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Challenges facing associations are vast and often times unlike that of a typical business. Lack of monetary and human resources can make it more difficult for associations to keep up with technology and innovations. The 5 challenges we’ll cover have been recurring themes we’ve seen when working with associations, and these pain points have been uncovered through various association research initiatives.

Solutions to these challenges are primarily ways associations can utilize technology to advance their organizations’ purpose. We’ll include examples of how your organization can quickly and easily use technology to benefit members, staff, and stakeholders.

Let’s dive deeper into the 5 challenges facing associations along with explaining the innovative and simple solution technology can provide.

1. Understanding Members

Associations know who their audiences are, what their day-to-day lives are like, and what they need from their member association. Most have great data on demographics, pain points, and other characteristics. The challenge is that there are multiple types of members and associations need to simultaneously provide benefits to members, stakeholders, and even non-members.

Solution – Creating member personas

Use the rich demographic information in your AMS database to create member personas. Creating and documenting member personas can sound like a daunting task, but there are step-by-step processes out there you can refer to. Check out Higher Logic 9 step process or Abila’s article on understanding your members to initiate the first steps. If you do not have the resources in house, organizations like Adage can help with one-off projects and discovery workshops. Either way, its’ time to take advantage of the member information that is at your fingertips.

2. Content Utilization

Many associations began as publishing companies and now have a vast library of content. The content or resources are a fundamental part of the value proposition for members and the main reason why they become members and stay members. Associations are challenged with fully utilizing content in their library.

Solution – Repurpose Content with Retargeting Ads

Content must be structured and published based on people’s needs and also must align with the user journey. You can reach potential members at other stages of their user journey by repurposing your most popular (most read) pieces of content into retargeted social campaigns. Instead of waiting for potential members to come back to your site or call about membership, start thinking about retargeting campaigns across channels (website, search, social). Savvy marketers know that if a buyer shows intention by googling for your association or visits your website and reviews member benefits, that using social media platforms to target content/advertising is extremely beneficial.

An article, e-guide, or blog can also be used to attract potential members. Especially if they are aware of your organization, repurposing your content as a social retargeting ad will make member benefits very clear and help potential members view you as a trusted resource.

Bonus tip. Google offers grants to many nonprofits of up to $10K of in-kind AdWords advertising per month, per organization. See if you are eligible. Then use appropriate keywords to get potential members to your content – on your website.

3. Content Findability

Such large amounts of content make it difficult for members to find and difficult to know where to find it. You can improve user experience by improving your site’s search functionality and facilitate easy consumption of personalized and searchable content.

Solution – Improve Site Search Functionality

First, ensure your site has the ability to search. That is the first place 43% of site visitors go. Especially if they do not find what they are looking for on your home page. Members and potential members come to your site for resources and Display the search field prominently, where people expect to find it with a search button, magnifying glass, or other widely recognized calls-to-action. Don’t’ forget to add a search to every page of your website.

challenges facing associations - content findability

If your organization is ready, you can take further steps to improve content findability on your site. These include clarifying what your users can search for and using an auto-suggestion mechanism. To learn more, check out our recent webinar on-site search and personalization.

4. Poor Web Navigation

Many associations are often siloed and are not consistently gathering, sharing data, or building singular member profiles. Members want to see content that matches their interests. People expect their interests and preferences to matter.

If your website was built between 2007-2013 you probably structured your web site’s navigation according to your org chart. Perhaps the web design/development project was funded by the business unit, department, etc. Since then the digital world has changed dramatically and this type of structure does not serve your members, staff, or stakeholders.

Solution – Use Personas to Restructure your Website

To solve this challenge, take advantage of the rich demographic information in your database and provide all parties with a better digital experience. Once you have completed the process of creating and documenting user personas I mentioned earlier, use them to personalize and target communications to specific audiences.

Consider your web site navigation. Is it answering questions your site visitors have? Is it leading them to answers? Call out specific personas and organize your website to appeal to the multiple member types. For example, the American Institute of Steel Construction realizes who is visiting their site and what they are looking for. On the home page, you can easily navigate to education, publications, membership, and other topics that meet the needs of the developed personas.

challenges facing associations - web navigation

5. Fragmented Technology Platforms

Experiences that are different across all technology platforms confuses people. Associations often have digital universes that are complex. Ultimately, people want a hassle-free experience, a single sign-on, clear information, and time well-spent.

Hicks’s Law of User Experience tells us that if we reduce the number of stimuli, we will get a faster decision. Simply put, make it easy for your users to do what they want to do. Whether that’s finding a piece of content, the ability to make a donation or to sign up as a member, make it easy.

Solution – Update Brand

Reduce points of friction for your members by mitigating the fragmented experience. Begin by updating your organization’s brand by making it simplified and unified. That means logos, colors, and fonts are the same on each platform.

The next step is to establish a pattern library. It’s one of the most basic building blocks of user experiences. If you can make it simple, consistent, you can apply it to all platforms.

Ideally, the next step is to consolidate all of the platforms into one ensuring an enhanced user experience. If this is not in your organization’s budget, at least make the steps toward consistent branding.

Download our Digital Transformation Workbook

Our Digital Transformation Workbook simplifies what digital transformation means for your organization. You’ll be able to assess your organization’s preparedness for change with our readiness checklist. We have an overview of the ABCs of Digital Transformation. There’s also a set of questions to help you identify internal weaknesses and strengths as you face a Digital Transformation. Don’t wait to improve your digital presence and your audience’s online experience.