associations using artificial intelligence to listen to their members and increase engagement

The Secret to Member Engagement: Part I

The secret to member engagement

“The art of listening is the greatest communication tool of all time,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corp. “If you learn to listen, the world will reveal itself to you.”

Donald’s first act as CEO was to go on a listening tour. He listened to Carnival guests, people who said they’d never go on a cruise, industry analysts, journalists who had written negative stories about the cruise industry, and a wide range of employees including janitors, administrative assistants, and cabin stewards.

He listened and learned how to exceed the expectations of Carnival’s guests. As a result, during his tenure as CEO, Carnival’s profits skyrocketed and its stock price doubled. Imagine what your association could learn and achieve if you started listening to members in a brand new way.

The importance of listening to members

The secret? Listening.

If you want your association to become indispensable to members, you need to understand what’s going on in their world.

  •       What do members need to know?
  •       What do they need to learn?
  •       What problems do they need to solve?
  •       What are they interested in?
  •       What worries them?
  •       What do they hope to achieve?

Assumptions based on conventional wisdom no longer work. In a time of rapid change like we’re experiencing today, conventional wisdom is dated information. Your members (and prospects) have moved on. They have new skills to learn, new threats to their businesses, and new career paths to pursue. You’ve got to find a way to keep up.

You also can’t make assumptions based only on the perspectives of your board and committee members, or your staff. Your volunteer leaders can only speak authentically for people like themselves, but not everyone else in your membership and audience—unless you’ve intentionally recruited a diverse selection of volunteer leaders. If you’re not listening to a wide range of perspectives, then you may not be staying in tune with the existing and emerging needs and interests of your members and prospects.

When an intentional effort to listen to members becomes part of your association’s culture and practices, members take note. They know you’re in tune and see that you’re focused on them.

People in relationships listen to each other. Demonstrate your commitment to your relationship with members by adopting one or more of these listening methods.

7 tactics for listening to members

This blog is part of a 3-blog series where we explore The Secret to Member Engagement and the importance of carefully listening to members so that you can act on their preferences, wants and needs, in real time. Tune in next week when we explore 7 effective tactics for listening to members.

Start listening to your members right now

If you are ready to begin amplifying engagement by listening carefully to your members and tuning your messaging in order to meet their needs, then request a quote to learn how rasa.io can help you today.


overcoming resistance to change at associations using artificial intelligence

Struggling With Resistance To Change? 3 Ways Your Association Can Overcome.

Change can be tough for organizations of every shape and size

Oftentimes associations understand the importance of change and adaptation in order to stay relevant to their communities, but that doesn't mean that they have the cultural foundation or structural bandwidth to plan and implement these adaptations.

Large (and even small) organizations can be slow to implement new processes and technologies, which can lead to negative implications for membership renewals and revenue generation. Challenges to implementing new technologies can range from board-member opposition to resistance against abandoning ‘business as usual’ comforts.

Every change management project is its own beast. But there are some recurring challenges that lead to their failure. Below are some common obstacles we see our customers facing, along with suggestions for combating those challenges.

Challenge 1: Colleagues not understanding why change is needed in the first place

The familiar is comfortable. Your team not understanding why things need to change in the first place is difficult to overcome - it is a resistance that can be rooted in the organizational culture.

In order to combat this mindset, you need to consider adapting your culture from the top down. This means being brutally honest with yourself and asking, "Who are we and how do we ultimately achieve our organization’s overarching purpose?”

When you start to look in the mirror at who you are, how you operate, and the purpose that your association’s brand ultimately stands for, you'll start to see where you're coming up short. Then the hard work of identifying who you want to become and how you want to get there can begin. Your organization's purpose should guide the change management project you want to take on.  

Challenge 2: Team members feeling left out of the decision process

Employees who are going to have the responsibility to implement the change you seek need to feel bought into that change. You should give them a sense of responsibility and ownership throughout the lifecycle of the project.

