Tag: member engagement

Heather McNair headshot with new CEO announcement text

New CEO Heather McNair shares what’s next for Cloud Generation

Heather McNair headshot with new CEO announcement text

Two years ago (almost to the day!), a group of close friends and colleagues took a big leap and started Cloud Generation, a new software company serving the association community. Those two years have passed in the blink of an eye, and we’ve been through big changes in that time: renovating and selling homes, three cross-country moves and a new little addition to the CG family on the way, just to name a few.  

We’ve also come to market with an incredible credential management software suite. Each day using the software, I have a moment where I marvel at what we’ve built together – I couldn’t be prouder of the work the team has done.

I’m honored the team has asked me to move into the CEO role and lead Cloud Generation into the future. Rob Wenger, our current CEO and chairman of the board, and Conor Sibley, CTO, have spent countless hours over the past two years building a strong foundation for both the company and our credentialing platform. Now ready to move on to their next challenge, they will be joining our friends at Association Analytics (A2) to lend their expertise as A2 plans for what’s next. Rob and Conor will remain on CG’s Board of Directors and serve as advisors as we launch into our next phase of growth.

Throughout my 20 years in the association space, both as an association executive and vendor, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology to improve member experiences – from online communities back in the early aughts to automation, machine learning and AI with Higher Logic. I’m excited to bring those experiences to this new role and continue pushing the limits of what’s possible.

We’ve taken a forward-thinking, “What if…” approach at Cloud Generation, answering with the creation of a credential, badge and learning delivery management platform beyond anything we could have imagined two short years ago. Now we’re delivering curated, guided learning experiences through efficient, data-driven automation – and we’re just getting started.

Many thanks to Rob, Conor, and the rest of the incredibly hardworking team at Cloud Generation for ensuring our vision came to life. And many thanks to our amazing clients and friends in the industry for all your support and feedback. I’m humbled by your faith in me and excited to continue giving back to the association community.

Heather McNair
Heather McNair

Heather McNair has centered her career around developing loyal customers for over 20 years, with experience across the association, software and publishing industries. She is passionate about using technology to increase customer and member engagement and retention.

When not at her laptop, you can usually find Heather looking like a mad scientist in the kitchen, experimenting with a new recipe or craft cocktail, or in her garden nurturing her “plant babies.” 

Scalable learning for a modern attention span

Scalable learning for a modern attention spans [Partner Webinar Recap]

Scalable learning for a modern attention span [Partner Webinar Recap]

Scalable learning for a modern attention span

Wait, what were we talking about again?

We have enough competition for eyeballs in this age of distractions. So how do we keep learners engaged, processes simple, and non-dues revenue rolling in? We were lucky enough to partner with Association Analytics for a webinar about scalable learning strategies for a modern attention span.

Watch our own Chief Customer Officer Heather McNair and Association Analytics’ SVP of Strategy and Solutions Bill Conforti below – they shared ways you can keep automation and personalization simple without having to reinvent the wheel. Heather and Bill also unpacked whether we’re unknowingly creating obstacles that cause learners to drop out along their journey, as well as which analytics to track (with tools you may already have).

Watch the recording while following along with summary notes (look at that – we already took notes for you).

Webinar recap: where are we now, and how can we scale?

My, look how we’ve grown! (evolution of personalization)

  • Personalization maturity model: it’s about meeting members where they are in their journey
  • It’s rarely a nice, clean curve – remember the Plinko game on Price Is Right? The puck can move in any direction, so let’s expect that from our member journeys
  • Most associations are still at the beginning of this model – how can we take steps to progress?
  • Netflix and Spotify dominate on behavior-based recommendations right now – more than 75% of Netflix’s activity is driven by their personalization and similarities engine

From head to toe (bespoke experiences are the future)

  • Truly customized, personalized products can be tricky and resource draining, but that doesn’t mean we can’t aim high – it’s about looking at our programs with fresh eyes
  • Converse provides a great experience to play with “building” a pair of shoes
  • Example: it’s a challenge to track average course completion rates (usually we hover around 10-15%, but we can bump that up to 90% when we identify better engagement techniques)

Let’s take a journey (or three) together

  • Three stages of certification: identify, keep them motivated, and ensure recertification – are we leaving any of these to chance?
  • Example: delivering online exams used to be a big obstacle, but now we’re seeing folks sticking with it, per recent survey data from the Institute of Credentialing Excellence
  • You can’t effectively personalize communications and create bespoke experiences if you’re only seeing part of the picture – we need to make decisions based on multiple data sources
  • Example: we shouldn’t send a “We miss you” email to a member because they haven’t registered for events, if they’re active in the online community

Oh, sweet rewards (recognizing members)

  • Everyone loves recognition – but it’s a two-way street
  • More badges = more awareness for your certification program
  • Make it easy, make it frequent, and make it public (share those badges around)

Showing off (measuring our success)

Some up-and-coming customer/member experience and engagement metrics you should explore:

  • Renewal rates
  • Satisfaction scores
  • Lifetime value
  • Referrals
  • Course review sentiment
  • Inflection points in member journey

8 tips to help members recertify

8 tips to help members recertify

8 tips to help members recertify

8 tips to help members recertify

Let’s get right to it – we need our members to recertify. It’s good for them (latest and greatest for their industry, job skills, and overall professional development) and it helps us, too (engagement, retention, revenue – all the big ones). 

