From VIP clubs to fancy swag and tiered pricing, the tactics to win members’ hearts are only limited by imagination. When the economy, technology, or social disruption, like the pandemic, threatens to come between us and our reason for being, a little panic is understandable. But before you load on the giveaways and short-lived solutions, make sure that the fundamentals for a strong membership initiative are in place.In disruptive markets, data is your rock. You can put member engagement strategies to the test by raising or lowering prices; investigate cross-selling and upselling and assess the impact of segmentation and augmentation. Careful analysis of the output can reveal how to create services that maximize revenue. Associations seeking a broader membership base can explore scenarios for international or internal expansion or discover how to monetize proprietary information. Most importantly, marketing automation adds the dimension of customization. There is the opportunity to provide individually curated content designed to meet highly specific needs. Greg Fine, Executive Vice President and CEO, CCIM Institute, was one of many leaders my business partner, Kevin Ordonez, and I interviewed for our book Association 4.0: Positioning for Success in an Era of Disruption. Fine explained the pivotal role that data plays in his organization like this: “Commercial real estate is data-driven. Quantifying the underlying value of a property, whether you’re buying or selling, is fundamental to our business. We make sure that our education and content reflects the latest trends in information processing. Our for-profit subsidiary, CCIM Technologies, packages the analytic tools that members currently use, allowing the small shops to compete with multinational firms.” Mining this critical resource only happens if you have people on staff to do the work. If your AMS and LMS software does not include user-friendly analytics, purchase one of the many reporting packages available and train your team to use it. This investment could punch your ticket to a growing membership initiative.“You cannot underestimate the importance of customer service and personalization,” Rutkowski observes. “People will ignore emails and voicemail . . . but if you can connect with them on the phone, that makes a difference. I call and talk with two to five members each week. Many are people whom I’ve never spoken with before. I’ve been able to get them involved and to agree to help us through these phone conversations, more than through any other strategy. I personally help them register for events and participate. “Members often quickly recall the activity that made them realize the value of the association. For many, that exact moment was their first NASSTRAC conference,” Rutkowski says. “They met people like themselves who were struggling with similar challenges . . . And, they realized they are not alone.” Fine is another advocate for the personal touch. He advised: “Word of mouth is CCIM’s most effective recruitment tool. The organization is exploring new strategies for boosting interpersonal impact. If we could realize a one to two percent increase in our candidate pool each year, then in 10 years, attrition from retirements will no longer be an issue.” With in-person experiences on hold, this advice isn’t as easy to follow. But if you or membership staffers are willing to carve out a little time, you can find ways to connect with constituents. Consider scheduling short Zoom chats with random individuals. I guarantee you’ll surprise and impress someone by taking a moment to personally solicit their opinions and focus on their needs. Especially now when we’re all craving a little special attention.When you nurture each of these fundamental areas, the creativity, innovation, and initiatives that increase member engagement will naturally follow. .orgCommunity, our education and networking organization, is seeking to learn more about how associations are strengthening membership programs. We’ll be hosting a weekly Think Tank for members to share ideas on this topic. Add your voice! We’d love to hear your opinion. Not yet a member? Try us on for size, with a 30-day free membership. Read the complete interviews with Greg Fine, Gail Rutkowski, and Nancy MacRae in our book, Association 4.0: Positioning for Success in an Era of Disruption.