If you’ve been a member of the association universe very long, there’s no doubt you understand the importance of member engagement. The Decision to Join study showed that the more engaged a member is, the more likely they are to register for events, renew their membership, volunteer their time, etc. As more and more membership organizations have come to value member engagement, more emphasis has been put on the association’s return on engagement (ROE).
But does that mean associations shouldn’t be concerned with the return on investment (ROI) for their efforts in social media, on their website or blog and in their online communities? And if ROE and ROI are both important measures of success, how do you increase your return? These are the questions I hope to answer for you today.
It is my belief that “if you engage them, the return on investment will come.” But let me first explain some things about ROE. Unlike ROI, where the goal is to show immediate sales or profit from every marketing spend, the goal of ROE is more long-term. The goal is to grow your community, strengthen loyalty, create an unbreakable bond with the association, and a desire for the member to refer your association to others.
The first step towards your goal of increased ROE is deciding how your association defines “engagement.”
a. Liking/sharing/promoting your content on social media?
b. Frequenting your website or commenting on your blog?
c. Participating in and contributing to your online community?
d. All of the above?
Generally, associations use these three channels to drive engagement:
1. Social media
2. Website or blog
3. Online communities
And with proper management and execution, associations can show a positive return on their investment for the human, capital and technological resources needed to run them. Here’s how:
ROE Tips for Your Social Media
Social media is everywhere; it’s the fastest, broadest form of member outreach and often a gateway for prospective members to learn about your association.
How you engage on social media is determined by your association’s goals, this of course goes back to ROE and ROI. Here are some practical tips for keeping current and prospective members engaged on social media:
1. Post regularly. You can’t engage only sometimes. Be consistent and you will see results. Think your members aren’t on social media? You’re wrong. More than likely, if you’re having trouble getting members to engage, it’s because you aren’t posting anything worth liking, commenting on, or sharing.
2. Post images and video, even if you are sharing a blog post or article, attach an image. A photo is worth 1000 words and can engage your audience more than any plain text can.
3. Post fresh, unique content. Stale or widely circulated content isn’t very engaging, give your audience timely, relevant content they haven’t seen before.
ROE Tips for Your Website or Blog
Think of your website as a destination for members and ask yourself, “If I were a member, would I be interested in this content?” Wouldn’t it be awesome if members were so engaged that they made your association website their homepage – a part of their daily routine, or even subscribed to your RSS?
Educational resources help further the mission of your association by providing members with valuable, industry or trade specific tips or training. A blog, like this one, is a great way to keep members engaged and share useful tips and tricks of the trade.
One idea would be to have a “Dear [Association Name]” feature every week that aims to answer common industry questions or issues. Get members involved, encourage them to submit questions and even help answer questions from their peers. Guest blogging is also a great way to involve your members. Many members have years of experience and feel they have a lot to share with the community, give them a platform! Just make sure you have a comments section enabled and social media share buttons are in place.
Need another idea for adding fresh content? Feature a Member Spotlight each week about a volunteer or active member’s involvement and role in the association. Better yet, share a short, casual video interview with the featured member. This is a prestigious position for the member being featured and entertaining to the viewers. For more advice, Wild Apricot published an article on Tips for Building Membership Engagement that includes resources for developing fresh content.
Overall, the key to ROE is starting conversations. Focusing only on ROI won’t get you nearly as far with current and prospective members. Instead, invest in engagement. Focus on engaging members and constructing an active community of members; the referrals and renewals will follow. Speaking of community, stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on online communities. It’s easy to subscribe below.
Technology is truly beginning to transform what learning is. If you’ve attended any of the many eLearning or training & development conferences, you know there is a lot of buzz around augmented reality, immersive learning simulations, serious games and social learning applications. While we believe these technologies are already bringing seismic changes to the learning landscape, we need to remember not to maroon the traditional learner.
If you’ve seen the film “Castaway” with Tom Hanks, you remember his frustration at being forgotten and alone on a desert island in the Pacific. He started talking to a volleyball he called “Wilson” to help cope. In this sea of complex new learning strategies, more traditional learners need to have their preferences addressed too. They should have someone who understands their situation, a “Wilson.”
Here are four tips on how to help make your eLearning friendly to traditional learners:
Trying to learn new information while learning how to use a new program makes both tasks more difficult. This may be especially true for older learners who may not feel comfortable with technology to begin with. Providing simple instructions on how to navigate the eLearning course can make traditional learners more open to the learning itself. So definitely include a: “How to move around in the course” section every time.
