Harnessing the Web – MemberWise – a 20 tweet summary

Today I attended MemberWise’s Harnessing the Web conference. I’m largely new to the world of membership, so I was hoping to understand how other organisations were using digital to promote and deliver their membership offers. Below I’ve summarised the key points from the sessions I attended, in 20 tweets.

Chemnet gains – online support for the next generation of membership

Users expect:

  • Easy-to-find content
  • Easy-to-access content
  • A focused, unclutted experience
  • Consumable, interactive content
  • Trusted quality

User participation encouraged by giving them points and badges. Probably socially powerful signals in their own right, but additionally powerful motivators for an audience thinking about UCAS applications.

A membership community requires ongoing investment:

  • Content planning is very important to sustaining engagement
  • Chemnet is planning to make improvements over time.

Creating a thriving online membership community

User needs must be the driver for creating a community space. If it doesn’t meet a user need, you’ll struggle to build engagement.

“Focus on user behaviours, not features.” Focus on understanding your users’ needs, not the specific mechanisms you’ll use to satisfy these needs. That’s your designer’s job.

Know the purpose of your community, and have a plan in place for community management and content. And resource it.

Know what will make your space better than anywhere else. The importance of quality, easy-to-find content was mentioned again.

The GpmFirst platform is focused on social learning – a community of practice, participating, sharing, and creating knowledge. It seeks to empower users.

When starting a new community, take the ‘lean community’ approach:

  • Start very small, with a minimal investment, with a basic product.
  • Observe how this product performs and how people use it.
  • If it fails, you can close the project having invested only a small amount.
  • If it goes well, you can make targeted improvements.
  • This approach reduces risk.

Summarised in three steps:

  1. Start by finding an overlap between user needs and organisational goals
  2. Plan for active, high-quality community management
  3. Test, measure, learn, repeat

Web chat – making life easy for your members – Caravan Club

I eavesdropped on this presentation via twitter.


So web chat can help you understand where people are having problems on your website, and obtain a stronger understanding than a Contact Us form.

I’d like to know how the costs and staffing challenges compare to phone calls.

How digital acted as a catalyst to transform a traditional business (YHA)

Challenges faced by YHA:

  • cost per booking was very high.
  • Membership in decline.
  • Tactic of forcing membership on all visitors unsuccessful

There was sufficient senior buy-in for investment in digital, and some acceptance of risk.

They used data to inform marketing and development work, which led to increased revenue, which led to increased confidence.
This mechanism powers digital transformation at YHA.

Some specific actions taken:

  • Embedded Trip Advisor reviews on site to show quality of experience. A tough sell internally, and took conviction in the product, but greatly increased conversions.
  • Google 360 tours are very effective marketing tools
  • Users can now search the YHA site based on their interest/activity, then the YHA website suggests hostels nearby. More focused on user needs than asking users to pick a region first, particularly if regions are not intuitive.
  • YHA has ended the tactic of “tricking” people into becoming members. For a number of years, if you stayed at a YHA hostel, you would be signed up for membership automatically. Ending this tactic has reduced the number of members, but increased their engagement.

YHA’s digital transformation has seen good results:

Using user experience to improve online member journeys, optimise new member and student acquisition

The problems that CIPFA user research uncovered are pretty common:

  • Registration was confusing
  • Labelling was based on internal structures
  • Content was overwhelming

I was pleased to see the information architecture techniques of card sorting and tree testing advocated.
Card sorting groups your content into categories, and tree testing checks whether your categories make sense to users.

CIPFA has improved its structuring of content, reduced the volume of text on pages, and moved away from internal language towards language that makes sense to users.

I’ve heard stories of organisations thinking about their website and content at five year intervals so many times. Why is everyone still getting this wrong?
The ever-changing digital landscape – and user expectations – mean that we have to keep adapting. Even if neither of these factors existed, ongoing investment is important to refine and improve your digital offer.

Using digital to streamline the member acquisition process

Round Table had a complicated membership sign up flow. Not so much because they had massive sign up forms, but because of the different internal steps involved in the process, and the amount of administrative overhead associated with these. Processing each new member enquiry took about an hour of admin time.

Digital agency IE carried out four phases of improvement to the process. This was more manageable for everyone. (I lost track of the boundary between iterations 3 and 4 – sorry for any inaccuracies.)

Iteration 1:

  • Remove non-essential form fields from initial form. Ask the bare minimum number of questions to increase conversions. Ask the other questions in a follow-up survey.
  • Validate user details automatically.
  • Improved dashboard for recruitment team.
  • Process for recruitment team to transmit info to colleagues streamlined via email templates.

Iterations 2 and 3:

  • Mobile web forms for recruiters.
  • Contact information sent to recruiter via text, with click-to-phone link allowing instant and easy follow-up of leads.

Iteration 4(?):

  • Recruiter replies to the text message telling them about a prospect now populate the CRM log. This has massively increased compliance with the CRM’s data needs.
  • Website allows users to text to register interest in membership.
  • New website focused on location.

Why was this approach a good idea?

What improvement did Round Table see as a result of this work?

Holding the line: the long and short of a successful CRM integration

“This wasn’t an IT project, it was a businesses transformation project.” Digital and IT projects so often involve business change – I wonder how many people plan for this from the start?

The two hardest parts of the project were:

  1. Data integration.
  2. Process and culture change. You need to run a parallel cultural change project. But how many people plan or put resource in place for this?

At the start of the project, they spent a week or two on “benefits dependency mapping”. This produced an intricate diagram, but, more importantly, a shared definition of project drivers, objectives, benefits, outcomes, and necessary organisational and IT changes. Although I’m not sure that all projects can predict what their impact will be at the start.

One other factor behind the project’s success was setting clear governance from the start, so that decisions could be made with authority.

Before they got a supplier on board, they held workshops to “drain swamps” in advance – explore and investigate contentious areas so that the organisation isn’t considering them for the first time when the agency arrives.

Once the development agency had been chosen, they spent six weeks building a technical proof of concept, to check the technical feasibility of the project, and to check the cultural fit with the agency. Its success built organisational trust.

One quite sad statistic on CRM projects circulated during the day, which came from a MemberWise survey:

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