Defining Trackable Metrics for Membership Associations Online
Membership driven associations need to make sure they establish metrics to ensure a successful online effort during the entire life span of a web property after its launch.
Now this message seems simple enough; however, the truth is from the smallest of associations to the largest, it’s rarely the case. They have certain goals they want to achieve with the management or reinvention of their existing web presence but these are, for the most part, tactical goals. Overarching goals that would be considered more strategic are rarely misguided; however, they don’t define a way of tracking the effort’s success. A great example of common strategic goals that we often see from discussions and RFPs usually read something like this:
Common Strategic Goals:
- “To have an inspired and responsive design that encourages member engagement”
- “To increase the awareness of the association and gain new membership”
- “Make critical resources more accessible to our members”
Let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with these goals what-so-ever. What I want to clarify is how we make those goals a reality by assigning a trackable metric(s) that governs whether or not we were successful and what we can do to make it even better.
It’s a common misconception that developing and managing more detailed metrics can put the cross hairs on you when new launches or efforts don’t yield the results that everyone was expecting. Your first step is by setting expectations internally and externally. The web is fluid and always in motion much like the individuals that consume your content and engage with your association. Building something once and expecting to not adjust it over long periods of time is not feasible if you expect to meet visitor/member expectations. It’s with this understanding that we lay down some common ground rules to help bring all contributors to your web presences success:
Common Ground Rules:
- We are leveraging the resources, data, and intellect of those around us to create a hypothesis of what will be successful in accordance with our goals.
- We all understand that after our launch we must be tracking clear metrics to understand how successful that effort has been and preparing to make adjustments.
- Iterative adjustments and review of factual data doesn’t put at us in jeopardy but rather empowers us to far exceed our original expectations.
This kind of clarity creates an extremely collaborative environment for associations when it comes to web design, web development, UX/UI, and the future of any web presence your association may control. It also positions the web presence correctly for the association: as your most powerful asset requiring a continued investment, not associated with financial loss but gain in all aspects.
So how do we make these strategic goals into something we can actually track? While the answer is different for every association, I am going to provide some tangible examples for association professionals to sink their teeth into. Let’s use a structured format to help bring clarity to the best way to define meaningful KPIs.
Basically, what we’re trying to do is first take the strategic goal. Let’s use:
Strategic Goal: “To have an inspired and responsive design that encourages member engagement.”
Now let’s ask ourselves what best helps us define what that means from a data perspective. Essentially, what’s the science of our strategic goal? An answer may be:
Trackable Analytic Measurement: Number of page views per session for members.
Notice that we provided some specificity to the trackable metric. We want to look at member engagement and to see more interaction in the website for the resources and knowledge base being offered to its members.
Next, we want to see what historical data is available. Today, most websites use Google Analytics and have for quite some time. Even though you’ve never tailored that data before doesn’t mean it can’t serve as a jumping point for the future. This is a common misconception because sometimes it takes effort to really analyze and understand the historical data if it has gone unattended for a long period of time. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say the data is of high quality. From there, we now have a baseline.
Historical Data: On a monthly basis, our members consume 1.6 pages of content per session.
What is our desired goal? This is where some of the guess work can come into play depending on your situation. You can leverage outside groups to give insight into realistic meaningful goals or you can make an assessment based around your membership. One way or another we need to set a goal. For this example, let’s say:
Desired Outcome: to increase our members' page views to 3 pages per session.
Finally, let’s define a trackable metric that will help shape the future of the association for the better and lead it to something meaningful. As long as you’re minding all the details of the formula you can word this in any way you see fit as long as it’s impactful and clear.
Strategic Goal Revised: “To have an inspired design that increases member engagement by showing an increase of 3 pages per month per member as compared to previous year’s months.”
This is a very basic example. You could take the same road for engagement in leveraging percentages, cataloging a statistical decrease in bounce rates, or measuring a substantial increase in member logins. How you decide to track this is entirely up to the association and which metric establishes the clarity of success.
In closing, I would encourage you to think about how these strategic goals change the way you continue to enhance your website’s experience. These KPIs are the kind that help dictate the future direction in every aspect of the website.
At Unleashed, we’re always challenging how we can be more effective for our clients, and with associations it starts with being able to assign success to their web presence. What is the value of the work that’s been done and how can it keep growing to be even better for the association?