One great strategy is to have your team’s first exposure to your change project be a sincere request for their input and opinions from the beginning. Involving them in the construction of a plan - as opposed to keeping everything behind closed doors until you are ready to unveil some sweeping new change project - can breed skepticism. You can gather opinions through workshops, meetings, surveys, or whatever data gathering process your organization prefers.

You should be mining your association members’ and team members’ thoughts and opinions on a continual basis. They are integral to change-implementation succeeding, and it is imperative for you to know what they think of your performance, culture, and operations.

Challenge 3: Team skepticism due to history of change management failures

Cynicism towards sweeping change is entrenched in many association cultures, and it can come from all parts of the association, from front line team members, to more tenured members of the board and c-suite, who are settled into old routines. Swallowing new strategies can be difficult if there are memories of past project failures and experimentation is not embraced in the culture.

For this reason, you will need to come prepared for those difficult conversations. Research is your most powerful tool. Make your case with data and real world case studies to appeal to both pathos and ethos. And once you get people on board, if you've truly convinced them, then the change will need to come from the inside out.

Acting on your approach to change

The "start small, think big" approach absolutely applies here. Starting with a small seed of change and culture readjustment can have ripple effects throughout the association. And in order for this to happen, you need to begin by getting everyone in your smaller circle of influence on board.

Even if "starting small" is appropriate for your association, you're eventually going to need to have 100% of your people on board. Everyone should be invested in the success of this change, from the most senior board member to the newest hire. Another department that might require special attention for education and influence is human resources. It may seem obvious, but they can be overlooked when focusing on other employees, and their buy-in is absolutely critical.

Attitude and behavior are intertwined. With the help of change-makers taking action and holding people accountable, you can make broad strides. Being cognizant of these 3 challenges, and how to avoid them at your particular association, is key to reinforcing change that is purpose-driven and resilient.

Just start to experiment

At rasa.io, we are constantly encouraging our customers to just take the first step. Try something new. We try to make the implementation of the rasa.io newsbrief as easy as possible. It takes very little time to begin to send your members personalized news, and risk is low. Learn about how you can begin to experiment with our technology today.


personalizing member communications for your members using artificial intelligence

9 Ideas for Making it Member Personal: Dale Carnegie’s Advice for Associations Part I

What can Dale Carnegie teach us about member personalization?

In 1936, Dale Carnegie published one of the best-selling books of all time, How to Win Friends & Influence People. More than 30 million copies have sold and more than 8 million people have graduated from Dale Carnegie training, including Warren Buffet who said:

“In my office, you will not see the degree I have from the University of Nebraska, or the master’s degree I have from Columbia University, but you’ll see the certificate I got from the Dale Carnegie course.”

Everyone wants to win friends and influence people, including associations. You want to capture the attention, interest, and loyalty of volunteers, members, customers, prospects, journalists, policy-makers, and maybe even consumers.

Carnegie gave advice for face-to-face communication, but his principles still apply to email and other digital channels. His insight into human nature remains relevant today. He taught the value of listening, observing behavior, and appealing to individual needs and desires. If he were on the association speaking circuit, Carnegie would tell you to personalize membership. Let’s take a look at some of his other advice from How to Win Friends & Influence People.

1 - “Of course you are interested in what you want… But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want.”

Associations want to be member-centric, but their perspective is often inside-out rather than outside-in. The membership value proposition is usually based on what the association says is valuable, not what members believe is valuable. Adopt an outside-in approach and find out what members really value.

Be a partner in their success. Involve members (and even non-members) in the early discussions about new products and services. Don’t assume you know what they need, instead be guided by their conversations and, most importantly, by their behavior. Behavioral data, like email clicks, teach you more about a member’s interests than an annual survey.

2 - “Talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

Associations have a lot to say about events, education, and products. The default is to publish more promotional messages than informational ones, but it should be the opposite—that’s what members want.

Review your communication with people at the start of their membership journey. When you market membership to prospects, are you selling or educating? Build a closer relationship with prospects by teaching them what they need to know. Then, show them how your association can help them get what they want.

