After fifteen months when nearly every human interaction was through a screen, a significant number of people learned they actually prefer it this way. In fact, many associations saw an increase in memberships during the pandemic, as industry professionals were looking for new ways to get information, network, and ‘stay connected’. People have become accustomed to remote life and the increased demand for online services creates tremendous opportunities for growth-minded organizations.
The convenience and time saving that comes from digitizing different aspects of our lives has become the rule rather than the exception. Employers are adjusting to a permanent remote work policy, and businesses are innovating ways to deliver more services to online customers. They are investing in new models because there is clear opportunity for growth. Employers benefit from access to a wider geographic talent pool and improving retention rates with employees who value flexible work schedules. B2B and B2C brands saw an increase in their total market share as a result of reaching new customers through online sales and service. With pandemic restrictions loosening, those new customers aren’t going away. Likewise, association leaders must also consider the Remote Member as a new audience segment and develop strategies for growing and retaining this member type. In fact, there’s significant risk of losing the new members gained during the pandemic, if associations revert to business as usual.
Outdated membership models treat all people the same. There may be price breaks for young professionals, but for the most part, members receive access to the same set of benefits. From the members’ perspective, not all benefits have equal value. Remote Members prefer the convenience of asynchronous events, personalized content, and connecting with peers from their home office. They are less willing to pay dues for benefits they won’t use like attending a conference or local chapter meetings.
Some associations are planning hybrid events to keep an element of online engagement post-pandemic. But hybrid events can feel like a half-measure if the experience isn’t optimized for Remote Members. They may have access to the content but feel disconnected from other participants and miss out on networking opportunities. In time, Remote Members may not see the full value of the standard membership model and choose not to renew.
Remote Members have unique needs, and your growth plan should include strategies to address them. Start by assessing how well your association supports Remote Members in these key areas:
- Advocacy - how is your association helping members advocate for remote work in their profession? Are you developing a position on significant topics like cyber security, and equitable access to digital technology?
- Content – how are you making content accessible for hyper-busy Remote Members to consume? Are you optimizing for mobile, offering podcasts and streaming video?
- Peer-to-peer engagement - do you have a structured program for members to connect virtually such as a Remote Member chapter or standing up social media communities?
- Standards - are you developing content and standards that speaks to the way remote work changed members’ profession? Are new standards needed to account for hybrid and remote work? How can Remote Members contribute to those standards?
- Education - are training and educational courses optimized for Remote Members? Are you developing new educational programs to help members learn new standards and best practices for remote work in their profession?
Uncovering insights about your different member types and the member journey will help you identify unmet needs. A Remote Member model is a novel way to grow membership and demonstrate your association’s commitment to meeting all members’ needs.