Also, having responsive support to answer questions and help troubleshoot can go a long way toward minimizing user frustration. Will the learners know who to contact if they’re having trouble? Make sure this is clear.
Employ Accessible Design
Traditional learners may also be older learners, and may have physical limitations, such as hearing difficulties or trouble with their vision. The National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine (NIA/NLM) has created a set of technical guidelines for making information technology usable by older adults. Among the considerations are consistent placement of navigation aids and screen structure, reducing the need for scrolling, the use of reader-friendly fonts like Helvetica in 12-24 point size, and avoiding the placement of blue and green design elements near one another. Take a look at the guidelines. It’s a nice checklist during design to make sure you’re accommodating everyone.
Traditional learners value the ability to work at their own pace. They can learn just as well as members of other age groups, but they tend to like learning at their own pace. As a result, they’re more likely to prefer self-paced, asynchronous learning. They also will be more likely to want to acutally read material! So, providing printable versions of the course content can be a great learning aid for them, too.
Explain the Benefits
Older adults are more likely to use a new piece of technology, such as eLearning, if they can see the benefits. It’s a good rule of thumb for any learning, but traditional learners want context. Let them know when and how the new skill or information will be used, and how it relates to information the learner is already familiar with. They want to know why they’re supposed to learn something new, not just what they’re expected to learn.
Traditional learners aren’t that different from other learners. They like to understand how to use the technology. They want an experience that accommodates, based on the physical limitations we all face as we get older. And they want to know the context for the learning. By slightly adjusting our instructional design approach, we can easily make sure not to abandon a major segment of our learning community.
Try these simple tips to design your eLearning for traditional learners, so you can get on board with their learning, rather than stranding them on some uncharted isle!
I recently earned my undergraduate degree in history before coming to join the team at Digitec Interactive as a Writer and aspiring Instructional Designer. Interestingly, I’ve had several people comment on how strange it is that I’m working “in an unrelated field.” But the transition to eLearning seemed natural to me, almost as if I’d been studying it all along. In some ways, I was lucky.
Many Millennials, like myself, don’t realize that there’s often a huge gap between the content they learn in college and the skills they need to succeed in the workforce after graduation. The content (the concentration or major) is the aspect of a college education that Millennials seem to fixate on. It’s often the major factor that guides graduates’ job hunts and further education. The skills acquired along the way, the “how” someone got their degree, seem almost invisible by comparison. For example, the careful research, organization of ideas, detail-oriented revisions, and time management that produce a quality term paper can be applied to more than just the content of that assignment. These benefits are underrated. They can open a wider range of opportunities than the content of a degree can on its own.
Joining a trade association or professional society is one avenue for helping realize those opportunities. But my college’s Career Services department never mentioned them to me. I didn’t know anything about associations, let alone that many of them offer certifications in areas I’m interested in. Think about it as a recent graduate; a certification is a lower-cost way to enhance my resume and complement my existing education while providing the immediate knowledge needed in a specific field. There’s even a section for adding certifications to your profile on LinkedIn! If a senior or recent alumnus finds a topic that grabs their interest, and feels they have the hard skills to pursue a career in it, I would encourage them to join a related association and investigate certification programs, regardless of their college major.
Degrees seem to be a requirement in this day and age, but since so many people have them it can be hard for a recent graduate to stand out. Rather than spending weeks searching for another overly competitive internship, recent grads should join associations that can provide specialty training and help them network.
So, what can associations do to ensure college students and recent grads know they exist and that a membership in a trade association or professional society is a worthwhile next step for job seekers? Offer Student Memberships and make sure you market to Millennials! Shannon Nesser of XYZ University echoes this idea in her blog post, Examples of Successful Student Association Chapters. Shannon explains that associations need to actively recruit generation Y members, before they settle for a job at Starbucks. Unfortunately, a lot of graduates simply don’t know that there are associations for their respective fields, let alone the unique value they can provide to someone entering the workforce. It’s your job to make sure Millenials know your association exists.
According to a 2013 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 52% of associations offer a Student Membership category. This means nearly half of associations are missing out on an opportunity to attract a budding member base, one that represents 30 million students annually. Convinced yet? Here’s a great article on how to develop student memberships at your association and, more importantly, how to keep them for the long haul.
