How to Accurately Measure Member Engagement
How do you know if your association management strategies are working? How can you track the return on investment in marketing, content creation and IT infrastructure investment?
It all comes down to member engagement. Are you connecting with members and making them feel like they’re getting value for money?
Engagement is the ultimate metric of your efforts. It soars when your strategy is working; it plummets when you need to make changes.
The only problem is: how you actually go about assessing engagement?
How Do I Measure Member Engagement?
In the context of association management, engagement can be difficult to define, but it can essentially be understood as the degree to which people interact with the association.
Of course, this means that engagement varies enormously depending on your association and your members. Some associations have constant interactions with members, others might have a limited number of high-value interactions, like an annual conference or a quarterly report. Some interactions are online, others are in person.
There’s no objective, universal indicator of engagement, but you’ll know it when you see it. Highly-engaged members will always stick around because they feel like they are getting value for money. They may even refer other people, who will become members themselves.
People with low engagement, however, are likely to churn. They might quit or they may just decide to let their membership lapse. By the time you start sending them marketing offers to encourage them to stay, it could be too late.
Engagement can seem like a vague, nebulous thing. However, it’s really just a matter of identifying the particular metrics that are relevant to your association, and then devising a way using those metrics to assess engagement levels.
What Member Engagement Metrics Can I Use?
Measuring engagement is all about data, and data can be gathered every time you interact with a member. That means everything from tracking website visits to talking to people face-to-face at live events.
You’ll need to find the engagement metrics that give you the definitive picture of how your members feel about the association. Common types of metrics include:
- Subscription renewal data
This is a very obvious indicator of engagement. When people are canceling their membership for reasons other than retirement, there’s a definite engagement problem. You can also find useful data by looking at precisely what happens when people renew. For example, if someone required several reminders and only renewed at the eleventh hour, then they may not be fully engaged.
- Email automation reports
Email automation is a great tool for measuring engagement because you can track things like inbox placement, open rates and click-throughs. This tells you if people are paying attention to your emails, how urgently they respond to them, and whether they engage with calls-to-action contained within the email.
- Marketing automation data
Your marketing automation tool will place members and potential leads into a sales funnel, often with the help of the CMS. You can analyze this data to see how many leads are converted to sales, which is a sure sign of engagement. You can also identify the point where people fall out of the funnel, which could help identify obstacles to engagement.
- Website analytics
Google Analytics can tell you a lot about the people who use your site: how often they visit, what path they take through the pages, the lengths of their visit and how often the visit ends in an action such as a purchase. Even a brief visit can tell you things like how people arrive on the site and what search terms bring them to your association.
- Member resource center analytics
Data from the members-only section of the website is an extremely useful indication of which resources are vital for your members, and which are surplus to requirements. You can also track individual member activity, allowing you to see who is visiting regularly and who never logs in.
- Programming completion rates
Are people completing training modules? If so, are they continuing along the training path or do they stop before the end? Do people view non-essential programming materials, or do they stick to the essentials? These statistics will give real insight into whether your programming provides value or is just a chore.
- Event attendance and feedback
Attending live events is often an excellent indicator of engagement – people are unlikely to travel unless they feel they’re getting value. You can gather further information by running surveys and leaving feedback cards so that members can express their feelings about the association.
- Customer service interactions
Your CRM or AMS should keep track of all customer interactions, including things like calls to the customer service team. These calls are an excellent indication of member sentiment and engagement. You can tell a lot about whether people feel like the association is meeting their expectations by consulting reports from the association management system.
Benchmarking Member Engagement
For an association, there aren’t many readily available benchmarks for member engagement.
You can’t compare yourself to for-profit groups, and you can’t even really compare yourself to other associations. To establish a meaningful benchmark, you have to look at the following:
- Historical data
Your own records will give you the best insight into the efficacy of your marketing efforts. Establish a picture of member engagement throughout previous years and see how your current state compares with where you are now.
- Engagement trends
Sometimes it’s easier to measure engagement in relative rather than absolute terms. That is to say, instead of calculating an engagement index, you look at whether engagement is trending up or trending down on previous years. Remember to adjust these trends according to external factors – for example, an upward trend in the past may have been due to a large marketing push.
- Marketing strategy
Engagement should reflect your marketing strategy to some extent. For example, if you launch a major recruitment drive, you would expect to see an influx of new members. If you launch new training materials, you would hope to see a corresponding engagement with those materials. Keep track of what your marketing team is doing and what your engagement levels are, and make sure that the two correspond.
- Member expectations
Maybe your members are happy with the current level of engagement? Perhaps they only want to attend one event per year or open one newsletter per quarter. Build your engagement benchmarks around the real-world expectations of the members. Also, remember that there’s no point in trying to drive engagement where it’s not needed. If your members aren’t interested in social media, for example, don’t include social media engagement in your benchmarks.
How to Improve Member Engagement
When you’ve measured engagement with some degree of accuracy, you should have a better idea of how to fix it. Perhaps the programming isn’t useful enough, perhaps your communications are too generic, or maybe your overall service isn’t user-friendly.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to fixing engagement, but some steps you can take are to:
- Personalize emails
There’s no excuse for generic communication in an age of marketing and email automation tools. You can create focused, targeted messages that provide real value to the recipient every time. Plus, you can use the website and an Email Preference Center to allow users to select their interests, so that they get news and offers of relevance to them.
- Offer useful content
“Useful”, in this sense, means that members actually make use of it. If you have programming or functionality that isn’t popular, then ask whether it’s a good fit for your members. Can you improve it, or replace it with something better? Are you missing vital content, such as training materials related to a new industry practice?
- Monitor the sales funnel
You can learn a lot from leads that don’t convert to sales. There may be something about your association that puts off potential new members, whether it’s the cost of membership or the perceived value of membership benefits. If potential leads find the deal unattractive, there’s every chance that your existing members are also questioning the value of the association.
- Listen to users
The most important step of all when it comes to building engagement is to gather user feedback and act on it. Your members all want the same thing: for your association to help them meet their professional goals. If you’re not doing that, they will be happy to tell you where you’re failing. Be grateful for all feedback and act on it accordingly.
Getting Member Engagement Right
How do you know if your members are engaged? By looking at the data.
This means that you need to gather enough data for analysis. To do so, you’ll need the right tech stack in place, with the right tools including an AMS, CMS, marketing automation platform and email automation platform, among others.
When you have data flowing in, you can start to get a clear picture of how members feel about the association. At that point, you can start to develop a meaningful strategy to retain your existing members while bringing in new ones.
About Maneesha Manges
Maneesha Manges is a seasoned digital marketing professional with over 15 years of experience working in multiple markets and global companies. She currently leads HighRoad's Client Services team after having spent three years helping to develop and launch ExxonMobil’s Next Generation digital marketing properties in the US, Russia and China markets. Her prior experience includes consulting roles in digital marketing strategy, data analysis, field marketing and social media. Maneesha holds a Master of Business Administration degree in High-Tech Marketing from American University’s Kogod School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Concordia University in Montreal.