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Event Email Marketing for Associations: 3 Essentials

Event Email Marketing for Associations: 3 Essentials

 

The first pitfall into member attrition is the assumption that members are committed to sticking with an organization simply because they’ve signed up to pay regular dues. That financial pledge is far from a binding agreement, and their continued membership is contingent on your upkeep of further incentives to stick with the program.

Just think about the difference between the expectations of a one-time donor and those of a longtime member. When a regular supporter pledges a gift, they’re investing in your ability to forward the cause. When a member pledges their dues, they’re also investing in your organization’s ability to provide value through development and training opportunities.

Never forget that their continued support is conditional on the exchange of extra resources, events, and opportunities. Fail to provide these engaging opportunities, and your membership rate is sure to drop.

Funny enough, one of the most important steps in the event lifecycle is often one of the most overlooked. Keep in mind that not even the best events can succeed without strong attendance. That’s why marketing is such a crucial step to the success of your association events.

Promoting these special membership events is a multi-step process that could include written invitations, videos, and social media posts. Far and away one of the most effective channels for association event marketing is email. This reach of this medium is unrivaled, with 99% of consumers checking their email daily.

However, you can only maximize the benefits of email marketing to your event when you employ specific engagement strategies. In this guide, you’ll find out how and why you should:

  • Optimize your email content
  • Curate personalized membership outreach
  • Gather important data from your email campaigns

With an intuitive and comprehensive email marketing strategy, you’ll work to increase your member engagement and retention, giving your associates an invaluable return on their investment.

Optimize Your Content

The poorer your email content, the more difficult it will be to market effectively. After all, even the most engaging messaging template will feel empty or uninspired with a dull message. Once members read through too many poor messages, they might very well become non-openers.

Your top priority should be to optimize your content. By taking the time to create appealing, informative, and specific content, your email marketing immediately becomes far more likely to digitally engage your members and thereby increase actual event registration.

Many marketing emails are in danger of falling through the cracks and getting ignored, whether that’s due to generalized messaging or other poor content practices. A badly curated message will bore and alienate readers from the attraction of the event being promoted. A great message will encourage indecisive members to take a chance and enjoy the opportunity.

Here are a few tips to optimize your own email marketing content:

  • Keep your focus specific and purposeful. Limit individual emails to highlight one particular topic, such as promoting an event or reminders for due renewals. Keep to this chosen subject, otherwise readers may become disinterested.
  • Make a strong, personalized subject line and header. Consider that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. Hooking readers with an engaging header will encourage them to explore the whole message.
  • Break up text-heavy content. Spare readers’ limited attention with quick, direct messages. Images and graphics are a great tool to give a breather between long paragraphs. Just remember that many readers will access your emails on their phones—images are important for breaking up the text but shouldn’t take too long to load.
  • Address readers by name. Members are naturally drawn to content that is personalized to them. This shows that you care and that the event is made with them in mind. According to this Experian report on customized messaging, personalized emails are six times more likely to deliver higher transaction rates.

These content best practices can also be more easily streamlined with an effective membership management software—integrations between your member database and your email tools make it easy to automate the process of personalizing subject lines with members’ names. This is especially helpful if your team is short on time or if your membership base has recently grown, when creating truly specific, personalized content can be a logistically difficult task.

Curate Personalized Member Outreach

However, your personalization strategies should go far beyond simply calling your members by name. While this is a good first step, the best way to give them a stronger sense of connection with your organization is to personalize all of your member outreach.

As mentioned above, our recommended strategy is to integrate your email marketing tools to work in conjunction with your existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and/or Association Management System (AMS). This will allow you to track and apply important member data in all of your email communications.

For example, your AMS and CRM systems are capable of gathering and organizing data such as member age ranges, shared interests, and other segmented similarities that go beyond the initial courtesy of remembering your associates’ names. You can use this information to personalize marketing campaigns to the members receiving them, such as sending more virtual event opportunities to members outside of your local base of operations.

