Expand Engagement Before and After Membership

As a follow-up to my definition of member engagement for associations, I’d like to discuss the idea of broadening your engagement strategy beyond membership.

If you accept that engagement occurs when someone invests time or money with the organization in exchange for value, you can then consider opportunities to do so before becoming a member as well as after. In fact, membership could be just another station along an engagement progression path, rather than the ultimate destination.

Examples of pre-membership engagement could include:

  • Viewing content on your website, blog, twitter account, etc.;
  • Paying attention to a PSA or press coverage;
  • Sharing content from your website or other publication;
  • Buying a product;
  • Attending a conference or event;
  • Applying for a job via a career center.

Examples of post-membership engagement could include all of the above, plus:

  • Writing or speaking;
  • Volunteering for a committee or task force;
  • Serving in a leadership role;
  • Awarded Fellowship or other achievement status;
  • Spending significant money on sponsorship, advertising, exhibit space, etc.

The important concept here from a strategy perspective is to plot out what lower value engagement activities and options will feed into higher levels and how you can progress people through them.

Imagine professional baseball without the minor leagues. Moving from high school to pro teams for all players (not just the rare exceptional talents) would be very hard to do well from both the player and team points-of-view. The minors provide an important talent channel for the majors. While I’m not suggesting you develop a minor league association, you do need to consider how people will progress through your organization as their relationship with you matures.

Organizations with an efficient flow from low to high value engagement will tend to be healthier from both revenue and mission fulfillment perspectives.

Definition of Member Engagement for Associations

The term ‘member engagement’ is often bandied about in the association world. More of it is considered better yet we rarely state what that actually means. I thought I would put a stake in the ground with my definition of it in the work I do with clients.

Member engagement is the result of a member investing time and/or money with the association in exchange for value. The more of these precious resources they invest, the more engaged they are.

A member who speaks at a lot of conferences and writes many articles for association publications is highly engaged.

A member who invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship money is also highly engaged, even if they do absolutely nothing else.

Engagement is about value. The value for the person doing the engaging as well as the value of that engagement for the association.

Healthy associations create more engagement opportunities in areas that create strategic value for the organization. Having a surfeit of articles to publish is nice but doesn’t really matter if the budget has been in the red for the last three years.

Create engagement where it matters.

Zappos using video to drive next actions

Zappos.com, the online shoe (and more) retailer recently acquired by Amazon.com, is experimenting with video promotions to drive click throughs to produce detail pages. Here is an example* from their first effort, promoting Nike running shoes. (Scroll down to see the video.)

As you watch the video you can mouse over both the shoes as well as the shirt the model is wearing. The video shows a box over clickable items, which then launches a small dialog box from which the viewer can then click to go to learn more about that product. Nifty technology!

The way Zappos is deploying this facilitates seeing the product in a rich medium while still making it very easy to progress to the product detail page where the sale will be completed. This approach could be effective for any product that would benefit from a video presentation to convey its value and message.

* I tried to use the embeddable video for this post but the way they have created it takes up a huge amount of space since it displays a lot more interface than just the video. This will need to be adjusted because few people will share a video that will blow up their web site layouts.

Lessons in New Customer Process

Seth Godin has a good post this week onupside vs. downside, looking at how much effort you put into preventing bad things vs. creating wonderful new things. He listed a hospital as one that does a lot of preventative work compared to the actual improvement of health. An art show, he says is all about the upside and very little effort expended on prevention of downside.

I had a visceral experience with a telecommunications company this week that not only spends way too much time on the downside, it’s actually their downside they are protecting rather than mine, their customer. Verizon has been pushing a new business phone plan for quite some time, calling me often and sending lots of mail. Actually looks like a reasonably good deal. I agreed to it this week when someone called me about it again. So far, so good.

Then they went into a very long process, recorded for later use, of the dire consequences of canceling this plan before the contract term is up. Fine, I said, let’s keep going. After that call I then received three separate calls from Verizon reps again confirming (with recording!) that I knew and accepted the early cancellation clause.

