Archive for January, 2021

Three Ways to Boost Membership Renewal With Video

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Looking for ways to increase membership renewal in 2021? Sounds like a plan. And adding video to that plan could help make your association a renewal superpower.

Our whole lives became video based at the start of the pandemic, and the value of video has become much more apparent anecdotally and quantitatively since then. Why is video so powerful? Because it increases engagement, participation, value, and community, said Gather Voices CEO Michael Hoffman in a recent webinar on using the medium to boost member renewals.

But it’s important to have a plan. Seventy-eight percent of associations that have seen an improvement in renewals state they have a tactical plan to increase engagement, according to Marketing General Incorporated’s 2020 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report [PDF].

Keep It Real

Video may seem expensive, glitzy, and out of reach, but it doesn’t have to be. Especially now, in this moment, authenticity is key, Hoffman said. The most resonant videos are not highly produced but are simple segments featuring real people talking about their real experiences.

“Engagement is about creating something new and letting members be the star of the show,” he said. And that emphasis on real people and real stories is good news because it means expensive production companies are not necessary. You can use inexpensive tools like Zoom recordings to build up your video library.

When you ask a member to share their experience in a video, that person’s story becomes a powerful testimonial that will influence others. Just asking for it creates a different relationship between the member and the organization: It says, “We value you. We value your experience, and we want to know about it,” Hoffman said.

Three Platforms

Hoffman recommends using video to boost membership renewal on these platforms:

Website. The average user spends 88 percent more time on a website with video. When your members spend more time on your association’s website viewing video content featuring their fellow members, their sense of community and belonging increases because they see themselves reflected in real people sharing their experiences, rather than brand messaging.

Social media. Incorporating video into social media messaging creates deeper engagement and greater retention of content. People remember 95 percent of a message viewed in a video compared to only 10 percent in text. And 85 percent of marketers say video is an effective way to get attention online.

Email. Email is the main tactic associations use to connect with members for renewal. Putting the word video in the subject line of an email doubles open rates and increases click-through rates by two to three times.

Video on websites, social media, and email leads to member engagement by making campaigns and communications perform better across channels. The good news: This doesn’t have to be a major—or expensive—production. Video enhances the platforms you are already using to increase click-throughs, engagement, and conversion.

It’s important to remember however, that video is not a strategy. “Video is a tool, and your strategy is your value proposition, your messaging, your targeting, and your communications plan,” Hoffman said. The beginning of a new year is as good time a time as any to assess whether you’re using all the tools at your disposal—including video—to carry out your member retention strategy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post Three Ways to Boost Membership Renewal With Video appeared first on Associations Now.

The State of Email: Five Email Trends to Watch in 2021

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

From visual tricks to added interactivity to integrating user-generated content, there are a lot of ways for associations to leverage the power of email in 2021. Read on to catch up on the latest trends.

Even with all the options out there—video, social media, immersive websites—email has remained one of the most important ways for associations to reach their members.

But competition is fierce, as plenty of other organizations’ newsletters are fighting for your readers’ attention first thing in the morning. (According to one study, the average person gets more than 120 business emails each day.)

To stand out, you need to be willing to try new things. Here are five email trends that associations should keep an eye on, and potentially experiment with, in the year to come:

1. Interactive elements

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but it remains true: Email is often constrained by email clients’ limited parameters, which means that the boundaries of what the medium can do will only stretch so far.

While tools like AMP for Email have promised progress, these offerings are still years away from being widely used.

But digital marketers still have plenty of options. A blog post from Email on Acid notes that interactive techniques such as image rollovers, quizzes, and even surveys add panache and are compatible with many platforms. (Email on Acid even mentions a scratch-off-style effect, in case you really want to get fancy.) These snazzy tactics are possible in many email clients, particularly Apple Mail-based clients and even Gmail. But if your users are stuck with Microsoft Outlook, they may miss out.

“Always provide a fallback image or design for subscribers opening your email on a mobile device or a client that doesn’t support interactive elements,” writes Hanna Kuznietsova, the chief content officer at Stripo.email.

