Putting Your Members at the Center of Your Communications

Episode Thumbnail
This is a podcast episode titled, Putting Your Members at the Center of Your Communications . The summary for this episode is: <p>It’s entirely possible for organizations to believe their messaging is audience-centric. The question is, does your audience feel that way? Get a fresh perspective on taking a strategic approach to craft messages that put your audience front and center, with inspiration from AARC and how they applied this technique to win back 800 members in 45 days.</p>
Long-Term, Engaging Relationship
00:41 MIN
Adding A Personal Touch
01:05 MIN
An Approach for Renewal Campaigns
01:03 MIN
When Thinking About Lapsed Members
00:56 MIN
What's New and Different About Your Organization?
00:54 MIN
Success Breeds Success
00:39 MIN
Put Your Best Foot Forward
00:39 MIN

Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to The Member Engagement Show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members, and deepen member involvement.

Heather McNair: Throughout our show, we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.

Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni, and we are happy here. Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Member Engagement Show. Heather, how's it going?

Heather McNair: It's going pretty well, Alex, although, I have to admit, I am really tired today. I am working on renovating parts of my house.

Alex Mastrianni: Ooh.

Heather McNair: Yeah. Which is the house was built in 1948, and so I love it. It has a lot of old character, but parts need to be updated, and it's a lot of fun, but proving to be a lot of work.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, I feel like you are one of many people, probably, who have taken some extra time to make your home nice and cozy since you're spending more time there. But I recently bought a new house last year, and I purposely bought a house that I didn't have to do work to because I find the whole thing very overwhelming. But I do love the charm of an old house that's been updated, so that's exciting.

Heather McNair: Yeah, I got sucked in by the charm. I think you were the smart one. But, it's been fascinating. As I've been going through this process, I've been doing still a lot of online ordering, of course, see that whole thing went to a new level with COVID and with us all being at home. There are several sites that I've been ordering from that are really amazing with their communications, and I think this is where this small renovation keeps snowballing. They're very good at these with like, " Oh, you just bought a new vanity light, now I think you need a new mirror, and a new vanity, and new tile." They realize I'm remodeling a bathroom, and so, then now next thing I know it is a complete overhaul to my bathroom, where before it was just like, " I'm just going to update the light."

Alex Mastrianni: Yep, one thing turns into another, and pretty soon, you're going to be doing all the bathrooms in your house, probably, whether you intended or not.

Heather McNair: Yes.

Alex Mastrianni: Where you're just going to be like, " Oh, I should get this because it's on sale and I might need it, and if I change my mind I'll send it back." That's probably happening a lot too.

Heather McNair: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, and I am always a sucker for a good sale.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, these retailers, I think we've talked a little bit about it before, but they are so good at using that data from what you're looking at. The site I think Target, pretty much sends me a push notification every day, it's saying, " Your cart called, it wants you back."

Heather McNair: Oh, yeah.

Alex Mastrianni: I know exactly what it says every time I get it. And they're smart. The other company that I think of, or that instantly comes to mind with this is Stitch Fix. I'm a loyal Stitch Fix fan. I have been using them since they were in beta, actually. It's really funny to think about how much they've changed over the years, but they just keep getting smarter and smarter between stuff that I'm buying, from my fixes, the stuff that I might pin or look at because, of course, I put all my social profiles on there, so they can see what I'm engaging with, and I always open those emails because I know it's going to be something good inside that is relevant to something that I've recently looked at, which of course, this is all coming back to our topic today, around creating audience- centric messaging, and we've got a wonderful guest today to talk with us.

Heather McNair: Yeah, absolutely. She is our Higher Logic's, in- house pro at really tailoring your message, understanding your audience, and so, we are really excited to bring Vivian Swertinski to our show today.

Vivian Swertinski: Thanks for having me on. This is so exciting. So, I have actually been working in the direct marketing industry for a really a long time. I mean having started back in the day when direct mail was the main channel for reaching addressable addresses, and we're talking the post office. So, back in the day, that was actually the most profitable channel versus mass media because, with direct mail, it allowed organizations to do segmentation, tracking, different versioning. I mean that was the essence of putting your member, your audience at the center of the communication. So, I've always been in the soft service side of the business, really helping organizations leverage technology and strategy, to help drive better outcomes. And that's exactly what I get to do here at Higher Logic. So, I just love my job and being able to help our customers really make the most of the investments that they have, and I love challenging them to think about their communications in a fresh and new way.

