How to improve your member journey (in your community)
The member experience relates to how members feel during and after interacting with your community. The member journey, while related to the member experience, is different in some important ways. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to state that the quality of the member journey will lay the foundation for the overall member experience. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into how to improve your members’ journey.
What is a member lifecycle journey?
If you are to improve the member journey you need to understand it, and that starts with understanding the member lifecycle. The member lifecycle journey consists of 5 stages. They are:
Before you can have a vibrant community you have to attract would-be members. This is the process of getting the word out, targeting your intended audience, generating leads and then converting those leads into new, and hopefully active members.
It’s vital that new members have a positive experience with your community right out of the gate. If you have ever installed software or upgraded your operating system, you’re no doubt familiar with the popups or pages that appear that say things like “Take a tour”, or “Here’s what’s new in X Programme”.
You should consider providing the same type of introductory tips for all new members of your community. Alternatively, you could incorporate a personalised welcome message that makes them feel at home and encourages them to get posting and interact with other members.
Now that you have attracted a new member and eased their entry into the community you have to engage them and give them a reason to keep coming back. When community members are engaged they’re more likely to seek out and take advantage of all the features your community has to offer and have a positive experience.
The more positive the experience, the more likely they are to stick around for the long-term and tell others about how great it is to be a member. There are a number of ways you can do that including asking community-wide questions, creating polls on timely topics, and acknowledging valuable or funny contributions with shoutouts or badges.
After attracting members, easing their entry into the community and engaging them with high-quality content you need to hold onto them. First of all, it’s important you understand that no matter how hard you try you will lose some members over time. It’s inevitable. The goal is to keep those losses to an absolute minimum.
If someone cancels their membership thank them for being a part of your community and kindly ask them why they changed their mind. If they don’t want to provide a reason, fair enough. Perusing the record of their on-site activity may provide helpful clues. If you can learn why people leave, you’ll be able to enact strategies to prevent losing others in the same manner.
Keeping a record of those who cancelled their membership or allowed it to lapse can be beneficial because at some future point you should make an effort to re-engage them. They might have been going through a tough time or needed to focus on other things for a while and are now open to re-joining your community.
So have a strategy for reaching out to those who have strayed. Something along the lines of a “We miss you” email sent X number of months after they cancel their membership. You may be surprised by how many positive responses you get.
The member journey map
The member journey map allows you to visualize the member journey so that you are better able to fine-tune your acquisition and member retention strategies and gauge the overall success of your efforts. When done right, member journey maps enable you to see more clearly what parts of your member journey are paying dividends and which are less effective.
5 benefits of creating a member journey map
Here are some of the most common benefits of creating a member journey map.
1: It helps ensure your member journey makes sense
Sometimes words aren’t enough and it’s just more helpful to have a visual representation of how your member journey works. By having all aspects of the member journey together in one easy-to-comprehend graphic you can more easily identify where you might be getting ahead of yourself or confusing potential members.
The member map will simplify things for you by allowing you to see at which point in the journey your intentions and your practices diverge.
2: It can help you figure out if you are contacting members too often
We will get into the details of contacting members a little later but for now, suffice to say that it’s important that you understand at which point in the member journey you are reaching out and how often you’re doing it.
Why? Because some folks are going to be put off if they see new emails from you in their inbox every day. The goal of contacting members is to cultivate a relationship, not smother it. The member journey map should help you find a balance.
3: It can help you fine-tune the journey
You want the member journey to be seamless, for people to transition from potential members to active members to pillars of the community without skipping a beat.
When you have the entire member journey mapped out in front of you and overlay it with those points in the journey where you know you are losing people, you can identify points of conflict and resolve them to everyone’s benefit.
4: It will make it easier to give the people what they want
Assuming you offer different membership levels, your different types of members are going to have different expectations of your community. The member journey map should have all the different features and offerings inherent with different membership levels clearly laid out.
Having this information at your disposal will help you deliver on those expectations and prevent you from losing track of your obligations.
5: It can help you improve the member experience
The ultimate goal of all your efforts is to provide a good membership experience. If your members are having fun, learning things, and engaging with other members in a positive fashion then they are also helping advance the cause of your brand. It’s the ultimate win-win.
