A key part of any member support offer – especially now
Any membership offer is led front and centre by professional recognition and registration, CPD, accreditation opportunities, and knowledge sharing. These form the core of what it means to belong to a membership organisation and/or professional body, improving yourself and your profession. What is also often a part of member benefit – but not always given the most prominence in communications – is the support & care aspect.
This support might be a benevolent fund, charitable trust, bursary scheme, or bequeathed legacies to help current or former members in hardship. The ‘need’ covered will vary, and the non-exhaustive list could include:
- tuition fees
- hardship alleviation
- housing & financial support
- physical and mental well being.
During the current climate and the COVID-19 crisis, the ongoing good work that the staff, almoners and trustees administering these schemes do should increasingly be a very much a front and centre member benefit. Over the years I have worked in membership organisations which have amazing standalone charities for this (ICE Ben Fund and RICS Lionheart for example). But that is not always the case, and it might be part of a role in the office. If so, here are some tips for using this period to give a spring clean to your member support communications.
Is the application process clearly defined?
It’s important to know exactly what support you can and can’t offer, and how members apply for it. Do some digging and check with the appropriate team, or speak to whoever chairs the committee related to this and get the offer in shape, as you would do with any other service. If you don’t have any recent case studies, get some new ones. If you do have recently approved examples, collected since this crisis started, get these up as a priority. Case studies in the support arena shouldn’t cause the recipient of the support to be uncomfortable. Best practice is to change names or anonymise them, and make sure your sign off process is robust.
Check what’s on your website regarding your offer and make sure it aligns, if you don’t have content on there then now is the time. Make sure the application form is working and goes somewhere. If it’s a web form, give the fields and flow a check and see if they make sense. If the application process is through an offline form, make sure it is an on brand, fillable PDF that can be sent straight back to you. The days of messy Word forms with all those fields which don’t work properly are over.
Ensure relationships are in place
One of the things that all membership organisations have in common is that no two are the same. Organisational structure, roles and responsibilities, decision making, and governance all differ. With this in mind now is the time to evaluate the communications chain for your member support. Who has end responsibility for it? Are the marketing and communications standalone? Do you have an agreement or an obligation to promote it to the membership? Is the committee responsible still meeting remotely during the current situation? If you are in-house and the fund is managed standalone, what messages can you help them to push? Relationship building is key in membership, and if you can strengthen these ones then you will have improved member satisfaction.
Have you refreshed the marketing collateral recently?
Similarly, to the web content mentioned above, give your member support house material a housekeeping check. Leaflets, page ads, PDFs and explainer videos should all be given the once over to ensure they align with the offer. Do you have simple web banners that can be served on your site, or be placed in newsletters as buttons? Infographics are great for showing benefits with ease and signpost application procedures, so think about how you can simplify the offer with these.
Give it some space
Allocated advertising space in your editorial and technical publications are great real estate to showcase available support to members. If you have good editorial relations, then get a signpost to member support in the foreword. It could also form up into a feature, or announcement from your President or CEO.
Use your email newsletters; these are mainstays of member communication, and one of your hero slots should feature member support for the foreseeable future. You may also be considering a standalone email blast highlighting this, just make sure it’s appropriate and will be opened. The COVID-19 crisis has certainly flooded inboxes with messages from a range of organisations, all of them with good intention, but there is now greater inbox fatigue as a result. Make sure you stand out above the noise.
Don’t forget any reduced membership rates
This will usually sit with the Membership Team, but any hardship reduction rate needs to be woven in with your support comms. Of course, this may be complicated, depending on renewal type and date, but something you must consider how to clearly signpost. An FAQ for the membership team work wonders for these sorts of queries.
Spring clean your member support – summary
We hope the above has been of some use in giving food for thought. If you are sitting on a pot of member support but haven’t worked out how to market it, why not now? When well defined processes are already in place, spring clean them. Use the time to strengthen relationships between your teams and adjust your outbound communications appropriately.
About the author
Mike Hurst is a freelance marketer who has many years of membership marketing experience, and works with Direct Approach to offer intelligent solutions designed to increase membership and other commercial product revenue.