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What is Member Success and Why is it Important to your Organization in 2020?

When you sell a jacket or a bar of chocolate, the ethereal idea of ‘customer success’ isn’t necessary.

Those are simple, self-explanatory products that everyone knows how to use. It’s almost built-in to every consumer product today.

Even with things like a new vacuum cleaner or a High-definition television, customer success isn’t required. A user manual and a hotline are as far as most things go.

With your industry-specific association membership product, however, it’s not going to be so easy. Industry-specific tools and resources can be set up and used in a variety of ways, solving different problems for your members. With technology and the internet becoming a global marketplace for not only consumer products but resources as well, industries and the associations themselves have changed and diversified, and there are a lot of avenues for tools and resources your members could be chosen over yours, with more attractive benefits and better support.

When your members need follow-up and guidance to ensure they get a full ROI, that’s when Member Success becomes a must-have.

This is because a member who speaks to your membership coordinator or reads your association’s landing page is already sold on the benefits, not the features.

The member knows your product can solve their problem, but not exactly how to get that value.

What is Member Success?

Member Success starts out as an aim, not a department of people or a group of processes— what we call ‘lower-case’ Member Success.

It starts by recognizing that your members need more than a ‘user manual’ or an automated onboarding flow or email drip campaign for their membership to live up to the promises made on your landing page.

Keeping members close and working with them 1-on-1 is a Member Success style known as Concierge Onboarding. While startups, Product to consumer companies, and now even associations like yours are starting to focus on it only now, the early results are promising — members… who’ve gotten a customized onboarding experience with their membership… and have returned year after year to their associations… have doubled.

It should be obvious that: a member who is staring at the outset of their membership and wondering how they can best measure the ROI for their company – and they haven’t gotten the guidance or hand-holding they need to fully benefit from their membership – that member is likely to cancel their membership and go look for something they understand — something that is easy to see the value of straight away.

Member Success is a system, run by people whose only goal is to help members get the most out of their membership. It happens straight after their joining the association is processed.

So in order to define Member Success, you must know what success looks like for your members. The definition will be different for each member and each member segment, and the method of achieving it will be different for every organization. The first thing about Member Success you must know is that it’s not member support: it’s a way of proactively working with your member 1:1.

The Definition of Member Success

Before you can effectively operationalize member success – hire Member Success Managers, procure Member Success software, or start to explore the role Member Success plays in different aspects of your business, you have to take a step back and look at what actual member success really is.

Member Success is when your members achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your organization.

There are two key elements in that definition of Member Success to pay close attention to:

Desired Outcome – a transformative concept that essentially describes what the member needs to achieve (Required Outcome) and how they need to achieve it (Appropriate Experience)

So then, rather than saying “with your membership, or resource, or product,” in our Member Success definition, the focus is on all of the interactions your member has with your organization; starting at the earliest touchpoints of marketing and sales, moving through closing and onboarding, and continuing through their entire lifecycle with you.

If you can keep this simple definition of Member Success in mind, everything else moving forward will make sense to you.

If your members aren’t constantly getting value from what they’re paying you, you can understand from a business perspective why they will stop paying.

Here at Association Project Management, LLC we’ve developed a 10-statement survey that will assess how well your association is positioned to stop the membership erosion your organization may be experiencing and start adding more new agencies to your ranks than you are losing through decline. If you’re interested in this self-evaluation tool, email us at associaitionprojectmanagement.llc@outlook.com. We’d love to get your feedback, and help you make some positive growth changes for your membership goals!

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 our 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.

Contact us today to see how we can help your organization excel in 2020!

The Basics of Member Onboarding

Onboarding is perhaps the most critical phase in the member journey – if nothing else, it sets the tone for the relationship – and is too important to just slap together and hope it works.

Please ensure you’re giving the Onboarding process – and your new members with whom you currently have a very fragile relationship – the attention they deserve.

So let’s start here.

If you can’t answer these questions with confidence, that’s a problem:

  • What does “onboard” mean in the context of your members?
  • Is it the same for each member segment?
  • At what point is your member onboard?

