What You Need to Know Before Attending Your First Trade Show

what InLoop thinks you need to know before attending your first association trade show

Tips for Success at Your First Trade Show Exhibit 

Whether your association is just starting out or you’ve stood the test of time, attending your first trade show can be pretty nerve-wracking. You want your first trade show to be a successful outing and be the launch pad for future successful endeavors. 

However, if you’ve never been to one before, it’s hard to know what to expect. It’s also hard to know what common mistakes you should avoid. That’s why we’ve come up with this handy guide for the first time (you and) your association attends a trade show!

be sure to be planning for your first trade show

Pre-Show Planning

The key to having a great trade show experience is proper planning! Planning should begin far in advance, before the actual event you plan on attending. If you were to just show up with your material without prior planning, you’d be destined for failure. And no one wants to be a failure!

Early Registration

Did you know that most shows have dates for early registration? Be sure to research the show you want to attend and register your association the first day that early registration begins! The more time you have to plan for your trade show, the better off you’ll be. 

Not to mention that there are often early-bird discounts for registering your association early. For every penny you save, there’s a penny that can be put towards your success. Register early and you’ll be making this outing the most successful one it can be for your small business or association!

budget is a part of the trade show planning process

Event Budgeting

Setting a budget is critical to having a successful first trade show experience. In fact, without a budget, it’s hard to tell what a successful outing actually is. 

To set your trade show budget, consider the following:

  • What are your expenses? Having a limit on your spending for an event will help you to keep from making your exhibit outing a failure.
  • Record your spending. Without recording what you’re spending, there’s no point in having a budget at all. 

Be Attractive!

We’re doing a lot of logistic thinking about numbers and money, but don’t forget about creativity! No one will want to visit your booth if they’re not attracted to it. Make your booth and your business cards full color with fun designs. You want to accurately convey information, but have fun with it! 

Chances are you already have a creative person working for you who would jump at the chance to use their skills. In addition, video sharing is another great way to bring people by. Give them a show and they’re sure to stick around for a minute! As long as it’s a good show, that is. *wink wink*

make sure your booth is attractive to the trade show attendees

Check the Attendee List for Potential Customers

Almost any exhibit hall you go to will be able to provide an attendee list prior to the event. This list usually comes with a price, but it can have absolutely invaluable information. It’s time to do your research. 

If you know who is going to be attending the show, you can more accurately see how you want to spend your time and efforts. You can find your target market before the building is even occupied. Make a marketing campaign geared specifically towards the groups or people you know will be attending. Being able to tailor-make material or forums for specific attendees will almost certainly net you some positive results.

make a marketing effort on your association's social media platforms

Make a Marketing Effort on Social Media Platforms

Social media marketing is the best way to drum up some buzz before you attend your first trade show. Use your platform of individuals already interested in your products or services to enhance the excitement surrounding your trade show exhibit. Incentivize your followers to share your marketing efforts and expand your audience. The more buzz you create surrounding your association, and the trade show, the more valuable your experience will be.

Setting Goals

Setting goals will ultimately be the only way you know if your trade show was a successful one or not. Without having something to measure against, your only metric for success will be how you felt. While making a couple of good sells feels good, it’s not going to cover your expenses, and you might end up losing money without realizing.

We suggest setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your outing; broken down, this means:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

While the goal to “have fun” sounds nice, it’s not going to pay the bills. A real goal might be… “We want to make x amount of money or sales”. Or… “We want to interact with x amount of attendees”. When you have something specific to work towards, you have a specific goal in mind.

Achieving your goal becomes infinitely easier when the endpoint is in sight. Also, set some smaller goals for yourself. Sure, there are bigger reasons why you’re at a trade show. But there are lots of small successes to be celebrated in addition to the big ones. So shoot for the stars, but don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for your hard work!

know the convention center where your first trade show will be

The Big Day!

The big day has finally arrived! You’re there, you’ve got your trade show displays ready to go. Perhaps your business cards are designed attractively in full color, and you’re just about ready to set up your booth space. What should you be thinking about on the day-of? It’s your first trade show, but we believe in you.