You might consider focusing on a few of the following strategies when deciding how to make use of precious CRM data:

  • Include personal details. As discussed, referring to members by name is a simple and effective way to grab their attention and make them feel more appreciated by the organization.
  • Target communications to segmented member groups. Whether they be segmented by shared hobbies, location, or age, members will be more apt to engage with communications they find the most personally relevant. Minimize general messaging and instead engage members on a more intimate level.
  • Track engagement metrics and curate messaging accordingly. For example, the next time you announce an event, send an email to members who attend events frequently and offer them early registration or a discount.This gets the member interested in the event and helps you continue to foster a positive connection with them.

Fonteva’s buyer’s guide to event management software may also be of some use to take full advantage of these event strategy methods.

These techniques will not only improve your relationship with members, but can also increase the registration rates of future events and build life-long support for your association. After all, the more personally connected that a member feels to your organization and other members, the more likely they are to see value in your programming.

Gather and Report Data to Improve Future Event Marketing Strategies

Now that your event marketing tool is working closely with your AMS and CRM software, you are free to analyze and implement this data in ways that might not have been previously possible.

One of the key tools available to you is the ability to create comprehensive data reports on your marketing efforts. After all, how can the success or failure of your association events and marketing be measured without having that data organized in the first place?

By compiling reports on member engagement statistics, your team can review the strengths and weaknesses of your email marketing strategy and course-correct in a more informed manner. This helps you to foster successful practices, and suss out what operations could be improved.

For instance, your team can make note of which emails have been read and which tend to be left unopened. Then you find a common trend among the non-openers, such as certain style, content, or subject choices, and adjust that unfavorable trait in your future messaging. Finally, you could use this information to increase event registration rates, as you minimize the possibility of important event emails ending up as dead non-openers in your members’ inboxes.

Try experimenting with this strategy for yourself. Let your software run an email marketing and data report for your team to review and see how you can implement tangible, specific changes to your next marketing campaign.


Even the most capable development professionals can struggle to market their member events, and great opportunities can still tally an attendance rate far lower than expected. Unfortunately, these events are only as successful as the number of participants there (virtually or in-person) to enjoy what you’ve created. Especially considering the current pandemic, many association events are in crisis with the struggle to increase their attendance rates and overall success.

Thankfully, with a more engaging, personalized, and informed email marketing strategy, your team can break down the roadblocks that keep your members from engaging with your event emails and with the events themselves. For more tools to help manage your membership operations, Fonteva’s listing of top management software options includes detailed descriptions of various association services and features that may suit your individual needs.

 

Headshot of Jake Fabbri, Chief Marketing Officer at Fonteva

About the Author

With over two decades of experience marketing association technology, Fonteva CMO Jake Fabbri has developed a deep understanding of the unique needs of associations and the challenges technology can solve. Jake’s marketing expertise has been honed by demonstrated excellence in the areas of lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.    

 

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Webinar Re-cap: Beyond the Basics of Instructional Design

 

Recently, Dan Streeter, Blue Sky eLearn’s VP of Learning Strategy and Development, hosted the webinar Beyond the Basics of Instructional Design: 3D Modeling, Microlearning, and Gamification. You can watch the 30-minute on-demand program here at any time, but in the meantime, you can also check out a brief summary below:

Dan first starts off with a framework, which he calls “The Learning Equation.” The Learning Equation is: Emotion + Experience = Learning.

Walk in feeling or acting one way… and walk out changed/feeling or acting another way. As instructional designers, our job is to allow for that behavior change to happen. Emotion is the thing that gets the person to be engaged in learning. Once you have a lot of experience you will get to the learning part!

3D Modeling

What is 3D Modeling? It’s taking a 3D object and displaying it in a 2D space.

Advantages:

  • Creates “The Wow”
  • Gives a “hands-on” effect – it makes things more real!

Disadvantages:

  • Need specialized skill
  • Limited use case

3D Modeling Tools can include things like:

  • CAD (Computer Aided Design)
  • Screen Record Software
  • Video Editing Software
  • Storyline 360
  • Some serious know-how

Dan then dives into real-life examples – tune into the on-demand webinar to check it out!

Microlearning

Microlearning means providing learning in small learning units (think anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes in length).

