Customer experience has become big business for brands across all industries. More than a transaction, customers derive value from the journey that got them there – the lifestyle, culture, and community surrounding a brand.
Why the focus on ‘experience’? Companies that create superior customer experiences connect emotionally with consumers, which builds valuable, lasting loyalty in a world of fickle buyers. These brands retain consumers, and those consumers act as their brand ambassadors.
Put simply, focusing on experience is smart marketing. Often, though, shifting to focus on experience requires culture change at the organizational level. That can be especially true in the membership and professional association sector, where many organizations are just beginning to grasp the advantage of membership experience management.
For years, the traditional value proposition for membership associations has been about providing more: more content, more events, more products, more communication. More, more, more doesn’t always help you attract and retain new members.
Change starts by asking: What’s the holistic member experience? How can you put members at the center—and create more value through emotional connection?
The member journey
To manage the member experience, you need to understand the member journey. This describes how someone decides to become a member—and keep renewing. Though the methods and strategies of engagement are evolving, engagement fundamentally happens in an ongoing way through content, communication, and events.
Most associations are focusing on improving engagement, but that’s only part of the member experience.
Dialing in and looking at the member journey lets you see where members decide to renew—or not. If there seems to be a specific precipice when members drop off, such as a certification exam or typical career stage, it’s important to know this so that your organization can create value that reverses this churn. Awareness of your touchpoints can also help you determine if you’re overwhelming your membership with events or communication volume—or if you’re truly easy to work with as an organization and staff.
Transformation from transactional to emotional
Transformation in customer experience happens when a relationship moves from being transactional to emotional. Put another way, that means that a member stops weighing events and discounts against the annual cost and starts thinking of your association as integral to his or her career and network. Buying anything becomes easier for consumers when the conversation is about value rather than features.
For membership and professional associations, reimagining where members derive value—and how that value translates into loyalty—is the beginning of creating and successfully managing the membership experience. The process starts with a clearer picture of the member journey, its successes, and its shortfalls.