New Study Gives Roadmap to Attract New Members/Subscribers

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Membership for publishers continues to be a growing trend. The idea of belonging to something instead of just subscribing can have its benefits in marketing and sales. If you are already there in some form—or are thinking about it—a new study provides very informative data.

The report comes from Abila and is titled Member Engagement Study: Aligning Organization Strategy With What Matters Most to Members. The survey asked 1,030 members of professional associations about their primary motivations for joining and staying, and broke down responses by generational segment.

Here are 11 key takeaways:

1. Be careful not to limit your outgoing email too much. More than two-thirds of members believe they are getting about the right amount of email, while 36% of the organizations believe they are sending too much. Only 19% of members believe it is too much. Email is also the preferred method of delivery for every generation.

2. Provide information for events, yours and (non-competing) others. According to the study, 73% of members want to know about professional meetings in the field and 70% want to know about upcoming networking events. The highest interest level of members was for updates on changing industry standards (77%).

3. Be as responsive and value-oriented to your members/subscribers as possible. While 91% of organizational staff feel they are responsive to members, only 68% of members feel that way. The next biggest discrepancy occurs when members are asked if they are getting good value for their dollars—63% feel they are while 81% of organizations feel they’re providing good value.

4. If you’re not offering them yet, look into online courses; conferences are popular but... The study did priority benefits for the organizations and members. They don’t always align. While only 35% of organizations prioritize online courses, 44% of members do. Organizations put their biggest priority on meetings/conferences but just 34% of members gave it a similar priority. The next biggest gap was for advocacy where 48% of organizations believe it’s a priority and only 26% of members do.

5. Think professional development; it keeps members/subscribers engaged. The study breaks down what keeps members engaged—by generation—and professional development finished near the top for all ages. Other big engagement subjects are: for boomers networking and information; for GenXers networking and conferences; and for Millennials networking and online learning.

6. Target more by age and career stage; it could be advantageous. From the report: “Today’s members have higher expectations of how technology can be used to personalize their experience with organizations to which they belong. Fairly or unfairly, these expectations for personalization are formed through their online experiences with the likes of Amazon™, Netflix or other consumer outlets they use.” Organizations target much more by type of membership and interest than age and career level.

7. Use more data points to target members/subscribers. "Members are telling organizations their channel preferences, as well as their interests and content preferences," the report says. "Using those multiple data points to target the individual member will improve the overall member experience, as well as increase engagement and retention—matching the experience they have with other entities in their daily lives."

8. Cite numbers when possible. Have you researched whether your courses or certification leads to increased earnings? Or whether membership/subscriptions correlate to higher compensation? Whatever numbers you can get that make the link between your organization and career advancement, put them in plain sight.

9. To get more young people to join or subscribe, provide more career-oriented benefits. Millennials put job opportunities as the top benefit they are looking for by joining an association. Now associations are a little different from publishing businesses, but still, anything you can provide in the career service realm—jobs in the field, resume guidance, skills-gap identification, coaching, mentoring, discounted training courses, certification—will help to attract younger people.

10. Review your education offers. “Survey respondents were clear in their preference for training,” the report said, “especially those in the early- to mid-stage of their career. Ongoing opportunities for learning foster engagement and create the means for your members to differentiate themselves professionally.”

11. Understand member communication preferences. “Create multiple programs that provide the right content to your members at the right career stage, through the right technology and/or delivery channels. While it might be great to get younger members to attend conferences, for many that is simply not a priority or a budgetary reality. For older generations, oftentimes less is more in terms of communication."

The full report can be downloaded here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…
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