Let me help you answer those questions…

The seeds of churn are planted early, and those seeds are planted deep if your onboarding experience for new members or your prospects during a free trial is terrible.  Whether the Time to First Value is too long, the experience is painful, or expectations are simply mismanaged, those “seeds of churn” can be traced back to onboarding.

To design an effective onboarding process you must know what “onboarding” means or at what point a member would be considered “onboard.”

Regardless of whether it’s a high-touch or low-touch scenario, 100% of the time, the problem is that the association either doesn’t know what the member or prospect’s Desired Outcome is… or forgot that solving for that is the most important thing.

What defines an ‘Onboarded’ Member?

Most people think in terms of “functional” or technical onboarding; getting their members and users to go through the motions to get “up-and-running” with their membership or product rather than equating onboarding with a value delivery milestone.

But even if they focused on value delivery, there’s still no universal definition of a fully-onboarded member; it’s simply different for every organization.

Since it’s hard to nail down that definition, We prefer to consider a member “onboarded” as being in one of two potential states:

  1. They’ve achieved “initial success” with your resource (consider this First Value Delivered – FVD), or –
  2. They haven’t gotten actual value yet, but for the first time outside of your sales and marketing, they see the real value potential in this relationship with you.

So, what “initial success” (realized or potential) does my member need to achieve when all parties understand that the breadth and depth of use will continue to evolve and expand over their lifetime as a member? That’s a great question to keep top of mind as you go through this process.

“Onboarding Complete” is the first Success Milestone in the member lifecycle, the time it takes to get there is TTFV (Time to First Value), and Onboarded is the member’s new status as they move into the next phase of the lifecycle.

Your members are considered “onboard” once they get actual value from OR (in more complex scenarios) see the real value potential in – outside of the promises made by marketing and sales – their relationship with you.

What those things actually look like will be 100% dependent on your unique relationship with your members, but just from that simple definition, it should be clear that “getting value” or “seeing the real value potential” won’t be the same for each logical member segment.

What “onboarded” is, the steps required to get there, everything involved in moving through those steps, etc. will most likely be at least a little different across segments, as well.

How do you create a plan, member journey map, etc. that will guide the member to achieve “success” in the first place?

You create a plan to get here by identifying “initial success” and backing out from that goal while identifying success milestones along the way.

Not Sure How they Define Success? Ask.

The easiest way to figure out what success looks like for your member – before you can break that down into milestones – is to ask them.

  • What is their Desired Outcome? (Don’t ask them this directly, but ask questions that expose this)
  • How do they measure success themselves?
  • How are they measured by their boss?
  • What are they trying to achieve with your product?

I’d ask them what “success” means to them first, do that with several power members (if you have multiple types of members, you may want to pick an ideal member to focus on initially), analyze the results for similarities and patterns, reduce it down to a handful of absolute required outcomes, and then turn it back to them for approval/buy-in.

But to be absolutely clear, you’re getting them to tell you the outcomes they desire, and maybe the milestones needed to get to that “success” with your product.

You’re not asking them what they need or want (features, functionality, or even workflows) since they’ll just tell you what they’ve done before or what they wish they could have done.

You can make big leaps forward by understanding not what they need to “do” but what they need/want to achieve and using your creativity/engineering prowess/entrepreneurial spirit to solve for that. This is where Desired Outcome thinking really shines.

Just Focus on the Next Success Milestone

The best part of breaking down the onboarding process like this is that while you must keep the overall goal of success in mind, you only have to solve for the next success milestone with your lifecycle messaging, app design, etc.

Once your members reach that milestone, you move them onto the next one and so on. This makes creating those email or in-app lifecycle messages easier and results in them being much more effective.

Keeping this “success milestone” way of thinking after they become a member – or are otherwise past the member onboarding process – will allow you to discover up-promote/cross-promote other member resources, as well as advocacy requests at the perfect time so you’re more likely to get positive feedback on those.

Time to First Value is a very interesting KPI to track (as part of Success Vector) but is often misunderstood and misapplied.

Time to First Value is a goal you can use to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of your onboarding process, help determine appropriate interventions if that goal is or isn’t being met, and will also likely be different for each of your member segments.

