get this involvement, but it speaks volumes to members at large. Our international councils are devoted to different member segments and interests, and are also in contact with them. You really do need to have an ongoing communication process so that members can feel the value of dialogue: that way you’re not only speaking to them, you are listening to them.
I WANT TO END BY ASKING YOU TO VISUALIZE A GRAPHIC
Imagine a circle. It is revolving and rotating, but it’s also expanding (at least I hope it’s expanding.) In the center of this circle are your members.
All around the perimeter of the circle, you’ve got the various areas of your association. There’s the Events Department, the Programming, the Advertising, the Sponsorship, the Analytics, the Research, and more – and they are tethered together. A line connects them all back to the members in the center, and this line is humming with the engagement back and forth between all of the different teams.
Members in the middle will remain engaged and inspired, as long as the various teams both stay connected to each other through this common thread, and focus their mutual and sustained efforts on strengthening and animating the link to membership that holds them all in place.