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.