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Orchestration – The 8 Elements of Member Success Management

Membership Mondays – Memberships Matter – Make the most of Your Membership Program.


One of the simplest – and yet amazingly effective – things you can do to ensure your members aren’t just on the path toward success but to know what to expect along the way is what we call Orchestration.

Orchestration is made up of three main elements:

  1. Properly Manage Expectations
  2. Lay out Joint Accountabilities
  3. Tee-up future Expansion and Advocacy

Managing expectations with your members by telling them what to expect in the first 30, 60, 90-days as a member and what the major Success Milestones are along the way are some very simple ways to reduce any anxiety they might have and to build trust in you.

The concept of Success Milestones is a relatively simple one to grasp, but the power and the value of this way of thinking are often overlooked or misunderstood. Let’s fix that.

Since we’ve not yet defined Success Milestones in our previous articles, what better time to do that than right now.

Everyone Gets Success Milestones Wrong

When we ask the companies we work with to come up with a list of Success Milestones for their members, we usually get something like this:

Discovery ==> Membership ==> Onboarding ==> Use ==> Upsell ==> Renewal

Those are phases of the member lifecycle and – if they should even be considered milestones – they’re your milestones as the go-to resource, the association… they’re based around your success.

So just to be clear… we’re talking about the Success Milestones of the member, in the context of your product and their interactions with you.

So how does this differ from “member journey maps” and the like? Let’s explore…


Almost every member journey map I see is provider-focused and static.

The “member experience” is almost always based around the product as the center of the universe, making it less a “member” experience and more a “product” experience that the member has.

The problem with that is – from the member’s perspective – it’s always a “Member Experience” … and when you opt to not focus on the member and their Desired Outcome, you’ll instantly be misaligned with them, meaning that whatever experience you orchestrate will be incongruent with the Appropriate Experience they’re looking for.

If that ends up working well for you, just know it’s in spite of your efforts rather than because of your efforts; only the latter efficiently scales.

Most member journey maps or overall “Member Experience” is based on an internally-focused goal; often but around your functionality, feature set, and ultimately your goals… rather than the goals of your member.

You should have a clear starting point and a clear destination for your member. Any map or navigation system requires at least those two inputs to be useful.

And when you sense the member is veering off course, you recalculate and navigate them back on course. Unless they update the destination – which can happen along the way – you need to keep guiding them back toward their Desired Outcome.

And if they do change the destination mid-trip, that’s fine… help them arrive at the new destination.

I’m not sure how organizations that claim to be focused on Member Success or “Member-centric” can do that without baselining members when they sign-up and clearly understanding the members’ evolving Desired Outcome across their lifecycle as a member, but that’s a discussion for another day.

No matter the metaphor, ultimately,…

Desired Outcome is the Goal

Success Milestones are the steps required for a member to achieve their ever-evolving Desired Outcome.

Remember, Desired Outcome has two parts: Required Outcome and Appropriate Experience.

Required Outcome is the member’s goal, the thing your member is trying to accomplish; it’s what gets you in the game. If you can’t help them achieve this, then you’ve lost them from the outset.

Appropriate Experience (or what we sometimes abbreviate as AX) is how your members want or need to achieve that Required Outcome. This is why they came to your organization and became members to begin with, as opposed to trying to build or create their own. It’s why they chose you over a commercial competitor. It’s why they chose you over a different-but-functionally-equivalent product.

It’s called “appropriate” instead of “great” or some other adjective because we’re talking about an experience that is appropriate for the member.

If the member needs a “great” or “polished” or “high-end” or “bare-bones” experience, then that is what’s appropriate for them. Know your member.

So once you know what their Desired Outcome is (point B) – and you know where they are today (point A)- you can more easily come up with the steps to get them from Point A to Point B.

But this requires getting clear on two very important things: the difference between functional and Success Milestones.

Success Milestones

Success Milestones can be product- or member-centric, and it’s critical to know the difference and where they both fit in.

Functional Milestones

The easiest way to think about functional milestones is to label this “product-centric” or milestones that are reached / occur inside the product.

Almost every association or trade organization that provides tools or resources for its members focuses here. Period.

Unless you’re pegging the functional milestones to the success-oriented use of your product, it’s easy to mistake “functional use” for meaningful activity.

Focusing solely on Functional Milestones also exposes the member to Success Gaps which are caused by the Desired Outcome of the member being outside the scope of complete functional use of the product.

Quickly, The Success Gap occurs when your customer functionally completes the tasks necessary in your product to do the thing they want or need to do, but yet they could still fail to reach their desired outcome.

