For most member-driven organizations, December marks the end of another year of membership-management.  Annual renewal season is at its peak as we work to ensure our members stay members for another successful year.

As the new year approaches, it’s almost time to take a look back over the successes of 2019, and plan to capture the opportunities available in 2020. That’s why, starting with this article, Member365 is proud to launch its Strategies for a Successful New Year blog series. 

The end of 2019 provides us an opportunity to look back and review our work. The beginning of 2020 is an opportunity to take that knowledge and use it to grow as organizations and as membership managers. We want to help you take advantage of this time of the year by helping to frame your thinking with a few useful ideas, starting with:

Why it’s important to think in measurable terms

Let’s say one of your goals for 2019 was to ‘drive event engagement’.

What does ‘event engagement’ really mean, and how can you confidently know you’ve achieved it? Maybe your metrics show higher-than-normal registration’s for 2019’s events, but lower-than-normal attendance. One metric indicates higher engagement, the other indicates lower engagement, making it difficult to confidently say whether you’ve achieved your goal.

‘Event engagement’ is a vague term with no obvious approach to measurement. When we go to try and see if we’ve achieved this goal, there’s so much uncertainty about what the term really means that it’s difficult to be confident one way or the other. We can introduce more metrics like workshop attendance, email opens/click-throughs, survey responses, etc. – but without a precise definition of your goal, you can never fully eliminate uncertainty.

Consider, on the other hand, if one of your goals was to “Increase event registration by 15%”. This goal is clear, precise, and offers an obvious way to tell if it has been achieved or not. While it is only one dimension of ‘event engagement’, because it is stated in measurable terms, it is a certain one. Add “increase registration to attendance ratios by X%”, “increase workshop registration by Y%”, and so on – and you’ll be on your way to developing a precise, comprehensive, powerful profile of performance indicators. They’ll give you a picture of performance you can be confident in, but also a set of standards you can use to frame and direct future goals.

Thinking about your goals in measurable terms makes evaluating previous successes easier, but also helps you capture future opportunities. Measurable goals give us a clear lens through which to understand our performance looking back, and a clear path to enjoying success in the future.

Performing a SWOT Analysis of Past Performance

Short for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – SWOT is a common and powerful tool for businesses.

For membership managers at year-end, performing a SWOT analysis can be a powerful way to develop insights into historical performance and direct future work in a manner that will generate the most value.

A SWOT analysis is easy. All it takes is a piece of paper divided into four sections, one for ‘strengths’, ‘weaknesses’, ‘opportunities’, and ‘threats’.

Even if you haven’t analyzed your past performance in measurable terms, you should have a rough understanding of which of your goals were ‘wins’ and which were ‘losses’ in 2019. Put these under ‘Strengths’ and ‘Weaknesses’, respectively.

For each goal, think about why you succeeded, and why you didn’t. You’ll want to ask yourself some important questions, such as:

For successes:

  • Could success have been greater?

If you invested 10% of your potential resources into achieving a particular goal, and succeeded, would investing more result in more success?

If so, this area represents a significant opportunity for growth. Mark it under ‘Opportunity’.

  • Can I expect to stay strong in this area?

Sometimes circumstances beyond our control play a big role in our successes and failures. Maybe a competing organization shut its doors last year, leading all its members to you. Basing next year’s goals on last year’s performance in this area might be an error. If something like this is the case for any of your goals, this area ought to be marked under ‘Threats’ as there is uncertainty as to whether next year’s performance will resemble last year’s.

For losses:

  • Could a loss have been greater?

In business, nobody wants to see a downward line on a graph, but that doesn’t mean they strictly represent ‘failure’. Maybe you wanted to increase the size of your membership 2% in 2019, but ended up losing 2%. Maybe it’s also the case that, despite the loss, it would have been 10% if not for the effort you and your team put into capturing applications and renewals.

In the event that you marked a ‘loss’, but through effort significantly reduced that loss, you’ll want to mark the area under ‘Weakness’, but also ‘Opportunity’. While you may not have been ‘strong’ in this area, you could have been much ‘weaker’. With preparation and the right application of resources, this area could be turned around.

  • Can I expect further losses in this area?

Sometimes, all the work in the world won’t prevent a loss. There will always be circumstances beyond our control that have a big impact on our ability to achieve organizational goals. When circumstances prevent us from being able to achieve them, we can prevent ourselves from investing further into an area unlikely to produce positive outcomes.

If you took a loss in any important area last year, and are confident that no reasonable investment of time, money, and energy will prevent the same from occurring next year, you’ve identified a ‘Threat’.

Charting a Course to Success in 2020

Whether you’ve performed a comprehensive SWOT analysis or a casual one, using the SWOT model to analyze performance in 2019 gives you a foundation to direct your energy in 2020.

By analyzing your ‘successes’ in terms of strength and opportunity, you’ll have an idea about what areas can grow with further investment, and which areas are likely to remain successful left as-is. This will help prevent your organization from investing in areas unlikely to offer much further growth, and let you focus your resources on the areas that – though strong already – offer the opportunity for even more growth.

By analyzing your ‘losses’ in terms of ‘weakness’ and ‘threat’, you can develop a strong impression of which ‘areas in decline’ are in your power to influence. Identify those that aren’t in your power, and you can prevent yourself from investing in areas unlikely to produce positive outcomes. Identify those that are in your power, and you have a big impact on minimizing further losses and encouraging growth in previously-weak areas.

These are only a few concepts we’ll be exploring in our Strategies for a Successful New Year blog series. For more insight into finishing 2019 strong, and getting the most out of 2020, stay tuned to the Member365 blog!