03 Aug 2022

Eight sure fire ways to win the battle for member attention

This article is based on a Memcom Conference 2022 presentation given by John Innes, Executive Director, Think, and Chair of PPA Scotland.

1: Do less stuff

Do less, but spend more time making sure that you're using the right channel to talk the right audience at the right time.

Think about the strategy first. So, it's not ‘I've got 12 magazines to publish in a year and five emails to send out every week,’ but instead ‘what are the aims and objectives? What are we trying to do? What are our calls to action? How do we best make that content relevant to the end user?’

Focus on the audience. Who are we talking to? What are they interested in? What do we know they like?

The question that we're always asking is: why should the member care? That comes before you start thinking about the content pillars, the types of messages you want to send, and the methods you're going to use to talk to those people.

Don’t let frequency be the enemy of engagement. Reduce the frequency of the output, and then focus on making the content you are producing much more engaging.

John Innes

John Innes presenting at the Memcom Conference 2022


2. Capitalise on intent
When a member first joins, or they renew or attend an event, their intent (i.e. their closeness to you as an organisation) is at its peak. So make the most of that and get as much information from them as you can.

Many organisations are beginning to think very carefully about Year One of membership and how to onboard people properly. Often, if you drop new members into a generic email or content programme in Month Two, having simply sent a welcome email and perhaps something through the post, you start telling them about things that they don't really understand. You use terminology and talk about courses that don't mean much to them.

An effective onboarding email programme might look something like this: You have a welcome message, then you send lots of inspirational content about the things the recipient can do, explaining the value of membership, how they can engage with other members, CPD, etc. You can then start sending segmented content based on their role or their location, which may appeal to their personal interests. By renewals time they will really understand your organisation and the benefit of membership. Then in Year Two, you can start to drop them into more generic content channels.

3. Conduct a health check
You can carry out health checks on email, print or online content. To take the example of an email health check, the first step is to review all of your engagement data. Typically, people only look at open rates, and sometimes deliverability. But you should also be looking at click-to-open rate, conversion rates, bounce rate, the amount that your list is growing over time, etc.

It’s worth noting that open rates are becoming increasingly unreliable. The way that Apple privacy, Firefox and other browsers are working means that you'll get false positive opens based on those clients that are caching the content before it comes to the user. So, go beyond that and look at the number of openers, views and forwards as well.

Then you can move on to the structural data. How are your segments set up? Are there any new content streams that you could build based on your segments? How are the different segments responding? How can you AB test for those? Build a testing plan for subject lines, storyline and design.

Next comes the signup review. Try joining your organisation and screenshot every single click it takes along the way. You'll often find it takes much longer than you think. At the same time, take a look at all of your GDPR, privacy and marketing opt-ins.

Once you’ve done all that, you can start thinking about the content: what's working and what isn't. Start building a Content Matrix for each of the channels, and try to understand the best frequency of content to engage with members. (If you need help with any of the above, download Think’s free email health check to get started.)

Lastly, review the content, design, layout, testing plan, optimising design, those kinds of things.

4. Don't be afraid to steal great ideas
Look at the content that you receive from pretty much any household brand, whether in print, email or online, because that's the quality of experience that your members will be looking for. If you see a good idea, just steal it! Because if one of those organisations are doing it, they'll have tested it inside out and back to front. They'll know it works for their audience, so there's a good chance that it might work for yours, perhaps with a bit of adaptation.

5. Segmentation and Personalisation
This all comes down to making sure that your data is right. Our research found that about 60% of professional organisations were segmenting their content, using factors such as membership status. Fifty percent of consumer organisations don’t segment their content. Although they may not have as much data about their members as professional bodies do, they could segment by geography and length of membership, for example.

There are huge opportunities to segment your content, and to automate that segmentation, so rather than building 100 different newsletters, you're using tags to dynamically pull in the content that's most interesting to a particular individual.

In terms of personalisation, many organisations are using member name, content preferences and location to personalise content, but there are lots of other options to explore.

6. Spend time with the data
It's worthwhile working out how you can capture more data in order to communicate with members in a really engaging way, so create a data acquisition plan. (Google Analytics 4 comes out next year, so make sure your plans take that into account.)

It's important to understand that the more questions you ask your member, the less you'll get from them. The longer a survey is, the higher the drop off rate, so make your questions count. Ask yourself: do I really need to ask that question? Or can ask it later, or in a different way? Could I glean the same information from my analytics?

7. Take advantage of the best tools
Here are some of our favourites:

Semrush: does the SEO research your teams need to write great content.
Canva and PlaceIt: great for making quick graphics for social media.
EmailOnAcid: lets you see how your emails appear on different devices.
AnswerThePublic: you can type in anything from dog to radiology, and it will tell you the questions that people are asking Google on that subject.
HubSpot and Salesforce: fantastic CRMs.
SimilarWeb and SiteBulb: great for looking at your site load speeds and how that content ranks.
BuzzSumo: A fantastic tool for looking at what people are searching for, and how different things are ranking online.
Reallygoodemails.com has loads of examples from national brands and will give you some fantastic ideas for emails.

8. See yourself through your members eyes
Experience your content the way your members do. Attend an event, sign up for some CPD, reply to a call to action… Often, by doing that, you'll realise how the journey could be improved. The simpler and quicker the journey from call to action to actually doing something, the better.

Look at your stats for your email and online content to see which devices people are using to access it, and follow their lead. This generally tends to be mobile rather than on a desktop, laptop or tablet.

To request Think Publishing’s latest research reports for professional membership bodies and consumer member organisations, visit https://thinkpublishing.co.uk/remember/