Is your association part of the 52%? I’d love to hear how you market to potential Student Members and engage the ones you have.read more
This week’s post by Jack McGrath is featured as a guest blog post on .orgSource and discusses how associations can leverage the same game mechanics used in the Candy Crush Saga to increase member engagement.
Here is a excerpt:
Many of you are probably familiar with the popular Facebook and PC game, Candy Crush. In fact, since the game gets an average of 45 million people playing it per month and has earned its creators approximately $230 million, there’s a good chance you’ve played it or you’re playing it right now!
So what makes this game so sticky? And what can associations learn from this type of experience that can help us increase member engagement?
1. Unpredictability: We’ve been hearing for years how important consistent branding is. So, it’s ironic that one of the most addictive features of game play is its unpredictability. In great games, we continue playing just to find out what will happen next, even if it’s just a silly animation when we complete a level. So why is this so addictive?
Continued at the .orgSource blog!
The following is a guest post from Tom Morrison, an association CEO, professional speaker and recipient of The Florida Society of Association Executives’ Association Executive Member of the Year Award for 2012. He is passionate about helping associations achieve true transformation for the future and build a REVOLUTION!
These new learning styles are incredible opportunities for your association to create new income streams.
Many associations have printed content, some in book format, a lot in electronic format just lying around. They have videos sitting in a closet. They have PowerPoints that have been used in prior general sessions. They are hosting conferences with no video camera in the room capturing what could be an incredible income stream for their association.
All of the above are pieces to a new revenue model called, “Repurpose, Repackage, Reuse,” to selling knowledge to your members.
Let me give you an example of how this looks in the real world. Our association had a five module course that included a thick 3-ring bound Instructor’s Guide, five student handbooks and written tests. The thick Instructor Guide was OVERHEADS! Yes overheads.
This program sat dormant for 2 years with none sold. Then, one day the light clicked on. We began to ask the famous… “What if we….?” The “what if we” was, what if we converted the overheads to PowerPoint? What if we partnered with one of our industry professionals to create 2 hours of video for each module to take the teaching out of the member’s hand? What if we also gave an option for members to take the course online and call it the Qualified Furnace Operator Program?
One thing led to another and within a few weeks, we had everything we asked for: A totally repackaged product that started selling like crazy in both print and online. The print version sold for $1,200 while the online version sold for $1,000. Within just a couple of weeks, we sold $20,000 of the printed version with many others taking the course online through our subscription program.
The key to the whole innovation was inventorying our content and then starting to ask… “What if we….?”
The next bit of innovation was purchasing a $300 HD camera and a tri-pod. We began to take it with us to all of our regional conferences and videotaped our sessions with the approval of our speakers in our agreements. Most speakers were industry professionals and wanted the exposure. We then began to build our online content, one live meeting at a time. Now we have over 200 hours of content and over 350 courses being taken each month. This has lead to an annual income stream of over $100,000 in just seven years.
And that content makes us money for as long as we can deliver it effectively.
“Small firms” like Boeing, Eaton Corporation and FedEx are all clients to our online learning center. We finally found the golden nugget that pulled the big companies into our membership space.
By repurposing, repackaging and reusing content, it has enhanced our member engagement and increased our revenue per member from $1,500 in 2006 to $2,200 in 2013. With our size membership, that was another $180,000 a year. That is 100 new members we did not have to recruit! That was huge!
Remember this… it is more cost effective to convince your current members to spend their money on meaningful programs than it is to recruit new members.
In closing, I would encourage anyone reading this post to do the following:
1) Inventory your current content or print, electronic, Power Point presentations and videos
2) Inventory your meetings of all types and determine which you could record
3) Seek out industry professionals who could put video to your printed content and PowerPoints
4) Brainstorm an industry certificate program that members receive when they complete “x” number of training hours
5) Most importantly… get your team together with all this information and then start asking the question: “What if we…(insert idea)?”
Education and training, done right, can be like printing money for any association.
Join me and Digitec Interactive President and Creative Director, Jack McGrath, for 6 Steps to Printing Money at Your Association with eLearning, a free Webinar October 15, 2013 2:00-3:00 PM EST. Start your printing press today.read more
Even in a small association there is generally someone responsible for marketing and another person in charge of education and professional development. This is generally a good thing and ensures expertise in a particular area, whether it is marketing your association’s conferences and membership or designing certification programs and managing your association’s learning management system (LMS). The problem is, when it comes time to market the association’s eLearning education or professional development in general, the lines get blurred, the message gets lost or marketing opportunities are missed entirely. Why? Because it’s not clear whose job it is to market the association’s eLearning education.
