How Personalization Is Key for Your Membership (and Your Organization)


Personalization has been a buzzy word in marketing for a while now, especially in retail. Of course, Amazon is lauded as the frontrunner in personalized experiences. The e-commerce giant used its wealth of data on customers to tailor preferences and recommendations. Soon after, brands like Netflix, Spotify and others began operating on the premise of personalized experiences. Now, research and numerous studies say consumers demand personalization and that it can lead to higher conversion and satisfaction.

But what about membership organizations? Associations don’t have “customers” in the traditional sense, but members are the de facto customers of these organizations. And like they crave in their shopping experiences, members apparently want personalization from their associations.

The 2017 Digital Member Study from Community Brands found that almost half of members said the content they get from associations is not personalized. A third of members said they do get personalized content, and of those, 60 percent claimed to be “extremely connected to the organization.”

These days, associations are expected to reach out to members through multiple channels, including email, phone, social media, even SMS. Results from these studies indicate personalization is important to the members and drives the important connections that keep them engaged.

The good news for associations that aren’t already putting an emphasis on personalized experiences is that these organizations already have the key ingredient to do so – data. In fact, many associations probably have more data about their members than the biggest companies in the world – including Google and Amazon. If you’re already armed with this trove of valuable information, why not use it?

The Powers of Personalization

Many, if not most, membership organizations are already using some basic forms of personalization. An email with the member’s name in it, or a postcard with the individual’s specific renewal date, for example. But deeper personalization is where the real benefits lie.

Increase membership and retention

Individual members find different aspects of membership valuable. Their interests, objectives, career status – these factors create different needs for different members. By understanding these personal needs you can provide the most relevant services, products and benefits to each member, thereby creating not only selling points to potential new members, but keeping members around when it’s time for renewal.

Personalization helps increase membership while reducing churn. The reality is you’re selling the organization every time you pitch a member to join or renew, and providing them with personalized experiences – matching their needs with the right services and offerings – increases the likelihood they’ll join and stay. Moreover, a Hubspot study found personalized calls to actions increase conversions by 202%! Know what they need, know what they want, and offer that to them.

Avoid option paralysis

Another benefit to personalizing experiences for members is to avoid option overload. In theory, we all love options, right? We’d rather have more choices than fewer choices. However, research (such as this and this) has proven that too many options can actually backfire.

This problem could manifest in several places in membership organizations, such as educational offerings or conference options. Your organization may have multiple membership choices. Or, your annual convention might be packed full of amazing sessions. But some members might struggle to figure out which best meet their needs or prove most rewarding for them. Enter personalization.

A study by Cvent and Edelman found that customized session recommendations can result in a positive impact on attendee experience. Just as Amazon coaxes consumers to the checkout button, you can provide your members a customized journey that makes it much easier for them to reach where they ultimately want to be, as opposed to disengaging along the way due to overload frustration.

Encourage volunteerism and donations

Virtually all membership organizations rely on some degree of volunteerism. Some also rely on fundraising and donations. Personalization can encourage both.

A study by Accenture Consulting determined that 55% of donors would volunteer more or donate more in exchange for a more personalized experience. Consider their point of view. If you simply toss out a long list of available volunteering options, it’s incumbent upon the member to search and find what might be worthy of their time. But, since you already (should) know about their interests, you can find opportunities that match the individual preferences. Instead of, “Please come help us. Choose one of these options below,” the member gets, “We’ve got a great volunteering opportunity we think you’d love!” See which gets better response (spoiler: it will be the latter).

Making It Personal

As a membership organization, you have the data to offer personalized experience to your members. Ideally, you have the data organized and in a system that provides you the opportunity to take advantage of it. If you aren’t already set up to make the most of this data, start collecting and structuring this information with an eye toward personalized experiences for your members. Ultimately, they will appreciate it and you’ll both benefit from it.

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