Membership 101: The Importance of Personalization

Associations are built on relationships.

Sure, we have boards of directors and bylaws and committee structures and membership structures and org charts and departmental structures and hierarchies and employee manuals and policies and procedures and AMSes and LMSes and CRM systems and CMSes and social media platforms galore, but when it comes down to it, we’re communities of people coming together to accomplish things we either couldn’t do at all, or couldn’t do as easily, alone. We’re here to help each other achieve our most important goals and solve our most pressing problems.

And there is no relationship with a person you don’t know.

How do you think your members feel when they get a letter or email addressed to “Dear Colleague”?

What message are you sending when you keep bombarding them with information about programs, products, or services they’ve told you they’re NOT interested in?

What are you telling them when you fail to let them know about programs, products, and services they’ve told you they ARE interested in?

You’ve basically put up a big. flashing sign that reads: “This association doesn’t know you at all, and doesn’t care about that fact, either.”

That is, as the kids say, not a good look.

Look, I know: personalization takes time, effort, and skill to do well. It’s much easier – and faster – to just send all the information about everything all the time to all those “Dear Colleagues.” You and your team have a million things on your plates, and it feels like drop-deadlines are hitting you every five minutes.

You still need to make the time and put in the effort to ask your members what they’re interested in, pay attention to and track what they respond to, create segments driven by both their self-reporting and their demonstrated behavior, and target your communications appropriately. And send them to “Elizabeth,” not “Dear Colleague.” And learn whether I prefer “Elizabeth” or “Liz” or “Beth” and get that right, too, every time.

There are a variety of tech tools that can help you with this. Some of them are built into your AMS. Some of them are built into your marketing automation and bulk emailing tools. Sometimes you need to dust off your Excel and mail merge skills.

But if you want your members to put in the time, energy, commitment, and money to continue and deepen their relationships with you, you owe them the same courtesy.

(It’s “Elizabeth,” by the way.)