A review of digital challenges for membership organisations
The twin forces of globalisation and technological evolution have changed what it means to run a successful membership organisation.
As this article explains, both the ways in which professionals access content and their expectations have changed. Clunky interfaces, slow load times and cluttered pages are no longer good enough for the prospects membership sites are trying to attract.
Here are some of the digital challenges membership sites are facing:
Perhaps obvious, but one of the most dramatic changes that has come about in recent years is the widespread adoption of mobile. Your members are busy, so all of your digital content must meet their needs on mobile.
Social media engagement
The growth of social media provides several different challenges for membership organisations:
The sheer number of platforms available can make it difficult to decide where to focus attention.
Some organisations go for a scattergun approach and set up profiles on every platform. Without the resource to manage the content creation however, they spread themselves too thin, releasing ill-considered and infrequent content.
Others put their eggs in one basket by focusing solely on, for example, LinkedIn or Twitter. While their content is generally better, this tactic can neglect the chance to reach hot prospects who happen to prefer a different platform.
Social media sites also present a challenge in terms of additional competition. From LinkedIn and Facebook Groups to Google Circles and subreddits, there are a growing number of ways for professionals to connect and build relationships for free. This puts pressure on membership organisations to add value to their subscriptions.
Market research of your members along with a review of your team resources will help you to ensure you are on the right platforms.
A membership website often has to achieve multiple goals. For example, a visitor might want to:
- Apply for membership
- Renew membership
- Access educational/CPD resources
- Book an event
- Read news
It is easy for membership websites to become cluttered with every stakeholder wanting to 'claim the front page.'
If planning a new website, we suggest a stakeholder workshop which combines the views of all key stakeholders inside and outside the organisation and proposes a website structure which serves all of their needs. Our stakeholder workshop process has been a great success with teams planning new websites.
Many membership organisations, particularly those which have been around for a log time, have a huge wealth of customer data stored between their various systems (CRM systems, members' database, accounts systems, etc.)
One of the biggest challenges for these organisations is to bring this potential gold mine of member insight together in one place so that it can be used by all appropriate stakeholders.
This process can be tedious and may require a significant investment of time and money by the organisation, but if well planned, the results can offer:
- Tremendous time savings for administrative staff.
- A better user experience for members.
- Data insights which enable the organisation to serve members better content and services.
Even if an organisation's website and social media sites are up to speed, the old ways of providing content may no longer be effective in engaging their user base.
Written articles, while still important, are rarely a good way to attract initial attention. They are often passed over in favour of competitor sites featuring visually rich media such as videos, animations and multimedia stories. Without a market research-based content strategy, membership organisations find themselves casting about in the dark when communicating with members and prospects.
One of the biggest issues membership organisations face is making sense of the numbers. Most will make use of some kind of analytics system (e.g. Google Analytics) but using that data to understand member behaviour and work out marketing ROI can be difficult without investing in training or outsourcing.
For new projects (such as websites, CRMs, membership campaigns) it is vital to define the success measurables while planning the project. Only by having SMART goals can any project be measured. These measurables are often overlooked, meaning success measurements are subjective.
Overcoming the challenges
Of course there is little use in highlighting the challenges without providing solutions.
Where a website is clearly outdated and not fit for purpose, the answer involves getting together with an agency with experience of working with membership organisations. An understanding of the needs of these organisations will help address these issues and build solutions in to the project plan.
There are many exciting technologies and ways to integrate legacy systems into a new powerful data hub and an experienced agency will guide you though these choices.
Enhancing market research with social media monitoring and insights from analytics will help to improve a membership organisation's knowledge of its target market. If training and employing an internal team is not feasible, many web agencies will offer this.
We hope that with awareness of the factors above, you will be better positioned to address the challenges of membership engagement while standing out in an increasingly competitive marketplace.