Personalization is at the core of any successful member engagement strategy. Reintroducing the human touch in omnichannel is a powerful way to connect and engage during moments that matter most.
In the dynamic, impersonal digital age, humans naturally crave digital experiences that energize our core being and inner world. The same "human experience" is what your members and constituents expect (and deserve!) throughout the digital journey.
Compelling, relevant, and timely storytelling is how you satisfy that desire for intentional, personalized interaction. It's not just “what” though, but also “how" to roll out a truly dynamic personalization strategy for member engagement.
Let's explore what personalization is, the benefits and challenges, and how it brings continuous value to your organization and membership, in a variety of different ways.
Member Engagement, Then & Now
Before we had such robust technology and marketing techniques, we’d rely on assumptions and industry experience when crafting our engagement campaigns. To a certain extent, this meant generalizing the thoughts, needs, behaviors, and goals of our members.
Then came the “persona” approach in which we’d segment our audience into groups based on their engagements, job title, location, and other factors. Then we’d tailor our messaging to speak to that member persona.
Based on their responses, we’d tag or categorize them and continuously segment members and refine our campaigns over time. It was about defining the “type of individual” that characterized each persona group.
Sounds good, right? Not exactly.
The “user” on the other side of the screen is a human who wants to be treated as such. Your members all have unique preferences, motivations, goals, pain points, and passions. Each is a different character in a different storybook.
Membership associations, non-profits, and professional societies today have a deep trove of content, learning and certification courses, journal articles, research, discounts, benefit plans, and more. This content, along with an integrated technology and data strategy, can help you unlock the magic of communication across trusted digital channels.
Personas vs. Personalization
Across industries and especially in professional societies and member-based organizations, consumers want enduring digital interactions that resonate with their authentic human condition. Personas are limited in that they only give you a theoretical look at who your member ‘might’ be, not an inside view of each member’s storybook, while personalization delivers a one-to-one experience for each user and website visitor.
Personalization and personas both involve a certain level of segmentation, but the key difference is specificity. Segmentation allows you to create content and campaigns for specific personas groups, while personalization looks more in-depth within each segment to target individuals and understand what differentiates each member.
Strides in technology and data analysis have made it easy to ditch outdated engagement strategies like persona-based messaging, broadly segmented campaigns, and (worst yet) uniform content blasts. And yet, in the dynamic digital age, our member interactions continue to be less human and more impersonal.
The Elevated “Human Experience”
To unleash the true alchemy of communication and member engagement, we must shift away from a transactional mentality and consider the entire lifecycle of each individual member – from the mentality of “customer experience” to the “human experience.”
We can’t just say: if members at this stage in their career, they want this, or if they visit this web page, they must want that. Assuming all users follow the linear path mapped out for them is the quickest way to derail trust and the perceived value of your organization. It indicates zero actual data analysis, a lot of guesswork, and minimal, if any, care and effort to connect on an individual level.
The member journey is like any consumer journey today: it's supercritical and hyper-personal. Keeping members engaged requires that we turn the flimsy firehose of generalized content into a sprinkler system of highly personalized communications.
Leveling up your member engagement strategy doesn’t entail blindly gathering personal information from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party data sources. It means paying attention to what members actually do (like their behaviors, purchases, and web page visits). And then translating this individual engagement data into zones of insight. And aggregating this insight to inform subsequent outreach, communications, and product offerings.
As we move towards more authentic human roots in our member engagement strategies, we must continuously shrink the distance between the organization and each individual user.
Member engagement is an ongoing initiative to attract, engage, and retain members. A winning engagement strategy delivers personalized experiences and consistent value at scale. It entails continuously translating strategic goals and individual behavior into actionable initiatives.
Instead of catering to the “average user” or “typical persona,” we must leverage personalization to create enduring human experiences across channels and touchpoints in real-time. This means automating digital interactions at scale to the right individual, at the right moment through smooth, instant, meaningful action.
Putting Personalization in Action
While this all sounds great and dandy, the magic of predictive personalization isn’t superhuman. Getting it in place takes a combo of strategy, process, creativity, and technology.
It requires you to analyze data on the spot and make dynamic decisions and feedback loops for continuous learning and improvement. And you need the ability to automate personalized content and "preemptive" recommendations for that individual user, in the right context, and at the right touchpoint. All while upholding privacy, consumer expectations, and digital trust.
Challenge #1 - Overcoming the trust gap in a privacy-first world
Data is THE currency in today’s data economy. It's also the key to personalization. People need to trust you to give up their personal data. Personalization goes nowhere without trust. So, boosting member engagement starts with trust.
Many folks are going the extra mile to build trust and connection with user-directed personalization. The intent is to give users more control over their personalization preferences in a safe, systematic, and secure way. Essentially, you let each member tell you what they want and how to meet their needs.
Challenge #2 - Getting your data connected and flowing
So if you have data in silos across two, three, or eight different systems that barely talk to one another, you'll get nowhere. You can't put personalization into action if your data isn’t capable of “talking” to the relevant smart analytics and data modeling tool. Without centralizing your information and/or integrating your systems, you're left blind.