Know the Convention Center 

Get some intimate knowledge of where you’re going to be. No, we’re not just talking about where to get food and where the bathrooms are (although that’s important, too)! Get to know the physical space. Are you far away from any drinking fountains or the food? Maybe offering food or drinks would be just the thing to get someone to stop at your table! 

Know where your competitors are and know where your target market is. Know what your competitors are offering and how they’re advertising. Give yourself the competitive edge of knowledge and planning to circumvent the competition.

Finally! The big day has arrived! It's time for your first trade show.

Give Your Target Audience a Reason to Visit your Trade Show Booth

We’ve done all our research on who will be attending the trade show. You know which competing associations are nearby, so now it’s time to come up with your plan of attack. 

Here are some tips for coming up with great ways to attract an audience:

  • Make interactive content. Entertain your guests! Give them a puzzle to complete. Find a way to involve social media. Giving prizes out is another incentive to get the interaction started!
  • Entertain. You don’t have to be Elvis Costello to put on a show for your audience. It doesn’t have to be music, either! You can perform demonstrations for your products if you have them, or just have a fun game to play while you discuss your association.
  • Provide a phone charging station. When we’re at a trade show, we’re all away from home. You know that means at least one person forgot to bring a cell phone charger, right? And for everyone else, you’ve already been out all morning. Seeing a cell phone charging station at your booth is going to be an oasis in the desert for some folks. So while attendees are charging their phones, what better a time to strike up a conversation?! Mention what else your association can do to help them.
set SMART goals for your first trade show

Being Prepared for Your First Trade Show

Being prepared for your trade show exhibit is going to be the first gatekeeper to success. Make specific and achievable goals for yourself and your association! When it comes to your booth and your promotional material, no detail is too minor to be worthy of consideration.

Success doesn’t come from being prepared for just one thing, but from being prepared for everything. So continue to follow our blog this month and see what you need to do to be ready for your first trade show experience!

The Role of Automated Chatbots and Smart Content

the role of automated chatbots and smart content

Automation: Your Tool for Real-Time Member Communication

Creating a pathway for members to communicate is key when maintaining a successful association. The problem is, associations don’t necessarily have the time it takes to communicate 24/7 with members.

Generally speaking, associations have a few main goals. They want to retain members, bring in new members, and keep current members happy with their membership. Between writing and responding to emails, answering messages and comments on social media, and picking up the phones, this is very time-consuming.

So what tools can associations use to reduce the time spent on communication while still delighting members? The answer is automation. In the end, the purpose of membership is to grow professionally. Machine learning makes automating content simple, efficient, and effective for everyone involved.

automated website content

Here are a few ways that associations can provide the opportunities that members need to maintain their membership:

  • Host networking events
  • Invite members to industry events
  • Create discussion forums via social media
  • Engage with members with social media and email
  • Publish new and interesting industry insights
  • Create member-exclusive content

By and large, the key to all of this is constant, real-time communication with members. Understand their needs, what they like to see, and the events they would like to go to.

When associations take advantage of what explicitly programmed automated website content offers, time is better spent. Subsequently, member experiences and satisfaction skyrockets.

use automated chatbots and member communication

Automated Chatbots and Member Communication

Have you ever visited a website page and saw a little speech bubble in the bottom right corner pop up? That is likely a customer service chatbot. Using AI (artificial intelligence) technology, these chatbots answer simple customer support questions for the web visitor.

This is a valuable tool for answering questions such as:

  • Where can I find the member portal?
  • When is my membership renewal date?
  • When is the next association event?
  • How can I sign up for membership?
  • Where can I find (X) resources?

Associations can set up chatbots to answer simple questions. After that, it will direct the web visitor to contact the association for more complex inquiries. This saves associations a ton of time answering the same simple questions and most importantly, responds to the user faster.  

the coding behind AI software for associations

Likewise, chatbots can also be designed for social media. In today’s world, people expect to receive a response on the same day via messaging apps and platforms like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Chatbots can make this possible for associations to achieve! In short, here’s how you can go about setting up a chatbot.

