Driving Member Engagement Through Mobile: A Step-by-Step Guide for Associations
The Mobile Revolution is Now!
While this statement may serve as a rallying cry for association leaders to incorporate a mobile strategy into their planning, the truth is that many associations are still struggling with how to leverage mobile and determine what value all of this effort will provide.
According to the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) report Tech Success for Associations, associations are doing “alright” when it comes to meeting members’ technology expectations:
“The majority of associations are making at least some content available on mobile devices, but a fifth of respondents reported they offered limited mobile capability.”
Adding to this, the Tech Success report indicates that, “Association members are more “techno-ready” than the general U.S. adult population and less likely to resist technology innovation.”
Put another way, your members are more likely to be accessing your content and information across a variety of devices, so they’d be very open to, and even prefer, you interacting with them through these channels. This means that there’s a lot of room for opportunity and improvement when it comes to mobile integration.
Associations are contending with what’s being called “the membership of things” where services like Amazon, Netflix, and Uber are providing an experience that allows us to get what we want, whenever we want. These services are highly customized and tailored to our specific habits, likes and dislikes. Your members are becoming increasingly acclimatized to getting efficient, on-demand and personalized experiences, so when those expectations aren’t met, their loyalty is at risk.
As Amanda Myers, Membership Engagement Director at Abila Inc. recently stated: “The consumerization of the association/member experience will have a tremendous impact on associations of all shapes and sizes, as members request more mobile, nimble, personalized, and efficient engagements, similar to the experiences they have with Amazon and Netflix.” — AssociationsNow Tech Toolkit, 2016
The danger to associations is that members will lose patience with outdated technology, resulting in a continual decrease in renewal rates. As the Tech Success for Associations report puts it:
“Renewals are directly tied to how satisfied your members are with technology.”
All of these trends, plus our increasing dependence on mobile, points to one conclusion:
Associations are going to have to step it up and commit to doing things differently if they want to ensure they are communicating effectively with their membership.
The good news is that it’s a lot easier to build an integrated, seamless, mobile strategy than you might think. We’re going to take you through a step-by-step plan on how to use mobile to improve your members’ overall experience and increase engagement across your membership base.
Step 1: Start with your mission and goals
You may have already done the hard work required to define your association’s mission. If so, this step would include reviewing and restating your mission.
If you haven’t clearly defined your mission, it’s important to do so at the beginning of your planning. What is your association trying to achieve for its membership? What value do you deliver and how will you ensure your members keep coming back?
Detailing the goals of your association is going to help you prioritize the various aspects of your mobile strategy. What are your revenue and membership goals this year and for the future? What does success look like for your association?
The goal of asking these questions is to evaluate the level of importance a mobile strategy will have in helping you achieve your mission and goals. It’s essential to be able to articulate this to ensure that a mobile-first approach is aligned with your association and its board’s vision.
As you’re developing your association’s overall strategy, try focusing on some of these key elements:
Step 2: Map your members’ journey
Now that you’ve answered the big questions, start thinking about where mobile fits into your member’s journey and how it can improve their experience. This process begins by mapping out your member experience in more detail. How do your members learn about your event? Where do they go to register? What happens after they attend an event? What pushes them to buy a membership and renew?
Once you’ve mapped out how your members are interacting with content related to your event, it will be much easier to identify where mobile fits in. In particular, you’ll want to look for areas or processes that can be improved by saving members valuable time and/or having to take less steps to get to the desired result.
Detailing the various journeys that your members take in their interactions with your association will give you a more complete picture of where improvements can be made. You will need to create journeys for each of these interaction points.
Step 3: Identify where mobile makes the member journey an easier experience
How mobile is best used depends on the member’s stage within their journey. Specifically, to increase member engagement when they are at your event, it’s a good idea to think about how a mobile app can be leveraged as a way to enhance the attendee experience.
This will require mapping out each point of contact and detailing the entire end-to-end member experience so that you can identify how a mobile app would provide a better, faster and more convenient way to interact with your association and other members than traditional methods like printed material. Take the time to go through the process, identify where you can eliminate a step or two and save members valuable time.
Step 4: Scope out time, resources, and budget needed
After you’ve identified how and when mobile will enhance your member experience and you’ve aligned this to your organization’s overall vision and strategy, it’s time to draw out your roadmap for implementation and get approval for the budget.
To do this, you’ll need to understand what kind of resources it will take to implement and manage your mobile offering on an ongoing basis. Start by looking at the steps we’ve already identified and assign timelines and resources to each step. Work with any external vendors to estimate the time to implement additional software. Finally, be sure to include the time to develop a communication plan and monitor and manage mobile adoption by your members.
The budget required will involve staff expenses and operating expenses (infrastructure costs, software, etc.). But by far, your biggest investment will be in your people and the time and training required to develop new processes.
And make no mistake, to make mobile work you need to fully dedicate yourself and staff to the solution. Ideally, it should be one person’s responsibility to send out push notifications, add content, and update images. The nice thing is this can likely be the same person you already have in place to update your website or send out existing content.
Learn how to optimize sponsorship ROI in your mobile app from the Ultimate Guide to Event App Sponsorship.
Step 5: Get the word out
You’re almost there! The last thing you want to do is have a good promotional plan in place to ensure your success. This includes explaining to members why your mobile solution will help them access resources and services more easily than before. This might seem like a less important step, but it may be the most important one for your mobile strategy to work. If members don’t see the value, they won’t download the app. Your job is to inform them of the benefits and get them excited about the possibilities.
Here’s an example of a mobile promotional strategy:
Awareness – Before your mobile app is built, begin building buzz
Engagement – Integrate the mobile app into all your other channels
Consideration – Explain the benefits and reasons for downloading the app
Conversion – See how many members are using the app
Loyalty – Leverage engagement throughout the year
Engaging members isn’t easy. Especially when members have been conditioned to expect a faster, more convenient and seamless experience. And although it might seem daunting, integrating mobile into your overall membership strategy can be relatively easy. The best part is by going through the process detailed above, you will learn a lot about your members and your organization.
The hardest part is getting started. That’s why we’ve created a step-by-step guide and checklist on how to drive member engagement through mobile. Download your guide now!
If you’re ready to see how an event app can maximize mobile strategy ROI, speak with an event tech consultant today .