The Campaign In Your Association’s Backyard

Membership Software Campaigns

Everywhere you turn, you are bombarded with political campaign talk today. So, all that recent political talk has got me thinking about the parallels between political campaigns & new membership campaigns. Further, the necessity in having effective Association membership management software to help membership based organizations achieve their campaign goals effectively. In this article, I launch my own campaign to outline some clear reasons why you should invest in the right software to achieve your goals.

Executing Campaigns with Membership Software

About this time of the year your team is likely seeking better ways in order to attract and retain (renew) your membership. You may even be embarking on a membership  campaign right now to close out the year. In order to be successful in that campaign, you, your board, and your staff must all hop on board with a unified message and campaign objective in order to succeed in your Association’s mission. But, before you do that, let’s talk a bit out what you need in terms of technology and process.

Your Membership Campaign Goals:

First, every campaign should have a metric based goal. Your campaign success translates into a shared prosperity for your Association, its team, and your membership. In the political world, it’s polling. For your Association, the goal may be as simple as 200 more members in 2017.

How do you and your team view your Association’s mission? Is it simply long-term sustainability through membership growth and management?

In the political realm today, you hear tons about who is leading in the polls, right? In your association, your campaign goal should be agreed upon, measured, & monitored. Your membership software should have the ability to measure what is important to you so that everyone may be invested in the process. Further, have the integrity in order to be trusted.

Volunteers Are Needed to Succeed:

Volunteering at every level is part of any organization’s success. Research shows the ideal volunteer journey starts with small tasks and virtual participation, working all the way up to committees and leadership positions.

Campaigns depend on the passionate participation of large numbers of volunteers who have specific tasks assigned to them, sure, but whose real function is to spread their passion to other members and new recruits. Volunteers can make or break a campaign both in terms of numbers and levels of enthusiasm. Ask yourself, how can you strengthen your volunteer corps? Hint: ask them what would make them feel most engaged.

Further, implement software like Higher Logic’s volunteer management software which can help automate volunteer management, personalize volunteer profiles, track engagement, & reward and recognize. Bringing together members for a variety of campaigns requires unique strategies and techniques that leverage individual contributions.

Put Your Marketing Hats on:

Have you noticed that political campaigns no longer depend solely on TV ads as they did a couple of decades ago? Sophisticated campaigns take advantage of every marketing medium that enters their radar, and they also employ segmentation to reach the various subgroups within their target audience—perhaps using TV ads for Matures, and various social media and website tools for younger members.

Have you segmented your target membership for effective marketing? My recent blogs detail how to accomplish this key approach.

“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” –Josef Stalin

We all know what happened to Mr. Stalin. You, on the other hand, understand the value of your members’ input. Your members vote with their membership fees, and their time. But they also can vote by having a real say in your programming through online member surveys, segmented focus groups, or other frequent, organized interactions with management such as happy hours or teas created expressly for boosting interaction between members and Association management. In your Association, who counts the votes?

Community Collaboration Within A Campaign

Community collaboration is so critical to get the message out about your campaigns. Who would have thought a decade ago that a Presidential race like we are seeing today would be so impacted by Twitter and Facebook posts by their candidates.

It’s amazing, isn’t it?

While public facing sites such as Facebook are good for many political campaigns, I believe that a private community would likely be a better alternative to “pull your members” into your own associations backyard.

It’s not that elusive. In fact, it’s easier than ever before to build a secure, dynamic, and private online community for your organization. With a private community you may be able to do some of the following to help with your membership campaign:

  • Build a knowledge base of best practices, go-to-market plans, sample documents, spreadsheets, images, videos, and more.
  • Give community members a place to collaborate, ask questions, provide answers or resources, and discuss the hot topics of the day.
  • Provide a single source of updated information for your events and make it simple for users to find and engage the ones that matter most to them.
  • Connect experienced mentors with ambitious mentees to share resources, experiences, and work together to achieve professional and personal goals.

Communication Functionality in Software: 

We have all likely heard the slogans from the presidential campaign this year. If not, let’s review:

  • “Stronger Together”- Hillary Clinton
  • “Make America Great Again”- Donald Trump

Personally, I like “Peace and Prosperity” from the 1956 U.S. presidential campaign slogan of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It sure would be nice to go back to the campaigns of yesteryear, wouldn’t it? But, who am I to judge! I am only allowed to provide unbiased reports…..

Whatever your campaign message, your associations membership software must have email software which will help your team get the message out to the right people at the right time.

Almost all membership software of all tier levels has some form of email capabilities. The key difference in term of viability is “how” they are able to do it. And, what reporting you are able to perform before or after the message is sent to understand it’s effectiveness.

Is Marketing Automation Software a better option or is email marketing? Suffice it to say, most membership software solutions do not have marketing automation features built into their solutions. If that is applicable for more robust campaigns, you need to come to grips that you will likely need to integrate with a marketing automation platform such as Informz.

