Do you connect with your members enough?

do-you-communicate-enoughIn the numerous conversations that we’ve had with car and bike clubs, it often surprises us just how little some clubs officially communicate with their members. Communication generally seems to both start and stop with the club magazine. Now that was fine 20 years ago when expectations were different, but in the 21st century with modern expectations for a level of service, it just isn’t going to cut it.

Many clubs are under financial pressure, not all clubs exist with thousands of members all willing to part with £50 per year (or more) for their club membership. Many are small clubs with low membership numbers and low membership fees and strive to provide the best service they can to all of their members. A solution is required that will cater for all clubs regardless of size that doesn’t vastly increase workload or costs.

As we already mentioned, official club communication consists of the  club magazine with each issue usually being distributed bi-monthly or quarterly (some clubs do achieve monthly distributions but these are few and far between). We’ve even met clubs who have moved from bi-monthly to quarterly and were seriously considering moving to twice-yearly! But put yourself in the shoes of the new member to the club. They join – perhaps at a major show after talking to the enthusiasts on the club stand all fired up and leave with a copy of the magazine under their arm proud to be a member of a club that can help, support and have fun. And then they hear absolutely nothing for 3 months or more…

If your magazine distribution is not too frequent, how do you communicate urgent matters? Perhaps a change in location of the AGM, late arrival of a major event’s discount codes. There must be a different way that won’t break the bank of even the smallest club.

Many clubs have attempted to address this problem through forums and social media, but this is only a part of the solution and doesn’t address everything. Theses mechanisms rely on members going in search of the club, visiting the forum or the facebook page, but does little to pull in the sleeping member who has not used these platforms before, or perhaps uses them infrequently.

In our previous blog of Why do we need social media? we covered how social media must work in tandem with your club website and how social media should be used to direct visitors back to your website. But this is not the only way we should do this. You have all probably seen nice looking “web page” like, rich email messages from various organisations that land in our inboxes. They do this for one reason – to draw you back to their website in the hope that it will remind you of their existence and hopefully gain a sale.

As clubs, we have the same desires as these companies. We want our membership to visit our website to read our news, buy regalia, and we want new members to sign up. But just how often do your members visit your website? If you put interesting news items up, or urgent notifications, how are your members going to see it if you don’t tell them it’s there? They’re unlikely to go looking on their own, so they need to be told to go and look for it, and we do this via email.

We have all spent a great deal of time and effort creating the ‘brand image’ of our club magazines, so you don’t want to send an ordinary text email to all your members, you need to brand it, enrich it with graphics and show that it is official club communication, and do this regularly, with MailChimp.

So how much is MailChimp going to cost our cash-strapped club? I can already hear some of you saying. Well that’s the best bit – for up to 2,000 email subscribers it is absolutely 100% totally FREE!! All it will cost you is your time and not that much of it either. Bearing in mind, from our research, the average club is 300-600 members, the vast majority of clubs will be able to use this service for nothing.

The benefits are huge:

  • Increased frequency of official communication (monthly) at no extra cost
  • Increased sense of belonging from club members, because the more you communicate, the more likely they are to stay
  • Offer your email newsletter to non-members, a sort of “try before you buy” to build the community and spreading “brand awareness” of your club
  • Including non-members on your distribution means a willing acquisition of the names and email addresses of potential new members
  • MailChimp emails can be shared across social media increasing your reach
  • Include journalists on the distribution lists and keep them up to date with your clubs activities

MailChimp is another important and invaluable tool in our online armoury of integrated systems in our social media ecosystem. In a subsequent blog, we’ll discuss how to use MailChimp effectively.

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