Advantages:

  • Great for repeatable, skill-based learning
  • Easy to re-use/repackage for larger modules and marketing
  • Easy to edit and manage (bite-sized pieces)

Disadvantages:

  • “Sound bites” do now always allow for nuance and getting the “big picture”

Dan then talks about the Forgetting Curve. With the Forgetting Curve, day number one is the best day to learn something and hold onto it. There is then a slow deterioration every day after that. Microlearning allows for learning to be reinforced instead of just deteriorating.

Microlearning Tools include things like:

  • Screen Record Software
  • Video Editing Software
  • Animation Software
  • Photo Editing Software
  • Subject Matter Expert
  • A long-term plan

Dan then dives into real-life examples – tune into the on-demand webinar to check it out!

Gamification

How does gamification work?

  • Points
  • Leveling up
  • Leaderboard

Games use each of the above items to motivate and train at the same time.

Gamification approaches include:

  • Competition: against ourselves, the game, or others
  • Game mechanics: learners are given a problem to solve
  • Story: the user is embedded into the plot

When it comes back to the Learning Equation, gamification is creating emotion and tension and because you are IN the game and you are getting an experience. Gamification can certainly increase the likelihood that learning will happen. But what tools will you need?

  • Storyboards
  • Storyline 360
  • Elucidat
  • Path LMS

Dan then dives into real life examples.

Secret Tool

Wait…we can’t give it ALL away here! Tune in to Dan’s 30-minute on-demand webinar to learn about our secret tool as well as dive in deeper to items 1-3 above!

 

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Technical Account Managers: More Than Canned Responses and Automatic Replies

 

Technical Account Managers (aka TAMs) are a client’s dedicated partner when it comes to SaaS products. They are real people on project teams helping and guiding clients (those we call Path Admins) as they are navigating a new tool.

During a project lifecycle at Blue Sky eLearn, the Technical Account Manager is introduced as a key player that can help a client with questions, troubleshooting issues, and ensuring they have a dedicated problem-solving partner.

But let’s break that down even more… What does this really mean?

No canned responses here… nope, no way

When dealing with many SaaS companies, getting support can be a convoluted and frustrating process. A typical support infrastructure often uses canned responses and complex protocols and messaging, making clients feel unheard when they need help.

We do it differently at Blue Sky eLearn

Our TAMs want their clients to know with 100% certainty that real people are answering every single ticket that comes their way. Using thoughtful responses and screen recordings as teaching tools, our TAMs are at-the-ready to solve each problem as unique. And while Blue Sky has comprehensive documentation on “how-to-do XYZ” (especially for those clients who like to try things on their own!), there is a level of teaching and guidance that takes  place in each ticket that our team handles. TAMs need to teach and apply a unique use case to each ticket because a client’s company goals are not the same across the board.

Let’s solve the problem together

When our TAMs are reading through your tickets, they become detectives. They dig through your Path site, learn about your organization, discover where there might be a gap with an application of a feature or setup, and begin to find a targeted solution for you. At Blue Sky eLearn,  our approach focuses on teaching and transfer of knowledge to ensure that your Path Admins can be successful.

Our TAMs encourage testing. And while testing a solution is important, when you receive our messages, our TAMs never want you to feel lost or like you don’t have a trusted partner on the other end. Feedback and communication is key to ensure what we’re testing is working!

The TAM team’s goal is to provide you with the best solution or fix to ensure you can continue hitting your goals and helping your learners access their educational tools.

In summary

Clients choose an LMS partner to address both a learning gap and an immediate need to provide an educational tool to their members and stakeholders. There is a clear vision driving clients’ initiatives. Technical Account Mangers work to ensure you maintain the success of that initiative by having not just the right answer to a question but also the tools to execute on that vision.

 

 

About the Author:

Brittany Donnelly has been with BSE since 2020. She has over 8 years of SaaS experience in project management and client support. She loves to travel and explore all over the world with her two young boys.

 

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Webinar Re-Cap: Demystifying LMS-AMS Integration

Demystifying webinar recap blog image

 

Recently, Lance Simon, Blue Sky’s Senior Director of Business Development, was joined alongside George Duarte Lopez, Blue Sky’s Integrations Manager, and Liam O’Malley, Blue Sky’s Vice President of Association Solutions, to explain LMS-AMS Integration and discuss the three most common AMS-LMS integration options.

