You know what’s better than a strong cup of coffee? The motivation and inspiration you feel after talking to satisfied members. Their stories are gratifying reminders of the difference you and your colleagues make in your members’ lives.
You can also find motivation in what may seem an unlikely place: key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. Seriously, when you track KPIs and metrics, you see proof of your organization or team’s progress toward achieving goals and fulfilling your mission. That’s not only motivating, it’s enlightening.
The right metrics can help you define membership segments and better understand member and customer interests. You can figure out which strategies, tactics, and campaigns are working well and which aren’t. KPIs help you pinpoint where you should focus more effort or make changes. For example, a low new member retention rate is a sign you need to evaluate your onboarding process, new member expectations, and/or your membership value proposition.
Besides helping you spot problem areas, these measures also give you a good reason to pat yourself (and your team) on the back.
Revisit your 2020 goals, KPIs, and metrics
You can’t determine how far you’ve progressed without knowing where you started. Look back at your 2019 KPIs and metrics to get a baseline established for 2020.
- Where did you meet goals and KPIs?
- Where did you fall short?
- What do you plan to keep doing or ramp up?
- What do you need to change?
Make sure your association can handle the goals you set for 2020. For example, if you recruit as many new members as you’ve planned, can you effectively onboard them all? Do you have enough staff and resources in place to provide a meaningful onboarding experience, or is there a chance these new members will slip through the cracks?
Don’t go overboard with metrics. Staff have limited time and attention for data. You’ll risk analysis paralysis if you overwhelm your team with data and metrics they won’t use. Determine where data can make a difference.
For example, you may decide to focus your attention on data that helps your association improve marketing or communication strategies, or the new member onboarding plan. Make sure staff has the data they need at their fingertips by setting up customized dashboards for the chief marketing officer or the membership team. Encourage staff to subscribe to report notifications when the metrics they’re tracking meet certain conditions.
Even if you’ve already established your goals, KPIs, and metrics for 2020, plan to revisit them. Throughout the year, review KPIs and assess metrics against those KPIs. If market conditions or your professional landscape changes, your KPIs must change too.
To ensure accountability, assign owners to different metrics. Schedule time to check and discuss metrics on a quarterly basis, so you can respond to developments. For example, if webinar attendance starts decreasing, figure out why and make plans to reverse the trend. Is it a market issue: pricing, scheduling, promotion, new competition, or market need? Or, is it a content issue: topics, program length, information/promotion ratio, content quality, or value delivered?
What you will learn from KPIs and metrics
KPIs and metrics let you know if you’re living up to your mission and on track to achieve your goals. You can see if members (and nonmembers) are receiving the value that helps them advance their career or grow their business.
A key indicator of membership value is your retention rate. Track retention by membership tenure (first-year members and other groups) and other membership segments, for example, career stage, size of business, membership type, and demographics with particular needs and interests.
Retention rates tell you where you need to review strategy and tactics. Sometimes, the problem is easy to resolve, for example, renewal invoices aren’t catching the member’s attention or getting to the right person.
Or, it could be a deeper issue. Perhaps you’re making decisions based on false assumptions about a membership segment’s needs, so you’re not delivering the value they seek. You may learn that your membership value proposition is not what a membership segment is looking for. Or, you might be delivering the value they seek but they don’t know how to find it.
Once you’re established your KPI and metric baselines, it’s interesting to see how they compare with other associations.
Once you’ve established your KPI and metric baselines, it’s interesting to see how they compare with other associations. Keep an eye out for association industry benchmarking reports, such as MGI’s annual Membership Marketing Benchmark Report and Billhighway/Mariner Management’s Chapter Benchmarking Data Report.
How to measure member engagement
Member engagement is the holy grail of associations. But to measure engagement, you must define it. What counts as engagement when engagement means something different for every member?
Event attendance and committee participation have always been traditional markers of engagement. These face-to-face activities have been easy to track in a database. But association membership is a digital experience for most members now. A member who regularly reads your newsletters and online community discussions, and visits your website to research something is also getting bang for their membership buck. They’re highly engaged in their own way.
Measuring engagement can become overwhelming because it may include:
- Participation: online community, national and chapter events, online learning programs, webinars, certification applications and renewals, voting, and social media sharing and commenting.
- Volunteering: board and committee service, speaking, writing, reviewing session proposals, awards judging, member outreach, recruiting, political action, and ad hoc or micro-volunteering jobs.
- Resources: profile updates, emails or calls to the association, email opens and clicks, website portal logins, downloads, purchases, and subscriptions.
- Payments: foundation or PAC donations, sponsorships, exhibiting, and advertising.
For associations with organizational memberships, you should track individual employee engagement as well as the engagement of the entire organization.
Before deciding how to measure engagement, figure out what you will do with the data. Engagement metrics are useful for pointing out extremes in member behavior. A behavior scoring model helps you flag at-risk members—those who aren’t engaging in any way and, therefore, are not likely to renew. These cases are crying out for intervention. You can help them identify their membership goals and find the value they need.
You can also identify highly engaged members who could be candidates for volunteering or leadership development. They might be interested in providing a membership testimonial, helping with new member onboarding, contacting membership prospects, mentoring, or coaching at-risk members.
Engagement metrics also help you gauge the interest of different membership segments in your association programs and benefits. This data comes in handy when staff or volunteer leadership must decide where to focus limited resources and which programs to sunset.
Understand changes in member, attendee, and customer interests by tracking data from events and sessions, webinars, online learning programs, downloads, email clicks, website page visits, and purchases. If numbers are disappointing, dig deeper into related campaigns, for example, new member onboarding campaigns or certification renewal campaigns.
Illusive metrics of engagement
Engagement can’t always be seen and measured. You can’t easily measure a member’s feelings of belonging, community, and connection. You can’t track their enhanced reputation or growing confidence due to their membership experience. You might see their email opens and community questions but not understand the extent of their reliance on your association for support and guidance. These emotions are the factors that make membership indispensable to them.
It’s difficult to measure these markers of engagement, but you could try by asking members to rate how deeply they feel a sense of belonging or a sense of connection to other members. How much has membership helped them enhance their professional reputation or increase their confidence? How likely are they to turn to the association for answers and solutions, peer support, and guidance?
An engagement survey serves as a reminder to members about the intangible value they receive (or could receive) from their membership experience. It’s also an opportunity to ask where they need guidance in finding value, what’s missing in their membership experience, and how you can help.
KPIs and metrics are both motivational and enlightening. Choose the right ones to track in 2020 so the lessons you draw from your data can help your association improve member engagement and the membership experience.
Let Fíonta help you determine important measures early in the year – contact us today!