We need quick but thoughtful tactics here – after all, the average worker gets interrupted every 15 minutes these days (per recent studies from the University of California, Irvine). That’s tough competition for attention and eyeballs. 

Our quick tips are below – try one, a few, or all eight in your recertification workflows (or heck – start that recertification workflow for the first time, we’re not judging here). Then let us know what’s working best for you. 

1. Countdown to recertification.

It may seem eager, but well-placed calendar reminders have saved our skins countless times before. Even if a member completed their certification recently, it’s advantageous to plan ahead. Send well-spaced notes as their recertification deadlines get closer. Like any good muscle, check-ins should be active and consistent. To level up, consider automatic recertification options and build that into your workflow.

When it’s worked: AAAE’s content-filled event promos 

“For our events that offered CEU credits to AAEs, AAAE’s highest accreditation, we would put dynamic content into event promotions reminding them how many CEUs they could get with that event,” said Beth Arritt, former VP of Marketing at the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). “They didn’t have to go looking for the info on the conference site, and it’s a fantastic marketing tool for the event.”  

The key here is specificity – a focused audience and an exact number of credits for them. 

2. Take out the guesswork with recommendations.

Send members personalized course recommendations that align with their interests and meet CE requirements. You can track this info down many ways: self-reporting data, past event and course history, job title, or outstanding requirements. 

3. Play nice with others (course providers, that is). 

Do you have an easy way for certificants to report CEs earned through other providers or programs? If they can add them into your system, it’s simpler for everyone to track progress and stay on top of things.

4. Give members the power to choose.  

Whether it’s a specific learning pathway that prioritizes online videos versus in-person events, or an option to control course scheduling and timing – support your members in personalizing their recertifying process.

When it’s worked: AAAE members thrive with learning options

“This was one of the ways our members were able to thrive, because they were at different levels at the airport,” Beth explained. “For example, there might be 6 airport operations managers at an airport, which means any one of them being out left a big hole to fill when they had to manage the operations for what was essentially a small city – a definite need for options that don’t require in-person attendance, and in a variety of methods to accommodate for different learning types. But at the same time, there were people who really needed to make those in-person connections, so providing that networking opportunity was critical [for some] in keeping up their CEUs.” 

Across industries and disciplines, it can be both tricky and integral to find time and funding for certification. Options create flexibility that ultimately keeps members moving forward. 

5. Offer incentives (or what we like to call, positive bribes).

The satisfaction of staying up to date in certification is a great intrinsic motivator – but it doesn’t always quell procrastination or distraction. An easy bribe to get you started: digital badges for completing CEs that members can proudly display across social or their online community.

6. Remind members they’re doing great. 

Recognition can feel simple, but it does wonders. Praise recertifying progress publicly in a newsletter, on your social channels, or even at an event. Send a personalized note with words of encouragement or an invitation to join a committee/task force. 

When it’s worked: Shouting out success at AAAE

Visibility on who’s recertified was always top of mind in AAAE’s member strategy. They sent out a detailed list of certified members every quarter and displayed recent certifications at their annual conference. “And those people who had certified recently were all put into a drawing for a trip to our annual January conference in Hawaii,” Beth added. 

This exposure goes beyond just kudos – to serve on the executive board, you had to be a certified AAE, which helped raise your personal brand within the industry even more. 

7. Connect members to each other. 

Bribes and praise are great, but a little human interaction goes a long way. Consider providing a space (as simple as a group email or as built out as a member directory or community) for members in the thick of CEs to chat, commiserate, and motivate. Level up with a mentor program that connects new members with veterans in the industry and experience with that certification.

8. Honor the feedback loop.

Ask about your members’ certification experience, no matter the outcome or their status. This info is invaluable for both your program and their recertifying process in the future. Again, it can be as simple as an email or as robust as a survey.

Beginner's Micro-Credentials Checklist

Micro-credentials: a beginner’s checklist

Micro-credentials: a beginner’s checklist

Beginner's Micro-Credentials Checklist

Ready to set up some micro-credentials for your learning program? Maybe hoping to streamline, update, or change up the ones you’re providing? Or does the term micro-credential send you into a spiral of confusion, apprehension, and anticipated exhaustion?

All valid reactions – except that last one, we don’t want you to feel that way.  

