Our opinions on why WordPress is a good fit for any membership website
Membership websites don't have to be expensive
Sam Meade Business Development Manager
So far 2020 has proven to be one of the most challenging years for organisations over the world, effectively changing the way that companies operate almost instantly.
The global pandemic has added to a long list of challenges that sporting associations are having to face on a daily basis.
However, whilst today’s world does present challenges old and new, there really is no better time to improve your membership offering and ensure that your website is geared to help increase engagement and boost revenue by taking advantage of everything the digital world has to offer.
The current digital landscape for sporting associations
The digital landscape for sporting associations has shifted massively in recent years, and technological capabilities and member expectations are changing just as rapidly.
With an increasing use of mobile devices, an abundance of social media platforms and constantly changing search engine algorithms, many sporting associations are struggling to find their footing and achieve success in today’s digital world.
Whilst there are some fantastic examples of sporting membership organisation websites done well, such as the Lawn Tennis Association and England Golf, it seems to be that the majority of the sector is some way behind the digital curve.
It still can be said that most associations are far too comfortable with managing their membership in a completely offline manner. Many are missing the opportunity of having a website that has been specifically designed and built to help achieve their long-term goals of increasing member engagement or new member recruitment.
It isn’t a surprise that your members demand a simple, paper-free membership registration process and associations that do embrace technology, will better grow and retain members to further their missions.
Many membership organisations today struggle to improve and grow member engagement due to their legacy systems. This can be anything from an old database, CRM, billing or other technological system.
Some sporting associations have been around for centuries and the data collected on these systems is vast and invaluable, but often out of date and not integrated with the organisation’s website. Not only does this result in a significantly increased administrative workload, but it also means that member data is not being used effectively.
Whilst both direct mail and word of mouth are still valuable methods of marketing communications, a well designed and built website can act as the heartbeat of your online experience that can process online applications, automate email reminders for renewals and power online recurring membership payments.
What your members now expect from your website
Having visited and analysed many sporting association websites recently, it would seem that the days of having manual sign up procedures with written forms and legacy systems, are beginning to become a thing of the past.
Whilst both direct mail and word of mouth are still valuable methods of marketing communications, a well designed and built website can act as the heartbeat of your online experience that can process online applications, integrate with your social media profiles, automate email reminders for renewals and power online recurring membership payments.
Replacing these manual processes and legacy systems will be modern websites that are specifically designed and built for an association’s key activities.
Your website visitors now expect to be able to access premium content on your website’s pages and have the opportunity to be able to browse member profiles in an interactive directory. They want to be able engage in the online communities you will host via the website and share insights from articles located in your online resource’s library.
How to keep them happy
Successful sporting associations are built around their members and the best websites keep their members happy by providing them with everything they need within just a few clicks.
Here are a few things to consider in your membership website, in order to keep your members happy:
Member management – Membership signup and renewal need to be as simple and straightforward as possible, using both the website and a 3rd party CRM integration. A seamless process means more member retention and less hard work for you. This can be achieved through digitised forms that have the ability to push data into your CRM.
Events calendar – A cornerstone of many associations are in-person events, although virtual meetings are a viable substitute at the moment. These meetings are imperative for an organisation to best serve to create a sense of community and can be a highly attractive feature that helps you retain more members. Providing a calendar of events on the website will help demonstrate to prospective members, how many events will be available to them.
Online communities – A members-only area on your website means you can provide exclusive member resources, allow members to update their details online, and encourage members to connect with each other to form a vibrant and lively community. This can be achieved by having a secured area on your website, protected by a login facility. This can be taken one step further, by providing membership tiers or levels, offering advanced features to higher tier memberships or just diverse content based on the type of audience viewing your site.
eCommerce – Many associations utilise an online shop functionality as a way to generate additional income. Whether the products or services are tangible or intangible, an eCommerce functionality with payment integration can be a great addition to your website to help drive revenue.
Boards and committees – Whilst many of the larger organisations already have boards and committees in place, as smaller associations grow, advisory boards and committees may need to be configured. Members may need to be tagged with their relative position or membership type, all of which can be done in your WordPress admin.
Email marketing – Whilst printed communications may still have their place, communicating with members via email is a critical requirement for any modern membership website. Having an area of your website that allows interested parties to sign up to your newsletter can be a great way to keep prospective members engaged. A newsletter functionality can be added to your website experience so that interesting news articles can be pulled into a predefined template, which can be sent out via an email automation provider.
Invoicing and payments – The ability to integrate a membership platform for a single point of reference for all of your member data is a great way of providing a seamless experience from when a prospective customer transforms into a fully-fledged member. This means that all of their user records, membership history, orders and payments can be stored in a single database, allowing you to track everything and anything you need without requiring multiple reference points.
Online membership directory – The majority of sporting associations and membership organisations are built to help serve their members and help them connect with one another. Some place a lot of importance on publicising their member directory to outside visitors, providing a company profile and membership status for outside visitors. You can design the membership directory with the appropriate fields you want to display in both the group and single views.
Why WordPress is great for your membership website
WordPress currently powers nearly 30% of the internet and is attributed to be the most popular online content management system.
When designed, built and set up properly, WordPress is perfectly positioned to be a great CMS for your membership website.
Here are just a few of the reasons why we think so:
It’s open-source – We have said it before and we will say it again, the advantage of having an open-source technology like WordPress, is that the entire community can help to contribute to development of the product and help answer any questions you might have.
It’s extendable – Features and functionalities can be added to your website to deliver website growth, effectively futureproofing your website. It means that as your members ask and request new features, the website can easily be updated to add new functionalities.
It’s adaptable – Sometimes, things change, whether unforeseen or expected, policies and offerings may need to be altered, so having a system that allows for flexibility and changes to be made easily, can be very handy.
It’s cost effective – Unlike many other systems used for building membership websites, there are no licensing fees with WordPress and the only ongoing costs associated would be for the hosting of the website and for external specialist support should you need it.
It’s easy to use – In today’s day and age, you need to have the ability and control to be able to make changes and updates to your website on your own, without the need to have taken some form of entry level coding qualification. We actually made the decision a few years back to move away from our own proprietary CMS, simply due to the fact that we couldn’t compete with the likes of WordPress.
It’s very secure – With a quality security infrastructure in place for the core software, WordPress is a great system to have your secured membership website built on. Ensuring that your website is hosted in a secure environment by specialists, is another great way of adding an additional security layer.
Switching to newer, integrated technologies is a great opportunity for sporting associations to save time and money, as well as improving member retention.
Associations providing membership options should be asking themselves questions about how they fit into today’s online world and provide digital value to their members.
By modernising and improving your website, you have the ability to automate tasks and provide an online self-service option for members, which will ultimately improve their user experience.
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