Note: This is a guest article.

So you’ve got a membership website and perhaps it’s not living up to the results you expected. Or maybe you’re thinking of building a membership site? You are trying to avoid becoming a statistic – Fortune reported that 90% of online businesses end in failure.

Ignoring customers was one of the top 10 reasons startup founders cited as the reason why their business shuttered. That certainly reflects a poor job of customer engagement. And likely operational and process issues as well!

We’ll assume that you aren’t ignoring your members and want to do a really good job in this area. So, let’s look at some strategies to build engagement with members:

1. Ask for a response to your emails with a one-question survey

Building member engagement is best achieved with a two-way communication model. So instead of just pushing information to your members, consider a more conversational approach. When sending out an email to them, think about writing it as if you were just talking to one person; ask for a response.

The ask can be as simple as, “How can I help you achieve ______ this year?” or “What’s one challenge that you’d like my help with?”

Some members may want to give their opinion about how you are doing. Make the subject line a question such as, “Are you willing to serve on our focus group?”

Personal asks are more likely to get a response than a request that appears to go to everyone.

2. Send targeted communications to segments of your membership

Your member database software has a number of ways to group members. Maybe you already know the various types of members’ businesses or demographics like job titles. If you create specific messaging based upon these segments, the content will be much more relevant to the member.

Your open rate will be much higher for these types of messages too. And of course, open rates are one metric to measure engagement. One study revealed that segmented and targeted emails generated 58% of all revenue.

Encourage or even incentivise your members to classify or segment themselves when they join or renew their membership. Standardising the choices you offer them with drop-down fields or similar fields will be more useful than fill-in-the-blank fields.

With standardisation, this data can be used in many ways:

  • Create and promote custom benefits, website content, discounts or event tickets to specific categories of members. For example, members who are CTOs could have relevant blog posts emailed to them.
  • Reveal trends. For example, you might learn meaningful demographic information about members (e.g. “22% of our members have ________ certification”) to encourage forum, group, or list serve activity in a subset of your online community if you have one.
  • Customise your online member directory so that searchers can locate specific skill sets or other member demographics.

3. Personalise communications TO BUILD engagement WITH MEMBERS

In an ideal world, you would personally engage with each member by phone, email, or in person. It’s personal connections that make people feel belonging and a sense of community. But if your membership is large enough, that is close to impossible.

Personalisation is a big trend. You can use your membership software to implement personalisation for a more personal touch. For example, Campaign Monitor reported that emails with personalised subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.

With these impressive numbers, consider investigating what options your membership software offers in terms of personalisation and leverage them to build member engagement.

4. Publish information your members will love and share

This may vary according to the topic of your membership website, but your members might like to see and share content such as:

  • Results of a salary survey in a slideshow format.
  • Information about industry trends that your website is in a unique position to collect from its members.
  • Research you’ve conducted from information published online. For example, in the article cited earlier, the research organisation noted that many startup founders publish their post-mortems on Medium. By reviewing these posts and other sources, the group compiled data about the primary reasons behind startup failure.
  • A report on membership demographics that will help your members gain interest in each other and leverage their member benefits. For example, if you have a forum or a member directory, members might want to connect with and perhaps even hire others who have certain titles, interests, certifications, or qualifications.

You can use online tools or your own membership software to create a survey to collect information that your members would love to see.

If you conduct a member survey, follow through with those who complete the survey by sending them a thank you message and a link to view the results.

If your survey or report page is public, members may want to share this on social media with their networks or send it to colleagues. When a member shares your content, that’s not only flattering, it’s also showing that they find value and are engaging with you.

Do you have any other great tips to build engagement with members?

Continue the discussion in the comments section!