Connect whatever you’re promoting to a member goal. How will this event impact their career? Whom will they meet? What will they learn? Why is that important?

3 - “You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

Associations want to get members engaged on the association’s terms. They encourage members to join a committee, participate in this, or do that. Remember, it’s not about what you want, it’s about what the member wants. Engagement has to be on their terms.

A member’s idea of engagement may not look like traditional engagement. They may not be interested in committee service or three-day events. They may prefer a more passive mode of engagement. They may want a selection of curated, personalized content delivered to their inbox, instead of spending time searching the web to find it themselves.

4 - “To be interesting, be interested.”

Demonstrate your interest in members by listening to them regularly. Give them a chance to talk about themselves. During most membership orientations, the presentation is all about the association. Flip it by asking questions instead.

Ask members about their challenges and aspirations. What do they need or want to learn? What sort of people do they want to meet? What problems do they need to solve? What goals do they have for the next few years? Ask these questions every year because people, jobs, and careers change.

What are my next steps toward member personalization?

Show your community that you are ready to personalize the member experience. You can use rasa.io to send personalized news to your members, infused with your own blogs, news, and educational content. Then you can learn from member click and interaction data to inform your own content and educational event plans. Schedule a newsbrief demo today or register for our upcoming product demo webinar.

Tune in next week for the second set of recommendations from Dale Carnegie on how your association can make it personal.


association experimentation with an artificial intelligence email newsbrief

How to Experiment with New Ideas Using a Trial Program, Part II

When it comes to professional development and networking, your members have lots of options. But, they’ll stick with you at renewal time, and engage with you more the rest of the year, if they experience the value of membership more frequently than the occasional event or publication. You can keep members coming back to your association if you find ways to help them build an association habit: the opportunity to regularly experience and reap value from their membership. The challenge is finding new ways to deliver a better value than the competition for their attention and time. 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, we explained why you’d want to foster a culture of experimentation by trying new ideas using a pilot or trial program, how to select participants, and how to market the trial to participants. Now it’s time to roll out your trial program.

Rolling out your trial program

Before you start the trial, define how you will measure the program’s effectiveness — 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 newsbrief trial is 30%, so we aim for that benchmark.

First, put together an onboarding plan for participants. Map out your communication with them and be sure to emphasize the greater purpose of revitalizing problem-solving through implementing new and different ideas.

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, participants are sometimes asked to help pick relevant news sources that can potentially be included in their email newsbriefs. Reemphasize how valuable your members’ participation and feedback are for shaping the program for the entire membership.

Set a start and end date for the trial. Participants are more attentive if they know their cooperation is needed for a limited time only. Document what worked well and what could be improved during onboarding so you can make necessary changes before rolling out the program to a larger group.

Getting feedback from trial participants

Give 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 promotes 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 enough, host a conference call or web meeting to discuss their experience. Ask them what they liked and disliked, what’s missing, what’s not necessary, and what would make it better. These group sessions also give members a chance to connect with, and share in 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. Use these testimonials to sell the program to stakeholders and decision-makers, and to introduce and market the program to the rest of the membership. You can also use testimonials in membership marketing materials and in correspondence to inactive members about benefits they’re not leveraging.

Beyond the trial: next steps and the upcoming, final part of our experimentation series

This blog is the second of a 3-blog series on the importance of experimentation through trial programs in order 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: making your case to key stakeholders for the launch of the program and adjusting your project in order to make it applicable for your entire association.

Learn about how rasa.io can work with your association to engage members on a daily basis by sending an email they will actually open and look forward to. Schedule a meeting today.


association experiment with trial program using artificial intelligence email newsbriefs

How to Experiment with New Ideas Using a Trial Program, Part I

Every year, when an association member (or their employer) looks at your renewal invoice, the question crossing their mind is: “What have you done for me lately?”

Value is top of mind for members and employers. They expect to see a regular return on their dues investment. How do you continually demonstrate the membership value that invoice represents?

