Summary: We have some incredible people here at Blue Sky eLearn, so we’ve decided to share some stories and observations from someone who’s been with us through thick and thin: Jocelyn Taylor, our Senior Director of Sales Operations. With over 10 years of experience at Blue Sky, Jocelyn has seen her share of ups and downs, wins and losses, and an incredible amount of change in our industry… Take it away, Jocelyn!
Ten years ago, when I accepted a job at Blue Sky eLearn (well, Blue Sky Broadcast back then!), I was an eLearning newbie. But I dove in feet-first to learn all that I could about this amazing industry, and it’s been nothing short of an interesting, evolving, sometimes crazy ride. As I reflect on the last 10 years, I’m sharing what’s stood out to me the most:
At Blue Sky, while we’ve always focused on learning, we’ve also been dedicated to meetings and events that revolve around education. When I started working at Blue Sky, we were already running webinars and hybrid events. We had an online portal where we’d store on-demand content from these events, as well as content recorded from conferences. But the portal wasn’t all—we were also putting that on-demand content onto DVD-ROMs and mailing them out to purchasers! I still remember so many folks wanting to purchase the DVD because that allowed them to hold on to the content forever, whereas content stored online could disappear at any moment.
Fast forward a few years, and suddenly it was hard to buy a laptop that even had a spot for a DVD-ROM. DVDs quickly started becoming a thing of the past, and more and more of our clients began embracing eLearning—and not just on-demand content from live events, but content specifically created for online courses, as well. Our flagship product, Path LMS™, was born, and the exciting world of eLearning evolved around us.
Since then, we’ve built and grown Path LMS, adapting and innovating based on what’s going on in the industry and feedback from our clients. Virtual events have become more important than ever (although, we always knew how important they were!).
Technology isn’t the only thing that’s evolved: our buyers have, too! And eLearning software isn’t the only technology that has come a long way in the past 10 years. Can you believe products like Slack, Instagram, and Venmo were in the early stages of launching or didn’t even exist 10 years ago?
Using new technology that has developed in the last ten years has forced each of our buyers to become more tech savvy. As a result, their expectations have changed for the products and services they are using, which translates into more sophisticated sales processes, impressive launches, and use of Path LMS.
Okay, I know there are plenty of people out there who knew another pandemic was inevitable. Even if we had all known what was coming, I don’t think many were prepared for March 2020. But, Blue Sky was ready to help the world adapt.
Being a company that focuses on eLearning, Zoom meetings and virtual events weren’t new to us. But they were unknown to so many of our prospective customers. Those professional organizations who had always done everything in person were now looking at online options and relying heavily on Blue Sky to help them find the best solutions.
The number of inquiries was overwhelming as we all tried to navigate this new normal personally and professionally. Blue Sky doubled in size to handle the demand. And while 2021 has seen some conferences and meetings go back to being in-person, one thing is for sure—virtual is here to stay. There may be certain aspects of in-person conferences that can’t be replaced, but it’s truly up to the individual attendee if those things matter to them. Virtual conferences and eLearning have allowed people to save time, money, or both. They also enable people to feel safer and stay healthy while there are still so many unknowns.
When I talk about the future, there are a lot of unknowns. Should or shouldn’t we hold in-person meetings and events? Will the pandemic worsen, or will things start to get better? While I can’t predict those things or provide advice on whether to hold your event in-person or not, I can say this (again): virtual is here to stay—and that should be exciting!
After 18 months of virtual events and conferences, no matter what happens, a virtual component will now be expected. With ongoing travel bans and varying comfort levels, even if you can have an in-person event, there will be plenty of people who may choose not to attend. From a planning perspective, things like diminished room capacity restrictions that limit the size of an in-person audience will need to be considered.
Hosting virtual events over the past year and a half has allowed organizations to expand their reach to those who may not have attended an in-person conference regardless of the pandemic. No one wants to lose these new learners by no longer offering a virtual component.
Along with expanding reach, having a 100% virtual event allows for organizations to be more flexible. For example, an in-person event could be up to five full days. On the other hand, a virtual event could be a series of shorter days or sessions over an entire month or quarter, expanding potential touchpoints and value to the learners.
For organizations planning to stay 100% virtual in 2021 (or even 2022!), there is no need to worry about changing restrictions, shutdowns, or travel bans affecting conferences. Having a virtual component be at least part of the plan allows organizations to be in a good spot to transition to a 100% virtual event if necessary.
What will the next 10 years at Blue Sky eLearn hold? I don’t know for sure. And while there are so many unknowns about the future, organizations are finding great success with virtual events, and that is so exciting to see! I’m ready for the next 10 years with Blue Sky eLearn, and I hope you are too!
About the Author
Jocelyn Taylor is the Senior Director of Sales Operations at Blue Sky eLearn. She has over decade of experience in sales and marketing, specializing in associations, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies. When Jocelyn isn’t working, she enjoys being outside—whether hiking or heading to the beach. She’s also an avid traveler, has been to six of the seven continents, and is always planning her next trip (or two!).
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.