experimenting with a trial program at your association using rasa.io ai automated newsbriefs

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

In the first part of this series, we explored the benefits of using experimentation to solve old problems. In the second part of our series we explored some best practices around rolling out a trial program and soliciting feedback. In this third and final part of our series, we’ll talk about taking action and turning your trial into a full-out launch.

Making a case for a full-out launch

If your trial isn’t successful, you can still gain value from the experience: you can walk away with useful lessons about member behavior, and you have worked on promoting problem-solving in a way alternative to the status quo.

Alternatively, if your experiment was successful, now it’s time to report your success and get approval for roll-out to the entire membership. When preparing your case, include:

  • Goals (metrics) met.
  • Milestones reached.
  • Participant feedback and testimonials received.
  • Comparisons to the norms; for example, typical newsletter open rate vs. trial open rate.
  • Predictions; for example, we tell our clients they can expect to see a continued increase in open and click rates as more behavioral data is collected.

The success of your trial program will be even more impressive when it’s tied to organizational goals, opportunities, and revenue. For example, rasa.io provides opportunities to generate revenue from advertising and sponsored content.

Tweaking the program

During a trial, you discover new things about user behavior. Most importantly, you find out whether your program provides enough value for members to continue using it.

You also learn how to improve the program. For example, in the case of rasa.io trials, we might decide to tweak any number of things based on user behavior:

  •            Newsbrief content sources
  •            Terms to include (or not) in the AI’s searches for content
  •            Featured content from the association
  •            Time spent
  •            Template style
  •            Subject lines
  •            Footer information

Address any issues and make final changes before launching the program. If you’re working with a partner, make sure you know who’s responsible for what. In the case of rasa.io, we do the heavy-lifting so implementation takes hardly any time for the association. And, if the trial went as well as expected, all we have to do is add new names to the distribution list.

Preparing for launch

Trial or pilot participants are your program champions and your co-champions when it comes to evolving your experiment into a reality. Keep them informed and engaged so they can help you get members excited about this new benefit. They might even put in a word with decision-makers if you’re having trouble getting approval for the program.

Be sure to thank participants publicly for their time and insight. Refer to them as advisors (or a similar title) in program marketing materials.

When rolling out the program to membership, follow the same on-boarding practices you used for the trial group. Bolster your communication with testimonials from trial participants. Be sure to tell your story of how you wanted to solve old problems with innovative solutions. Your members will appreciate the value that the new insights, practices, or technology will add to their membership.

A retrospective on the process

Before you move on to the next project on your list, take time to do a project retrospective. Document how you went through the process and note areas of success and areas that need improvement. You can use this experience as a template for future pilots and projects as well as a case for continuing to promote innovation in your association.

Trial or pilot programs let you experiment on a small scale with solutions for big problems. One of the biggest problems shared by all associations is finding a way to bridge the member engagement gap—the span of time between a member’s infrequent interactions with your association. Our association partners are using rasa.io on both a trial and permanent basis to help them deliver regular value to members and to ultimately solve the engagement gap challenge.

Experimentation with rasa.io

rasa.io bridges the engagement gap by harnessing Artificial Intelligence to find and deliver personalized content to every single member in a daily or weekly newsbrief. Members eagerly anticipate these emails because they’re crafted just for them. Over time, as a member interacts with the newsbrief, rasa.io’s AI engine learns more about their interests, behaviors, and personalities, and their content continues to intelligently evolve.

If your association has an “unsolvable” big problem, consider running a trial program to experiment with a new solution: a new technology, process, or program. Taking a small calculated risk, like a trial program, will help your association build a culture of experimentation while revealing new ways for your members to build an association habit. Are you interested in experimenting with new ways to engage your members? Learn about how rasa.io can help.

This blog is the final in a 3-part series on experimentation. Read the first part of our series on the benefits of experimentation and the second part of our series about rolling out a trial program.

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.