Associations: Understanding your User Personas

Every association focuses on driving three membership metrics: recruitment, engagement, and retention.  However, without truly understanding who your members are, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to grow any of these.   On the surface, it may seem that your user base is divided into just two categories, members and non-members, but there is so much more to consider to create an experience that drives content to users at their own levels of development (recruitment), meets the needs of everyone in your audience (engagement), and keeps them coming back for more valuable experiences (retention).

The tips below will help explain how to start thinking about your members in ways that will help them get the most out of your association, and to help you provide them with the best experiences on your website.

Get to (Really) Know Your Members

Sometimes we get a little too broad in our understanding of our members.  The depth of experience we can provide when we’re segmenting content between “Member” and “Non-member” is quite limited.  Instead, try to think about other ways to understand and identify your site’s visitors. 

  • General visitor

  • Sponsor

  • Potential member

  • New member 1-3 years

  • Veteran member 10+ years

  • Board members

  • Committee leaders

If you start to see these various segments as individuals, you’ll understand and identify how each has different needs, interests, and goals.  Knowing this can help you serve the right content to each particular segment, improving their experience and adding value.

Target Your Content Better

Before you create or publish any content, take a moment to think about the audience you’re trying to engage. By thinking more concretely about the interests of one particular member type, your content will be best received by the folks who matter. Best to be extremely relevant to different member types at any given time, than to be broad and unspecific with ALL of your content.

If you keep the following three points in mind, you’ll have a better sense of purpose whenever you produce new material – whether it’s a whitepaper, a webinar, or even a live event:

  • Understand which member segment will get the most value out of the content, and highlight the salient points for them directly.

  • Create content on a level that makes sense for the member type.  If you’re addressing senior membership who are familiar with your field, you can use more advanced lingo.  But if you’re trying to grab new or prospective members, keep things engaging by presenting information on their level.

  • Keep content “sticky” by tying in references or calls-to-action from other pieces of content, like upcoming webinars on a similar topic or publications that dive deeper.

The goal of the above is to keep your users engaged for their entire career. Bearing this in mind will enable you to serve someone new to the industry as well as those 25+ years on.

Use Content Personalization to Serve Content

When you have an understanding of your target audience and the various segments they fall into, you can create content that is personalized to groups of users.

If your users find what they’re looking for easily, they’re more likely to come back for more relevant content.  The alternative to this is a situation you’ve probably experienced countless times yourself: going to a website that has nothing immediately relevant to you, so you leave.  Modern website visitors expect to immediately see relevant content, so don’t let them down. 

The benefit of this practice is that you will soon realize that you have the ability to drive users’ engagement behaviors using relevant content.  The deeper a member can go into relevant content, the more value they’ll see in their membership.  The more value they see in their membership, the better chance they’ll keep renewing and recruiting for you.

For example, let’s say your association supports transplant doctors.  If you have members clicking on articles on heart transplant specifically, perhaps you can follow up with an invitation or a link to an upcoming webinar on heart transplants.  Maybe you can lead them to older publications on heart transplants that directly tie into the article they’re reading.

Your goal is to meet user expectations and provide them with the information they’re interested in without them having to look for it. 

Make the Most of Technology

Many CMS platforms today enable various degrees of personalization and segmentation. Understanding the technology you’re using gives you the power to unlock the kinds of experiences we’re discussing above, especially if you have data in the AMS that can integrate with your CMS.   

Make sure you think about the following:

  • Does your AMS allow you to segment member types and track interactions?

  • Think about how far can you go with categorizing people within your AMS, even down to an individual level.

  • Does your CMS enable you to promote content based on member types from within the AMS?

And remember, you can always get in touch with’s association website strategists to learn more about ways to get your systems talking to each other to drive personalized member experiences.   


Modern professionals expect exceptional online service and a personalized experience tailored to their needs. Just as we expect to see products we’re interested in when we visit, we expect to see relevant content wherever we go—especially when visiting the associations we belong to.  We want to feel as though we’re being appreciated and understood as we are, not as generic “members.”

Serve personalized content and not only are your users more likely to be happy dues-paying contributors, but they’ll likely continue their membership and grow into lifelong members, they are also more likely to share great content to their communities, helping recruit for you. 

Article contributed by: Will Levenson, Director of Sales 

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