Using Automation Without Losing the Human Connection

How creating the right processes can keep your members emotionally engaged.  

By Jorge Luis Rivera, CAE

Digital transformation concept. System engineering. Binary code. Programming.

For many professionals, joining an association comes down to an emotional decision over any tangible benefit the association may offer. Maintaining an emotional connection is key to retaining members. Can associations use technology to keep a personal connection with members and keep them emotionally invested?

Dave Will has nearly 20 years of experience working with associations, is co-founder of PropFuel, a conversational engagement platform designed for member-based organizations, and also is co-host of the Association Strong! podcast. I had an opportunity to ask Dave a few questions on personalization and maintaining emotional connections with members using technology.

What is personalized communication and why does it matter?

Dave Will: Personalization doesn’t come from someone dropping an individual’s information into a field, it comes from providing something important to that person. There is nothing of value in adding a name to an email–nobody thinks you wrote them an email.

Personalization is the first step to meeting an individual’s needs, if it is not creating more value for that person, chances are it is not a personalized email. The level of personalization that is important to me is the stuff that comes out of conversation. If you know me, then the value that you bring to me, because of what I need right now, is personalization.

It seems like an oxymoron to think that technology can help keep things personal with members. How do you utilize tech as part of the onboarding process?

Dave Will: Create a more human engagement. Technology is only a tool we use to enable a process. The question becomes, is the process a human process or not?

When new technology is introduced, organizations tend to use it to broadcast–sending blast emails, faxes, or surveys. Broadcasts are not the way people communicate.

You want to take technology and use it as a tool to drive more human behaviors. The human behavior, the way we interact, is through a process of ask, capture, act. You want to ask the question, listen for input and act on it. Doesn’t matter if the conversation is by phone, in person at a conference, or using a technology platform, the reality is that you are asking the objective and goal-oriented type questions.

Being able to automate a human process and inserting it into technology is what makes it effective. These processes can be automated through workflows, and very often the process leads to an exit ramp which will cause a human response and may ultimately lead to a phone call.

Can using automation help associations with limited staff maintain outreach while keeping a personal touch?

Dave Will: Everybody has limited resources. As an association you have goals and objectives. Most of the time better engagement with your members is a goal. The natural inclination is to broadcast more.

While it may sound counterintuitive, it may be necessary to TAKE ON a new initiative in order to free up your resources. The way you find yourself freeing up those resources is by working less hard for the end result.

How do you know if your member campaigns are working?

Dave Will: Here is how you don’t track success–open rates. With technology platforms’ increased scrutiny on privacy concerns and Apple’s recent iOS updates regarding email privacy options, it is resulting in dramatically inflated open rates.

Conversions is one way to track but, often times, there are multiple things that lead to a conversion. You would need to have strong attribution technology to track accurately.

The best metric to measuring engagement at the basic level is click-throughs. How many recipients clicked on the call to action? Click throughs can be compared from campaign to campaign and would be an apples to apples comparison rather than conversions.

Another way is through interaction; do they give you information that is valuable? Did you ask them a question, and did they give you an answer? There is less ROI to this, but more of a metric of engagement.

Want you want to do is get down to that one-to-one conversation and ask–what really matters to you? Then, based how they answer, we can fulfill their needs better.


About the Author

Jorge Luis Rivera, CAE, is an association professional and a member of Forum’s Content Working Group.

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