An Active Listening Habit Helps You Deliver Value to Members, Customers & Prospects

Every association wants to deepen the engagement of members, customers, and prospects. But what’s working? For Reggie Henry, chief information and performance excellence officer at ASAE, the mindset of active listening is making the difference. Here’s what he said at the 2022 iNNOVATIONS Conference—please excuse the blatant product placement.

“We use OpenWater and TopClass LMS as our tools on ‘offense’ to increase engagement. To be on offense, our team practices active listening. It’s a mindset.

Has your team adopted the mindset of active listening? Mindsets start with individual and organizational habits, like adding a poll to each newsletter, asking a question in an email reply, or looking at a dashboard to see trends in behavioral data. Are you looking at that data?

Why do so many associations ignore platform data?

I know many of you look at platform data because I’ve read and written posts about what you’ve learned from that data. Or I’ve heard your stories in webinars or conference sessions I’ve attended.

But I also hear people say things like, “We haven’t dug into our [mobile app, LMS, community, etc.] data yet, but that’s on our list for next year.”

Getting a handle on data can be overwhelming. So where do you begin?

Start small with one question you want to answer. But choose the right question. One with an answer that will help you make a decision. When you find the data to answer that question, share what you’ve learned—and how you learned it—with your team. That’s how you start changing mindsets.

Anyone can do basic data analytics. And it doesn’t take much to get even fancier. You might already have the software you need. If you want to find a group of association peers who work with data, check out the monthly online meetings of the Data Analytics Network.

active listening results in assumptions blown

Listen to your data, not the experts

Listen to what your data tells you about your different audience segments. Don’t rely on a marketing guru’s pronouncements about the best way or time to do something based on data collected from dozens of industries.

For example, there must be a marketing expert out there saying the best time to send emails is 10 a.m. on Tuesdays because that’s when every company I’ve ever met at trade shows sends me emails. Guess what happens? Because too many arrive at once, I scan subject lines and delete most of them without reading. If they came in sporadically, they’d have a better chance of getting read.

See what your data tells you. Many email marketing platforms are time zone sensitive and can send things out when they’re most likely to get read.

Be careful about following industry surveys too closely. It’s valuable to see trends and know what others are doing, but your members, customers, and prospects may vary greatly from the “average member.”

Following the herd isn’t usually the best practice. The right answer depends on the preferences of your audience or, more accurately, segments of your audience.

The beauty of active listening

HubSpot says 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs. I’m sure your audience expects the same, if not more, from your association.

Active listening helps you better understand your members, customers, and prospects. Behavioral data delivers information about their needs, interests, and preferences. With this insight, you can improve content, marketing, engagement, and retention.

Data delivers lessons from the recent past. You can learn what’s popular overall and with different segments from:

•    Web page views
•    Email opens/clicks
•    Video views
•    Session views
•    Program attendance and completion

You can deliver more relevant content—videos they’ll watch, articles they’ll read, and announcements about events and programs they’ll attend.

And then what happens? When you prove you make the effort to understand them, you build trust and loyalty.

active listening leads to new discoveries

How to start the habit of active listening

There are so many ways to listen to your audience.

•    Add a pulse poll to every newsletter. Share the results in the next edition.

•    Ask a question in blast emails and encourage people to reply back.

•    In individual correspondence via emails, website chats, and calls, ask a “quick question” at the end that will deliver data you need.

•    Initiate a dialogue with what PropFuel calls conversational engagement.

•    Require the completion of program and course evaluations before granting CE credits, but only ask questions that will provide data you need to make decisions.

In their course evaluations, the National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research asked about employer reimbursement. When they found out employers reimbursed 96% of their participants, Alliance staff met with insurance agencies to learn about their professional development challenges. As a result, they designed learning paths and corporate learning portals that resulted in five times the revenue.

The Oklahoma State Medical Association uses TopClass LMS to automatically send a second evaluation 90 days after an online course ends. They want to find out what physicians actually apply from the program and how it changes their practice.

Reggie Henry also spoke about data with Forj, “If I can know what members’ challenges are in real time, then I can respond better. And it’s not just the transactional data, but the data that comes out of our community conversations. That unstructured data is where there’s some gold.”

You might have heard Reggie talk about the weekend he spent a few hours using Power BI (part of Office 365) to analyze text in ASAE’s online community, Collaborate. He identified hot topics and members who were offering advice. With that info, ASAE put together a series of well attended webinars during the early months of the pandemic.

Tune in to the conversations going on in your industry. Besides listening to your online community, check out Zoom chats during webinars and conferences, social media platforms and groups, and website chat bot transcripts. When you integrate your LMS and other systems with your AMS, you can get an even more complete picture of member (individual or company) and customer engagement.

By listening to your data, you learn about someone’s habits and tendencies. But those habits and tendencies change. A member has a baby and, as a result, her reading habits and commitment to professional development change. Make it a habit to constantly refine your understanding. Don’t make assumptions, instead go to the data to see what it tells you.

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