2. Workflow optimization

Whether it’s a matter of curating content more efficiently, automating the use of data to personalize messages, or optimizing processes so building messages takes less time, there are ways to make your email production workflow less painful.

In a blog post for the email provider MailerLite, email marketer Kevin George recommends creating content calendars for messages that aren’t automated, while building out multiple workflows for the various kinds of emails that are.

“When defining the email production workflow, make sure you account for the different types of email campaigns and automated workflows you have set up for them individually,” writes George, of the custom email design firm Email Uplers. “This will help you nurture opportunities thoroughly and allow you to cater to the needs of the target audience without compromising on the quality or speed of the campaigns.”

3. The rise of dark mode

While not widespread in emails yet, dark mode—a low-light version of an operating-system interface—has gained popularity in many computer operating systems, including MacOS, Android, and iOS.

Since Apple has been a driving force behind this trend, dark-mode functionality has translated to email clients as well—and as Litmus reports, Apple’s support for dark mode in its desktop and iOS email clients has helped to build momentum for such support in email messages. Heck, even the mobile versions of Gmail and Outlook support it now.

While not a necessity—certainly, you’ve gotten by without it until now—dark mode can help avoid rendering issues for users who have the feature turned on. It’s also a boon for accessibility.

“One of the biggest benefits of Dark Mode is its assistance with reducing eye strain for users in low-light conditions or for other personal reasons,” Litmus’ Alice Li writes. “If your subscribers are making that conscious decision to view emails in dark mode, it’s best to respect that.”

Plus, adding such support helps prevent Google or Microsoft from doing it for you—and, in the process, messing up your hard work.

4. The growing popularity of web fonts

Much like dark mode and interactive elements, web fonts aren’t everywhere, so you need some fallbacks. But where they do exist—particularly clients like iOS Mail and Thunderbird—they stand out.

“Web fonts can be used for many things from enhancing the aesthetic beauty of an email to setting the mood for your message,” the email provider Emma writes in a blog post. “After all, communication is not just about the message, but it also involves how the message is conveyed. And for written media like email, looks (yes, including typography) enhance your message.”

While web fonts do not yet have universal support, designing for them now can supply a more elegant look for a surprising number of users, particularly those on mobile clients.

5. A push for user-generated content

Emails promote your association’s messages, but incorporating voices beyond your own can be a cost-effective way to spur engagement. It can be easier and less costly than building out visuals in your emails, and engaging with individuals beyond social media can impart intimacy.

“Social networks have become the go-to place for people to post about the brands they love,” Stackla’s Megan DeGruttola writes on the Campaign Monitor blog. “But, to amplify the collective enthusiasm of your customers’ social posts, you need to start cultivating that community beyond social platforms.”

Thanks to their member communities, associations are well positioned to leverage user-generated content. This base creates a loop: Associations can draw on their members’ perspectives and showcase them through activations like regular polls and prompts for members to share their thoughts, and in turn that content encourages ongoing engagement.

This is the first part of a three-part email series. In part two, we’ll discuss what it takes to add automation to your email workflow. And in part three, we’ll highlight a real-world example of an association finding success with email.

The post The State of Email: Five Email Trends to Watch in 2021 appeared first on Associations Now.

Membership Pro Tip: Member Orientation Webinars

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

A series of recorded member orientation webinars helps introduce an association to members who don’t typically come to its events, creates microvolunteering opportunities, and attracts new—and sometimes elusive—members.

How does it work? The United Fresh Produce Association saw an upside to Zoom and created a series of recorded member orientation webinars featuring members who talked about their membership journey. Specifically picking members who had not seen the value of the association previously but had a transformative experience to share made a big difference, says Miriam Wolk, CAE, vice president of member services at United Fresh.

“We figured people who were watching the video were on the fence, and so it would be good to hear from someone who was also at one point on the fence,” she says. “It makes a big difference in their willingness to be involved.”

Why is it effective? “Video captures more of the senses than just a two-dimensional marketing piece or even a website,” Wolk says. A company she had tried to engage for more than 12 years joined United Fresh after watching one of the recorded webinars.