In my opinion, all political campaigns should be focused on hope and prosperity. And, to that end, engaged members feel more hopeful and are likely to act on that through participating in Association events, which in turn, are likely designed to spread prosperity for them.

As we’ve all learned from campaigns in this century, technology can and is valuable to help spread their message. And, likely the stronger the support you receive from your software, the more likely it is that your campaign will succeed too despite the “messenger”.

Membership and political campaigns come in all sizes and budgets—and so does the right membership management software. Please let us know how we can assist in order to match the available software to your Association’s campaign strategies.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

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Listen Up! Developing A “Voice of the Constituents” Culture

Constituents in brand advocacy

We all have experienced it: eating at a favorite restaurant—perhaps even a restaurant we’ve patronized for years—and having a less than stellar experience. We may contact the manager to complain. And here’s the crucial point: if we felt listened to, it is likely we will come back to restaurant again. In this article, I wanted to discuss recent findings from a report prepared by Higher Logic along with other findings on constituent relationships which framed the importance of listening in order to improve customer (constituents) relations in nonprofits.

The Voice Of Your Constituents (VoC)

Keeping your members and donors (customers/constituents) is such a hot topic today. Retention, Retention, & more Retention!

As a result, I am always intrigued to learn what strong for profit and nonprofit leaders use in terms of technology to keep their constituents engaged and participating. As a result of some research for a client, I came across a recent handbook provided by Higher Logic, a leading private online community software provider, which sparked my thoughts about fostering the value of “the customer” today in the nonprofit community. Before I get to far, for the sake of this article I am going to be using the term, customer and constituent interchangeably.

According to Higher Logic, what is a Voice of the Customer (VoC) culture? To paraphrase, it is an organization culture in which routinely seeking feedback from members and/or donors and listening to the feedback is more than just a value statement—it’s the expected norm.

Higher Logic’s Voice of the Customer Handbook lays out the concept and value of VoC programs. One of the most insightful ideas in the Handbook is the Pareto Principle’s 80-20 notion that your current member/donor base is the source of the largest share of your organization’s future revenue stream. Once that notion sinks in, hanging on to every member or donor will become your secondary mission.

A VoC culture is the sound way to ensure that your members and donors make the shift, as High Logic puts it, “from basic consumer to brand advocate.”

Here’s the difference in a nutshell:

  • A basic consumer feels no loyalty. A consumer may or may not continue on as a member or donor. He or she may bring a friend or colleague along once in a while. If you close shop, the consumer simply goes elsewhere.
  • A brand advocate exhibits loyalty. A brand advocate will continue on for years as a member or donor. He or she consistently will introduce friends and colleagues to your organization, and promote your organization and its mission on social media—extending the reach of your marketing team. If your organization should be struggling to survive, a brand advocate will shift into overdrive to work with you on saving it. (Note: it’s much less likely that your organization will struggle to survive with enough brand advocates on board.)

Building that level of loyal enthusiasm which erupts into brand advocacy is all about engaging customers emotionally, according to High Logic. And listening is Ground Zero.

Benefits of The Voice of the Constituent Culture

Creating a posse of enthusiastic brand advocates is the highpoint of a VoC culture, but there’s more. When members and donors exchange feedback and ideas with organization staff and each other, magic happens that may stretch beyond marginal enhancements to produce innovative programming and marketing ideas.

Per Forester, online adults are five times more likely to trust a brand or product recommendation from friends or family than from an online ad, and they are twice as likely to trust them over information found on a firm’s website.

Why is developing a customer advocate so important today, here are few examples from a Forrester qualitative research conducted in July/August 2015:

  • More credible first hand experiences are shared socially than ever before
  • Online social media makes it easier to mobile around a cause or initiative
  • More digital ways to harness word of mouth
  • Prospects trust less and want authentic information from those who have experienced it
  • The subscription economy makes customer retention vital
  • Advocates enjoy more value than referencing/referring alone

The Digital Age and Constituents Goodwill 

If you are looking for an example in the for profit sector, you don’t have to go to far to find evidence in the value of listening to the voice and peer influence to have folks buy today. Customer stories and testimony are among the most powerful tools which you find on the websites of many database software marketers today. Why? It works!

In my opinion, what is interesting to note too is the parallels between dues and donation revenue (subscriptions or voluntary contributions) to that of subscription based software licensing today. It has made a huge impact in how database software vendors are taking to heart this VoC culture and the importance of listening to their customers feedback. Many of the leading database software vendors today are providing private social media platforms to allow for collaboration and forming software user groups (conferences) to strengthen the relationships they have with their customers. If you are an association, does this sound familiar?

Per a the study cited by Forrester, a subscription-centered economy makes retention essential. Today, for profits and Nonprofits alike must continue to demonstrate value to their customers to retain their business. They must keep the relationship with their constituents fresh and top of mind in order to do that. The fundamental changes in the nature of business buying (participating with your organization) makes advocate marketing not simply a way to develop participant goodwill, but also a fundamental ingredient to creating lasting relationships.

