There’s been a lot of talk about the value of association membership, especially during these tough economic times. Offering members-only content is a common way to provide value-add to members. It can help motivate prospective members to sign-up and can also impact current members’ decisions to renew. But for this concept to work in the real world, it has to be well-executed – which, according to our Chief Apricot, is probably not the case for 95% of member organizations!
So for organizations that might be considering creating a members-only area of their website or for those who are making plans to review existing material, I asked our Chief Apricot to offer up a list of tips and ideas to help make members-only content more effective and here's his list:
- Keep it fresh. Create a regular schedule to create new content for your members-only section. Even if it is once a quarter, it is much better than adding a bunch of articles and reports in one month and then having nothing new for six months. Establish a rhythm and stick to it religiously. This also gives you an opportunity to reach out to members and remind them about the content you have, the value your organization provides and to promote any other initiatives along the way.
- Need content ideas? Here are common examples of information that members find valuable:
- Industry best practices
- Benchmarking reports/survey results
- Compensation surveys
- Samples of forms/contracts common in the industry
- Maintain it!!! Do not just keep adding content - otherwise you will be just like 95% of association websites out there, chock-full of outdated and useless content. Prune existing content ruthlessly - only keep the content that is still relevant/up-to-date/useful.
- Provide teaser info/summaries on your public pages with links to member-only content with actual info. This can help:
- search engines to rank your site on relevant content
- bring in prospective members
- Don't add 'filler' content. You are much better off offering 10 pieces of really great content rather than diluting it with 90 more lame pieces of content which can be found elsewhere and may be of little value to members.
- If you're not sure what type of content your members would value most, you could consider conducting a brief online member survey to find out
- Automate access control. It is not really secure if your content is protected by the same password for all members. Each member should have their own unique password to login and access it. And ideally the system should automatically provide new members with access - and deactivate the ones that are no longer active members. (And yes, Wild Apricot's system does that!)
- Make it easy to browse and search. If you have a few dozen pieces of content, do not over-complicate things by creating complex classification scheme/structure. Just put them all on one page! If you have more, provide a way to browse. If you have 50 or more articles etc., provide text search as well. (And this is something we do not yet have in Wild Apricot but it frequently comes up on our forums.)
In addition to improving your members-only content, you also might want to consider creating a Member's Forum to provide the opportunity for the organization and the membership to share information, ideas and comments.
What are your organization's key challenges in offering members-only content? We'd love to hear about your challenges and your successes - leave us a note in the comments below.
Photo credit: Son of Groucho -- Fllickr photostream