Realising the potential of membership associations

The importance of a clear and engaging customer journey cannot be underestimated, and being able to convert those interacting with your brand into sales and permanent customers is crucial. How you go about doing this is constantly evolving, in line with changes in customer habits and movement in the marketplace.

Articulating information in a concise, informative way for time-poor consumers is important, while trying to convey too much information, or serving the wrong information to the wrong people at the time, can risk disengagement.

But perhaps equally as important as the initial sale is the ability to build a base of customers that will return several times over to interact with your product and make purchases. And it is here where the potential of membership associations can truly be realised, particularly in the current economic climate.

The Present Opportunity

This is likely not the first article to tell you that times have changed, and that businesses must change the way they operate to continue their growth, or even to just remain sustainable. And as the UK braces for what is predicted to be the biggest economic recession on record, it’s easy to take a gloomy outlook.

But with challenges come opportunities, and new possibilities for engaging and retaining customers. The Coronavirus pandemic has forced habits to change, which in turn has stimulated an evolution in the way brands sell to people.

Although, for online-only businesses, little will have changed. A robust digital platform, built on website, app and social media, can support ambitions even while customers are under lockdown and the high street is empty.

If you do business face-to-face, then the chances are you’ve been forced to pivot away from your usual way of making sales. But whatever your circumstances, at a point in time when cultivating brand advocacy and loyalty has never been more important, membership associations are key.

Why Membership Associations?

Realising the potential of membership associations within a particular sector or vertical can help you retain customers and create genuine brand advocates at a time when networks are perhaps more important than ever. Being able to grow a database of members enables you to build a network that helps your business reach far beyond the possibilities of individual sales.

A member feels a sense of belonging far evolved from that of a regular customer; they become a part of your brand – sharing in your values, buying into your ethos and supporting your ambitions. When you are engaging with members, you are not clinging onto the trouser leg of a customer who has long since exited the store after making the purchase; instead you are conversing with a participating member of your evergreen community.

This lays out the canvas for engagement – what do members get? How will you talk to them? How often? Of course, one of the best things about any club is the exclusivity, so give careful consideration to what they’ll receive that others won’t.

Obvious, effective options here include discount codes to stimulate one-off purchasing and offering early access to particular release – but don’t hesitate to engage on a deeper level. Perhaps you could deliver a direct insight into your plans for the business before announcing the news to anybody else.

This content could be particularly engaging delivered as to-camera video. Many memberships are built on the receipt of goods or services for a flat monthly rate, but utilising that model isn’t a pre-requisite for enjoying these benefits. Throughout everything, a good membership platform will add value for the customer and go beyond just asking them to hand over an email address and a few details.

Dormant databases that kick into action to plug product on a sporadic basis aren’t adding any particular value, so a coherent strategy that works hard for you and the customer all year round is essential. Remember, by making a solitary purchase your customers are already showing significant faith in your brand.

They may leave you a review and track you down on social media – if they haven’t already – so the building blocks of a lasting relationship could already be in place. Solidifying this bond through a coherent, planned membership association strategy should merely be considered the logical extension for any business eager to retain its customers and grow its network.

User experience matters

Beneath the membership framework is the user experience (UX) and, without success in the latter, you’re unlikely to make much progress with the former.Whatever your industry and sales model, an effective UX, on mobile or desktop, underpins everything you’re seeking to achieve. Platforms should articulate your offering in a way that best serves prospective customers, and work on the basis of firstly catering for audiences with the least prior knowledge.

Multiple user levels are an excellent way to deliver a UX that is comprehensive and shows the right things to the right people at the right times. We recently worked with the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) to sharpen their offering in this respect. IAATO is a member organization founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic.

Their old platform displayed large sections of information that wasn’t relevant to a high percentage of users, contributing to a woolly user experience that was unable to effectively underpin an effective membership framework. The old platform did not work on the basis of the users having the least prior knowledge, which meant that much of the content displayed lacked the desired impact and deeper meaning.

The website was completely redesigned to address this issue, and to educate visitors to the website who IAATO are and what they do. This provided an essential benchmark from which membership packages could be promoted, while a separate platform for signed-in members delivered a UX more acutely tailored to their existing knowledge level.

The new, modern look succeeds in delivering only content that categories of users need to see, while pulling information from multiple API to build a comprehensive and up-to-date internal database. With sections including FAQs prominent alongside considered insight into the organisation, IAATO’s digital platform now serves as the perfect from which the organisation can truly realise the potential of membership associations.

Discover how you can unlock the potential of membership associations, contact our team today.

Author Katie Burrows

Katie is an experienced Account Manager, having held positions in both the corporate marketing and digital industries. Skilled in account management, communication and languages, Katie also holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and French from The University of Manchester.

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