An overview of technical terms and technology concepts regarding LMS-AMS Integration:

  • An Association Management System, or AMS, is the system of record for all data concerning your users, your members, your non-members, your prospects, or anyone that you’re interacting with and delivering benefits to
  • IMS: Integrated Management System
  • CRM: Customer Relationship Management, your user record management. AMS and CRM are often used interchangeably, due to being fairly similar terms.
  • The Overall Integration structure is the primary integration: Integration with a member database
  • Any valuable data to store in the AMS system allows you to read the information regarding your users such as authentication data, member active or inactive, product purchases, and financial transactions

What are the three key elements that we talk about with LMS-AMS Integration?

  • Single Sign-On (SSO)
  • eCommerce
  • Writeback

Integration #1: Single Sign-On

What is SSO?

The purpose of single sign-on according to Lance Simon, “is for your users to have one less username and password to forget.” But the official definition is as follows: “SSO is an authentication scheme that allows a user to log in with a single ID and password to any of several related, yet independent, software systems.”

Why is it important?

  • Users: One less username/password to forget makes it easier for your users – users don’t need to look up another password, don’t need to remember different logins
  • Enterprise security concerns: The more passwords users have, the increase in access points they have to different systems; this equals more points of failure you need to support and manage
  • Support: Reduction of support calls
  • One Place: The centrality of your member database system and website: Users believe they are getting the benefits of all the systems under one umbrella
  • Branding: Branding the experience to your organization creates a seamless user experience, as if the organization created the system themselves.

The terminology you may hear with SSO:

 All methodologies provided below are for achieving token-based SSO:

  • Token-Based SSO: When a user attempts to authenticate, a token is generated, and then that token is either accepted or denied by the platform. This takes place in order to authorize the user to access the appropriate content that is available to them based on the system that they’re authenticating through.
  • SAML/IDP – Security Assertion Markup Language/Identity Provider
  • Oauth/OpenID Connect (Okta): Open Authorization

 Important questions to consider with SSO:

  • Are all users (members/non-members) in your AMS?
  • Do you have a large set of seasonal workers or flex-members?
  • Are you moving to a new AMS in the near future?
  • Are all critical AMS profile fields accessible?

Integration Concept #2: eCommerce

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce (i.e., purchase) integration is the synchronization of purchases between the AMS and the LMS. The AMS is the “system of record” in which the shopping cart, checkout, and financial transaction take place. Purchases may be reflected immediately in the LMS or upon the user’s next sign-on. The product catalog (descriptions and pricing of courses, webinars, etc.) may reside either in the LMS or the AMS.

Why is it important? 

  • Bundle related non-LMS items with LMS items for purchase
  • Pricing flexibility for members, students, non-members, etc.
  • Centrality of your member database system and website
  • Branding

The terminology you may hear with eCommerce:

  • PCI Compliance: Payment Card Industry compliance is, in essence, the digital version of not leaving people’s credit card numbers around on your desks.
  • SSL: SSL security is a web-based browser security (it stands for “Secure Sockets Layer”)
  • Payment Gateway: The payment gateway is who actually processes your transactions. If the AMS is owning the process, it’s going to be through the AMS’s payment gateway rather than through the LMS’s payment gateway

eCommerce: Important Questions to Consider

  • Where is the best place for your catalog?
  • Do your users purchase multiple eLearning items at once?
  • Do you sell discounted bundles/packages?
  • Do you need to support Purchase Orders, Bulk Orders, Phone Orders?

Integration Concept #3: Writeback

What is it?

Writeback is the process of transmitting activity completion records (courses, webinars, other activities) from the LMS to the AMS.

Why is it important? 

  • Users: Users can view their CE completions on the AMS/Website
  • AMS reporting/analysis can use completion data
  • Completion records can trigger actions in other systems: Marketing automation platforms and marketing campaigns, as well as, intelligent segmenting on who’s attended a webinar or who’s engaged in a course as a badging system
  • Branding

 The terminology you may hear with writeback: 

  • Immediate vs. Batch Writeback: Immediate writeback is when the action actually happens versus doing it hourly, nightly, or weekly. Whichever method works best for your particular setup needs to be accounted for, and the data needs to be reviewed.
  • Triggers: What actions can we actually send back? What are the things that we can pull out of the LMS to do the writeback?
  • Value Formats: Value formats are the values that we can write along with that object when we write it into the AMS. What are the destinations in the AMS where we are writing this?

