One of the things which have changed is access: it is really easy today for people to access information anytime, anywhere, and often free. But people want customized information, relevant for them. We have to personalize information to their specific needs, and in that respect, an association like MPI, which knows its members very well, can be extremely relevant. We try to connect people to different types of communities based on their needs.
MPI is a generalist association, but does not cater only for general meeting planners: for instance we are one of the largest associations of insurance planners, and we have a very strong LGBTQ member base. Even if there are associations specifically dedicated to these segments of meeting professionals, we can provide resources that are immediately relevant.
Let’s explore this notion of personalization, how does it concretely translate? Mostly technology?
It is true the way you personalize the journey is by technology, but it has to be enhanced by face-to-face events. So in events, we customize delegates’ experiences and make sure they connect with the right people and resources.
We also are changing the way we communicate: we don’t want to send many broad communications anymore. General emails are not working. We will be laser-focused in 2020, with automated marketing tools “The more we know about you, the more we can bring value” is the idea.
Another change is we are moving away from incentive-based communication (“get 50 dollars if you do this”), and towards value-based communication with very relevant content, and this requires knowing perfectly the members. All these changes improve the members experience tremendously. We have a strong base of healthcare professionals, and if we know well what they need we are much more relevant.
A challenge is to gather this information: is it declarative or observation-based?
We will ask our members to give us information about what they want. “Help us help you, give us data, we will email you less and will email you better; allow us to customize your journey” is the idea. And complementing the data they provide us, our marketing automation tool helps follow what people do online. If you read a blog about healthcare, we know you are interested in this topic and we can personalize the content. What remains to be seen is if we can connect to what people do in events.
Are there other ways the value an association like MPI brings changes?
An important change is that people are very focused on the “now”. We don’t just provide good content and experiences, we adapt it to keep up with trends or events, so this keeps us in the “now”. We offer webinars every week, but leave the door open to change topics if something important happens. Also we are looking to crowdsource our events on-site, with content thus created during the very event. Since we have a very large chapter network, we need chapters to adapt to that, which is not easy, but we will coach them and give them a toolkit.
Is communicating MPI, which is one more thing in members’ lives, a challenge? Is it hard to get people’s time?
It is like an appliance: if you invest in an appliance and don’t spend time understanding how it works, you won’t enjoy it. It is the same for membership: you need to understand well how to use it. Chapters help you personalize the experience at a local level, and we help them with tools for that. We have to be engaged globally and locally at a local level and getting members to understand what they can get from the association is our responsibility.