One of the obvious and most critical objectives of any association is to retain membership. Retention is a key performance indicator that impacts brand reputation, member satisfaction, and conclusively—financial statements.
The issue, however, is that generational and cultural landscapes are constantly evolving—yielding new consumer-buying behaviors, content-consumption preferences, and desired communication channels.
As market demand is rewired, businesses are all seeing a natural need for remodeling, restructuring, and/or rebranding so that they're lock in step with audience expectations and needs.
Associations, and certainly memberships, are no different. Naturally, member-based organizations have to be extraordinarily proactive when it comes to identifying and dissuading member exits.
Email is arguably the most popular and effective marketing tool for organizations to run campaigns and produce funnel conversions.
For associations, non-profits, and member-based groups—whose cornerstone value comes in the form of communication, content, and community—this 1:1 member communication is a must-have for marketers.
The ability for members and customers to control the content that they receive, specifically through email, is invaluable to their satisfaction and your bottom line.
Cue the Email Preference Center (EPC)—a centralized location where users manage their communication preferences and topical interests.
A lot of associations spend too much time over-thinking their digital marketing strategies that they end up missing opportunities,” says Suzanne Carawan, Chief Marketing Officer with HighRoad Solution. “The truth is that consumers are far more forgiving in the digital space, so associations can worry less and take more risks.”
Communicating with members can be intimidating in the digital age. What if your email has a typo? What if your e-newsletter has a broken link? What if that new (and expensive) website simply doesn't click with your audience?
The short answer: Relax.
Simply put, it's OK to make mistakes; companies do it all the time. Whether it's sending emails with the odd misspelling, introducing online services that don't work perfectly at launch, or trying something new with their messaging that winds up falling flat.
And that's perfectly fine, says Carawan, because the need to keep the conversation going with one's audience outweighs the need to make sure that communication is perfect: “Maybe in the past someone would get fired for a typo in a print communication, but in the digital space it happens and you can go back and fix it immediately.”
Moreover, making a mistake doesn't have the same impact on a brand's reputation as it did a decade ago. The digital community is diverse, meaning it is much more inclusive and understanding than what marketers have traditionally been used to. As a result, associations are holding themselves to a standard that just doesn't exist anymore and all that worrying about making the wrong move is slowing them down.
“Slow and perfect gets beat by agile and good intent every time in today’s world,” states Carawan, adding, “Everyone is just trying to be heard, and very few people are going to judge you for trying something that fails. Think of online like the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars. We're all creatures from different parts of the galaxy and all we want to do is grab a drink and talk to real creatures about real things—that’s the value of a membership.”
That doesn't mean associations have permission to get sloppy. It is still possible to go too far the other way – particularly among older generation who might be a little less forgiving than their Gen X and Millennial peers. What it does mean is that associations have more leeway to experiment with new ideas and services, try new approaches with their social media, or take the leap with initiatives such as website upgrades and digital marketing campaigns.
Furthermore, notes Carawan, just as members and online audiences are more forgiving, so too must employers give staff the benefit of the doubt: “Don't fire the 24-year old who just sent an email with an error in it, because to them, this stuff happens all the time. They won't understand why it's a big deal because they live in world of emojis, abbreviations, and casual social media messages.”
No doubt, it's a new age for association marketing. And while it can be comfortable to sit on new ideas or marketing campaigns until they're flawless, sometimes the best play is to pull the trigger.
After all, adds Carawan, “No one's perfect, and we're all just trying to communicate.”
Want to learn more about improving your member communications?