When it comes to professional development and networking, your members have lots of options. However, they’ll stick with you at renewal time and engage with you more if they experience the value of membership more frequently than the occasional event or publication. Keep members coming back to your association by finding ways to help them build an association habit. That means offering lots of opportunities to regularly experience and reap value from their membership.
The challenge is finding new ways to deliver better value than the competition for their attention and time. To discover them, you can experiment with both brilliant and unconventional solutions for your most stubborn engagement problems with a trial or pilot program. In Part 1 of this series, you found out how to foster a culture of experimentation by trying new ideas using a pilot or trial program. You also learned how to select participants and market the trial to them. Now it’s time to learn how to successfully roll out your trial program.
Rolling out your trial program
Before you start the trial, define how you will measure the program’s effectiveness. List both the metrics and the tools you will use to do that, like a survey. These metrics should show how well or not the trial program serves your target audience. For example, the typical email open rate for our rasa.io AI news brief trial is 30 percent, so we aim for that benchmark.
- First, put together an onboarding plan for participants. Map out your communication with them. Also, be sure to emphasize the greater purpose of revitalizing problem-solving through implementing new and different ideas.
- Second, go over the details of the program. What can community members expect from you and what can you expect from them? For example, before rasa.io trials, we sometimes ask participants to help pick the relevant news sources that we can potentially include in their email news briefs. Reemphasize how valuable your member’s participation and feedback are for shaping the program for the entire membership.
- Finally, set a start and end date for the trial. Participants are more attentive if they know their cooperation is only for a limited time. Document what worked well and what you can improve during the onboarding. That way you can make all the necessary changes before rolling out the program to a larger group.
Getting feedback from trial participants
Rather than waiting until the end, give your participants the opportunity to share feedback throughout the trial. If necessary, tweak the program as you go, and let participants know how you’ve applied what you’ve learned from them. When people see you take action based on their feedback, they’re more likely to offer it. What’s more is that an effective feedback cycle helps to promote an atmosphere of trust, which is an important component of a progressive and experimental culture.
At the end of the trial, survey your participants. If your group is small, host a conference call or web meeting to discuss their experiences. Ask them what they liked and disliked, what’s missing, what’s unnecessary, and what would make it better. These group sessions also give members a chance to connect with and share something special and innovative with their peers.
Follow up individually with participants to get testimonials about the program’s impact. Ask them to use specific examples in their testimonials to make them more relatable and compelling. You can use these testimonials to sell the program to stakeholders and decision-makers. Also, you could introduce and market the program to the rest of the membership, as well. You can use the testimonials in membership marketing materials and in correspondence to inactive members about all the benefits they’re not leveraging.
Beyond the trial: Next steps and Part III of our experimentation series
This blog is the second of a three-blog series on the importance of experimentation through trial programs to solve engagement problems that plague associations. In the next and final part of our experimentation blog series, we will explore the critical steps involved in turning your trial into a full-out implementation. In Part III, you’ll learn how to make your case to key stakeholders for the launch of the program. Also, you find out more about adjusting your project to make it applicable to your entire association.