You can’t rely on the episodic patterns of engagement provided by conferences and seminars. Only a percentage of your members participate in those events. Besides, even those attendees want to experience the value of membership far more frequently than that. If you can find a way for members to regularly experience and reap value from their membership, they won’t think twice about paying that invoice. Even more importantly, they’ll stay engaged so you’ll have more opportunities to serve them with other products and services.

How do you find new ways to deliver a better value to your members? You can tackle and solve even the most stubborn engagement problems with experimentation through testing out solutions with a trial or pilot program. Based on our work with association clients, we’ve rounded up several of our best practices for successful trials and ideas around the benefits of solving old problems with innovative and experimental ideas.

Benefits of using a trial or pilot program to experiment with new ideas

A trial or pilot program is the best way to experiment with a possible solution to a perennial problem. With a trial program, you practice rolling out a new product or service, evaluate how it was received, and validate its benefits (for both you and your audience) before investing additional time and money. What’s more, is that test programs like these foster a culture of experimentation throughout your community.

When you offer a trial program to a group of participants, you can watch how they use the program and learn what they really value—instead of making assumptions about their needs and preferences. You can identify any hitches and refine the program before committing to a full-scale launch. Along the way, the conversations you have with participants lead to closer and more trusting relationships, and your members grow to appreciate the fact that you are cultivating a culture that explores new ways of tackling old problems.

And it’s easier to make a business case for a pilot or trial program. Decision makers aren’t scared off by the words “pilot” or “trial.” Trials are seen as less risky since, by definition, they’re just an experiment.

Selecting trial participants

Depending on the nature of your program, you may want to limit trial participation or open it up to as many people as possible. For example, when we roll out a trial of rasa.io with an association, we encourage member participation so our Artificial Intelligence has as much data as possible to do its work. A large group also provides a healthy sample for post-trial feedback.

Your trial program might benefit more from a limited number of participants if you need to consult individually with each one of them about their experience. If that’s the case, ensure the participants will be able to provide extensive feedback at the conclusion of the program.

You can either select specific participants for your trial or invite any member to participate. If you decide to select participants, pick those who are representative of your overall target audience. For example, if your audience is made up of companies of different sizes and verticals, or individuals of different ages and specialties, the trial participants should represent that diversity.

If your association has chapters, you could select a few of them for the trial. Once again, choose chapters that reflect the entire chapter network. Pick “influencer” chapters—the ones other chapters look to as models for success. After the trial, they can help you sell the idea to other chapters.

You could also use the trial as an olive branch. Offer participation to a chapter with whom you’ve had a less than ideal relationship. They’ll become stronger partners if they see membership retention improve as a result.

Marketing your trial program

Whether you select or invite participants, tell them the story behind the experiment and why the nature of new experiments to solve old problems is vital to maintaining a thriving association. Communicate:

  • Where the idea came from—bonus points if it came from a member;
  • Why you’re trying it out, i.e., what problems you hope to solve; and
  • What value it will provide to participants.

If you’re concerned about getting enough participants, make a more persuasive case by appealing to members’ social identity. Remind them of the identity they aspire to: “people like us do stuff like this.” For example, talk about “this exclusive opportunity to shape a new member service.”

When inviting people to sign up for the trial, use language to convey exclusivity as well as urgency. If you’re limiting the number of participants, let them know. Set a deadline to apply or sign up—a sense of urgency prompts people to take action.

If you’re working with an outside partner, ask them for marketing assistance. When our association partners are introducing rasa.io to trial participants, we provide marketing copy and support so they have minimal work to do on their end.

This blog is part of a 3-part series on the value of experimentation in associations and how to execute a successful trial program. In the upcoming posts, we will continue to build on the importance of experimentation within your organization and the next steps of your test trial: rolling out the program; soliciting feedback; making a case for the program to other key stakeholders; and preparing for the launch of the wider implementation. In the meantime, let us know if you would like to understand how rasa.io could work for your community.