Strategic vs Operational Plans: How Africa can Streamline Membership Management
At the first-ever African Association Summit, EventBank had a chance to speak with some of Africa’s biggest movers in associations, and see how their planning fits in with their membership management strategy. Is it a set of operational plans put into place that granularly improve efficiency and communication? What if it was just purely strategic in nature?
Perfecting membership management can be a perplexing yet extremely rewarding process. It requires well-considered approaches at both strategic and operational levels. Also requiring resourceful processes and systems to be put in place, making the progression as hassle-free as possible. If not done right, it could see member retention declining and majorly cost you and your company significant time.
So it is time to say hello to the age of relevance. Members in Africa want to be in unison with the rest of the world. They want to have personalized systems, customized rewards and desire global connectivity. This new age of relevance means it’s time to ditch the mass marketing and mediocre membership benefits. African members are devoted and more empowered than ever before and there has never been a better time to streamline your membership management.
Let’s take a closer look and see what we can do.
Strategic Vs. Operational Planning
A strategic plan tends to be primarily focused on the long-term mission, vision, and goals of your business for the next three to five years. It summaries how you will best measure these goals and what steps you need to take in order to reach them.
Time period – Outlines long-term goals, usually the next three to five years
Goal Focus – Summarizes the company’s long-term visions
Plan Generation – High-level leadership team are accountable for creating the strategic plan
Budget – Strategic Expenditure offers valuable and careful financial planning which can help budget for investment and create positions of accountability
Reporting – Usually high-level and done quarterly
This plan is an outline of what your department will focus on for the near future—usually the upcoming year.
Time period – What you’ll be doing to achieve those goals in the shorter term (typically the next fiscal year)
Goal Focus – Department-focused
Plan Generation – Department leaders are responsible for creating their operational plan
Budget – Department’s annual budget
Reporting – Outline hundreds of projects or tasks people in the department are working on (monthly)
Understanding them does not mean you choose one – you will need to implement a strategic plan as well as an operational one if you hope to achieve your goals.
However, most departments already have some sort of operational plan in place. So you don’t need to worry about starting from scratch; merely put your existing plan into a system that helps you to perform at a superior level.
Africa’s Challenges with Membership Management
Membership Engagement and Retention Gaps
We all know how important high engagement is in when it comes to keeping organizations healthy and progressing towards their mission. Yet 68% of African associations found retention was unchanged or had declined since 2018 and only 34% reported an increase in member engagement in 2019.
Lack of Personalization and Rewards
Three – quarters of membership organizations are finding it difficult to provide personalized content to their members via their website or other channels, with most simply imputing members’ names to personalize. It is clear however in this day and age that a lot more effort is required with much better use of analytics in order to support a more sophisticated personalization system that is to be based around members’ behavior and or engagement history.
Arguably one of the most important drivers of member engagement is the perceived value of rewards and benefits offered, yet 48% of people in Africa deactivated their membership accounts due to reward dissatisfaction or complicated processes.
Organizational Inactivity on Social Media
With the total number of active users on social media rising to 2 million in Africa, it is vital for organizations to best utilize these platforms to encourage membership retention. However, it is surprising to learn that only half are regularly monitoring their social media platforms meaning they don’t actually have an organized social media strategy in place. Therefore, it often gets forgotten about and disregarded.
How to Best Streamline These Challenges
Membership Engagement & Retention
It’s impossible to retain 100% of your members, even if you have a vast marketing budget and do everything right, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing everything you can. Here are a few ways to keep retention high:
Organize and promote appealing events for members and the community. It’s important to keep not just your members, but also non-members who are impacted by your organization. Events promote communication, engagement, and ideas to be shared and expressed which can either influence your stakeholders or yourself.
Offer membership perks and benefits to retain your members, and keep them reminded why they joined. You can also include goals and milestones to encourage them to renew in order to meet milestones that give some sort of reward. A survey carried out with African consumers found that people are more likely to stay a member if they are getting something back but it must be exclusive and not offered by other organizations.
Survey existing members as to what their ideas or experiences have been. This obviously helps you identify where your organization can improve. This is particularly important when it comes to members leaving, so it’s crucial to survey members as to their reason for not renewing or canceling.
Operate an easy renewal system by making it go digital, and automating the repetitive tasks needed to remind members when their membership is coming to an end, alert them of late or failed payments, deliver discounts for last-minute renewals, and so on. This type of communication can be automated with digital membership management software, but can also be done manually if you have same-day renewal dates, though in most cases members have their own individual renewal dates.
Create a content calendar as content that exists in your organization is important. It can help better the experience of members, so make sure you’re placing the right content in the right channel, whether that’s social media posts, a blog, videos, or events. Listen to your community and be malleable to what engages them.