Heather McNair: Yeah, and you've had some amazing success and this is Vivian and I have geeked out for hours about. My very first real job out of college was actually implementing what they call a targeting marketing system for a department store chain, which is basically a big database that watches everything that people buy and like that to set up all these nerdy algorithms to figure out propensity to buy other things, related things and stuff. So, this is something, this is a history that Viv and I share. So, why don't you talk to us a little bit about why this is so important for associations because we do think a lot about this in terms of retail? All of our examples, Alex's and my examples were in the retail space, but this is something, I think, associations really do need to focus on. So, kind of talk to us about that.

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, you're right, associations have a little bit of a captive audience. Members have paid to belong and to join, and there can be the tendency to kind of just push an organization's goals, and initiatives, and the things that they need to do, and I hear it a lot from organizations, associations that say, " How can I get people to do X?" Well, if anyone has ever had children, you can't get anyone to do X, okay? So, I mean you can motivate, you can provide compelling reasons to do it, but people make decisions based on emotion, and when you're in the beginning of a relationship, it's kind of the acquaintance stage, so it's the same thing with our members, they know us, and they expect us to know them. So, it is very important if you want a long- term, engaging relationship, that the communication has to be back and forth. It can't be a one- way street. And so, putting members at the center of your communications really requires a purposeful mindset. Of course, everyone wants to do that, and they probably say, "Well, I think we do do that." But the question is do your members feel like you do that? Is it landing as personal and relevant to them because they are actually the judges of the communications that you're sending?

Heather McNair: I was going to say, isn't there an expression about that? I should know this, but the evaluation of a communication isn't on you saying it, it's on the person receiving it?

Vivian Swertinski: Absolutely. The power is with the receiver not with the sender, right?

Heather McNair: Yep, yep, exactly. Sorry, Alex, go ahead.

Alex Mastrianni: No, no, that's okay. I was just going to say, it's one thing if you intend for it to seem member- centric or it's really personalized to them, but if they get it and it's just not hitting it right, or they're like, " What am I supposed to do with this?" Or worse off don't even read it at all. It's not going to help anybody get to where they need to be. So, I know that you've worked with tons of customers over the years, Viv, to help them sort of re- think the way that they are going about this member- first or personalized experience, and what are some of the ways that you could suggest to associations to think about this differently?

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, that's a great question. And I like to challenge folks, and I think that so starting with a clean slate, so not just thinking analytically, like, " Oh, what do we send out and how do we say it?" But rather just start with a fresh state, a clean slate, and articulate, what is the member experience we want to deliver? Being purposeful, like being I want them to feel welcome. I want them to feel known. I want them to feel supported. Even think about the emotions that you want your communications to invoke. I mean your communications could land in a neutral spot, but you could choose words that move beyond neutral, and actually, make them feel the way you want them to feel. So, that's about that purposeful mindset, about actually choosing words and images that actually stir something, a feeling of understanding, a feeling of acceptance. Depending on who your audience is, maybe they need to be honored, maybe they have a tough job and you can do so much, and putting emotion and building up your audience, which is naturally going to make them lean in and feel closer to you. So, it just needs to be more of a relationship.

Heather McNair: Oh, God, I love that so much. Viv, this is why you're such a pro at this. I think that gets overlooked so much. We get focused on this professional communication, let's keep this professional, and stiff, and focused. And you're so right, it is about that being vulnerable, building that emotional connection, honoring who they are.

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, and people get it when you get them. It's not maybe they get me. And that's why when you meet someone and you connect with them, who do you become friends with? I mean who are your go- to people? It's like, I get them and they get me. It doesn't mean that you're identical, it means that you get each other and you understand, like you have a level of understanding, and that is everything. That means the world. So, that's the place where we want to be with our members because we want this to be a long- term mutually beneficial relationship that goes on and on, and on, and on.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, I think part of the thing that people have to remember like Heather just said, you want to have this professional appearance, you know that you need to maintain a certain, I don't know, a certain reputation with different audiences. But at the end of the day, yes, you are an organization sending out these communications, but you are communicating to individual people, and if you don't make that connection with the right words or the right emotions, it's not going to resonate and make them feel a certain way or take a certain action. So, I'm thinking like, even with a lot of types of communications that folks might deem as transactional, like a welcome message, or a receipt for a payment, or something, or it's someone just signed up for an event, how do people take those types of messages and start adding some of that personal touch to it?

