Your association’s goals are probably similar to those of associations all across the world: you want to create a supportive community of like-minded individuals and help them grow in their careers.
One of the most important ways that you can provide value to your association is through continuing education (CE). While the specifics look different for every association and industry, the concept remains the same. In order for members to continue to learn and grow in their professions, they need access to educational resources.
This learning can come through a lot of different avenues: some associations prefer hosting in-person courses taught by a local expert, some prefer exclusively online classes, and some offer a combination of both.
If you’re with an association that offers online learning as an avenue of continuing education, then you’re in luck! We’ve created a list of our favorite methods of stepping up your e-learning game by getting your member management strategy involved.
Our best tips for enhancing your members’ e-learning experience through member management are to:
- Segment your members.
- Offer social learning features.
- Host regional events.
- Keep CE data in your membership management software.
- Automate your member outreach.
Using your existing member data and member management strategies will help you encourage your members to become lifelong learners, as well as to take advantage of your continuing education course offerings, no matter the content. If you’re ready to learn more, let’s dive right in!
1. Segment your members.
Member segmentation is the backbone of many engagement strategies. Segmentation can help your association improve communication strategies, event invitation response rate, and increase non-dues revenue—just by sending your members the things that they want to see!
As a brief refresher, segmentation is a strategy in which you break your overall member population into smaller, more similar sections (or segments) by dividing them into groups with commonalities.
Typical segments are sorted by age, region, gender, profession, communication preferences, or engagement habits. These segments are useful for a lot of things, especially when contacting your members about important updates.
For example, if you sort your members by engagement history, you can be sure that you’re reaching out to members with a history of attending and enjoying conferences when you have a new one coming up.
If you’re not sure how to use your membership software to your highest potential, check out Fonteva’s ultimate membership software guide for a quick refresher!
In order to encourage your members to take advantage of any e-learning opportunities you may offer, consider creating these segments of people and advertising your learning options to them:
- Members who frequently attend educational panels and conferences.
- Members who require accreditation or certification for their careers.
- New members who have yet to find their ‘niche’ in your association’s communities.
These members can all be targeted with the same kinds of communications—reminders about your learning management system, seasonal discounts on courses, and different topics that they can take courses on—but you can customize each form of outreach based on what you know about the member.
By sending your e-learning marketing collateral to people who are more inclined to read and act on the information instead of to your entire association, you can improve your click-through rate and return on investment.
Once your members start taking advantage of your e-learning courses, you can segment by “previous learners” as well!
2. Offer social learning features.
Your association thrives because your members love being involved in a community of like-minded individuals. Take this powerful motivator into account when encouraging members to take advantage of your e-learning software.
Some of the most popular LMS features used to incorporate social learning into an e-learning experience are:
- Offering discussion boards and forums.
- Combining e-learning with live teaching.
- Including peer-to-peer feedback in courses.
Each of these suggestions has unique benefits to the culture of your association’s learning community, as well as different applications in different industries. Let’s dive into each option a little more deeply.
E-learning may seem like a very isolated way to learn, but it doesn’t have to be at all! Including discussion boards and forums in your courses is a great way to encourage members to share knowledge, ask questions, and talk about current events in their industry together.
The question might be different whether you’re a healthcare association or a trade association, but the outcome will be the same!
Include the opportunity within your courses for your instructors to require a discussion post or two, and watch the conversation come alive on your forums. Facilitate conversations between members by asking relevant and thought-provoking questions.
Combined virtual and live learning.
While it’s nice to be able to learn from the comfort of your own home, on your own computer, many members may miss the in-person dialogues that spring from live courses. Try and find a learning management system that offers your association the option to offer both online and offline courses.
Some people might decide that they’re more comfortable online, but you’ll be surprised by how many members turn out to regional learning events if you offer them!
Associations are special organizations, because everyone involved is an expert in their own right. Every working professional has a unique combination of education, professional experience, and self-taught tactics. Encourage your members to share their experience and knowledge with others through peer-to-peer feedback!