Fixing this requires that you acknowledge their “success” may be outside the scope of your product, which means thinking about your customers and not just your product… and then thinking about how you can help them achieve that desired outcome. The closer you can get to that, the better.

So, in addition to Functional Milestones, you need to also pay close attention to…

Member Milestones

Think of Success Milestones as “member-centric” or milestones reached by the member that may or may not take place within your product but have a direct impact on their relationship with you.

Member Success Milestones will include functional milestones within the product, of course, but they won’t just be activity for activity’s sake. They will be the result of meaningful activity and will be tied to other inputs to ensure we know that the member is actually achieving their desired outcome.

It is critical that you understand what has to happen for the member to be successful – for them to achieve their Desired Outcome – both within your product and outside of it and then operationalize around that.

Orchestrate as much of the process as you can and hold your members accountable for the parts that are within the scope of their responsibility.

3 Reasons Member Success Milestones are Valuable

If it’s not entirely clear why you should go to the trouble of mapping out the Success Milestones for your members, let us show you three very quantifiable reasons to do so:

  1. Conversion Rate Optimization

There will be a point in the Free Trial (if in fact you offer them, and really you should offer some form to some prospects) when becoming a paying member is the most logical next step. That’s a big success milestone itself, sure, but there were probably some things they needed to do before then to get to that point. Those are also success milestones, too, and at certain points in the member lifecycle you’ll need to get fairly granular.

  1. Expansion Opportunities

This is our all-time favorite use of Success Milestones and is really the key to the efficient scaling of your existing member base by orchestrating Upsell and Cross-Sell activity. Some Success Milestones (not all of them; don’t force it) have a logical expansion opportunity associated with them.

It’s at that point that an add-on makes the most sense, buying additional seats because it’s time to invite Project Managers into the mix, or spinning up a relationship with an adjacent department or division is the logical next step.

The sales mantra of “right message, right time” is powered by Success Milestones.

  1. Member Advocacy

When asking your member to be an advocate for you – either internally or externally – doing so after they’ve achieved a Success Milestone is the perfect time to ask.

There are definitely going to be other data-driven times to reach out with an advocacy ask, after a strong NPS survey response, for instance, but there are going to be milestone-based times to make that ask, too. Know what those are and operationalize that process. In fact, start early with small asks and increase the level of ask over time, again, pegged to their success.

Your list of Success Milestones will vary… but if you apply this type of thinking to your business, your success won’t. Or it might.

No guarantees. But thinking this way probably won’t hurt.


Giving the member a list of things they need to do – both in the product and outside of it, on their own – and what you need to do – and showing that if both parties hold up their end (that’s why I call it Joint Accountabilities) they’ll reach their goal.

But if they fail to do what they need to – and said they’d – do, then they won’t reach their goal. Of course, you have to do what you say you’ll do, too… and if both parties complete their Joint Accountabilities, the member should reach their goal.

Finally, letting the member know that you rely on word of mouth (maybe you say to keep costs down so you stay cheap; don’t say this if you’re the high-priced option!), and that once they hit a certain Success Milestone, you’ll ask them to give you a testimonial or do a case study. But not right now, obviously, they haven’t gotten any value.

Or that when they hit a different Success Milestone, you’ll “let them know about this add-on that other companies like theirs always buy… but you don’t need that right now.”

Then you can start orchestrating Member Success – manage expectations, define joint accountabilities, and tee-up expansion and advocacy – right now; a very low-cost thing.


“Memberships are the most important asset in our Industry today.  Are you making the most of your membership program? Is it growing your organization? Are you putting enough resources into growing your member base? Do you have a targeted plan for Recruiting, Engaging, and Retaining your members? We can help.” – Andrew McElhannon, CEO – Association Project Management, LLC®.

APM® helps member-based organizations & professional Trade Associations achieve Member Success, stabilize their member retention and guarantee membership growth through Prospect Development and Member Recruitment, as well as Member Engagement and Concierge Onboarding.

Organizations implement APM’s® programs to sustain their current revenue, reduce losses due to Churn (member non-renewal) and generate new revenue by creating Raving Fans® who evangelize new members that over time becomes automatic, organic growth. “Members begetting Members”.

Association Project Management, LLC® also provides a list of other project management and project completion services through a virtual staff member – a committed, trusted expert who helps to reduce costs, lower risks, improve efficiencies, meet deadlines, solve challenging problems, support strategic initiatives and produce better outcomes for your association staff. Visit them today at

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