As trade associations and member organizations strive to find new and better ways to generate member engagement, those that have discovered the power of Inbound Marketing are reaping the rewards. Associations are re-inventing the traditional buyer’s journey to create a Member Centric JourneyTM which provides improved online engagement experiences -- experiences that traditionally have started just with email.
For corporations, the buyer’s journey reflects the stages that a prospective buyer would travel as they seek to solve a need and buy a good or service from a company. Since most member driven organizations are not selling goods or services, the buyer’s journey is better represented by the Member Centric JourneyTM, one which serves to outline the path that a website visitor takes to get association cause and membership related information and the journey that visitor takes to get and stay engaged with an association, to the point where they join or renew their membership.
Utilizing an inbound methodology, associations are shifting from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more personalized approach to member engagement, which focuses on people, how they relate to the organization’s trade or cause, and which takes advantage of technology to support the most viable approaches to encouraging membership.
In trade and cause-based associations, the inbound movement is a result of staff members striving to take advantage of technology and industry best practices to positively affect change and improve member retention and engagement. Utilizing an inbound methodology to secure membership is an efficient and cost effective approach in a some-to-many engagement environment -- where members and non-members have come to expect associations to adapt to new technologies and keep pace with innovation.
The stages of an inbound methodology for associations are outlined above. As strangers, we seek to engage associations based on the trade or cause we care about -- We are “Strangers”. At any point that we begin to experience a desire to learn more about or get engaged in a cause or trade, we typically begin to search for information or articles -- We move to the “Visitor” stage.
Once we find an association that aligns with our interests, we engage that association through some form of communication. Using an inbound methodology we would likely fill out a form or download some content -- We become a “Lead”. In the case of a form requesting information, the form data would be routed internally within the organization to direct us either to the specific trade or cause related content we desire or to an individual who will follow up with us. The association will nurture the Visitor to further drive engagement, participation, and membership. Form and engagement data may be routed through simple or complex workflows depending on the nature of the request or interest, and data may be routed using email or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software system such as Salesforce.com. Once properly routed, we receive the membership related information and nurturing until the association is successful in converting the non-member to a member, or converting the member to renewal -- We become the “Member”. With the proper response, follow up and nurturing, we become a “Promoter” who will communicate experiences to friends, family, co-workers and others. Promoters are your delighted members who help you drive additional membership based on the value they receive and the great experiences they have with the association.
Associations that utilize an inbound methodology spend time thinking about how to delight their Visitors, Leads, Members and Promoters. They build content to attract Strangers who share their trade interest or cause. They create user-friendly web and mobile experiences to invite Strangers and Visitors to engage with them and they manage their Leads with smart content and great experiences throughout simple and complex workflows to ensure they are providing excellent information and experiences -- and living up to the promise of their trade or interest cause. Perhaps most important however, associations that subscribe to an inbound methodology are monitoring their effectiveness and seeking ways to constantly improve and provide a more Member Centric JourneyTM.