The world doesn’t work the way it used to… literally. For years, digital nomads, freelancers, and independent contractors have been predicting the rise of remote work, but as HubSpot points out in its 2020 Remote Work Report, there’s a key difference between traditional remote work and working remotely.

Remote work is a lifestyle usually adopted by choice. Working remotely was a scenario forced on more than half the U.S. population due to the rise of the global pandemic. So while the work-from-anywhere set was already used to navigating new technologies, dependency on Wi-Fi, and managing disconnect and isolation, a large percentage of your membership likely found these new challenges thrust upon them. 

For many associations and individual members, 2020 was the year of surviving. The good news? That makes 2021 the year of thriving. But in order to bounce back better than ever, and help your members do the same, you’ll need to evolve along with their needs, providing them with consistent value and dynamic benefits that grow along with them. Here are some of our tips on serving your members in the age of working remotely:


Start a Conversation

Keeping a close eye on your data is always advised, but the numbers don’t always tell you how your members are feeling, or what’s keeping them up at night. To get the full story, you’ll need to take a qualitative approach. Ask members about their struggles, their worries, and their needs. Send out short email surveys, house polls on your blog and website landing pages, or create a popup. Members want to be heard, and if you give them a platform to speak out, many will take advantage of it. Remember to keep surveys short and sweet (so hone in on a narrow focus for each one). Multiple choice, dropdown, or scale rating questions typically garner more engagement, but you’ll also want to allow space for members to give optional feedback in their own words.

The key here is listening to what they have to say and adjusting your services accordingly. Did a majority of members indicate a dislike for online learning or networking events? Take a look at your platform and evaluate the user experience. There may be easy tweaks you can make to serve your members in a better way.


Open the Gates

This one seems counterintuitive, especially for associations feeling the financial sting of the COVID-induced economic downturn, but many organizations are finding great benefit in offering free or reduced memberships across their industry to welcome and support new professionals. 

Not only do free or trial memberships bring in fresh blood that may someday become full-fledge dues-paying members, but it also increases engagement and boosts SEO, bringing more organic search traffic to your website, and more attention to your association’s offerings.

Even if free or reduced memberships aren’t right for your organization, consider ungating important and relevant content on your website, like infographics, white papers, and ebooks, or offering a one-time free e-learning course to allow non-members to get a taste of the value you provide.


Be the Voice of Your Industry

Advocacy is likely already a big part of what you do, but now, it’s more important than ever. Your members need you to be a leader in your industry as they navigate the fallout of the economic crisis, deal with waning job opportunities and faltering growth trajectories, and battle the uncertainty of their future in your field. This is the time to step up and use your voice to impact change across your industry. Members want to hear about trends and best practices, particularly as they shift in the wake of the pandemic. Be their trusted authority on what they can expect in the coming months, and how they can adapt and adjust their work style to keep up. 

Be sure to offer industry-specific guidance and best practices that are thoroughly researched and scientifically sound. Help them create a business continuity plan, offer crisis communication templates, and keep them updated on how changing health codes and regulations impact their work.


Be Their Remote Coach

Your members have already had a long year of adjusting to working remotely, but it isn’t over yet. Some members may find their company’s extending work-from-home dates, or even remaining remote indefinitely or permanently. Others face an equally large hurdle as some businesses begin to open back up, and they find themselves back in the office for the first time in months. 

Creating educational resources around remote work will benefit all members in our current climate. Whether it’s a webinar to instruct them on building a remote work culture, or a mental health checklist to help them avoid burnout, meeting their specific needs as they relate to your industry in the remote workspace will build trust and respect.

Make sure all information you provide is up-to-date and relevant to your industry. For example, AssociationsNow offers a real-time coronavirus tracker that includes the latest infection rates, along with meaningful content on topics that matter to remote members, like the broadband gap, or ongoing travel restrictions. ASAE offers an Issue Roundup with advocacy updates, research studies, virtual content, and more so members stay updated and connected while also staying socially distant.

The last year has been a challenge for both associations and their members, but there are opportunities to be found, even in the midst of the uncertainty. Being adaptive and supporting your members not in the way you think they need, but in the way they tell you they need you, will position you as a trusted resource and vital support network as they navigate the remote life… and beyond.

Want to learn more about how your association and your members can thrive in the remote work era? Willow Marketing is here to help guide you. Contact us today for insights and strategy, and keep an eye out for future installments in our Associations at Work (from Home) series.

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Written by Brad Gillum

"We’re business consultants who happen to specialize in marketing. We help people and have fun doing it."