It seems like only yesterday we were worried about what would happen when the computers hit the year 2000. Now it's nearly 2017 and a lot has changed.
Just think about technology. I was watching a movie from 2001 recently and one of the main characters had a laptop. They said the word "laptop" with the same reverence of someone talking about the "goose that laid the golden egg." In 2001, a laptop was a prized possession. Most families had only a desktop because at that time, laptops cost twice as much. Only traveling businessmen cutting-edge techies had them.
Laptop scarcity certainly didn't last long. Now everyone is walking around with a mini computer in their pockets. What a difference a decade and a half makes.
A lot has changed on the membership side of things as well and it will continue to change this next year. We talk to dozens of membership organizations every day and we're constantly amazed by how much has changed for them recently. From paper checks to marketing automation and targeted email drip campaigns, every year brings something new for membership management.
So what does 2017 have in store for those us working in membership and member marketing?
Here are six projections for the upcoming year.
There was a time when computer software and web surfing were expected to be buggy and slow. We all just accepted the user experience would be less than perfect, but with today's lightning-speed Internet and master UX designers, expectations have increased astronomically.
Those higher expectations have led to impatient users. According to Tony Haile of Chartbeat, 55% of visitors will only stay your site for 15 seconds. Your members may give you a little longer, but don't expect much longer. Your members want an enjoyable online experience and if you don't provide it immediately, you'll likely lose them.
In 2017 this will become even more impactful. Members won't stay on your site if menus aren't intuitive and engagement opportunities are hard to figure out. So when it comes to a private member community and your public website, work with an organization that understands user experience and designs with it in mind.
Do this right from the beginning because the saying, "you only get one chance to make a first impression" is true of your website and online community. Members won't keep logging in to see if the experience has changed. A bad first time will color their impressions well into the future.
Remember when people first started taking selfies? We looked and snickered. Then came the selfie stick and now even business professionals clutter the internet with pictures of themselves with surprised faces along with their marketing offer.
Next year, live video streaming may become the new selfie. That's not to say that the selfie will disappear, just that live video will become increasingly popular.
Membership organizations can use the rising popularity of video to connect with audiences. Just take more candid, humanized videos of everyday events. You can also use live videos to keep geographically-distant members engaged and excited about what you're doing at the home office.
For those of us who struggle with data and what to analyze, 2017 will be the year it all starts to come together. As the technology improves and the results begin to make sense to those without the title of "analyst," we'll see data take on a more actionable role in associations.
Part of that will happen as reports become more robust and, better yet, understandable to more people. That will help your data take on greater meaning and lead to greater results.
With that, your association will have a much firmer grasp on what they're measuring and why. You, along with other association executives and staff members, will become much better predictors of future member behavior. You'll become experts at analyzing past member activities and determining how they're correlated with member retention, revenue, and satisfaction.
As the democratization of data occurs, the role of data strategist will become more pronounced and respected. Membership managers will continue to have access to and interest in the everyday analysis of member data, but in 2017 other association executives may become more data driven as well.
Their interest in data will lead to a shift in hierarchy and dynamic. No longer will data be left to one person on staff who is consulted when issues of finance or member engagement come up in meetings. Instead, data on your members and your association will be embraced by the organization as a whole.
For those already working in analytics and strategy, that will mean increased prominence and respect throughout the association.
While we're on the subject of data, part of data becoming more user-friendly will be transforming it into more than numbers. Data will be exhibited visually so that everyone has a greater understanding of what it means and how it can be acted on to improve offers and benefits.
Data visualization tools are already becoming more sophisticated and next year they will have a larger place at the table. Many companies that associations work with will begin adding to, or refining, their data visualization toolset. Associations can follow suit by presenting their data in graphs or infographics, both of which make it easier to extract meaning from the information.
Some membership management software providers already give you the option to toggle back and forth between data tables and reporting dashboards filled with graphs. Engagement dashboards that let you see changes in member participation over time are one example.
Associations have already been using personalization in limited ways, like in email. But 2017 is going to require that you get serious about recognizing every one of your members, prospects, and event attendees on an individual or targeted group basis.
That's a big order to fill, but it's one that companies have been taking up for years. Personalization in the for-profit sector is shaping member expectations and making it increasingly essential that your association provides customized material for every member or member segment.
Make this a priority in 2017 and ensure that you have the technology to do so. The best membership management software and online community platforms will help you collect and use the data you need to make personalization easy.
2016 was a year of surprises, with more than one curve ball being thrown at local, national, and international membership organizations. Just think about 2016's political upsets and the rising social and professional movements that are sweeping different industries. The world and your members are clearly changing, perhaps even faster than we expected.
In 2017, data will become one of your key tools for keeping up with these changes, including the ongoing trend of personalization.
People want to be recognized for who they are and given information on what they care about. If members are loyal to you, they expect to be recognized. If they're new to your organization, they want to be wooed.
No one wants to be a number or even a letter. People no longer join associations to fit in. They expect to stand out.