Anything that helps improve the overall member experience – such as the member journey map – should be considered a good and worthwhile pursuit. Study it. Learn from it. Use it to enhance the member experience every chance you get.
The importance of tracking member journey KPIs
As you may have gathered by now, understanding your member’s journey is crucial if you are to build and sustain a vibrant community. KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are an integral part of that understanding as they provide a clear picture of what is working and what is not.
Different stages of the member journey will produce different performance indicators. And those KPIs will also vary from community to community based on the type, size and composition of that community.
The following list contains various KPIs community builders should pay attention to in order to determine which are producing the desired result and which are not.
This is the most fundamental KPI for determining the health of a given online community. A membership that is growing indicates overall satisfaction with your community structure and features, and a general sense that members are happy with the type and quality of content they encounter on your site. If membership numbers are static or declining it should be a huge red flag.
How long the average member spends within the cosy confines of your community between log in and log out is another key indicator of member satisfaction. Longer average session duration indicates a high level of engagement and enthusiasm for what you have to offer. If, however, most members are bouncing in and out quickly there’s trouble brewing.
Amount of referral traffic
Increasing traffic and membership numbers should bring a smile to any community builder’s face. But just as important as an increase in members is knowing where these new members are coming from. You can learn this by analysing traffic data and then use this information to adjust your marketing strategy going forward.
Session duration is one way to measure member engagement, but it’s far from the only way. You should also keep track of things like shares, re-posts and comments. If the numbers for these KPIs are robust, congratulations, you’re doing something right. If, however, the numbers for these indicators are flat or falling you have an engagement problem.
Also, when assessing a KPI like comments, look to see what percentage of members are actually commenting. This will provide another clear indication of engagement levels. If it’s only a tiny fraction of members generating most of the comments, you have an engagement problem.
A lot of support requests indicates something is not right. Pay close attention to what aspects of your community experience are generating the most support requests – site navigation, payment issues, technical issues with live streams, etc – and resolve the problem(s). Also, look at how many support tickets end in resolution and make careful note of what members are saying with their support feedback.
Share of voice
You can use Google Analytics to gain a fairly accurate picture of where your community stands in relation to other communities built around similar products or issues. Share of voice is most commonly determined by analysing things such as your organic search ranking, results from any paid advertising you may have done and social media engagement.
The member persona: What is it and how to use it
When people sign up as members they provide you with certain information about themselves. You can use the information gathered in this way to create a picture of what your average community members are like. In other words, you can create member personas.
User data that is typically mined to create a member persona includes age, occupation, location, sex and interests, as well as what membership tier they have signed up for and the type of content they tend to respond best to.
Once you have a general picture of your average member you can use this information to inform your marketing efforts and to fine-tune your content offerings, with the ultimate goal of improving the member lifecycle journey.
How to improve the member experience
What comes first, a satisfying member journey or a satisfying member experience?
Well, if the member journey is smooth and hassle-free the chances are that the member experience will benefit. At the same time if the member experience is rewarding this will have an impact on the member journey in that retaining members will be easier and you will not have to spend as much time and energy trying to bring wayward members back into the fold.
With that in mind, here are 7 ways you can improve the member experience.
1: Choose a Disciple mobile app over a website or forum
If you really want to ramp up the user experience a Disciple Media mobile app is the way to go. Disciple mobile apps produce a superior user experience when compared to a website or forum because:
The user has more customisation options
The user does not have to be online
Mobile apps load instantly every time
A Disciple mobile app allows push notifications
Other features of your mobile device are easily accessed
You have more branding opportunities with a mobile app
2: Fine-tune your onboarding elements
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so if you want your member experience to be satisfying make sure your welcome touchpoints are honed to perfection. That means acknowledging new members for taking the time and trouble to sign up and shepherding them toward those community features that will bring them into contact with other members.
