Did you know there are nine separate ways you can communicate with your members? Most associations use the obvious – email, face-to-face and mail. A few more use phone, social media and video. Very few use audio, sending gifts and chatbots. 

People do business with people they know, like and trust, and if you’re not communicating with your members in a way that has value and meaning TO THEM, then you’re going to have a few issues. It fascinates me how many associations tell me they use email as the main communication tool, yet their email open rate hovers around 30%. This means you’re sending information out to your members, not actually communicating with them, given information needs to be received for it to have been communicated.

Each of these mediums creates a different emotional reaction – think about how you feel when you receive an email vs a gift for example.

How can you integrate a couple of these new-to-you communication methods into your member communication mix?

9 ways to communicate with your members

1. Email

Email seems to be the most common way organisations communicate these days. Love them or hate them, they seem to be on the rise, with the average office worker receiving over 120 emails A DAY! It’s no wonder so many of us have our finger constantly on the delete button! A common complaint I hear is that associations are sending out too many emails from too many channels – this seems to be a particular challenge for federated associations who send out member emails at the state and federal level.

2. Face-to-face

One of the most powerful forms of member communication is face-to-face. Richard Stokes, Executive Director of the Australian Boarding Schools Association, has a policy of meeting face-to-face with each of his members every three years. No mean feat given they are spread around Australia. He is obviously doing something right as his association has 100% membership.

3. Mail

I don’t know about you, but I get quite excited when I get something in the mail that isn’t in an envelope with a window! How often do you send a hand-written or hand-signed thank you card to your members saying thanks for joining or renewing?

4. Phone

How often do you pick up the phone and talk to your members? I’m not talking about the times you want something from them, such as when it’s renewal time (!), but when you pick it up to say hello. Can you divide your membership list among your senior leadership team and Board so a member receives a personal phone call once a year? A personal phone call saying welcome to our association or thank you for renewing is a very powerful way of making your members feel valued.

5. Social media

It appals me how few associations use social media. While there are no stats, the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report tells us fewer than 50% of Australian small and medium-sized businesses use social media. compare this to 79% of Australians who use it. If you’re targeting members or potential members in the 18-29 year age bracket, 99% of them are using social media, with 81% on Instagram and 77% on Snapchat. It’s a great way to have conversations with your members and truly engage with them, so they can get to know, like and trust you.

6. Video

Video is becoming increasingly important as a communication tool and is one of the best ways to get your message across to your audience. By 2019, video will be the driving factor behind 85% of search traffic. It’s an excellent way to build trust and to show authenticity. Apps such as Bonjoro use video to help you customise and personalise your member onboarding.  

7. Audio

According to entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, the future of communication is audio and voice. Audio and streaming is up 76% year on year and consumers are screaming out for audio content. The rise of voice technology such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa is increasing, with very few associations taking advantage. Recently the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons created an Alexa Skill to allow members to authenticate once, and then interact via Alexa to ask questions regarding their membership and conference registration. Their members loved it as it saved them from having to always log into the association’s website.

8. Gift

How often do you send a gift to your members? I’m not talking about something with your association logo plastered all over it, but something genuinely thoughtful they can use. Do you have a process to send a gift to your junior members when they graduate from university for example? Or your senior members when they commemorate 20 years of membership?

9. Chatbot

Chatbots are one of the newer forms of communication and an excellent way to engage with members. A chatbot provides an excellent way to simplify your new member onboarding. For example, you could create a bot that asks why the member has joined, and then send them updates when you launch events they have expressed an interest in.

Which of these forms of communication do you use with your members?

Mel Kettle works with associations, not-for-profits and businesses to help them communicate effectively and authentically so they attract, retain and engage their members and customers. To inquire about working with Mel, please email mel@melkettle.com or call her on 0404 600 889.

Order a signed copy of Mel’s book, The Social Association – 5 key skills not-for-profits need to increase member engagement, generate ROI and create a thriving online community, published in February 2018.

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