What’s the benefit? Participating in the webinars gives members a chance to microvolunteer, without the lengthy commitment of serving on a committee. The webinars also give young professionals, who might not have a chance to attend a large conference or event, an opportunity for professional development.

“It gives rise to a whole new generation of members,” Wolk says.

 

The post Membership Pro Tip: Member Orientation Webinars appeared first on Associations Now.

After a Year of Free, How to Reset Your Pricing for 2021

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

While the pandemic led many associations to offer free education and events as a way to best support members in 2020, now is the time for organizations to re-evaluate their pricing strategy to ensure sustainable revenue.

With 2021 upon us and a vaccine slowly rolling out, associations are starting to move out of the pandemic pricing mode and into a post-pandemic normal. But many are wondering what pricing should look like this year. Michael Tatonetti, CPP, CAE, a consultant who specializes in association pricing, said organizations should move away from the discounts that marked 2020.

“I think discounting and knee-jerk reactions to make everything free need to stay in 2020,” he said. “I understand that for 2020, we wanted to get the right education to our members. That’s noble, but moving forward, it’s not sustainable financially. It can undervalue you if you eventually decide to do hybrid [events] or if we go back to in person.”

Tatonetti recommends starting fresh this year and looking at all pricing to ensure it makes sense.

“Now is a good time to reevaluate the value, and not just for events and sponsorship, but for membership and education, certification, publications, everything we offer—whatever those offerings are,” Tatonetti said. “The best associations will keep price and value conversations in step with their strategic planning, asking not only what value they provide to their members, sponsors, and the public, but how will they monetize it.”

Monetizing will typically require charging something other than free. Associations can decide that price by aligning it with the value of their offerings.

“Sit back and ask, what is the value? What are we charging? What is the strategy?” Tatonetti said. “When we get into conversations about value, we are actually having a conversation about innovation because we are saying, what else can we do? How else can we serve? What new things should we be doing? What should we stop doing? Is there anything that is no longer of value that we can sunset?”

While it’s important to get pricing right, some associations may be wondering how to get members to accept the new pricing model after months of free events and other products. The answer is simple: communicate value.

Whether in sales copy or videos, according to Tatonetti, “you need to clearly hit on membership value, sponsor value, and make sure you are clearly communicating that.”

Tatonetti said it’s also important to remind members that 2020 was an outlier due to the pandemic, and now the association is returning to a sustainable model.

“You can say, our goal for 2020 was to make sure you had what you needed,” he said. “As we move forward in 2021, we can now breathe and make sure the value matches what you need and that our association and our community can have financial sustainability.”

In addition, Tatonetti recommended mentioning that the free offerings were possible “because of your membership dues, because you spent money on conferences before, because of our great sponsors. Now, we’re going to continue to offer these amazing things, and continue to grow into other things, and because of that, membership is going up, or the cost of certification is going up, or whatever it is that is going up is going up. I think if you communicate well, that will minimize—it doesn’t mean you won’t have any complaints—but it will minimize the complaints.”

However, if members do complain about price changes, Tatonetti said “it’s important to capture those complaints. Document them, categorize them, and evaluate them a few months out. That will teach you how to communicate better next time.”

The good news is that small price increases can significantly improve the bottom line. For example, if a product costs an association $40 and it sells it for $50, that results in a $10 profit. Raising the price to $52 would boost profit by 20 percent.

“The price raise typically has a way heavier impact on your bottom line,” he said. “We might think the price is only going up 1 percent, but that might impact 5 percent of the bottom line when you look at your costs.”

The key thing is to have those pricing conversations now and start introducing those changes with proper communication. “As we do come back to some level of normal, now is the time to introduce some new things, and try some new things, and reprice a bit because it’s almost expected,” Tatonetti said.

What are your plans regarding pricing this year? Share in the comments.

 

The post After a Year of Free, How to Reset Your Pricing for 2021 appeared first on Associations Now.