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, Alex, the onboarding, the welcome campaign if you will, now that's really your first opportunity to meet those needs right up front and make an emotional connection right upfront. Really, it's the continuation of a relationship that started when they were in the prospect stage, you're just discovering each other, I don't know, maybe educating and learning about each other, and then, you are like, " Yeah, we want to do business together." And you made that membership decision. Now what? The last thing you want someone to do is have buyer's remorse. They just handed over money, you got that, and they have their handout, they're waiting for their hand to be filled, how will you fill that hand? That's what we're used to when we do a business contract or any type of a transaction. So, the welcome, the onboarding, really putting yourself in your members' shoes and saying, " What do I want them to experience through this? What are the outcomes they're looking for?" So, I think about let's just get rid of that buyer's remorse right off the start. Let's just address that. So, to me, that's putting on the member mindset. We don't want them to feel like, " Oh, geez, did I make the right decision?" You want them to go, " Yes, I totally made the right decision." So, remove any barriers to getting to the goods. I just paid money, what are the benefits that I so need and I so want? Make them feel good about that purchase decision. You can do that with reinforce that purchase decision even with your words and here's all the great things that you have, and helping them get those. So, I think about removing barriers, that you're easy to do business with, that you're handing them the goods. So, that's the kind of the mindset that you put yourself in as you start to write your campaigns and then you can get very specific in the content.

Heather McNair: I want to key in on what you just said about the campaign, putting together a campaign, because one of the things that I hear a lot is that yeah, we send a welcome email.

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah.

Heather McNair: And people assume that that's enough, and so many times, there's a suite of benefits that people get when they join an organization. And I love what you said about the buyer's remorse too, because I like to say, there is never a time someone is going to be more excited to be part of your organization than the day they join, than the day they write that check, or give you their credit card information. You have to capitalize on that moment, but it's not just a moment. So, talk to us about a concept of a campaign as opposed to an email.

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, absolutely. And when we think about a campaign, we think about spreading information out over a series of days or weeks, whichever's right for your particular organization, but it's making things snackable and relevant. Like, on day one, what do I really need to know on day one? Probably, have a log in, what's my password, how do I navigate, where I need to go first. Not overwhelming people. If you think about we know how to treat employees, on day one, we have it mapped out for them on what we're going to do, who we're going to introduce them to, on day two, on day three, so we're very purposeful about how we bring someone in, a little at a time, a little more, we add to it, we build on it and so forth, well, you can do the same thing with your onboarding or your welcome campaign. So, a campaign, I think of as it's probably at least three messages, what you need to know on day one, and then you think benefits, continued education, and networking with yourself and with your peers, three pillars if you will, and it could be longer than that, but I mean that would at least cover the essentials, and it would be making it in snackable, digestible amounts of information at a time, and you look forward to the next. Set expectations, over the next week, we're going to help you get plugged in to all of these exclusive benefits. Oh, okay, I'm going to be hearing from them. You're setting expectations. Putting it all in one message, no one's going back to it, so I might read the first two paragraphs, I'll get back to it. I'm never going back to it, no one does, so you're losing it. It's the same thing, we wouldn't want to overwhelm a new employee on their first day at the job.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, and what if they miss that first email? What if it gets buried somehow? You don't want to have that be your one shot, so if you wait a few days and send them something else, maybe you'll hook them back in.

Vivian Swertinski: Oh, that's absolutely true, and one of the strategies I like to when I work with customers that are using our platform or our animation, I'm like, " You know what? If someone didn't open any of those messages, you want to know that now." You don't want to know this three months from now that you maybe have the wrong email address, or there's something not right, pick up the phone and call them. They're going to be feeling so known, " Oh, my goodness, you've sent me messages. Oh, I did get them or whatever." Or, "Oh, I never got those messages." That's not an expected behavior, and so what a better time than to make sure you don't lose any of your valuable new members that fell off and you didn't notice. Put steps in place. Use the technology and have that strategy to notice what people are doing as they engage with you with your welcome campaigns.