I’m now thinking: gee, this must be a pretty bad product if they are going to this length to make the contract length ironclad. I’m primed for failure at this point and the thing isn’t even active yet.

And I just now got an e-mail from them that misspells my last name.

I know your organization is not this bad. (Unless your with a phone company perhaps.) But how much are you doing to wow your new customers? They just invested money with you in exchange for value. Per Seth’s point, the faster and greater you can deliver value to them on the updside, the better they will appreciate the investment they just made and become predisposed to loving your product or service.

From Twitter to My Coffee Cup

Tim Cureton runs the best coffee shops on the Eastern Shore of Maryland: Rise Up Coffee. His staff are friendly, remember the names of frequent customers, and serve up a great cup of organic coffee.

Tim has been adding some social media to his marketing mix and I follow his updates on Twitter. Last week Tim posted a request to submit reviews for his store on Yelp.

Given that I’m huge fan of theirs, I went to Yelp, created an account and submitted a nice review for the Salisbury location.

A friend who often picks up a drink for me at Rise Up came by my house a couple days later with a latte. Tim, who recognizes my drink order, wrote a nice thank you note on the side of the cup.

(Tim mistakenly called me John for a while, which is now a running joke.)

Here is the thing: social media as a marketing and relationship building channel only works for Tim and his company because they have a fantastic product and a maniacal focus on customer service. Tim has built a great culture in his small company and works hard to keep it and their product peforming at the highest levels.

Effectively using social media and online word of mouth to grow your company is pretty easy when you have a fantastic product. If you don’t offer exception value, social media may not provide strong returns for you.

Landing Pages: Don't Forget to Cut off the Crusts!

A landing page is a web page created solely to support traffic that is inbound from an e-mail or online promotion.

Landing pages are optimized for the audience you anticpate sending to them, sporting tailored content that helps the prospect to take whatever your desired next action is.

They are a critical tool for online marketing.

One thing that many people forget about them is that the best landing pages have the crust cut off. Let me explain what I mean here.

My two daughters will not eat a PB&J unless the crusts are cut off the sandwich. Removing the crusts lets them focus on the yummy goodness in the middle. You should do the same with your landing pages.

Most content on your site sport a variety of navigation tools, promotions, and other links around the perimeter of the page. This gives the user lots of options for navigating to their next page. However, with a landing page, you only want the visitor to take one specific next action. Therefore, you should cut the crusts off your landing pages, removing this extraneous navigation and content from the edges of the page.

Crust-less landing pages keep the visitor focused on the specific messages you want them to read and the next step you wish them to take. Note that on Amazon.com when you enter the payment process, all of the navigation goes away. Same concept is at play here.

Cut off the crusts and watch your conversion rate improve!

Hear Me: Podcast and Webinar

A couple free resources for you on a lovely Thursday afternoon.

First up, my second podcast interview with Sue Pelletier is up on the Face2Face blog. We tackle lots of issues around social media and events, including back channels, blogging, and if a blog will put your event out of business (answer: no).

Next Tuesday I’m leading a webinar on using data to drive membership marketing for associations.

The presentation is part of the Avectra Academy series and is free to attend. I’ve been told there has been a huge response to this one, which makes all sorts of sense. I’ll share why NOW is the best time to be a marketer ever (really!) and how associations can benefit from using data to focus their marketing rather than spamming the hell out of everyone in your database. Hope to see you there!

Marketing Annual Meetings Webinar Q&A

I gave a webinar presentation about marketing annual meetings on Monday as part of Avectra’s Academy. The full archive of the audio and slides is available for free on the Avectra web site: Marketing Strategies and Tips to Drive Annual Meeting Attendance.

I have also recorded another podcast covering some additional questions from the session that I wasn’t able to cover. I also go back over some questions I thought were particularly important.


Finally, here is a link to Kevin Holland’s post the served as one of the cases I covered in the presentation.