 

“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 www.associationprojectmanagement.com

How to Discover your Member’s Desired Outcome

Memberships Matter – Make the most of Your Membership Program.

Member Success is when your member achieves their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your organization.

Desired Outcome = Required Outcome + Appropriate Experience.

Each member segment will have its own Appropriate Experience (AX) – even if they share the same Required Outcome (RO) – and this will tell you the type and level of support (humans – required skills, characteristics, etc. – plus technology).

Discovering your member’s Desired Outcome takes a process of multiple steps, and it starts as soon as they become a member prospect– part of their screening for membership if you will.

YES, you should be interviewing them to make sure that they are a good fit for your organization.  Just because they called and inquired or visited your website and read your membership page, or they submitted an application for membership, doesn’t mean they are a good candidate for membership!

You can actually have members that are a bad fit. They don’t really understand what you do for them, they think your resources do something that they were never really intended to do (there may be a better option for them – in your toolbox, or in your competitor’s!), They will just be a problem from day-one and suck time, energy and resources out of your staff – honestly, they are almost always lowest tier-level dues payers, and are not worth the few hundred dollars they’re paying annually for all the trouble they create when you try to help the un-helpable. Remember – You get to CHOOSE your members.

Asking the Right Questions

“How do you go about knowing the Desired Outcome of your member?”

Desired Outcome is made up of two pieces. One piece is Required Outcome (RO) – that’s the business’ goal. It’s the thing your member needs to achieve, the thing they are trying to accomplish; and helping them achieve that is why you exist in their world. It’s what gets you in the game. If you can’t help them achieve their Required Outcome, then you’re not what they need, and they aren’t a good fit for you.

“What is it that you are trying to accomplish, and how do you feel we can help you do that?”

This is the question to ask them first. Let them tell you why they feel they need to be a member of your organization; what resources you have that they believe will solve their problem, fix their issue, meet their specific business needs.

Required Outcome is relatively easy to understand. It’s why you have the resources that you do for your members.

RO is easy to grasp. Most organizations like yours get this from the outset. The second piece is Appropriate Experience (AX).

It’s the Appropriate Experience part that most people have problems with, not simply when they start doing this process, but often in simply wrapping their brains around the concept in the first place.

What AX requires you to do is to really get to know the member.

There is not going to be one question that you ask a member and – magically – you will know what their Appropriate Experience is.

You’re going to have to talk to them. Ask them these questions. Don’t ask them what their Appropriate Experience is but ask them:

“What do you expect would be the outcome of joining our organization or using our resource(s)?”

“What would it take in order for you to be successful?”

“What is it you hope that we (or, our resource) can accomplish for you?”

You’re going to have to take those questions and really make them your own for your situation but start looking at adjacent products that are similar to the one they are looking at and decide together if it is the right solution for their need.

You could look at competitive products as well, ones that may not be yours, but from a competitor, because even by not having them join, but by finding them a solution or at least pointing them in the right direction, it’s going to help them and you in the long run.

Asking these types of questions is going to give you some baseline. You can ask questions of your members like, “Are you happy with those resources? Are they providing the outcome you had hoped for, or not?” And then listen to their answer. Let them talk and listen for things – good and bad – that aren’t necessarily about the product but are about the overall experience.

That will start a conversation, which is what you want.

“This particular resource is not meeting the expectation of our member and our member is saying that that’s not appropriate.”

We can start to ascertain some things from that. It’s observing. Go spend some time with your members actually onsite. When was the last time you shadowed – not just visited for a meeting – a member? You actually saw them using your product or saw them doing their job. There’s a whole bunch of things that you can do. It’s a discovery process, not a dictation process.

In other words, you’re not telling your members what their Desired Outcome is, you are discovering it with them. Yes, it’s a little more time-consuming. It’s high-touch Member Success.

You probably also know a lot more about what your member’s Desired Outcome is than you even think. Sit down, take a step back, think about it.

I bet you’ll come up with some answers that you hadn’t even really considered. You’ll be amazed at how quickly implementing this system of discovery will help you turn around your Member Success rate (and reduce your churn rate) and begin to create some real trust and satisfaction among your members. They become Evangelists for your organization, they’ll become Raving Fans®. “Members begetting Members”.