When members engage with each others’ work, they’re able to learn from both the assignments that they see from others as well as the feedback that they receive on their own work.
Social interaction is a powerful way to encourage increased engagement in your members.
3. Host regional events.
To further elaborate upon how you can expand your e-learning experience through in-person interaction, we created an entire section about the benefits of hosting regional events for your members.
Whether you’re a trade association hosting events covering new technologies or a teaching association honoring rising stars, there are a million ways to incorporate your e-learning offering into your events.
Hosting regional events is both a powerful learning experience for members, as well as a useful marketing tactic for your online education offerings. But how can you make this experience valuable for your members?
Here are our three favorite tactics:
- Invite learners to an in-person networking event based in their region.
- Host panels with instructors that your learners have seen speak through webinars.
- Use your events to encourage members to sign up for online courses.
Using the segmentation strategies that we discussed earlier, you can invite the most interested parties to your regional meetups and optimize your attendance rate!
This tactic is most useful when you know where your members are located. Does your association management software empower you to map out hotspots of your member population in order to prioritize event locations? Host events in those regions to increase your attendance rate!
Invite your instructors or those who host webinars for your online courses to speak at your events. Members will jump at the chance to ask questions of industry experts in person and maybe even form a business connection that will help them down the line.
By combining networking interests and online learning, you can really encourage your members to attend your association’s events and try out your online courses!
4. Keep track of your CE data.
Your members’ CE data—or continuing education data—is a valuable resource for your association! It can be used to create segments, analyze engagement, and help your staff make data-driven decisions for the future.
The first step of including this tip in your e-learning strategy is to make sure that your learning management system can integrate easily with your membership CRM. Wherever you keep all your member data is where you should store their e-learning habits and opinions.
The most important metrics to keep in your member profiles are:
- The number and name of courses that they start.
- Their course completion rates.
- Their satisfaction and approval rates.
When you have your e-learning data stored in a consistent and understandable way, you can use it to analyze your overall e-learning strategy and update anything that isn’t paying off for your association or is consistently receiving bad feedback from your members.
You can learn all sorts of valuable information from your data. Which courses are your most popular, and which never get finished by the learners who try them? Which instructors get the best learner feedback?
With this data at hand, your association can stop wasting time and energy on courses that your members don’t like, and put more time towards the courses that they love. They’ll appreciate your efforts, and you can use your e-learning software to earn non-dues revenue.
For help picking the right association management software for your association, check out this association management review from Re:Charity.
5. Automate your member outreach.
This technique goes hand-in-hand with member segmentation, but it does rely on accurate data and a strong marketing software solution. This marketing feature may be included in either your learning management system or your membership management software, but make sure you have automation capabilities before making any plans!
Automation of your outreach efforts will save your association’s staff a lot of time, and ensure that no members slip through the cracks and get ignored on accident.
Consider your current e-learning marketing strategy. How frequently are you reaching out to members? How are you talking to them about your e-learning platform?
It can be difficult to know what the most effective marketing tactic for your association’s members will be, but with a trial-and-error approach and a strong data collection and analysis strategy, you can hit upon the best technique for your members soon and run with it.
Try some of the following automation options in your next round of marketing emails:
- Two weeks after your member finishes a course, send them a follow-up email about trying out a new and similar course.
- After a member attends an event on a certain topic, send them emails about courses that they can take on the same or similar topics.
- If your member updates their profile to include a new skill set or job position, automate a message about relevant courses to be delivered within a week.
- After your member completes a course required for their certification, send them a custom t-shirt from your association and a discount for their next course!
If you can expose your members to all of the courses that you offer at just the right time, you can increase your registration and attendance numbers and build a stronger, more engaged community at the same time.
Your e-learning experience is one of the most valuable offerings that your association can give to your members. Step up the impact that your learning management system can have by using your member data to strengthen your marketing and engagement strategies.
Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and event.