Most people like being “regulars.” When you walk into your favorite coffee shop, and the barista greets you warmly, starts preparing the usual for you, and asks how your daughter’s big soccer tournament went, doesn’t it make you feel good? The feeling of being known and cared for is universally appreciated, even if it’s on a small level.
Many membership organizations are facing a challenge right now. And it comes down to making members feel like regulars in a quickly-evolving digital world.
Norms are changing, and members expect the same thing, a personalized experience, from you too. When we have voice-activated Alexas and bathroom scales that know our names, it’s not surprising. Sending one email to all association members is one way to reach them – but that’s not personal or tailored to their interests, and you can be sure they know that.
Creating a personalized experience for your members is essential if you want to attract and retain members in today’s engagement economy. But there’s one slight problem. In order to provide your members with a personalized experience, you need to know what they’re interested in, and then send them related content.
What's the best way to create that personal encounter for members? Create an omnichannel engagement strategy.
What’s an Omnichannel Engagement Strategy? An omnichannel engagement strategy is a cross-channel content strategy organizations use to create a personalized experience for members. Using this approach, behavioral data about each member’s activity from engagement software, like marketing automation and/or online community, informs and tailors the content members receive, based on their unique interests.
With an omnichannel approach to engagement, you can improve your members’ overall satisfaction and perception of your association’s value, improving your retention and acquisition. Increasing your members' engagement with personalized experience is the goal.
There are four essential steps to take before you’ll be able to create this omnichannel engagement strategy, beginning with, of course, pulling the data you need:
- Gather behavioral data.
- Break down data silos.
- Segment members.
- Personalize your content.
Let’s start with the first step.
1. Gather behavioral data.
Creating a personalized experience for your members depends on data – lots and lots of data.
The good news is that with engagement tools, it’s relatively easy to find out your members’ preferences. If you use any type of engagement tool already, like marketing automation or online community software, you’re already collecting what you need.
Every time members click or interact with your content on these channels, they volunteer tons of data about their needs and interests.
For example, if a member consistently participates in a community discussion thread about mentoring, that data indicates an area of interest. If they click on links in your automated email campaigns about the same topic, you’re doubly clued in to reach out to them about mentoring.
If you already use engagement tools, the next step will be important.
2. Break down data silos.
At this point, you’ve checked “gather data” off your list. But the next thing you’ll need is connection between the platforms.
If you bring these separate data sources into one unified structure, you’ll be that much closer to creating… drum-roll, please… the omnichannel experience. The only way to do this effectively is to integrate your channels.
Instead of seeing your separate software platforms as just that, separate, think of them as rowers in a boat, all pulling towards the same goal. If they’re integrated, they’re sending their data back to the same source, winning the race as one team.
Your website, marketing automation, and online community software need to be part of one cohesive ecosystem so that you can use their data effectively.
Learn more about integration: Integrate for Success: 3 Sweet Results of AMS Integrations
3. Segment members.
Once you have an integrated platform, your data can inform your segmentation efforts. You may segment your lists already to some degree; for example, maybe you send certain emails to all your members who are in your volunteer pool. But with the specific data points you’ve collected, your segments can become more precise.
Thankfully, this segmentation isn’t by hand – the software can help you with this. And in the future, with a little help from our friends, artificial intelligence and machine learning, you’ll have technology-fueled abilities like predicting content members would enjoy. But that’s a bigger conversation – and much of artificial intelligence in this area is still in the works.
Learn more about segmentation: Why You Should Be Segmenting Your Members by Data, Rather than Type
4. Personalize your content.
Once you’ve created those very specific segments, it’s time to personalize your content. With that member who liked mentoring, this might look like creating an automated email campaign about mentoring, nudging them and any other interested members to sign up for the mentoring program in the community. Next, try retargeting an ad to them on your website that reminds them to register for the program.
Can you see how this is becoming an omnichannel experience? Based on the clicks and engagement they’ve exhibited on your website, online community, or automated email campaigns, you’re able to tailor the content they receive so it becomes hyper-personalized. And the more data you have from members on their interests, the more tailored the content they receive.
How It Works in Practice
Let’s look at the process as a whole:
- You distribute content through your channels (whether it’s an automated campaign, your website, or online community)
- Your members click and interact with your content, creating data about their interests and preferences
- All this data is collected in one central database
- Artificial intelligence helps process the data, and your members are segmented by interests
- You use this insight to craft more personal and relevant communications
- Members increase clicks and interactions due to relevance of content
As this process is continuously repeated, you’re able to provide more and more tailored content, creating a more personal experience for members, and improving their engagement, satisfaction, and sense of value from your organization. Magic!
The Bottom Line: It’s All About Getting Personal
As this process continues, the relevance of your members’ experience grows as you use software to gather and analyze their behavioral data.
With this data at your fingertips, you can send personalized, tailored, relevant communication to your members, engaging them with the right content, in the right place, at the right time, while also collecting more data from their interactions to further improve and tailor this content. If you want to make them feel like regulars, then getting your omnichannel engagement strategy in place should be a number one priority.
Before you get overwhelmed by the prospect of overhauling your current communications strategy, don't worry. You can start small. We've got nine low-cost member engagement strategies you can use to get started, available below (no email needed).