Heather McNair: Yeah, it's really, win- win for both the member and for the association because they're feeling welcomed, supported like they are getting something for their money ready to take advantage of all of the benefits and get connected to the rest of the organization and its members, and it's great for the organization because you have a great opportunity to show them what they can expect, create a great experience right from the start, and sort of set them up for not just expectations of what they can expect with onboarding, but throughout the whole relationship that they'll have with you.

Alex Mastrianni: And then that even plays into, when it comes time for renewals, people work so hard for their members, you want to keep them. It's much easier to keep your current members than it is to win them back later on, which I'm sure we'll talk about at some point. But what have you seen work for renewal campaigns? Taking the same approach as an onboarding, something similar?

Vivian Swertinski: It is similar, Alex, in that while it is transactional in nature, the messages don't need to feel transactional. Meaning, it doesn't need to be just all about the business because those are going to be less engaging. To put that human element in it. Understand who you're talking to. So, if this is my first year and I'm coming up for renewal, well you want to say something different to me than you would if I was there for years. Is there an opportunity to recognize that this is my third year and how grateful that the organization is for my support? So, you have opportunity, in other words, to think about what would be most effective for that member to hear at this point in time, and oftentimes, it's not just" Oh, your membership renewal is coming up, click here to pay online. Thank you very much." We can embellish that. That's, as I said, not all communications land in a way that move you. Some can be neutral, but what can we do to get it out of neutral and actually move it into I'm so glad I'm part of this organization. And this is my go- to for getting my job done every day. I trust the news that comes out of this organization. You want to be able to stir up number one, the benefits that you have, but also, wouldn't it be cool to be commenting on the benefits that people, excuse me, people really used? The benefits that matter to them. If you can identify and call out, you've contributed so much to your peer group in this community, and your community values your contributions. Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to say that? And so, that's where segmentation of that renewal list can really come into play. What's the one thing they have in common? They're all coming up for renewal. What are the things they don't have in common? This is my first year. I am an advocate of the brand. I am your best poster and contributor. I'm a mentor. I need mentoring. In what ways can you slice and dice your audience that makes sense that you can talk to them in a more relevant way?

Heather McNair: And technology has made that so much easier. Like, at one point in time you would've had to handwrite all of those emails to be able to do that, but today, technology allows you to pull in different pieces of data to personalize emails like that and make it sound, make it apparent to that person, like, " Oh, you really know me." I love those re- cap emails that I get from different organization, like, " Over the past year you've done X, Y, Z." Airlines are fantastic about doing it. Well, obviously, last year doesn't count, but you've flown around the world three times over the last year and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, absolutely, Heather. The data is so rich and sometimes we can be paralyzed by having so much data, like I don't even know what data to look at I have so much of it, but I think making it simple is just simply to say, are there three logical buckets that you could put people in? Segments that you could put people in? You don't have to call out everything. I know very little about this group, so I'm going to say together we've done X, Y, Z. We've had challenges this year. Because you're in different stages in your relationship, you're still learning how some people respond, what they respond to, what their preferences are. Others you know. So, use the data you have. So, you can have a generic group, but then you can also show people you know them when you do. Look at the data and see what slices. Rather than one segment, maybe it's three. It doesn't have to be 10 because when you start slicing and getting down very granular, it can feel overwhelming, and then you probably will just go back to my one big bucket.

Alex Mastrianni: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Vivian Swertinski: Small steps.

Heather McNair: Yeah. And when you create those really personalized messages that say like, " Hey, you contributed to X, Y, Z in the community," or something like that, it's not just a reminder of oh wow, I guess I really do a lot with this, but it's also maybe a little bit of encouragement to them, like if you don't renew you're not going to be able to access these things because this is a benefit only to members, so really kind of get them to act.

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, and I think it's important to think about what were the desired outcomes that your members had? Remember, they had expectations. They have desired outcomes. You know what your desired outcome is, but what is their desired outcomes? I recall belonging to a kickboxing gym, and when I failed to show up after maybe 30 days the messages started. And I was pretty impressed with the fact that this little gym knew how to do really good marketing and personalize marketing. And the messages weren't just like, " Hey, we missed you." They were like, " Vivian, we remember the goals that you had for yourself and how you were so focused on one point in getting them, and we'd love to..." Like, " We will help you get back on track. Don't lose sight of those goals, they were important to you before, they're still important to you." And oh, man, a guilt trip didn't get me back, but thinking, " Yeah, you know what? I am going to go get that." And I'm back in, that type of thing. But from an organization let's reflect on the outcomes the members wanted, and still want, and still need. In some professions, they need to keep their certification up or they can't practice. How can you make it easier for them to do that? Can you remind them, you're only two credits away from receiving X, so how can we further them along in the desired outcomes that they have?