Steps to Setting Up a Chatbot

  1. Create an internal team for the project
  2. List association FAQ’s
  3. Answer these questions
  4. Create a list of links to direct people to for each answer
  5. Find chatbot software
  6. Hire a chatbot specialist if needed
  7. Build out the Q&A’s
  8. Test it out internally (several times)
  9. Deploy for “beta testing”

After this, be sure to review answers from the chatbot to make sure it’s flowing well. Meanwhile, be sure to review the questions people are asking. After that, it will help inform future communications and marketing efforts.

create smart content to target your audience

Create Smart Content to Target your Audience

One of the main services associations provide to members is industry content. In the past, associations had the majority of authority when it came to industry insights. Today, members can find similar information on the internet at no cost to them.

Take a national association for doctors, for example. This association would have all of the exclusive content available on industry news. It would be difficult to find the same level of content anywhere else. Now, hospitals, private practices, and medical professionals have the same ability to publish high value and free, high-quality content.

Smart content has been an upcoming trend in content marketing automation over the past few years. Consequently, many businesses and organizations use smart content strategies to curate content, newsfeeds, emails, blog posts, and more.

A content management system allows associations to curate relevant content tailored to specific members. It gives members the personalization they’re looking for. And with less time spent on behalf of the association. Above all, it’ critical now more than ever for associations to use smart content to their advantage!

what is smart content?

Smart Content: Breaking it Down

You may still be wondering, “what exactly is smart content”? This specific type of AI is known as Natural Language Processing (NLP). It has developed significantly over the years. And, it’s becoming more and more in tune with what members are looking for. Using specific algorithms, NLP develops smart content with human-like accuracy. But, does it actually work?

To clarify, the results published by Associations Now are extraordinary:

“When associations use AI to personalize content, we see open rates of 40 percent or more. Furthermore, when you are looking at segments of a community that have interacted with AI-curated content, we see open rates as high as 60 percent and click-through rates as high as 25 percent.”

In other words, smart content is the future for associations. Associations can now spend less time curating content for members and more time building authentic connections with them. As a result, data shows that members enjoy smart content even more than the content that takes more time to deliver.

As many associations know, creating content is a long process. With little resources to keep up with the demand for daily content, associations may wonder how everyone else is doing it. So, either they have an insane amount of staff specifically there to create content… or they’re using AMS.

AMS for automated marketing

Association Management Software for Automated Marketing

Using an Association Management Software (AMS), associations can use the power of automation to elevate marketing efforts seamlessly. Here they can connect with members, provide valuable content, and encourage new members to join.

AMS software allows associations to take advantage of AI technology without having to hire several specialists to do the work. Moreover, it makes these concepts easy to apply with the state of the art analytics used to inform future marketing decisions.

Smart content and chatbots are only a couple of ways associations can use automation to power membership, certainly. Simply put, it’s a matter of efficiency.

The more automated tools associations use will allow for more growth and communication as an association. Businesses, organizations, and nonprofits all over the world are already implementing AI technology to streamline these processes.

In conclusion, it seems that there’s only one question left to ask. What can your association do with the power of automation?

what can your association do with the power of automation?

Member Engagement to Drive a Better Trade Show

member engagement to drive a better trade show

6 Trade Show Benefits to Retain Members and Keep them Engaged

Most of the time, associations see trade shows as an opportunity to recruit new members. These events are, by nature, an excellent networking opportunity to meet new prospects and build on member engagement strategies. Association executives take part in these events to inform people, socialize with industry professionals, and eventually to recruit members.

But what if associations saw trade shows as a part of a member engagement strategy and a retention strategy?

Associations tend to focus more on recruitment than engagement or retention. “McGovern, senior director, marketing and member services at ACA, says she knows why this happens: ‘Well, recruitment is sexy. Retention is hard work,” (Associations Now).

The truth is, it costs a lot more for associations to recruit a new member than it does to retain one. For every action taken by associations to bring in new members, there should be a secondary engagement strategy.

make members association evangelists

Benefit #1 – Members as Association Evangelists

For example, trade shows are also an effective way to retain members through event engagement. Invite current members to take part in association trade shows as an evangelist for the association.

