Professional associations continue to play an essential role in business.
More than anyone else, they offer relevant continuing professional education, industry-specific qualifications, and can help create a real community in potentially niche arenas.
That said, they’re also facing the same challenges of legacy organizations everywhere – how to keep up with their members in the changing face of business.
We put together a quick guide for what we hope to see from professional associations going forward. We think these tips will help organizations keep their audience engaged and keep their enrollment numbers high.
Go to Where the People Are
The first thing professional associations have to do is go to where their members are. This means actively engaging online, on social media, and producing content specifically useful to their member base.
But more than that, it means possessing an amazing mobile experience.
More and more people across the board are engaging via mobile instead of desktops, so organizations no longer have the luxury of assuming that whatever they produce will be see on a large screen.
To give you an example, think about e-newsletters as an email communications tool. It is absolutely essential that organizations be sending out communications in a responsive format. Anything else simply won’t get the engagement that you need to keep your membership up.
But that’s just one small step to take. For professional associations to truly leverage digital technology, they must fully embrace going mobile. And we don’t mean just having a responsive email template and a mobile site.
For professional associations to go where their audience is, they need to get into the app game.
Why Professional Associations Need to Have Apps
This is really an extension of our ‘go where your audience is’ theme, but there are a few trends worth mentioning here:
- The app experience is increasingly the standard.
- People now expect organizations to provide a seamless mobile experience – the easiest way to do that is with an app.
- Push notifications and their ilk are now an essential communications channel, especially with wearable devices creeping into the mainstream.
- More time than ever is being spent on mobile devices, and the majority of that time is spent in apps.
For professional associations to continue to connect and engage with their audiences, we believe they’re going to have to provide an amazing mobile experience, and the best way to do that is with an app.
It can be a simple app that your members can download and be privy to fantastic specific content, or it can be tied your events calendar, or continuing educational programs.
There are plenty of options out there for ambitious associations seeking to improve their member engagement.
Professional Association Apps – Best Practices
These are going to be unique to each and every professional association, but there are some general best practices that we think all associations can follow.
Segmented audiences and content
One advantage that professional associations have over other organizations is that they have a mountain of user data already. This provides a fantastic opportunity for them to deliver timely, relevant content by segmenting audiences.
For example, imagine you could segment audiences by when people signed up to your organization. That way, you could drip-feed different types of content and guide your members through a story of relevant industry updates.
People who had been members for years could receive more in-depth information, while new signups could get more basic building blocks.
This is just one way that segment data can help you deliver better content.
We believe push notifications have the ability to ‘push’ an app over the edge from ‘barely useful’ to ‘I can’t live without it.’
And professional association apps are no different.
To truly embrace the role of community builder and facilitator, professional associations need to embrace push notifications. They’re a fantastic way to nudge users towards your particular offering and keep them abreast with top updates.
For example, if you have a conference coming up, you could use push notifications to help drive people to buy tickets on your site or in your app.
Elegant registration processes
Membership signup and retention are the bread and butter for many professional associations.
Membership is the engine that powers the whole show. It’s also a major sticking point, as every provider of ASM software will tell you.
The challenge is that:
- You’re asking for something, often in exchange for money
- The value derived from membership is often not clear, and slow to accumulate
- The signup process is usually extensive
While these are structural challenges that no amount of technology can overcome outright, apps can absolutely streamline the process.
If registration is wrapped in an app, users are provided with format and process that they’re familiar with.
Second, registration can be dripped out over a longer period of time, instead of front-loading the user’s time. This lowers the activation cost, making signup easier.
The objectives of professional associations are unique, but the challenges they have to overcome to reach those goals share many similarities with legacy businesses everywhere.
Recruiting new members, staying connected with existing ones, and providing timely, relevant communications are all part of professional associations’ game plan. And we think that an app is the best possible way to achieve those goals.
Our hope is that, going forward, more professional associations work to develop apps for their customers. It’s a fantastic way to keep existing members happy and to provide a superb product that new members want to join.