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6 Steps to Pinpoint Your Most Engaged Members in 5 Minutes or Less (And Why You Need to)

Written by Julie Dietz on September 1, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Easy steps to identify your most engaged members.

Forbes, Associations Now, and Association Universe.

What do these publications have in common?

In the last several years they've begun touting engagement as a way to increase revenue, renewals, and customer acquisition. These and many other go-to industry hubs now frequently feature articles that highlight the importance of engagement as well as tips for how to encourage it.

As one of the more recent (and useful) buzzwords to hit the association and business industries, engagement is now driving many organizations to focus on increasing member participation. Online communities, website, events, and advocacy are all areas where organizations are building their engagement initiatives.

However, while associations are realizing how important engagement is in general, they often don't know who their most engaged members are. Sure, they can think of a few advocates or squeaky wheels, but very few associations can systematically identify their most engaged members. Even if they did, tracking engaged members and their activities, which often occur in separate technology systems like event engines and online community platforms, can be difficult.

If associations want to get the most out of their member engagement initiatives, those are both challenges that they need to overcome.

The Importance of Identifying Engaged Members

All the talk about engagement and its benefits isn't just hype. Research from Gallup shows that engaged consumers spend more and are more likely to stay with organizations longer. That makes your most engaged members valuable in terms of both revenue and growth. They're the ones who are most likely to renew their membership, purchase additional products, refer family and friends to your association, and be interested in volunteering.

If you know who your most engaged members are then you can use that information to improve your marketing and strategies. Send engaged members upsells and offer them additional products. Ask them to promote your association to their friends and family. They're the ones who are most likely to accept your offer or make an additional purchase.

You can also use engagement information to better target your communication. Engaged members are likely already familiar with your association and making use of your benefits, for instance. Send them emails with more in-depth information on your organization instead of just the basics. Ask them if they're interested in volunteering, or if they'd like to test out a new benefit you're working on.

Your engaged members are prime targets for these new, unique offers and communication. They have the industry experience and familiarity with your association that they need to give provide valuable feedback and volunteer assistance.

If you don't know who your engaged members are, however, then there's no way for you to send them the right communication to increase your revenue or gain valuable feedback.

6 Steps to Identify Your Most Engaged Members

Tracking your members' engagement level will change over time, so you can't just identify your engaged members once and assume they will always remain your top participants. These six steps will help you set up accurate engagement tracking that can be updated to reflect changes in your members and your association.

Step 1) List Activities Your Members Can Perform

Engagement is based on how members interact with your association, its members, and its benefits along with how frequently the interaction takes place. That means you can start gauging the interaction your members have by listing all the activities they can perform. Ideally, these activities should be tracked automatically by your association management software.

Often , the best AMS software to use for activity tracking is an all-in-one system. All-in-one membership software typically includes an email engine, website system, online community platform, survey tools, and more member-facing features than other systems. These tools provide more activities for your members to perform, all of which can be tracked by one software system. The more activity options you have, the more opportunities your members have to engage.

Step 2) Decide How Important Each Activity Is

Different activities require different levels of engagement. Even members who are not engaged can log in to your online community, for example, but it takes more dedication to answer a question in a discussion forum. That makes participating in a discussion or posting in a forum a more important activity than simply signing in.

You can base importance on any criteria you like, including revenue generation or actions that help further your mission, such as advocacy. Use your importance criteria to organize your list. In most cases, low-level actions that don't require much engagement should be at the bottom of the list, while high-level actions that are valuable to you should be at the top.

Step 3) Assign Points to Every Activity

Every activity on your list needs to have a numerical point value that relates directly to the activity's importance. Assign more points to high-level activities and lower points to short, fast, and easy activities like logging into your private member community.

Don't be afraid to dip into negative numbers in this step. Negative point values, such as -5, can be assigned to activities that you don't value and don't want members to do. A few examples might be when members unsubscribe to discussion forum notifications or doesn't participate in a group in your online community for 30 days. These actions indicate that engagement is going down, which will be reflected in negative point values.

The points your members gain by performing activities will be added up to form their engagement score.

Step 4) Set Limits

There are two types of limits that your activities and points need to have: time limits and accrual limits.

Time Limits

A time limit specifies how recent an activity has to be in order for its points to be included in your members' engagement scores. An activity completed two years ago is too old and shouldn't be applied to today's engagement levels, for instance.

Accrual Limits

Accrual limits set a cap on how many points members can earn by repeating the same activity. A good example is a member who builds up a high engagement score by performing only one low-level activity, such as logging into your online community, multiple times. You could set an accrual limit of 50 points per month for members who log in to your online community. After members earn 50 log in points, they will need to perform different activities to gain more points.

Accrual limits will help ensure that your engagement scores reflect members who are truly active in your association, rather than those who are merely present.

Step 5) Define Your Engagement Levels

Your membership and online community software will track member activities and add up points for you, but then it needs somewhere to put members based on those points. It needs engagement levels, which define members' participation and group members who have similar amounts of points together.

Always start defining engagement levels with a "zero" level. The zero level will include all your association members, including those who have no points because they have never performed any activities. If you want to get a full picture of everyone in your association, this level is crucial.

Beyond your zero level, you can create different participation tiers. At 50 points, your member might become a "bystander" or "lurker" who logs in to your system but doesn't do much else. A "super star" might be someone who has 500 points, which they earned by posting in forums, registering for and attending events, or connecting with peers.

Create as many levels as you need to give your association a complete picture of its members and how engaged they are. Your software will automatically put members into the correct level based on their points.

Step 6) Review and Modify

This final step should happen over time as your association grows and changes.

  • Did you add more activities for members to do? Assign points to them.
  • Did your priorities shift? Adjust the amount of points activities earn to match your new priorities.

Revisit your engagement levels and the points assigned to activities every few months to ensure they're still accurate.

Finding Engaged Members Takeaway

While identifying the activities your members can perform, assigning points, and setting up engagement levels may take more than five minutes, it's a proven process that will set you up for success. Once the process is complete, you shouldn't need to redo any of the work, only tweak it every few months so it remains relevant.

The biggest benefit of completing this process up front is that with engagement levels in place, it will take you far less than five minutes to identify your most engaged members in the future. Just go into your membership management software and access your engagement levels. You'll see how engaged your entire member base is, and the best AMS software will also give you a list of members who fall into each engagement level.

Your most engaged members are often your best opportunities for new volunteers, referrals, and revenue. Take advantage of the data you have on them to provide them with more value along with encouraging them to continue interacting with and promoting your association.

The most successful membership managers practice these 11 habits.

Topics: Associations, Member Engagement, Marketing Automation, Online Community

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