Hearing the benefits straight from a member’s mouth appears more genuine to prospective members. Of course, the association executive thinks their association is the best of the best. But a prospect hearing a member making this statement? That’s priceless.

proving members with branded merchandise will help spread awareness

Benefit #2 – Tradeshows as Networking Events for Members

The reason why most people choose not to renew their membership is usually that they feel the value isn’t worth the cost. A lot of the time this isn’t because the association isn’t offering enough benefits to members. Associations struggle more often to find ways to show members all of the benefits available to them. In other words, by inviting members to participate in trade shows, associations provide additional value.

Trade shows are a great opportunity for members to network, learn more about the industry, and explore what their association does behind the scenes. Trade shows are like a backstage pass; showcasing the exclusivity and education that their membership offers them within their association. Bring branded swag to trade shows for members to keep and/or to give to prospective members. Encourage members to explore opportunities within their industry.

transform membership into an industry community

Benefit #3 – Transform Membership into an Industry Community

This is what it’s all about, right? The best retention strategy for an association is all about focusing on building a strong, engaged community for its members. Invite members to participate in trade shows so they can connect with one another and see the big picture of their membership. Create spaces for members to collaborate and network within the association. As an association, it’s important to learn from this community to see how the association can evolve and meet the needs of members.

use trade shows as a resume builder for younger members

Benefit #4 – Trade Shows as a Resume Builder for Younger Members

Most associations will say they don’t want one year members, they want 20-year members. The best way to do this is by putting a lot of focus into learning all you can about your members and compare it to your strategies for member engagement. Arguably, younger members have the most to gain from association membership. They are looking for opportunities to meet young professionals and industry leaders.

Young members join an association to build experience, gain knowledge, and receive opportunities to participate in their industry in a meaningful way. These members are enthusiastic and community focused, which makes them the perfect member to invite to trade shows. By seeing a fresh face at trade shows, young prospective members may be more compelled to explore association membership.

give members a face to a name

Benefit #5 – Give Members a Face to a Name

Lastly, inviting members to participate in trade shows gives associations the opportunity to meet their members face to face. Members will appreciate the personal touch and enjoy meeting the people behind the shared value of their membership.

Of course, many members get to know their association executives through the process of elections. Undoubtedly, meeting members face to face will give association executives the chance to show who they are as a person and as a professional within their industry.

get insight about member needs and wants

Benefit #6 – Get Insight About Member Needs and Wants

Another great benefit to bringing members to trade shows has to do with the information they get from the attending members. From this exchange, you can learn about your members’ habits, what services they want going forward, and how you can improve your member engagement strategies. Find insight on what you’re doing well… or, what you’re not doing well. The people willing to attend a trade show are some of your most engaged members. These are the “20-year members.”

Reward participating members by giving them what they ask for. Do they want a new resource on a specific industry related topic? Are they asking for more networking opportunities? Do they bring up a desire to learn more or get involved further? Document these interactions and do your best to make the necessary updates to delight engaged members.

traveling from trade show to trade show and discover the rewards of membership engagement

The Rewards of Membership Engagement at Association Trade Shows

Overall, trade shows provide over a dozen benefits to both association executives and association members. It’s a win-win situation. Make the most of association efforts by finding more ways to blend trade show attendance with your member engagement and retention strategies.

Optimize all of the work your association puts into attending and hosting events by reaching new members and retaining and engaging the current ones. If you do this, your association will have all the information and connections needed to build, engage, and retain its membership base.

Build Your Association’s Retention Strategies Using Predictive Analytics

use predictive analytics to build on retention strategies

Understanding Data Trends Keep Member Retention Rates on the Rise

Every year, association members choose whether to continue their annual membership or cancel. During this time, associations are revising their retention strategies to encourage more renewals.

There are a few member factors that go into the renewal decision-making process. First and foremost, are they happy to be a member?