Should the association’s Marketing Director or Membership Manager market the association’s eLearning education offerings to the members? Or is it really the Education Director’s job to ensure the success of the eLearning programs and get enrollments? I asked my Twitter & LinkedIn followers and members of the Young Association Professionals Facebook group, and this is what they said:
“In my opinion it’s a joint responsibility. Also, I believe that the marketing team should be involved at some stage of the development and design of the eLearning products to provide input not just to get involved or be responsible for the marketing.” – Roberto Villalvazo, Knowledge and Learning at Inter American Development Bank.
“Marketing director with input as to audiences, benefits, key difference from competition other audiences, etc from education department.” – Scott Oser, Membership, Marketing and Sales Consultant at Scott Oser Associates.
“Marketing should be a coordinated activity within an association and include a team of all the content and service areas.” – Cecilia Sepp, Vice President and Client Operations Officer, Association Laboratory.
I am going to argue that it is the Marketing Director’s job to market all of the association’s offerings, including eLearning and it is the Education Director’s job to supply the Marketing Director with the appropriate descriptions, learning objectives and member benefits for the courses. What I am suggesting is that the two association staffers (or departments) must team for success in marketing the association’s eLearning education programs to members. Over the past 25 years we have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of education departments, some have found tremendous success with their education and professional development, and others have failed. All of the successful associations had these three things in common:
1. They understood their niche
2. They had a business plan for their eLearning
3. They actively marketed their eLearning
Ten years ago, even five years ago, it might have been enough to create a few eLearning courses or host a Webinar series and gain a lot of interest from your membership. Back then, eLearning was so new, no one really had a business plan for their programs and just the sheer act of creating online content was innovative and exciting. It has only been in the past several years that people like Jeff Cobb with Tagoras, have helped association’s realize that there is a huge opportunity for associations to get in the “education business.”
It’s time to take your association’s education and professional development to the next level. Like with any product or service you offer, you need to determine:
• The demand for what you’re selling
• Who your customers are
• Who your competition is
• The fair market value of your offering
This is the first step to a successful education and professional development program, and the first “team project” your education and marketing departments should work on together. If you’re already knee-deep in eLearning and you haven’t yet determined these basics, it’s time to!
Once you understand your niche and have created your business model, you need to develop a marketing plan specifically for eLearning. For creative ideas on how to market your eLearning on a budget, check out my previous blog post. The marketing plan will be carried out by the marketing department ultimately, but should be a collaborative effort between both the education and marketing departments. The marketing team brings expertise in the area of communication and promotion and the education department brings expertise in the content it creates and knows better than anyone, what the “product” is. When education and marketing team together, your association’s eLearning program becomes unstoppable.
Here is an example of how this team approach works at the Missouri Association of REALTORS®:
“I manage a content calendar for all digital communications. Staff, including the Director of Education, submits events to be included on the calendar. Marketing then coordinates promotions,” says Teah Hopper, Director of Digital Engagement at the Missouri REALTORS®.
Join us for more insights, stories of success and failures with association eLearning in our free Webinar, 6 Steps to Printing Money at Your Association with eLearning, presented by Tom Morrison, CEO at the Metal Treating Institute (MTI) and Jack McGrath, President and Creative Director at Digitec Interactive, October 15, 2013 2:00-3:00 PM EST.read more
It’s no secret that associations want higher member retention, increased non-dues revenue, and a unique value-add members can’t get anywhere else. The question is: what’s so sticky that members will renew year after year just to have access to and be willing to pay extra for? And how can associations generate a new, profitable revenue stream AND create higher member engagement?
In this Webinar, Tom Morrison, CEO at the Metal Treating Institute (MTI) and Jack McGrath, President and Creative Director at Digitec Interactive come together to share the secret to “printing money” at your association with eLearning. Their innovative approach to online education for associations outlines a 6-step process to creating successful education programs, designed to maximize member satisfaction and generate cash for the association.
Attendees will learn:
• How to design a successful business model for eLearning
• How to determine technology needs and make their selection
• How to create, source and repurpose content for online
• How to successfully market their programs
• How to build a “hands-free” program that even small staffs can manage
When you register for the Webinar (BELOW), you will gain access to the technology selection whitepaper, 8 Steps to Selecting Your Association LMS and be entered to win one of 5 FREE expo passes to the ASAE Technology Conference & Expo in Washington, DC.read more