Important questions to consider: 

  • What information is most critical for AMS writeback?
  • How do you want to use the writeback data? User profile? Reports?
  • Do users have an activity record on your website?
  • Do other AMS-connected applications need access to writeback data?

The webinar concluded with a live software demonstration of an LMS-AMS Integration, using a Path site that’s integrated with the Fonteva system. Our presenters walked through the three components of an LMS-AMS integration.

WATCH: Watch the recorded webinar here.

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5 Strategies to Encourage Member Engagement Digitally

No matter how large your association is or how widely your members are spread out around the country and even the world, the internet has the power to keep you all connected. This is especially useful if a global pandemic prevents your regular in-person meetings and member engagements.

Maintaining an accessible and multifaceted online presence will keep all of your members interested in your association’s offerings.

Whether you want to make the most of the features offered by your membership management software, use your website to better tell your association’s story, or provide new types of online opportunities for your members, it’s always a good time to improve your digital engagement.

Let’s take a look at how you can use your association management system (AMS), website, and additional software systems to:

  1. Create programming to suit your members’ needs.
  2. Engage members in learning opportunities.
  3. Invite members to a conference or live event.
  4. Strengthen your brand through eCommerce.
  5. Keep members updated using your website.

When the courses, events, and other programming that you offer members closely match their professional needs and interests, they’ll be excited to remain involved in your organization. Use the member information you have collected to create programming they’ll be excited to get engaged in.

1. Create programming to suit your members’ needs.

Continuing education courses, conferences, live learning events, and other types of programming expand your members’ professional networks and help them grow in their careers. When it comes to developing the programming that will benefit your members most, the information stored in your AMS and other software solutions provides a wealth of valuable insight.

If your association is considering upgrading your AMS as part of your digital strategy, you can boost member engagement by choosing a system that offers:

  • Native to or Integration with your CRM. Associations that are currently using a customer relationship management (CRM) system to gather and store member data will want to ensure that the AMS they select integrates with their current system. An even more efficient solution is an AMS that is native to your CRM platform.
  • Customizable member profiles. In addition to the information input automatically from your AMS and CRM, your members should also be able to update their own profiles. Member profiles should be capable of displaying information that includes professional certifications and areas of specialty and are a valuable resource for members seeking to widen their networks.
  • Automated communications. Especially important for large associations, automated email communications ensure that your team can keep members updated on the latest news, events, and offerings coming from your association. If you have chapters, the leaders of these smaller groups should also be able to make the most of automated communication features.

When your association has plenty of updated information about your members, you’ll be better prepared to appeal to their interests and encourage future engagement in the process. To learn more about the data management capabilities you should look for in an AMS, check out Fonteva’s guide to the best association management software.

2. Engage members in learning opportunities.

Among the many pieces of information your members’ profiles contain are their continuing education records. You can help them explore even more educational opportunities by offering them additional courses.

Your members joined your association because they value opportunities for professional development and growth in their careers. Continuing education courses are a valuable—and often necessary—component of that growth. Your association can facilitate your members’ continuing education by offering them courses through an association learning management system (LMS).

Whether your association is choosing an LMS for the first time or upgrading your current system, be on the lookout for features that the best LMS software solutions offer, including:  

  • Customizable courses and modules. When your courses match the specific educational needs of your members, they’ll be eager to participate. Select an LMS that allows you to customize the content of all courses and modules to suit your members’ needs and save your most effective modules for use in future courses.
  • Gamification and interactive learning experiences. Your members will be more motivated to complete courses when the learning experience is fun. Gamification elements such as scoreboards and interactive, multimedia presentations of key information keep learners engaged in their courses.
  • Social learning opportunities. Social learning features such as discussion boards, live chat options, and even the opportunity to host live learning events for members within specific geographic regions all promote increased participation.