Aside from having a generally positive experience with the association, members may also consider:

  • How often they engage with the association
  • How often they use association resources
  • How many association events they were able to make
  • How many new contacts they’ve made through networking events
  • How often they felt a part of an association community

These factors are also a great way to anticipate who will renew and who may be at risk. A lot of associations struggle to categorize members by risk to see who needs a little extra attention.

a good retention strategy involves collecting data on current and past association member data

Understanding these trends is an essential part of strong retention strategies! Introduce predictive analytics into your current retention strategies and see how data can help you retain membership.

What is “Predictive Analytics”?

It’s clear how predictive analytics can help associations develop retention strategies. However, defining predictive analytics may not be as clear. Essentially, it is the process of using and combining historical data and statistical algorithms to give you an accurate depiction of the future. The idea of predictive analytics has been around for quite some time but has only recently started to grow more rapidly.

The reason why it’s become a popular strategy for businesses is that it’s more accessible now than ever before. In the past, this type of data analysis was used mostly by mathematicians and statisticians. Now, anyone can collect this data and interpret it. As data continues to grow over generations and provide more insightful information, it will become more and more valuable to associations.

Predictive Analytics for Association Retention Strategies

businesses and associations use predictive analytics to retain memberships

There are many reasons why businesses and organizations use predictive analytics. For the most part, it’s used to avoid company fraud, increase high-value leads, optimize marketing efforts, reduce overall risk, and retain current client bases.

For example, everyday use of predictive data that you may be familiar with is your credit score. Credit scores are calculated using this same data interpretation! For associations, predictive analytics can collect data regarding member interactions to help associations target members who are at risk.

A few variables that can be calculated include:

  • Email Opens and Activity (do they scan it or actually read emails?)
  • Social Media Engagement (how often do they comment or like posts?)
  • Content Reads (do they read blog content or online resources?)
  • Attendance at Tradeshows and Networking Events
  • Web Footprint (how often do they visit and search through the association website?)
  • Event Participation (do they often RSVP for association related events?)
identify member engagement strategies that work for your association

Anything else that can identify member engagement can be used as a variable. Collect this data on past and current members and create a data file that links to these variables.

The general process for predictive analytics is this:

  1. Add a statistical modeling technique that provides an equation related to the variables
  2. Grade members based on the equation and rank by grade
  3. Segment members into 10 groups from least to most at risk
  4. Create a profile for each group explaining their rank
  5. Form a personalized retention strategy for each group

How to Start Predictive Analytics-Based Retention Strategies

In a perfect world, you could read this blog post and say, “oh, perfect! I’ll get right on that!” and have all this data collected in minutes. Unfortunately, this is not the way of the world. If the idea of spending months collecting data and adding it to a spreadsheet, followed by consistent hours used on maintenance doesn’t appeal to you, well, don’t worry… there are other options.

Using proprietary machine learning algorithms, you can interpret this data in no time. 24/7 data analysis collects all of the variables mentioned above automatically. It analyzes and delivers predictions for what members want to see and be a part of. Using a resource like predictive analytics can help associations truly understand their members in a way that they may not articulate themselves.

get the most from predictive analytics to raise retention rates

Get the Most from Predictive Analytics

Overall, using predictive analytics is a great way to understand your members and segment them to provide personalized services.

In this way, predictive analytics can be used for more than retention strategies. It can also be used to connect with strong leads, delight current members, and give valuable association insights. Through this data, associations can get to know thousands of its members in a matter of minutes.

Marketing for Millennial Association Membership: Form the Perfect Campaign through Social Media

association giving

form the perfect campaign through social media when marketing association membership

Member Engagement Strategies for Connecting, Recruiting, and Marketing Association Membership

Before we get into marketing association membership for millennials, it’s important to know who millennials are. Millennials are the people who were born between the years 1977 and 2000. They make up 25% of the U.S. population, and now they’re old enough to become the driving force behind many markets. They’re tech-savvy adults who want to feel a peace of mind about where their hard-earned money is going.

Millennials receive a lot of bad press. They’re called entitled, lazy, and selfish. But oftentimes, so-called “millennials” are mislabeled and miscategorized.