Heather McNair: That's so funny, when you first started talking about that I'm like, " Oh, that applies to certifications too." But that is a segue too because that totally can work with as members lapse too, to remind them this is why you joined, to Alex's point, you've lost access now to the community, whatever it may be. And so a two- part question for you. One, when it comes to those goals, I know I've had conversations with organizations about capturing when someone joins the organization, capturing that information about why they're joining, like what's the purpose of it? And so, if your kickboxing studio actually... Did they specifically capture why you joined? And I'm not going to drill down, but sometimes when you join a gym is it weight loss? Is it fitness? Is it health? Is it whatever? And so, they record that, and they tailor the communications based on that.

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, actually Heather, they did. They did ask me exactly why I was joining.

Heather McNair: So, have you seen associations start to do that same thing?

Vivian Swertinski: Yes, and no. So, yes, some of them were doing it in a very purposeful way. No, some are not recording it, but they inherently know the main reasons why depending on what the professions are. For instance, I worked with the American Association for Respiratory Care, and they had a lapsed number of concern. They had lots and lots, and lots of lapsed members, and they said, " We need to do something. Our board meeting's coming up. This is not the report we want one thing give. We feel it would be far easier to welcome back lapsed members back into the organization and try that route versus trying to nurture brand- new prospects and go down that long road, the funnel road." And it never ever had a lapsed- member program, and so we worked together and developed a lapsed- member program, but the main thing I asked was" Why do people even join your organization?" " They have to keep their certification up in order to stay in the profession, in order to stay working." So, that's a pretty compelling reason. Now, another question that is good to ask folks, maybe once upon a time, there was no competition, but do you have competition in that area today? Things have changed. The world's a different place. There's online. So, are you the only one? Or are now you're dealing with your competitors that you never had 10 years ago?

Heather McNair: Yeah, I was going to say, and not just associations, there's four profit competitors in the space now, as well, which has been tough.

Vivian Swertinski: Absolutely.

Heather McNair: Yeah, yeah. So, anyway, sorry.

Vivian Swertinski: No, but that's a good point. So, when you're thinking about lapsed members, it's good to reflect on yourself, like how is my market changed? Do my audience... What do they still need? Where could they get it from if it's not from me? Because you have a compelling reason, but where else could they get it from. And then, ironically, I love to ask, " What's the lapsed- member experience like?" " Lapsed- member experience? Why would anyone create a lapsed- member experience?" " Well, you probably haven't even sat down and created a lapsed- member experience mission statement, but what I'm asking is, what do they still have access to?" Because surprisingly, when I asked that question, and sometimes organizations do the inventory, they're like, " Whoa, they actually still have access to a lot." And it's going to be very difficult to get someone to pay for something when the free ride has been good enough.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, that's a really, really good point, and even when you just say, the lapsed- member experience, thinking about maybe not the benefits that you may turn off or not turn off, but also, what are they getting from you via emails still. Like, maybe they think they're still a member. Did you explicitly say, " This is expired"? Or now they're getting prospect type of communications, what buckets did they go into afterwards?

Heather McNair: Isn't that one of the primary reasons that's been sighted in surveys for people's membership lapsing is they didn't know that it lapsed?

Vivian Swertinski: I know. Everyone is always stumped by that. " You're kidding? You can't believe how many times I sent them things. How did they not get it?"

Heather McNair: "We sent 10 emails." Yeah.

