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The Biggest Change in Member Engagement Since Marketing Automation

Dave Will
May 3, 2024

Time Magazine once declared that our attention spans are now shorter than that of a goldfish, citing a study in the realm of Health and Neuroscience. Growing up in the MTV era, I recall the doom and gloom predictions about our dwindling attention spans. However, now that I'm adult-ish, I believe there's been a misinterpretation of the data.

What if, instead of a sign of our minds' decline, our so-called short attention spans are actually evidence of a highly sophisticated filtering system? Every day, we're bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information, yet we're adept at sifting through it to find what genuinely interests us. This selective focus might have been mistaken for inattention, much like the famous optical illusion that can be seen as either an old woman or a young lady, depending on your perspective.

Here's how I see it: In the 70's we were exposed to somewhere around 500 ads per day. Now that number is closer to 5000 ads. If you look that statistic up there are several variations of the same thing... but it's somewhere in the range of 10x the exposure to ads that it used to be. I would imagine that the same is true for data across the board.

  • How many letters did you get in the 70 and 80's? How many emails and texts do you get today?
  • How many pictures did you take in the 70's and 80's? How many did you take on your last weekend away?
  • How many pages of a book did you read before bed in the 70's and 80's? How many images did you look at on social media before you told yourself to go to bed last night?

Ok, maybe you don't have the bad habits I do but this isn't about my bad habits; it's about recognizing the transformation in how we interact with information. It’s about our ability to navigate through this sea of data, focusing on what matters most to us. This is not a flaw—it's a finely honed skill..

And guess who else has this finely tuned skill to cut through the junk? Your members.

What’s This Mean for Engagement?

So what's "junk"? It's stuff that isn't relevant to them. It's the emails you send that you're sending to a whole segment of people or even worse, the entire membership. One association I belong to sends me emails multiple times a week with... hang on... let me go count... (ok, I'm back) 16 webinars promoted in one email. So many that I get the "view entire message" link at the bottom of my email. And they sent me 15 emails in the last 7 days. Time to turn on the filter and... delete. Over and over again this happens. Delete... delete... delete...

So what gets through? If my mother emailed me, I'm engaged. Or If I get an email from a client, I'm engaged. If I get an email about the car I'm trying to sell, I'm engaged. If I'm collecting education hours for my certification, and I get an email with 16 webinars, maybe now I'm engaged. Why? Because they're relevant to me and they're specific to me. They're personalized to me.

Personalization is a huge shift in the way we engage our members. And that doesn't mean we add their first name tag to the top of the email. That's not personalization. That's a party trick - "how'd they do that!?!?"

How Should We Personalize Communications?

It's time we really get to know our members by asking more questions up front. Listen before you talk. Like you do in a real conversation. How do you engage people in real life when it's just you and them? You generally ask a question. "Wow, you look amazing. Have you lost weight?" "Welcome, can I get you something to drink?" "I'm so happy to see you. How was your drive?"

But, what do we do with new members? "Welcome to our association. Check out all the reasons why you should be glad you joined. Blah, blah blah." How about, "Welcome to our association. Why did you join?"

This applies to just about every opportunity for engagement with our members. If you want to get their attention, think about what you can ask to gain more insight, rather than what you want to tell them. And yes, this is scalable with the right systems.

To learn more about the biggest shift since marketing automation, come to this breakout session "How to Use the Data, AI and Automation Combo to Light Up Your Engagement" at the Higher Logic SuperForum on April 11-12 in DC.

About the author: Dave Will is the Co-Founder and CEO of PropFuel, a Conversational Engagement Platform designed to capture insight and engage members better by listening before talking.

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