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Top Five Tips for Associations in a Post-COVID World

Top Five Tips for Associations in a Post-COVID World
By Julie Kennon   |   May 11, 2021

Here are five insights from Jodi McGill. She’s been a project manager for a few decades and knows her way around association websites.

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“What are some of the biggest challenges association clients have faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?”

While bringing value and opportunities for connections have always been the core of retaining membership, those are even more important today. For many of our association clients, their annual conference is the biggest opportunity to showcase the value they offer members and to offer networking and collaborative opportunities. Because of the pandemic, many associations had to quickly pivot and switch to virtual events. This year, they may be straddling both worlds by hosting a hybrid event. Ensuring a positive experience, both online and in person, for members and sponsors is critical to the success of the event. The ongoing challenge will be to reach the audience in a way that resonates with them.

“What can help associations meet this challenge?”

Having a concrete strategy to optimize the user experience of an association’s website can improve the outcome and satisfaction of all participants. First, it’s important that site navigation is clear and that content is written and designed to clearly communicate the information in an orderly manner. Once people can find what they need, then you can focus on how to create opportunities for engagement online. Are there live forums? Moderated networking sessions? Opportunities to “ask the expert?” Networking virtually can feel awkward, and creating incentives and structure around these opportunities can help break the ice. Creating personas and use cases and conducting user research can help uncover what strategies will work best for your audiences.

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“How can associations maintain membership levels right now?”

Continuing to bring additional value to members will help you retain your members. For example, offering extra virtual educational or networking events may help members stay connected. Offering a grace period or free events to help members until things bounce back may be more effective than trying to win them back later. Look at ways to lower your expenses rather than raising dues. And think about casting a wider net: are there other audiences that could benefit from membership? Think of a creative and value-driven way to reach them.

“Is there one content management system for associations that will provide the best user experience?”

That depends; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important to take a careful look at a client’s needs, technical skill set, available resources, what they want the CMS to do, how many integrations with third-party systems will be required, and what kind of budget they have. Almost any CMS will work well if it’s customized for a client. The user experience for members isn’t as influenced by the technology as much as it depends on how well your navigation and content are designed.

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“What’s your takeaway message for associations?”

Most of my clients want to redesign their website to keep it engaging for their members and retain them, especially with the renewed focus on virtual connections. Clearly conveying the value of membership throughout the site—design, content, functionality—goes a long way to keeping members engaged. You always want to start a project by looking at usability and the user experience of the website. Whether it is through interviews, surveys, or task-based usability testing, your members and sponsors can provide the insights you need to get started creating a great experience.

Have more questions?

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