Thursday, June 27, 2013

Defining "Membership Growth"

In the past few weeks I have had a number of conversations with some good friends and colleagues where they used the phrase “membership growth” but in each case their definition differed.  Essential for any association, and almost always a key factor in their strategic plan, a clear understanding of what you mean by “membership growth” is needed to truly measure if the efforts you are making match the results you seek – so here are a few definitions that may apply to what you are trying to do:

Traditional Definitions

      New Member Count Increase – You have succeeded in attracting new members to your organization – congratulations!  Key to this growth is an understanding of WHY they joined – a particular product?  A connection with a component?  A fellow professional encouraging them to do so?  Their employer requiring membership?  Tracking the reason for joining will let you hone your recruitment techniques to connect with the right professionals in the right way.

        Specific Segment Count Increase – In my world this has recently been that our count of global members has grown as opposed to domestic.  Depending on the focus of your organization, these could be segmented by geography, experience in industry (student, young professional, retired, etc), investment in organization (prospect, customer, custom member, full member), etc. 

       Increase in Renewal Numbers – Your organization is retaining a higher percentage of members, resulting in month over month/year over year longer affiliation with your organization.   Particularly when calculating the lifetime value of a member, the longer their affiliation the bigger bottom line return your association will see.
        Total Member Count Increase – Most often the addition of numbers 1+3 above – and also most often the bottom line the Board wants to see.  This is an increase in the total count of members affiliated with your organization.

Less Traditional Definitions

       Member Engagement – Are more members taking advantage of the value engagement opportunities that you present?  Are they getting more involved?  Is there an increase in conference attendance, resource utilization and feedback on your current offerings?  Perhaps an increase in member engagement means greater dialogue – members commenting of private and public social media platforms, participating in surveys and research or achieving your certifications.  Any of these factors could be considered membership growth.

     Volunteer Participation – Though I have only heard it used this way once or twice, an increase in the number of volunteers and/or growth in the tasks they accomplish may indicate a growth in membership as well.  Particularly for organizations where there is a strong reliance on volunteer efforts for membership drives and localized value and programming, this may be a key factor in the expansion of the association.

If your organization has a definition of membership growth I have missed, please add it to the comments below.

At different moments, with varying stakeholders, the definition you intend for my ‘membership growth’ may not be the same one that others are picturing.  While in general ‘membership growth’ is a yay factor, it is key to know what you are celebrating!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Satisfaction vs. Happiness

Surveys fill and often overfill our lives.  As we look to improve the services and resources that we offer our members, and in turn increase their engagement with our organizations, we too turn to these tools to evaluate how we are doing and what changes we need to make.  Of any of these, few are as uniform as our member satisfaction surveys.  They can include the basic “Is your membership fitting your needs” to a long listing of individual products that are touched by member pricing and benefits and evaluation therein.  Thinking about these surveys I wonder…

Is satisfaction the same as happiness?

When we ask our members and customers about our products, satisfaction seems to be the right gauge.  They made a purchase, used one of our products – did it meet their expectations?  Would they recommend it?   What modification would they like to see?  Next to tracking purchase/usage this can be one of the most effective tools we have to measure how effective each product is.

Membership is an animal of a different color.  Though sold on a website, membership is not a product as much as it is a relationship between the member, the organization and the community.  I find it hard to believe when a member is thinking about renewing that their ultimate decision is based on whether or not they were ‘satisfied’ with their membership.  To me, that sounds like – did you have enough line items in your list of benefits?

The value of membership comes down to relationships and engagement.  Did they participate?  Did they take action?  In short, did they feel like they ‘belonged’ and grew from that belonging? 

Following this philosophy, the question of membership renewal becomes less cerebral and more emotional.  While a satisfied member may renew, a happy member will.

Generating happiness is harder in some ways – we essentially have to say, how is what we are creating AWESOME?  How do we ensure that our tools and resources evolve from independent silos to connected experiences that leave our members smiling?  That they walk away on such a high that they can’t wait for their next taste, and with their happiness they want to pay it forward and get others involved? 

If we incorporate easy and logical into access, interweave community sharing and connection into usage and recognition and reward into completion, everything from conferences to certifications will become happiness generators.  And if our members find a place where their money buys them both the knowledge and network access they need combined with an emotional high, the question of membership renewal will be much easier to answer with a positive response.