Vivian Swertinski: How could they have not have known? Oh, yeah, but you're absolutely right, Heather, the top reason when you survey lapsed members like" I just forgot." No, real reason. So, sometimes we're trying to problem- solve for something that didn't exist. Maybe our membership is too costly. Maybe this. Maybe that. Maybe they just forgot. Let's go with that one. For the ones that are more recently lapsed, like three to six months, you could actually pull that off pretty easily, you just forgot. Which is actually the tactic that we took with AARC when we were doing their lapsed- member campaign is they had a pretty good volume of lapsed members that were just in that three- to- six- month lapsed bucket, and so when you look at the survey results and most of them just they had no real reason, and we know they still have the need, they need their certification if they want to continue. Let's just go out with a strong message about getting them back to class, which is where they need to be, and act like it never happened. Like, just forget that whole renewal thing. Like, we're not going to dissect that, let's just get back to their current needs, which are you need to keep your certification up, and we are here to help you do that. And that type of a message, which we did craft to the segment of three to six months. One of the most compelling things that we did with that message, and I think that this is the breakthrough that they got that now I hope people latch onto this and get the same breakthrough is we did not focus on the transaction, we focused on the desired outcome of that lapsed member. Most lapsed- member communications are going to end with click here and renew, period. That's where the big period comes in. That's your goal as an organization. That's a win for you. Is that truly a win for the member? What part of the transaction is that yours or theirs? Theirs is getting back into class and getting the certification, education that they need, so we can't stop with when we win, we have to stop when their win. So, step one, sign- up and renew. Step two, pick your class, get to class, commit to a class. So, the whole messaging that we did with AARC was really two steps and you're back. You're not back into the organization, you're back to class. The whole focus was completely on what that lapsed member needed, not what the organization needed. And so, that is a member- centric communication. We didn't stop with what we want out of it, we stop with what the member needs out of it.

Heather McNair: That is so powerful, and I think so often forgotten, overlooked. And I also, one of the things that I see a lot is that the association assumes that they know what the audience wants, needs. So, when you're out talking to these organizations, have you run into the same thing, and if so, how do you encourage them to get kind of over that? How do you work with them to get over that kind of thing?

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, to try something different?

Heather McNair: Are you getting them to... I'm not asking the question great. Are you getting them to go out and do interviews with members, lapsed members, industry people? How do you make sure that the real voice of the member is accounted for in this?

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, no, that's a great question, Heather. I'm a big fan of having direct feedback from members. A lot of organizations are starting to put a lapsed- member survey as part of the last touchpoint or to do sampling and calling. We've got organization that we know have discovered that if you throw in a$ 5 coffee gift card, you're going to get lots of good responses. And for some people, there will be legitimate lapsed members that you're not going to get back. They're retired. They're not in this profession anymore. That's fine. What you're looking for is was it a member experience? Was there any feedback that you can do something about? AARC had feedback in their survey responses from the ones that were a little farther along, so that three- to- six- month group just kind of forgot, it just didn't happen for them, they didn't have a real reason. But the ones that had been gone for a little while, sighted a little bit of a bumpy road in the online course, the learning management system that was being used. But here's a question that I love to ask organizations, if you ran into somebody who said, " Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I was a member of that organization, maybe, I don't know, maybe a year, 18 months ago," what would you tell them that's new and different? What would their experience be today if they came back, how would that be different for them? For AARC, they could say, " We completely have a new online learning system. It's stable. It's easy to use." You'd have something to say, so let's not lose sight of all the good progress that associations are making and the new things. Maybe we have an online community now we didn't have before. What do you have now that would be great information and a welcome back? Discover, rediscover, it's an invitation to come back in and see us again, what do we have now? That's perfect for those that have been gone for a little bit. If you had anything bumpy, recognize it, hit it head-on, and tell them what's different.

Heather McNair: I was just going to ask-

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, absolutely.

Heather McNair: Yeah, is it okay to not shy away from that in your communications to acknowledge that?

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, AARC chose to hit it head-on in their communications out to their older members, not older members, but the ones who had been gone for a while, and they said, " We've heard some feedback that our online course experience wasn't up to par. Wasn't what we would have wanted for some of our members. You may have been affected by that as well. We've now got this and we've got a brand- new website." And they didn't say, " We've got a brand- new website, come look at our new shiny thing which is so pretty." No, it was like, " We've got a brand- new website, and what does that mean? That means better searchability, better time management for you, find things easier faster." Again, if you have something new, think about how you say it. A member- centric positioning is we've got this new thing and here's how it's going to benefit you versus we've got this new thing, come check us out.

Alex Mastrianni: I love that.

Vivian Swertinski: Okay, it's pretty. It's nice. I like it. It's nice colors, but what does that mean for me.

Alex Mastrianni: Right.

Vivian Swertinski: So, sometimes you have to articulate. Don't assume they can fill in the blanks, let's just tell them. And it shows your heart. It shows that they are the center and that you've made these changes to benefit them. You might as well come out and say it.