Four Social Media Basics to Take Into 2021

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

It’s easy to get into the weeds when crafting an effective social media approach. But before you get in too deep, make sure you’re getting the basics right. Here are four to follow.

If you wanted to, you could spend weeks researching social media trends in great depth. But after a tough 2020, that level of detail might be a little much.

So to start off 2021, we’d like to take a back-to-basics approach to social media. If you’re following these general approaches, you’re probably on the right track. Nail these—then focus on the more complex stuff.

LinkedIn: A Tool for Lead Generation

As a network targeting businesses, the Microsoft-owned LinkedIn has a more focused approach than some other social networks (and its dedicated paid premium version reflects this framework).

For that reason, beyond its traditional use as a “living resume,” LinkedIn may be best thought of as a way to help build new leads and conversions. The company even added a new feature to its Pages platform recently that adds a call-to-action (CTA) that can be used to generate signups, downloads, or other goals.

“You can add links to take visitors from your company’s LinkedIn Page to an off-LinkedIn CTA site right now,” Rishi Jobanputra, LinkedIn’s senior director of product management for Pages, recently told PC Magazine. “But we felt it important to add a directly accessible and customizable CTA capability to Product Pages because our data tells us users see a very steep attrition rate when they move visitors to another site.”

That’s not the only strategy for lead generation, either. Marketing expert Neil Patel has an array of other suggestions that associations can leverage on LinkedIn.

Twitter: Good Timing, Strong Visuals

The past few years have proven that Twitter, traditionally a second fiddle to Facebook, still has a place in the social media landscape.

A big part of that is Twitter users’ ability to draw attention by jumping into the conversation. A consistent record of replies goes a long way, and a willingness to leap on a viral thread or trending topic with a well-timed comment or reply can be an effective way to stand out.

“It seems like Twitter sees a new viral topic every other day. Your brand can capitalize on this by participating in trending conversations and topics relevant to your industry or your company,” wrote Jacqueline Zote on the SproutSocial blog. “This helps you gain visibility with people who have yet to [follow] you on Twitter, which then paves the way for more engagement.” (Of course, the flip side of a real-time, high-engagement platform is that you can more easily fall into a gaffe on Twitter than on some other social networks.)

Another strong element of Twitter success comes down to having effective visuals that encourage storytelling. Twitter recently added a feature called Fleets, which are akin to Instagram Stories, offering a new way to stand out.

Facebook: Groups vs. Pages

If you were trying to reach an audience on Facebook half a decade ago, you might have found yourself reliant on curating an effective page with daily content that your readers could interact with.

In the past few years, however, the pendulum has swung back in favor of groups—one of Facebook’s earliest features but increasingly one of its most important. After years of letting the feature sort of fade out, the company has started to put more focus on it than pages, even creating tools for advertising through Groups. Groups allow marketers to nurture a narrower community than a more broad-based page might.

While Groups can naturally create competition with existing association offerings, such as private communities, they can also come in handy for helping to curate a niche or to help strengthen a community that didn’t previously have a solid platform. In some cases, Facebook groups have even become the starting points for nonprofit groups, with one notable example being Women of Email.

But even if pages no longer have the level of reach they once did, they remain an important element of any social strategy—though you may need to change your approach to something less about clicking on a link and more about teaching your audience.

Instagram: Sell the Story

A well-curated Instagram page can go a long way for associations, especially when it tells a story that goes beyond the surface level.

In a blog post for Hootsuite, writer Christina Newberry recommends taking a variety of approaches to help hit your audience, including behind-the-scenes posts, videos, and quote-driven images.

“Instagram is a visual medium, so your posts have simply got to look great,” she wrote. “You don’t need professional photography equipment, but your photos and videos do need to be sharp, well-lit, well-composed, and in focus, at a minimum.”

Newberry also recommends building an aesthetic around your account, so people know what to expect from your messages. That kind of consistency—both from photo posts and stories—can help draw others in.

Get this stuff right, and you might just be on the way to social media success.

The post Four Social Media Basics to Take Into 2021 appeared first on Associations Now.