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.

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.