Lots of associations focus on the numbers. How many members do we have? How many people attended our event? While a strong base of members and attendees is essential to your long-term sustainability, don’t overlook an even more important element: engagement.
If you’re rolling your eyes at what sounds like just another corporate buzz word, give us a moment. Engagement is a knowable, measurable component that can directly improve your event and your organization overall.
What is engagement?
True engagement includes two parts, involvement and commitment. When people are engaged at your event, it means they’re both mentally and physically present. They set aside their phones and their work to listen, connect, participate, and share ideas. Some will even volunteer, join committees, publish papers, present sessions, and host webinars. Engaged members further the life-changing work of your organization by getting involved and committing to your mission.
Chances are not all your members are fully engaged, and that’s okay. There are various defined levels of engagement, as you’ll see in the Engagement Path below. All levels are important to your event and your organization.
At the bottom of the Engagement Path are the Outliers, people who are aware of your organization and are following or observing your activities and communications. Reaching Outliers relies heavily on technology—web, email, and social media—which allows you to reach a broad base with a light touch. Little interaction or engagement take place at this level, but you are beginning the important work of raising awareness and reassuring interest.
At the top of the pyramid are the Agents, individuals whose personal and professional mission are aligned with your organization’s mission. Agents are compelled to connect and contribute to achieve breakthroughs and change lives. Proceeding up the pyramid requires more intense effort on your part, too. Communications take the form of personal connections, face-to-face interactions, and top-notch events. You reach a smaller group but forge higher-quality connections here. The farther up the pyramid you go, the more likely it is that you’re engaging members, driving brand loyalty, and creating Agents.
If you’re like most associations, the majority of your members fall somewhere in the middle, in the Tribe level. Tribe members might comment on your social media posts or attend an event or two. They follow your organization’s activities and communications, but they aren’t yet the loyal Agents you need to thrive. This middle ground is prime territory for increasing engagement.
How to fuel the transition with engagement marketing
You can transition members from the bottom or middle to the top of the Engagement Path by following the Engagement Marketing Cycle. This journey has three stages: elements of build awareness, manifestation of inspiration and transition to reassurance
Elements of build awareness: Identify your mission by focusing on the one thing of most value you need your audience to know. Develop a strategy that clearly communicates your value proposition. Spark inspiration and engagement by creating a unified brand experience.
Manifestation of inspiration: Launch segmented campaigns using storytelling and compelling triggers and targets to drive membership, attendance, and engagement. Focus on the buying cycle to decide who needs to hear from you and when. Deliver on your brand promise with relevant offers, a killer event, and year-round opportunities for members to connect and engage (ex: online forums, regional events). Follow up on member case stories and publish your successes to reinforce your value proposition.
Transition to Reassurance: Evaluate your initial campaigns and the level of engagement of your base. Be nimble and ready to make changes if necessary. You must reassure your audience that your organization and event will enable their goals and open them to new possibilities. After your event, identify what worked and what could be improved for next year.
When we combine the Engagement Path with the Engagement Marketing Cycle, it looks like this:
Increasing engagement doesn’t happen overnight. Each step is equally important and takes time to achieve. You’ll likely have a constant flow of members moving through all the levels at any given time. You’ll also find yourself starting the Engagement Marketing Cycle over again each year to drive membership and event attendance. The important thing is to keep working on moving individuals to an engaged state. That way you’ll always have a solid core of committed, involved individuals to sustain your organization.
Where to start? Take the Engagement Assessment to find out how your organization rates on the Engagement Scale. You’ll learn your Engagement Gang profile and next steps to transition your members from non-engaged to engaged. Click here to take the assessment now.
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