Give it a try.

 

“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 www.associationprojectmanagement.com

Success Vector – The ONE indicator of Member Success-driven Growth

Investing in Member Success-driven Growth is an efficient way to drive revenue and organization valuation, and a metric is needed to measure that growth. That metric is the Success Vector.

We’ve mentioned previously that the NPS (Net Promoter Score) is the ONE metric that can facilitate quickly and efficiently the overall health of your member’s satisfaction with their relationship with your organization, but it can be seen as a moment-in-time snapshot; an ever-changing indicator.

Something else is needed to “pair” with that, something more forward-looking – more of a Key Success Indicator – KSI – than a simple performance indicator (KPI).

In looking at Member Success as the growth engine it is, we need a KSI that we can use to ensure we’re on track to meet the growth potential that Member Success will unlock within our existing member base.

The Key to Real Predictable Revenue

Every organization wants predictable revenue, but most turn to new business sales to get it. They create a goal they want to hit – essentially a made-up number the CEO or Board wants to see – and then they try to figure out how to hit that number.

The “predictable” part of all of this comes down to ensuring your pipeline is loaded with (at least) 5x more leads than your target goal so you can hit it with a 20% close rate.

While that may be “predictable” in a spreadsheet, in reality, hitting that goal requires a lot of work, coordination, effort, hustle, incentives, and – quite frankly – right-place-at-the-right-time timing. Yet, historically, this is where organizations look for new revenue by default.

That’s changing as organizations realize it doesn’t get more predictable than being able to look at your existing members, say these 100 members will reach this Success Milestone in the next month, that milestone has a logical upsell associated with it, the value of that upsell is $1000/ARR, and the percentage of members that should take the upsell based on their Success Vector is 90%.

That means, for that particular upsell, you’ll add $90k/ARR next month. Then, by combining the expansion value of all of the milestone upsells, you can give an accurate prediction of the revenue you’ll generate from your existing members.

That’s actual, real predictable revenue.

Historically, Member Health Score was a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for Member Success, but it doesn’t give you what you need in this new world of Member Success-driven Growth.

Success Vector gives you a real way to see not just what’s happening with our members today, but where do you think they’re going in the future.

Vector is defined, according to a quick Google search, as “a quantity having direction as well as magnitude, especially as determining the position of one point in space relative to another”. That’s exactly what we’re looking for.

 

Direction + Magnitude. It All Starts with the Member

One of the biggest mistakes I see in Member Success is when the CEO of an organization hires or appoints a Member Success Manager (MSM), declaring the organization is now member-centric and then telling the MSM to “figure it out” without giving budget or resources. Though sometimes, if any resources are given, it’s to buy software.

People are a huge part of  Member Success Management. If we want our members to grow with us over 3, 5, or even 10 years, ensuring the member is engaged and continues to achieve their evolving Desired Outcome is critical. In fact, it’s why your organization actually exists in their world. It takes people, not software to do that.

Before you can Orchestrate, Operationalize,  Instrument, and Intervene – or develop a Success Vector – you need to be clear about the Desired Outcome for each of your discrete member segments.

Now, let’s get back to Success Vector:

Key Success Vector Inputs

The inputs that are 100% required for Success Vector to be meaningful are:

  1. Success Potential
  2. Success Milestones
  3. Joint Accountabilities

Success Potential

If your member doesn’t have Success Potential, that’s something you need to address (by actively segmenting them from those bad-fit members).

When it comes to Success Potential, there are several things we need to look at:

  • Technical Fit – Do they have, or can they acquire a key piece of technology to reach the Desired Outcome they are seeking?
  • Functional Fit – Does your product or resource have a key piece of functionality for them?
  • Resource Fit – Can they invest – beyond simply paying your dues fee – in what’s required to be successful as our member?
  • Competence Fit – Do they have – or will they acquire – the expertise internally required to be successful?
  • Experience Fit – Do they have – or will they acquire, source, or train resources that have or can have the necessary experience to be successful with your product?
  • Cultural Fit – They have beliefs, morals, attitudes, etc. that you know will align with the way you work.