While millennials often receive a bad rap, in reality, millennials are discerning, adaptive, and strive to become successful adults. They are changing, and yet, at their core, want the same things any other generation wants. So how can you market association membership to this fluid demographic while still staying true to the needs and values your association already has?

create the best strategy for marketing association membership to millennials

The key to coming up with a marketing association membership strategy geared towards millennials is to understand who they are and what they want from an association. And most importantly, it is to understand what your association can offer millennials that they can’t get somewhere else.

Think about how to reach this demographic on their own terms. More than any previous generation, millennials are highly in tune with the world of social media.

So here’s the million-dollar question: how can associations utilize social media to recruit this next generation of potential members to join your association?

Understanding Millennials Will Help Market Association Membership

marketing association membership to millennials means staying aware of their need to save money

Millennials Want to Save Money

Millennials make up a huge portion of the working population, yet studies show that they are making 20% less money than their parents did at the same age. Consequently, they also own less property and are much more likely to be renting apartments or homes.

One way to make a millennial an engaged member of your association is to speak to them on terms that are important to them. How can your association help them save or invest money? How can you help them plan for their long term future?

The greatest benefit of using social media as a way to garner the attention of younger members is that it is essentially “free”. While millennials are already paying for internet service and data plans for their mobile devices, it doesn’t necessarily cost them more to see and use Facebook, or YouTube, or access their email.

Marketing association membership using social media as an engagement point for interaction can be key because you’re meeting millennials where they already are.

millennials want to get recommendations when marketing association membership

Millennials Want Recommendations

Very closely associated with the idea of saving money, millennials want to know where their money is being spent. That’s why unboxing videos are so incredibly popular. Millennials are reading reviews, and getting recommendations from friends and family. They’re making less money, so they want to be sure that when they spend it, they’re getting what they want.

When using social media to reach your target audience, instead of using a call to action like “buy now” to link to your blog post or website, invite them to “learn more”. Millennials want to trust that their money is going to something they believe in, and something they actually desire, so make sure to speak to that need when marketing association membership.

when marketing association membership to millennials, consider their desire for incentives

Millennials Like Incentives

Another way to bolster your engagement with would-be millennial members is to incentivize them to recruit more assciation members for you. Give them a chance to win a prize, or just give them a prize, for referrals to new members. Everyone wants to be part of a community, no matter what age.

Motivate them to help create this community and simultaneously give prospective members something to believe in, like the judgment of their peers. A huge amount of millennials (84%!) say that user-generated content, rather than advertising, influences how they spend their money. Use this knowledge to your advantage when marketing association membership!

millennials want to be engaged with, not advertised to when creating a strategy for marketing association membership

Millennials Want to be Engaged With, Not Advertised To

Millennials are a very savvy group. They have a great sense of when they are being marketed to, and they’re not fans of it. They are 247% more likely to be persuaded by blogs or social-networking sites than baby boomers are. This is because they view these online communities as trustworthy. And, in a sense, they are right to believe this. In this day and age, social media is the democratic voice of the people; it’s 2019, which is reason enough for associations to strengthen their social media presence.

What they don’t respond to is traditional advertising in newspapers, commercials, etc. Millennials would much rather recommend their friends to read an informative blog post than show them a newspaper advertisement.

This goes back to their desire to save money. Millennials don’t want to feel like they are being sold something, rather they want to feel like they are becoming part of something. If emails are still a large part of your marketing association membership strategy, tailor it to the millennial mindset.

“Click-bait” subject lines are likely going to get your emails forwarded straight to the spam folder. Send an email that invites both your prospects and your new members to partake. Invite them to share, and become part of the front-running team. Use an email campaign that doesn’t make your members feel like customers, but makes them feel like they’re part of a community that cares about them and their individual beliefs.

An Engagement Plan for the Next Generation

form the perfect plan for marketing association membership through a strong social media presence targeting millennials

Membership Organization for Millennials

We can’t expect to continue with the same marketing association membership strategies forever if we wish to grow our membership base with the coming generations. Millennials want to make money, they want to be engaged, and they want to invest in the things that matter to them. This might sound like every generation, but the ways in which they try to achieve these goals are substantially different than Gen Xer’s or Baby Boomers.