Encourage a thriving and engaged community by making sure your internal organization structure is porous. Allow members to have a place to call home, most notably on a mobile app, so that members can search for each other, engage in chat or email, and otherwise foster a sense of free communication and collaboration among members. This too, can often mean there is a lesser need for you to manually engage with the community each time.
Personalization and Rewards
Welcome to the age of relevance, where mass marketing and segmentation are no longer beneficial. Members are now more than ever, harder to please and a lot more fickle. Therefore, companies need ways to make them feel empowered. In other words, offering a service like no other and building a deeper relationship with each member – as on average in Africa consumers have a membership with 9 other programs.
One in four consumers stated that they are willing to pay more for a personalized product or service, so why would you assume any different for your members? Also, 74% of adults admitted that they feel frustrated when they are shown website content that “has nothing to do with them”, so don’t risk losing members this way as it is easy to do when you have the right knowledge.
A membership shouldn’t be the same for everyone, you need to make it personal. This doesn’t just mean adding their name to a frequent email blast, but carefully customizing their content to best suit their interests – sending them appropriate events or articles which they have shown considerable interest in previously. This can be done by simply accessing their member history and planning content accordingly. It assures members that they matter to you and that you spend time making sure they are satisfied.
African members want rewards, but not just any rewards, personal ones. They trust reward programs more when they make things clear and give them what they want. Nor do they want to have to jump through hoops to get these rewards. They want to be understood, appreciated and acknowledged. So do your research and give rewards to members that will actually appeal to them, keeping retention high.
Use of social media
Virtual engagement is important to members, especially Gen Z and Millenials who don’t forget, are more introverted and digitally oriented. So, make sure you have a comfortable and appealing platform for them to visit. Social media is an extremely effective way to do this.
Facebook and YouTube seem to be the most popular in Africa with 63.73% using Facebook, 15.95% using Youtube and only 5.03% using Instagram. In this case, it is a good idea to share your articles, blog posts and promote upcoming events on Facebook while creating more interesting and often factual video content for Youtube.
It is important to remember that just because African members may not be using the same platforms like the US for example. It doesn’t mean you should stop targeting them. Facebook and YouTube are an extremely and very cost-effective way to reach your members in Africa. Ensuring they feel like they are apart of something special, so encourage interaction as much as possible. Posting virtual polls on Facebook and uploading YouTube videos to get your members talking. This type of positive engagement is sure to increase retention.
Implementing the Correct Strategic Plans
Secure Actionable Research
Acquiring futuristic data is essential. For instance, applying “impact” survey data instead of member satisfaction surveys which will help your organization determine the relevant future outcomes that members really seek to address.
Demonstrate Strategic Alignment
Tactically aligning your member’s industry with its professional outcome, is key to your association’s long term stability and development. Without a recognizable level of strategic alignment, members will not notice the important association between your organization and its business outcomes. Those who are aligned with your business challenges and outcomes are relevant because they relate to what really matters.
Design the Industry’s Future
Acting as a leader for your industry generates the strongest potential link between your organization and the members you serve. This relationship is reinforced when you can deliver a safe space for your members to collaborate and plan their future together.
Be Data Focused
Make sure that you are sharing any new or developing research insights that might give company owners, executives, entrepreneurs, employees, and investors an opening into new and emerging market opportunities. This will, in turn, provide real and tangible value to members.
Implementing the Correct Operational Plans
Members’ Digital Expectations
Millennials and Gen Z, now expect tangible benefits and progressive outcomes in return for their annual membership subscription fee. Such as career enhancement, work/life balance solutions and/or targeted help/support. So be sure to provide at much of this as possible and deliver it to the best standard as possible as this new tech-savvy generation has high digital expectations and doesn’t often accept anything less.
Getting Members to Connect with Each Other
Getting members to connect can be challenging but it is extremely important if they want to increase retention. Connections are formed by people, not the organization, so pose questions and ask for constant feedback to increase discussions.
There are multiple types of members and organizations need to be simultaneously delivering personalized benefits in order to keep them satisfied. This involves listening to what they have to say and tracking any previous interest and behavior so that you can best tailor to their needs.
Importance of Technology
Technology supports deeper engagement and when used successfully can provide a more relevant and well-rounded member experience.
It can be suggested that the main root of these challenges is missing technology. Such as inefficient processes, unstructured data, fragmented collaboration, and simply non-existent tools.
It’s important that companies are staying in tune with the latest technology and most efficient systems. For instance, in order to personalize content, firms need to be able to track applications, recent behavior, and registration and this can be very time consuming if done manually and this is where some firms are missing out.
Likewise, collecting and storing member data in a simple excel sheet is not going to show you the bigger picture, it will simply list your members’ essential data but leave gaps, making it harder to customize and distinguish member needs.
Is your organization looking to leverage the power and efficiency of technology-driven membership management? Book a demo today and we’ll give you a tour of Africa’s leading software for membership and event management.