Alex Mastrianni: I love that. Like, repositioning of the benefit. Like, yes, this is a great thing that we've done, but why is it going to be compelling enough for someone to take action or actually do something about it.

Vivian Swertinski: Exactly. Exactly. And you know what? And between the two messages, the one that went out to the three- to- six- month lapsed members and then the message that went out to the ones that had been gone for a while, the audience found them both compelling. Folks did come back and rediscover. And folks did decide that they did, in fact, want to renew with that and get their certification. They could picture themselves. They could almost picture themselves back sitting in that class. And it worked so well. And this was just really one message. This was not hounding people. One message, and then we re- sent to non- openers. That's it. And 800 members came back in 45 days.

Heather McNair: Wow.

Vivian Swertinski: So, at$ 80 a pop, we're talking lots of money. We're talking what? $64, 000 unplanned budgeted, unplanned money coming in because you really took the time to understand what was important to that audience and you wrote something that had them at the center. And it's fantastic results. They were fantastic about, AARC was so purposeful in trying to regroup with those folks that they had lost, and they did such a great job, but I do think it was because their mind wasn't on what they needed to get done, they're mind was really on what their members' outcome needed to be.

Heather McNair: That whole thing will make anyone look like a hero to their board of directors.

Vivian Swertinski: Oh, yeah, they had a good update when they had to go to that next board meeting and they were quite pleased with that.

Heather McNair: So, I think throughout we've touched on a lot of roadblocks, issues that people should look out for. Is there one kind of closing piece of advice that you'd give to people as they're trying to put together these member- centric communications? Like, one underlying like you have to do this, or you have to watch out for that?

Vivian Swertinski: Yeah, you have to try something new, even if it's doing a test sample. If there's resistance within of changing something, you're disengaged audiences are the perfect people to test, your lapsed members are perfect people to test. You can only go up. You can only go up. So, start doing something different, being very purposeful, put on that member- centric mindset, and go out there with messages, and test in a safe environment with those audiences that can only go one way, they're going to go up. And then you can start rolling that out as you need to. But all you need is a little bit of success. Success breeds success.

Alex Mastrianni: For sure. And Viv, before we close out, we have to ask you our standard question now that we ask all of our guests, what is your favorite engagement tactic? Something that you've seen work well for other people or something what's your go- to recommendation to folks?

Vivian Swertinski: That's a good question. I would say my tactic would be to AB task, my tactic would be to try something new. You're never going to learn anything if you don't try something new, so you have to go out and do something different. No one's going to be able to have that magic answer. There's no silver bullet. You're not going to know confidently what you're going to get unless you go out with it, so step out in faith with your best step. Like, put your best foot forward and try it. That's what marketing's all about, communications is all about. Nothing bad's going to happen. Try it. Try to move the needle.

Heather McNair: Vivian, it is always such a delight talking to you and I think we could go on for hours, so we may have to do a part B to this.

Vivian Swertinski: I'm happy to come back. You guys are amazing to speak with. And I'm right there with you, we could just keep on going, but I know we have to be mindful of time, so thank you so much for inviting me to be on. This has been fabulous.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, if folks want to connect with you, Viv, where can they find you?

Vivian Swertinski: For customers, they can find me on our Higher Logic users group. They can find me, I'm on LinkedIn. You can find Vivian Swertinski, there's not going to be a duplicate. Like if you land anywhere and you see that name, it's me, guys, there is not another one.

Heather McNair: There definitely is not another Vivian.

Alex Mastrianni: No. The one and only.

Heather McNair: Yes.

Alex Mastrianni: Well, thanks so much, Viv. We learned so much and I'm sure our listeners have too today. So, that's going to do it for another episode of The Member Engagement Show. We will see you all next time.


It’s entirely possible for organizations to believe their messaging is audience-centric. The question is, does your audience feel that way? Get a fresh perspective on taking a strategic approach to craft messages that put your audience front and center, with inspiration from AARC and how they applied this technique to win back 800 members in 45 days.

Today's Host

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Alex Mastrianni

|Sr. Manager of Product Marketing at Higher Logic
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Heather McNair

|Community Industry Expert

Today's Guests

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Vivian Swertinsk

|Sr. Marketing Automation