Social media is where the younger generation lives, so use this new medium to speak to your new audience. Millennials are diverse, and fluid. It can be hard to market your association to target them because they are truly such a diverse crowd. But the first trick to catching a fish is knowing where to find it, so get your waders on and hop into the river.

The Secret to Retaining Millennial Memberships in Associations

continue to build the value of association membership

Continuing to Build the Value of an Association Membership

Associations have been providing value to industry professionals for decades. Today, Millennials make up a huge percentage of the workforce. As a result, many associations are being updated to meet the needs of this growing demographic. By this point, you may have found ways to promote your association to Millennials and increase young memberships. Retaining millennial memberships is the next step to association success.

Using social media, association newsfeeds, and email marketing, associations can attract new, young industry professionals to join. How can associations delight this new member base, and build successful long term member/association relationships?

Millennials are a generation that cares about community involvement. They are service-oriented, which means they like to spend their time helping others. At the same time, Millennials are used to a world in which they can access unlimited information at their fingertips. For this reason, this demographic expects fast information and short response times. As a result, Associations must both become more efficient and more community-based. Here are a few ways that associations can achieve this feat.

Building an E-Community for Millennials

e-community for millennials

While Millennials do have a preference for a close-knit community, it doesn’t mean the same thing today. In the past, building a community meant bringing people together in person for meetings and networking events. Today, a community can be a virtual experience. For example, many of today’s young professionals connect via social media. Job searches, professional industry chat groups, and one on one communication is all done online. Associations have a bad reputation of being stuck in the past, unwilling to evolve into the world of social media engagement and mobile compatibility.

The solution is simple. If associations can re-think their business model to become more technology focused, Millennials will be more delighted with membership. As an association executive would know, a delighted member is a long term member.

A few ways that associations can meet young members where they are is by:

  • Building an association mobile app
  • Creating member chat groups (Facebook group, slack, Gmail chat, etc)
  • Hosting private facebook events: volunteering and networking
  • Sending an E-Newsletter with all community information
  • Showing Millennial members how to become Instagram ambassadors for the association
  • Hosting online webinars for members to participate in together

By making it easier for young members to connect with other professionals across the country, associations build a greater and more connected membership. The internet is the perfect tool for associations to take advantage of, so why not use it? If time is a potential issue, there are plenty of streamlining services that can make this process much more efficient.

Retaining Millennial Memberships Through Volunteer Work

retaining millennial memberships

As mentioned earlier, Millennials are very service oriented. They have an interest in sharing crowdfunding campaigns on social media, donating to local causes, participating in charity events, and building experience assisting non-profits. They like to help create positive change for their community.

Associations by nature are a service-oriented community, which makes them perfectly suited for this new generation of young professionals. If associations can hone in on this aspect of membership, then retaining millennial memberships should be a piece of cake.

Some examples of this could be:

  • Hosting or connecting members to nearby charity events
  • Providing consistent volunteering opportunities
  • Crowdfunding with members to donate to industry relevant nonprofits
  • Share examples of the association’s community involvement in an e-newsletter

Giving these opportunities to young members will increase member engagement, help them build a strong resume, and fulfill that desire for community involvement. Plus, organizing these nonprofit fundraisers for members looks excellent when recruiting new members to join your association.

Use Technology to Become Faster and More Responsive

association member retention

For a generation that relies on instant information, being fast and responsive is extremely important. Where older generations used the library for research, today’s generation has had the internet. In conversation, Millennials are quick to pull out the smartphone and google a question to get an immediate answer.

Alternatively, for customer service, the younger generation is quick to use a company’s chat service for a quick response. Unfortunately, associations have difficulty adjusting to this “quick information” era. Resources consist of lengthy white papers and response time take a few business days. As a result, retaining millennial memberships may be a more difficult task.

This is where associations must evolve and put in the leg work to prove a new responsive nature. There are a few ways that associations can become more responsive for members and focus on retaining millennial memberships.

