Maximizing Member Uptake of Your Society Offerings: A Four-Step Approach
Research societies are facing revenue pressures this year, fueled by both long-term gradual decline in society membership and decreases in publication revenue. Societies are therefore looking at new revenue streams, such as repurposing and repackaging content to meet members’ needs, through continuing education programs, skills upgrading programs, customized content packages, etc. They are also offering various benefits and incentives to drive membership. However, many societies are witnessing limited uptake of these resources for members: only 7% of society members in a multi-society international survey utilized a society’s career service option. Societies are faced with the need to maximize members’ uptake of their offerings to boost revenue both directly and indirectly (through member engagement). This article presents a four-step approach for doing so.
1. Segmenting and targeting members
Research societies already apply some form of strategic segmentation (such as special prices and programs for students, early career researchers, etc.). Societies can drill down to find further segments within the broader groups of members, such as by geographical location, subfield, or even type of workplace (e.g., university vs. hospital). As part of this process, it’s important to also acquire detailed knowledge about the targeted segment(s)—not just their research-related needs but also their overall lives, especially challenges. Information behaviors are influenced by a variety of factors, including demographic, job-related, and psychological.
2. Collecting and analyzing data
With societies offering more and more online resources and communication channels, analytics are a powerful tool for identifying how exactly members engage with these resources and what generates maximum engagement. For example, are webinars more popular than podcasts for continuing education? Does making a page mobile friendly increase its views, and by how much? All these questions and more can be answered by regularly collating analytics for the society’s web properties. In addition, focus group discussions can be a valuable source of information, enabling societies to understand what underlies the numerical data that analytics provides.
3. Refining offerings to cater to the target segment(s) content consumption pattern
Using the insights gained from the first two steps, societies can optimize the content they provide each segment. In other words, the insights collected should form the basis for decisions such as whether to provide career advice and support beyond a jobs board, whether training programs for early career researchers should focus on writing skills or more specifically grant application skills, etc. Further, knowing whether a target segment, such as practitioners, uses a smartphone or computer to stay updated can allow the society to optimize the content format used to deliver research updates (e.g., podcast vs. email newsletter). Similarly, if a particular segment doesn’t have a stable, high-speed Internet connection (e.g., because they are doing fieldwork in remote areas), they would probably prefer downloadable PDF handbooks to livestreamed webinars. Knowing how many members don’t attend webinars because they are in the wrong time zone can enable societies to set up online libraries for accessing webinar content. These are some ways that existing offerings can be customized if the segments are targeted and their consumption patterns are clear.
4. Employing a multichannel approach for promotion
It’s necessary to communicate offerings to the target segments through multiple channels, based on their communication preferences. Relying on a single communication channel like email limits a society’s reach and visibility. Promote your content offerings in multiple places, such as your newsletter, direct emailers, on your conference website, on your society website, and on multiple social media platforms, based on how your target segment searches for and accesses information.
Societies are investing significant time and effort in diversifying their revenue streams, particularly by leveraging their rich content resources and position as thought leaders in their fields. For a content plan to have maximum effectiveness, it needs to be based on strategic understanding of their members and what drives their uptake of society offerings.
Early career researchers can play a significant role in revitalizing your society. Download this whitepaper to learn more about engaging and retaining these members.