Challenge #3 - Integrating continuous improvement
Continuous monitoring and improvement are how you save the most time and money and produce a greater and greater ROI on engagement initiatives. Investing in continuous improvement is how you get the most out of your investments in marketing, outreach, IT, research and development, and beyond.
Keep an eye on personalization sequences and A/B test. Then make small, systematic adjustments to get closer and closer to the individual. With each member engagement, you want to deliver greater value and more impact.
Challenge #4 - Putting it in Action
Personalized insights are pointless without action. Good news is, we live in the digital economy where tech is more accessible than ever before. You don’t need to be super tech-savvy to collect personalized clues and execute individual strategies at scale.
Pretty much any organization can make use of marketing automation and transformative technologies like AI and cloud systems are growing exponentially.
Predictive Personalization = Data Analytics + Targeted Outreach → Continuous Member Engagement
A number of digital experience platforms and content management systems offer “predictive personalization” or “data-driven personalization” as a core value proposition. So too do leading engagement tools like email AI-powered “auto-personalization” platform rasa.io.
These tools make it much easier to integrate predictive personalization into your member engagement strategy.
8 Benefits of Personalized Member Engagement
Here are a few strategic goals that you could achieve by implementing predictive personalization and crafting one-to-one, human-centric engagements.
Benefit #1 - Retain more members
When it comes to renewing membership, there are those individuals who may only renew because they were targeted. Then there are those who would have renewed whether they were targeted or not. You also have members who won't renew irrespective of targeting, and others who would be less likely to renew because they were targeted.
Predictive personalization allows you to gather insight into the best time, channels and messaging for each at-risk member. The end result of this approach is less time and money spent on ineffective outreach, better retention of targeted members, and improved engagement in your organization.
Benefit #2 - Recruit new members
Predictive analytics techniques also allow you to gauge who is likely to become a member in the future based on their types and level of engagement. Over time, you can even develop a better understanding of how to engage certain types of potential new members.
Benefit #3 - Recommend likely purchases
Personalization allows you to take a more holistic and personalized approach to member engagement. Use this insight to determine which products, events, or courses they’re most likely to purchase or participate in, and learn when and how to engage these members (email, phone call, SMS, glossy mailer, the best sequence of outreach, etc.).
Benefit #4 - Participation in education/certification programs
Get a clearer understanding of what contributes to the likelihood of participation in your credentialing courses and professional development programs for individual members. Then develop personalized engagement campaigns for potential participants.
Combining predictive personalization with continuous improvement is a great way to discover opportunities for new products and solutions and build more personalized membership offerings.
Benefit #5 - Increase event attendance
Data from past events paint a picture of the likelihood of future event attendance. Predictive personalization insights use multilevel analytics to make sense of a range of complex datasets, bringing to light behavioral indicators favorable and unfavorable to attendance.
Understanding the likelihood of attendance and the specific variables or reasoning for that prediction gives you a wealth of insight to craft strategic outreach campaigns.
There are some people who you may be able to sway into attending. Others you shouldn't waste time on. You also know how to (and how not to) focus your efforts and allocate your marketing budget and time to pull in new attendees that would otherwise fall through the cracks.
You can even use predictive analytics to use member data to build a better event and ensure members are getting what they want from every session of your event.
Benefit #6 - Retain event exhibitors & sponsors
Similarly, you could prompt recurring participation by predicting exhibitor and sponsor churn and the reasons for this prediction. Then you’d strategically send individualized outreach campaigns to bring exhibitors and sponsors back into the fold.
Benefit #7 - Recurring donations
Use AI-powered predictive modeling to predict and maximize future donations on an individual basis. Then determine the best engagement strategies and follow-up sequence for individual donors to increase recurring donations.
Benefit #8 - Member Engagement Scoring
Engagement can mean different things to people across your association. So historically, member engagement scoring has been based on intuition.
For example, membership people may prioritize membership renewals, whereas marketers may look at newsletter subscriptions when calculating member engagement scores. Event people, on the other hand, may focus on event attendance and the number of sessions attended. In other words, member engagement scoring has traditionally been subjective.
Instead of debating the activities and behaviors that should be considered and the number of points to designate for each, personalization uses data analytics to see what's happening and what’s important. So "member engagement scoring" becomes data-driven and linked to a specific outcome.
Predictive personalization is like member engagement scoring on steroids because it’s more personalized, data-driven, objective, and goal-oriented.
Member engagement is related to a specific outcome and the behaviors that led to that outcome. The metrics used to score member engagement aren’t determined through assumptions and debating the weight of different types of engagements. Instead, the metrics of engagement are the key indicators of behavior for a specific organizational goal.
Takeaways for Personalized Member Engagement
Here are the key takeaways to remember to keep members engaged and active in your association:
- Ongoing differentiation based on personalized behavior and AI-driven decision-making drive long-term member engagement.
- Advanced analytics delivers tailor-made insights for the unique challenges of members.
- Predictive personalization improves member engagement by focusing on the value your membership offerings and campaigns deliver to each unique member.
To dip into the gold mine of data intelligence you’re sitting on right now, you need to be able to make sense of the data across your different systems. And you need to be able to turn that insight into personalized action in real-time. If you’re ready to kick your member engagement strategy into high gear, let's talk.