If you can’t check all of the Success Potential boxes, then you can be absolutely sure that those members are not going to achieve their Desired Outcome – both their Required Outcome and the Appropriate Experience – so you’re setting everyone up for failure if you keep them around. They are what we call a bad fit. Do not consider this lightly – these types of members are better off – for you and them – not being members, rather than suffering the financial, emotional, and resource drain they will place on your organization.

Success Milestones & Joint Accountabilities

The biggest problem with Member Health Scores is they rarely include whether or not the member is actually doing the things necessary – inside the use of the product or resource and beyond – that would indicate they’re on the right path toward achieving their Desired Outcome.

For Success Vector, knowing where the member is on their path toward success – including whether they’re holding up their end of the bargain on the joint accountabilities you’ve agreed to – is the main input.

In fact, if you don’t pull in any other contextual data and only looked at Success Milestones and Joint Accountabilities, you’d be better off than most organizations that pull together complex Member Health Scores.

When the member does have Success Potential, but they aren’t doing what needs to be done to achieve success, that’s a problem and we need to intervene.

If those things aren’t included in the Success Vector, then what purpose does it really serve? It’s like creating a Member Success strategy without starting with the member (which, sadly, is pretty common still).

When it comes to predictable revenue, this is where there is really good news.

Some Success Milestones will have a logical upsell or advocacy opportunity associated with them. Based on which Success Milestone our members will hit in the next month – and your confidence in both hitting that mark and taking the upsell or advocacy opportunity associated with the milestone – you should be able to accurately predict the revenue expansion from your existing member base.

Additional Success Vector Inputs

Organizations with more robust Success Vectors also have inputs like:

  • Ascension Velocity – Are they taking upsells when they’re logical?
  • Meaningful Product Activity – Also known as product usage data. It has to be meaningful activity, though.
  • Adoption – Did they meet initial adoption goals? Are they meeting ongoing adoption goals?
  • Advocacy – Are they advocating for your organization in appropriate ways where logical?
  • Usability Issues – Are there problems or missing features keeping them from achieving success; missing features would indicate a lack of Success Potential and should be noted as such
  • Member Organization (Account) – Are negative things happening with their organization? External triggers, bills not being paid, M&A, etc.
  • Support – Support tickets aren’t bad unless they’re not being closed in a positive way quickly; also if support tickets slow or stop.
  • Satisfaction & Confidence – NPS

 

Success Vector Status Definitions

The Success Vector of a member will change from time to time, but you ultimately want all of your members on a Positive Success Vector. Stagnant members on a Neutral Success Vector simply renewing at the same level is no longer considered good enough.

The new measure of success is members that are engaging, evolving, and expanding.

Positive Success Vector

  • They’re on the right track – they aren’t just static, but are expanding or on-track to do so

Neutral Success Vector

  • Stalled or Stagnated
  • Does not fit with the new measure of success
  • Member needs to be gotten back on track to achieving their Desired Outcome and on a logical Ascension Path

Negative Success Vector

  • They’re not on the right track and intervention is needed

Ghosts

  • Your key contact at the member has stopped engaging or responding – This member is about to non-renew

Situational Awareness and Member Triage

If you’re just starting out integrating the Member Success operating philosophy into your organization, there’s a really good chance you’ll have some members that have gone dark. For the members that are a good fit and should be saved, you need to go into an intervention procedure with them which will require issue resolution through cooperation of both parties. However, know that just getting them back is not Member Success.  It will take extra work to get them on a Positive Success Vector.

To pull them from darkness back into the light or otherwise save them from churning has nothing to do with actually helping them achieve their Desired Outcome. They’ve given you another chance, but they should be considered to still be on a Negative Success Vector.

Member Success would have been ensuring they didn’t get to this point, to begin with!

You now have to work to take that member, plus any other member that’s on a Negative Success Vector and move them to Neutral and then Positive.

At first, you’ll have members in each category, but eventually, as you Orchestrate and Operationalize your Member Success Management processes, you’ll get to a point where you only have Neutral and Positive Success Vector members.

 

“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 www.associationprojectmanagement.com

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