To underscore the point, a Forrester report cited a legacy donor software vendor executive in the following excerpt:

“We have been a provider of nonprofit fundraising solutions for 30 years. as we move some of our solutions to the cloud and the new subscription model links our success even more closely with our customers, it’s even more important to keep customers engaged in the long run. advocate marketing, along with stronger customer success programs, ensures we can do that.” (Amy Bills, Customer Marketing for general markets, Blackbaud).

Your members and donors who have a personal story or expert perspective to share about your agency is huge. In my mind, listening to what your members find valuable and then helping them spread the word about you is a valuable “advocate marketing” technique which should be leveraged to increase retention and also grow more brand advocates. Finding software and technology to help you execute a strategy in an authentic way may help your nonprofit lead and do more than just survive in the years to come.

Getting Started on a Voice of the Constituent Culture

So you now are a believer—or perhaps you always were—in the value of listening to your members or donors. You just aren’t certain of where to start.

Here, courtesy of Higher Logic, is how HubSpot , a marketing automation software provider, makes VoC its norm:

“HubSpot … is able to gain insights on what customers need by putting an ear to the ground and listening to what customers have to say … through its online community, online and offline engagement channels, effective customer feedback initiatives and vast library of resources created for the most important person in the company’s ecosystem—the customer.”

Higher Logic suggests in the handbook that you “Allow customers to exchange ideas and best practices constantly, not just when it’s convenient for the organization.” Social media platforms facilitate this outreach for you if you create the outlets.

But whether you turn to routine surveys, focus groups, group coffee sessions, or private social media platforms, finding ways to listen to your members or donors will reap significant rewards for your organization.

The one question that remains is this: is your member and donor software up to the challenge? If not, the right software already is out there.

Matching the right software to your organization’s requirements to ensure your long-term sustainability is our mission. Contact us for more information on management software which can help you harvest your brand advocates today. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Resource Note: To get your hands on the Higher Logic’s, Voice of the Customer, handbook cited in this article, you may download it here.

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Are There Advantages in Using Private Social Networking Software?

the value of community management in social networking software

Unless you have lived in the remote outskirts of the Alaskan plains, everyone is aware of the  widespread popularity of social networking.  The popularity of public social networking platforms like LinkedIn  has certainly inspired nonprofits to begin using Social Networking Software . However, a recent blog entry on Associations Now, IN DEFENSE OF THE INSULAR SOCIAL NETWORK, challenged us to contemplate the distinct advantages for an association in taking the time to build your very own private social network.

5 Reasons for Community Management Software 

First, what is our working definition of private social media software? We believe that Private Social Media is a community website created by companies (Ex. Associations) to allow individuals or groups to leverage the knowledge and experience of people in a network. Having said that, this brief blog will describe 5 main advantages we hear from our clients associated with using private social networking software. 

1. Community Content and Control

The association can control all aspects of the content, features, layout and rollout.  New program announcements, upcoming classes, & brand awareness can all be administered internally and pushed to the community of users based on your desire and segmentation. With content control, you can have direct feedback opportunities and focused information to build brand trust and recognition.

2. Build Private Communities For Security

Privacy is an important issue today and people are less likely to share information in the public domain. Therefore, with a private social networking software it allows organizations the capability to set up your own private community of users. Ex. The Finance Committee is able to have the outlet to share minutes and budgets with each other without fear of the information being available to others. These communities offer a safe, controlled, and moderated environment with backup and restoration of your data.

3. Store Front Value for Engagement

Let’s face it. As an association, your website is your store front. And, a Private Social Network on your website will only promote more engagement. If you are using Private Social Networking software which has been implemented for your organization it’s a great marketing opportunity and will be conducive to keeping members coming back and attracting more members to your site. As a result of being your own, your community site can be branded to your color scheme and themes which reflect your company’s ethos and products. Public Sites don’t often allow you the option of having your own graphics for your site. This can leave your site looking a little homogeneous, and not in the mood you want it to be in.

4. A Direct Ear to the Interests of the Members 

Private Social Networks allow you to be in control of the community and benefit from the community chatter. In other words, your organization can stay in tune with the content and comments which will allow your organization to be more in step with the hot topics of the organization and members you serve.

5. Integration with Other Systems 

With an integrated Private Social Network, you have the opportunity to leverage the integration with your Association and Donor Management Systems. For Example, if your organization sells training courses online or books, you can automatically have the system pull those like-minded individuals into a special collaboration group based on the insight derived from transactions by members online. With these integrated tools, you are able to provide another “touch point” besides direct mail which are focused due to the integration with your main constituent management system.

In my mind, there are many benefits to Private Social Networks. But, to be certain, there is no doubt a need for both Public and Private outlets to be a part of your social media plan.

Certainly, the scale of participation likely pales in comparison to the number involved on Public options, however, there is a compelling case to be made to launch your own.

If you have more ideas on the value of social networking solutions or would like help reviewing software options, please make a comment below or contact us.

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