As digital ways of communicating and conducting association operations take on more importance in the pandemic era, the spotlight shines on association websites, content management platforms, learning platforms and association management software systems. Do they work the way they should? How is the user experience? Your online store can be great, for example, but if a user has to create a profile and be manually approved before purchasing, what good is your store?
Joanna M. Pineda, CEO & Chief Troublemaker of Matrix Group International explained at the 2020 ASAE Annual Meeting that the way to create amazing and intentional member journeys through your association’s online platforms is a four-part process:
1. Identify your most important audiences
Who are they? What are their demographics? What are their most important needs? What do they need from you? Conduct interviews with major stakeholders about how they use one of your association’s products.
2. What are their most important journeys?
Inventory how members interact with your association. Document those paths. They could be: becoming a member, registering for a meeting or online course, becoming certified or subscribing to a publication, to name a few. Interview or survey your members about the online resources and processes they use. You might discover member journeys that your staff didn’t think were prominent but are being regularly used by members. Conversely, you might ascribe more importance to a certain resource than your members.
Pineda shared a story about an association that wanted to improve their website experience, but after interviewing members and looking at their data, discovered that members were hardly looking at their website. They were using the member portal, a separate site, much more often. So you might recognize a need for a shift in priorities such as focusing on a different service or product, changing your content or shifting budget.
3. Map those journeys.
Visit your website. Go through the process of applying for membership. Create an account as if it’s your first time. Download resources. How many steps does it take? Is it clear what you have to do next? Was the experience enjoyable? Pineda shared a story about one association CEO discovering that the online registration for their main event was 26 pages long! It was no wonder that their website data showed registration drop-offs in the 700s. Who has time for that many form fields?
Common problems with journeys that don’t flow well: They’re often in another system besides the main website, such as an AMS, LMS, or journal site. Often when you cross systems, the user gets lost, has to log in again, the look and feel is different, or you have to register for yet another account.
Once you have mapped out the journey as it is, you’re ready to imagine the online journey as it should be.
4. Involve your partners in making the journeys amazing.
Don’t issue an RFP for a website redesign. Or to overhaul your CMS. Issue an RFP to create amazing journeys. Describe your goals, your ideal member journey, and list all partners. This can sometimes become complicated, but if you’re committed, you’ll work through it.
Foster good relationships with and between vendors. Hold a yearly vendor conference – could simply be a lunch or dinner. This will help decrease friction between vendors when the work gets intense later on. Allow coordination time between vendors. Set the expectation that you expect cooperation. Establish swim lanes but allow for crossover.
Conduct user interface training with members. Map their flows and eliminate dead ends and duplicate pages. Ask your partners to come up with solutions for your issues, not just implement their tech.
When you’ve completed these four steps, you’ll have an action plan ready to implement. This can take time, and that’s fine! Make your implementation timeline specific: “This quarter, [or in the next 6 months, or over the coming year], we want to improve the member onboarding process.” Or, we want to improve our event registration process. To stay on top of all your online journeys and ensure your association is continually improving, Pineda recommends identifying one journey to improve every six months.
In short, creating amazing member journeys is a short- and long-term endeavor. Identify all stakeholders, experience the member journey for yourself, map out your ideal online journey, and get all partners on board.