This includes:

  • Adding a chatbot to your website so association employees can respond quickly to members
  • Responding to messages and comments on social media
  • Responding to comments on the association blog
  • Answering any questions via email
  • A phone line to call during business hours
industry associations

In addition to being responsive, Millennials appreciate quick information that answers questions they may have in a short period of time. This doesn’t mean get rid of case studies and white papers! Plenty of members still appreciate an in-depth and industry-focused piece of writing.

It appears that to help with retaining millennial memberships, associations can create short videos, FAQ articles, listicles, and slideshow-style posts that get straight to the point. This type of writing is increasingly taking over the market, both for younger and older audiences.

Using streamlining services like AI, you can focus more on retaining Millennial memberships and creating healthy association/member relationships. Spend less time choosing posts for social media, deciding what news to add to your website, or what content to add to the e-newsletter with technology that makes the process efficient.

Associations Struggling with Member Engagement

for associations struggling with member engagement it's important to create practical strategies

Defining Practical Strategies for Increasing Member Engagement and Retention

When we speak with association leaders and subject matter experts about the most important challenges and the pain points they face, they will most often put member engagement at or near the top of the list.

Associations know how important engagement is in keeping organizations healthy and advancing their mission, yet many are struggling to use their digital channels effectively.

A recent association benchmarking survey quantified the challenge of engagement. This study showed that 55% of associations felt that engaging members is  a challenge.

Traditionally, member engagement meant participation in annual conferences, training programs, or purchasing publications. With the advent of email, social media, and scores of apps, digital outreach became a quick, easy, and less expensive way of connecting with members. These digital options also brought forth a substantial number of new competitors vying for members’ attention.

Oren Ahronson, CEO of InLoop points out that,

“With the huge volume of data and spam that we receive every day, a simple approach of posting content to a website, email, and on social media no longer achieves the goal of engaging members. This is especially true in trying to get members to engage with digital content. These responses elevate engagement levels which are crucial to increasing association member recruitment and retention.”

associations have to make practical plans in order to increase member engagement

The rules of the game have changed. Associations need a more strategic approach with specific objectives and metrics. We provide practical tips for increasing member engagement.

Defining Engagement

In a world where electronic communications transfer information in nanoseconds, bombarding your members with “information overload” engagement is not just the existence of a relationship between an association and its members. You also need members acting on those communications and renewing their memberships.

Engagement = Member Recruitment + Action + Retention

Since each association has different goals, the exact definition of engagement will vary across associations. But the primary objective remains the same… increase engagement by increasing member participation, acquisition, and retention.

However, Wendy Scott, a Partner at ReedScott warns that,

Associations often focus primarily on recruitment while tolerating a decrease in retention until it’s too late. Delivering valuable, customized content is one of the best ways to retain members and remind them of the value you provide to meet their current and, hopefully, unmet needs over time. Retention is crucial because it can cost up to six times more to recruit a new member than the cost to retain an existing one.

Indications of Member Engagement Issues

member engagement and retention goes hand in hand

How do you know if you have an engagement issue with your membership? According to ReedScott, there are several reliable indicators:

Warning Signs that You May Have a Retention Problem

  • your association has a retention rate that is less than 75%
  • attendance at conferences and meetings is decreasing
  • the number of members volunteering is decreasing
  • you are seeing a decrease in benefits utilization
  • your sales from multiple revenue streams are decreasing

Time and time again, we see that the members who are highly engaged are the ones always coming back. So how do we measure engagement? And why is it important to measure it?

Measuring Engagement

by measuring engagement, associations can focus more on member retention and member engagement

It is important to measure engagement for the simple reason that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Without data, you have no information upon which to make sound decisions about which direction to head with your content and communication strategies.

But, how can your association figure out how to measure engagement?

At a high level, measuring engagement is about aligning metrics to your strategic objectives. At a more detailed level, these metrics will be specific to each marketing channel. AI is playing a larger role in how we measure engagement by providing personalized content to association members.

Strategies in keeping members engaged rely solely on the content we send to members; content must be useful and unique to the personal needs of all members. We only have a short window to catch the attention of our members, so we have to be sure we take full advantage of all the resources available to us in this increasingly technologically-run world.