Also, create a Welcome Pack that is automatically delivered to new members and includes:
A well-polished welcome letter or message
Information about any new member giveaways or bonuses
A calendar of upcoming events
A link to a free tour of the entire community site and its features
Information on how their private information will be handled
3: The tone of communications matters
Any communication with members should be personalized as much as possible. Try to avoid generic-sounding emails and focus instead on crafting messages that leverage humor (when it’s appropriate) and speak to content the member has shown an interest in. This means segmenting your email list (we’ll get into that in a moment) and only rarely conducting mass mailings to everyone in the community.
You never want a member to feel like a number so keep things light, use a relaxed tone and make sure you are only communicating with them because you have something of value to discuss or offer. Also, reread your emails before you send them and tweak when necessary. Will this take a little more time than sending “To whom it may concern” emails? Yes. But the likely returns will make it worth the effort.
How often should you contact members?
If you give the impression you are inaccessible, your members are going to start wondering what kind of community they signed up for. So it’s important to stay in touch. But it’s equally important that you strike an effective balance between engaging community members and trusting them to find their own way.
The standard method for contacting community members is through email, but how often should you be sending emails to community members? Here are a few guidelines to consider when formulating your contact policy:
Establish rules right up front
Even if someone opts in for promo emails when they sign up that shouldn’t be a green light to bombard them with a half dozen emails every day. A good idea is to let them know in your very first email how often and what types of emails they can expect from you.
Create segmented email lists
Use sign-up information including geographic region, age, interests and the like to create segmented email lists. This will serve two purposes. First, you can create more targeted content that’s likely to produce a better response rate. And second, you won’t have to worry about alienating other members with too many emails.
Exercise restraint with event emails
It may be tempting to bombard members with emails promoting an upcoming event like a livestream, but too many of these emails can have the opposite effects; turning members off instead of piquing their curiosity. 2 or 3 emails in the run-up to an event should be sufficient. The Disciple Media mobile app allows you to use push notifications which will ensure you maximise the response to those emails.
4: Keep an active calendar
Your membership should never be left in limbo, wondering when or if you will be dropping a new product, conducting a new live stream or offering a new instructional video. Make sure there is always something on the calendar for them to look forward to. Even if it’s “only” a Q&A with you or other team members.
Take the time to plan out a quarterly event schedule in advance so that you’re not left scrambling to fill a void and satisfy members if and when they become restless. Also, be mindful of the format you use to conduct your events. Technology is now available that makes fully virtual events involving large numbers of people possible.
Lastly, don’t forget to follow up after events to thank everyone for attending and to perhaps solicit feedback you can use to fine-tune future events.
5: Speaking of feedback…
Your members hold the key to whether or not your community is growing, plateauing or declining. So it’s incumbent upon you as the keeper of the community flame to seek their feedback on a regular basis. Following up after events is one way to do so, but you should also consider conducting satisfaction surveys.
The survey can be conducted once or twice per year and should be used to inform all of your community-related decisions moving forward. Another benefit of the community satisfaction survey is that it enhances member engagement. When you actively seek member input those members feel that their voice is being heard and their opinions are appreciated.
6: Craft your events to reflect member input
It’s still your brand and you need to be true to your own vision. After all, it’s your vision, your product, your service that attracted your members in the first place. But that doesn’t mean you should take a tyrannical approach to event planning.
You can remain true to your vision while still incorporating elements that reflect an awareness of member feedback. For instance, if a majority of members said they would like to see more live streams rather than pre-recorded videos you should be able to accommodate them without it changing your product, your brand image or your messaging in any way.
Your product will still be your product and other branding elements can remain the same whether you are presenting in person or by way of a live stream. Making an effort to accommodate members will go a long way toward helping to bolster member retention and reduce churn.
7: Make membership renewal as simple as possible
By enhancing the member journey and improving the overall member experience you should reduce the percentage of members who opt-out or let their memberships expire. Just don’t forget to make sure that when renewal time rolls around that it’s as simple and convenient as possible, otherwise you risk alienating those members you tried so hard to retain.
There are many types of membership management software available that will automatically generate renewal reminders for you. When new members sign up they should also have the option to choose automatic renewal.
A vibrant brand community creates a kind of feedback loop between the brand and community members enhancing and informing both for everyone’s benefit. Improving the member lifecycle journey for those who make up your community will pay handsome dividends by improving interaction with your brand.