How to Create an Outstanding Association

association member experience

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Creating and executing an outstanding association member experience is one of the best ways to ensure that your association retains its existing members. Thinking about member experience holistically, that is, throughout the membership journey, allows consistency to shine through, further contributing to a positive member experience. 

What is association member experience?

Sue Froggat and Mark Levin define member experience as “how interactions with your organization makes them feel about themselves.” You want your members to feel valued, engaged, and enthusiastic about being a part of your association. Member experience can be informed by a number of factors, including user experience on your website, how members are treated by other members or at events, the member benefits you offer, or what happens when an issue occurs. Clearly, there are a lot of factors to consider, but as always, it’s crucial to determine what is most important to your association and its members. Use that as a starting point and build from there.

Why is association member experience important?

In a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. If members feel valued, they are more likely to join the association and stick around. They are also more likely to tell a friend or colleague about the experience, meaning referrals are more likely as well. Businesses that focus on customer experience also see increased revenue and brand loyalty, and the same is true for associations. 


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How to create an outstanding association member experience

Step 1. Define what it means to be outstanding.

What makes your association unique or special? What does your audience view as outstanding? How do you want your members to feel every step of the way, from encountering your association on social media to renewing their membership? Outstanding can mean something different depending on the type of association as well as who it serves. 

Defining what it means to be outstanding should be a combination of internal values and mission as well as what your ideal audience is seeking and expecting. Of course, the best way to determine what is important to your members is to ask them, through regular communication and surveys. But, if your organization hasn’t taken the time to define values, an important piece of the puzzle is missing.

Step 2. Highlight what makes your association outstanding throughout member touchpoints.

The next step is to translate your association’s values and “it” factor into your member touchpoints. Now, you are starting to weave your organization’s culture and values into the member experience, and members will notice. If your organization values transparency, you wouldn’t want pricing behind closed doors, for example. If your association is known for its networking opportunities, make sure new members have easy and quick access to the network.

Step 3. Emphasize personalization, connection, and ease.

Members need to know that they are valued and important to the association. Personalized and relevant communication matters to members and impacts their level of loyalty. Again, so much of member experience has to do with feelings, so ensuring that members do not simply feel like a number makes a big difference. Members need to also feel connected to the organization, not just to leadership but to each other. Utilizing networking events, mentorship programs or discussion forums adds value to the membership and naturally builds connection. Finally, as the saying goes, “confusion kills conversion.” Making the user experience easy and simple to navigate encourages members to feel empowered and valued.  

The user experience permeates every aspect of your association where members are involved. Small actions built up over time lead to consistency that can be seen and felt by your members, and starting with these three steps to create an outstanding membership experience will impact the association and its members alike in a positive way.



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