As with your association’s website or any other system your members use, effective design is essential to keeping them engaged. Test your LMS and the courses you create before offering them to your members to ensure that the user experience is positive.

3. Invite members to a conference or live event.

Your digital strategy isn’t limited to the continuing education courses and other activities your members complete online. Use your AMS to help boost attendance at your next conference or other live events, whether virtual or in-person.

Members will be excited to meet and learn from like-minded professionals. Well-attended conferences and events help them grow their networks and encourage further participation in your association’s offerings. Use your AMS to facilitate event registration and management and increase turnout.

Your members will be excited to register for your event when the process of doing so is easy and they’re well-informed about the experience in advance. Your AMS can help:

  • Facilitate the registration process. When members are signed in before they register for your event, they won’t have to input the information that’s already stored in their member profiles or your CRM, saving them time. Additionally, the information they provide will be stored automatically in your member database for the future.
  • Offer branded merchandise. Merchandise is an excellent way to encourage registration and commemorate a successful event. You can offer merchandise to early registrants, event attendees, and even sell it year-round as a member engagement tactic through your eCommerce platform.
  • Provide opportunities for regional chapters to host their own events. If your association is large, it’s likely that not all of your members will be able to travel to attend your association-wide events. Select an AMS that allows the leaders of regional chapters to create and manage events for their members. 
  • Connections to other platforms for virtual events. Being able to quickly pivot to virtual events is critical, especially in the modern age of associations . When you can store data in your AMS and conveniently connect to platforms like Zoom, moving a traditional in-person event to the virtual realm is much easier! 

To encourage event registration, create a marketing plan that includes automated emails, website notifications, and any additional online methods your association uses to stay in touch with members. When they’re well-informed and able to register easily, they’re sure to attend.

4. Strengthen your brand through eCommerce.

Selling branded merchandise in connection with events isn’t the only opportunity you have to increase your association’s revenue. Your digital strategy can help you expand eCommerce opportunities year-round. 

When members want to buy your association’s products and services, the eCommerce features of your AMS should offer an easy and secure purchasing experience. 

Whether you’re spreading the word about your association by selling branded merchandise or distributing continuing education courses, your AMS should be able to help you:

  • Set custom pricing. If your association has different membership levels or you want to reward early event registrants with discounted tickets, ensure that your AMS offers the ability to create tiered pricing levels. The discounts will apply automatically to eligible members when they complete their purchases.
  • Make payments secure. Your eCommerce page should feature your association’s branding and appear consistent with the other components of your AMS that your members see. This familiarity builds trust and encourages further purchases. To ensure that transactions are secure, check out Soapbox Engage’s list of PayPal alternatives to help you choose the right payment gateway for your eCommerce solution.

With plenty of options and a convenient, trustworthy eCommerce system through which to purchase, your members will be eager to take part in everything your association has to offer. Whether you’ve recently added new options to your online store or you have other news to share, you’ll want to keep your website updated so that members are always in the know.

5. Keep members updated using your website.

Your members know to check your website when they want to stay updated on recent developments involving your association. Make it easy for them to find the information they need—and explore more of your association’s offerings—with an easily navigable website.

The best association websites are efficient, interactive, and versatile. Much of your material can be presented in the form of web pages, and it’s essential to keep this material updated for your members. As you evaluate your website, make sure that:

  • The layout is clean and modern. An easily navigable layout helps members find what they came for and encourages further engagement with your site contents. If your site needs a makeover, you can learn more about web design essentials here.
  • The most-used pages are easy to find. Event registration pages, member login links, and other frequently used sections of your site should be easy to see as soon as visitors land on the site and accessible from your homepage with one click.
  • Your team can update your site easily. Your website’s efficacy depends on whether your members can use it to stay up-to-date with your association. Make sure that you choose a content management system (CMS) that your association’s staff can work with easily so that your site stays updated and useful for your members.

When your association’s offerings are tailored to personal and professional needs, your members will be eager to stay engaged with your association.

Reaching your members online is the most effective and efficient means of staying connected with them and encouraging future engagement. A digital strategy based on the needs and interests of your members is sure to help your association’s programming succeed. But to do so, you’ll need a dedicated membership management system and comprehensive tools to rely on. 

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