Before we share the how, let’s quickly break down the what: What is a micro-credential?

Micro-credentials are rewards or recognition for a very specific set of skills, abilities, or scope of knowledge. Think of them as bite-sized portions of a larger credential, certification, or learning program. Want to level up on leadership or a new technology at work? Need to keep current on a procedure or specification in your industry? Complete a micro-credential, and ta-da! Achievement unlocked. 

So let’s make this easy. Here’s a checklist (a real one – not just a list of nice-to-have’s or general industry advice that you download, skim over, and say, “Ugh, there’s nothing here, I’m taking an early lunch”). Now you’ll have an exact set of tasks to set up any micro-credential. 

Stuff you’ll need: 

  • LMS or eLearning platform 
  • Outline for your course or credential (things like the skill/task to complete, a relevant video or screenshots, maybe some quiz questions) 
  • Brand materials (think logo files, brand colors, and maybe a cool badge icon for when people finish your micro-credential) 
  • Trust that this is not just another checklist with literally no action items to act on by the end (there totally will be) 

Ok, here comes the checklist!  

1. Define your skill/task/ability (AKA your micro-credential). 

This is the strategy portion of any project that sounds exciting when you’re chatting with colleagues and then becomes an absolute bear when you sit down to firm up plans. But it’s important – whether you’re parsing out smaller wins in an existing certificate program or building a new course from scratch. Take time to make sure you’ve outlined the objective and materials (hopefully you gathered most of this based on the stuff you needed list above – look at that!) Another big one: who will take this micro-credential?

2. Know your learners. 

Are they recertifying and need this micro-credential to keep momentum going? Are they new members and hoping to get a leg up in the industry with a quick win? Are they balancing a profession and home life and burgeoning side gig in badminton and need to learn on-the-go? Answer a few of these questions and include it in your definition (that was step 1 above).

3. Pick your platform, pick your people. 

Here’s the part where you might have to talk to other people – don’t worry, they will be helpful. You’ll need a platform to launch and host your micro-credential (most LMS or eLearning platforms do the trick- bonus if you already have one) and colleagues who can keep things moving along (content creation, communications, analytics, verification – maybe all those roles are on your plate – if so, we get it. And you’ve got this).

4. Check your work.  

We know – this one feels a little soft, but all the great teachers/editors out there are shouting “Yasss” right now. Collect all your great materials, cross-check with your original outline, review with your colleagues (and maybe an industry expert), then ask the ultimate question: does this still serve our learners?

5. Roll it out. 

It’s prime time! Perhaps you load everything up and start sharing the micro-credential with the whole (applicable) world. Another idea: include in your communications a few different learning pathways. This means your leaners can take the course standalone, or perhaps bundle or roll it into another program, or even pause and come back to it. Options.

6. Badge bragging galore. 

Give your learners plenty of display options for when they complete the micro-credential and want to show off their new badge with pride. Integrate with a certification engine, like Credly or Badgr, and provide your own in-house badge they can share on social platforms. Hot tip: not all good things last forever. If this is something that expires or needs to be renewed, build that into your micro-credential and badge as well.

7. Rinse and repeat. 

For the micro-credential, that is (and maybe take a shower – you’ve been working really hard). Iteration is the spice of life, so don’t be afraid to freshen up the course with different materials, communications, or targeted learners. Meaning…back to step 1 (we love a nice lifecycle checklist). 

Wanting a bit more info? 

Good for you! See below for some of our go-to resources: 

9 Ways to Keep Learners Engaged

9 ways to keep learners engaged

9 ways to keep learners engaged

9 ways to keep learners engaged tip sheet

We put together a quick list to help you manage the day-to-day priorities that come with running an education program. To keep up with any learning program (certification, certificate, badge, the list goes on), engagement is key. So we’ve collected tips and tricks from experts and friends across the learning landscape.

Skim through our 9 ways to engage below, or download the cheat sheet version to keep at your desk (or kitchen, or coffee table, in the car, stuffed in your bag…you get it).

It also features recommended tools (that you may already have!) to help streamline any education program.

1. Play Matchmaker. 

Resources: quiz or interactive tool platform like Survey Monkey (anything with branching logic) 

Match learners to the right resources, credentials, and experience. Create a short quiz to assess your learners’ strengths. Then offer customized resource recommendations based on their results. If you offer multiple credentials or certifications, create something a bit more interactive to capture precisely what they need. 

2. Level Up (and Out). 

Resources: workflows within your LMS or learning platform 

Some learners will breeze right through your course materials – others will need extra support. Set up different workflows so your high performers can “test out” of subjects in which they excel (banishing boredom) and your struggling enthusiasts can easily find extra resources (freeing them from frustration). 

3. Stay in Touch. 

Resources: marketing automation or email marketing platform  

Communicate often with your learners throughout their journey. This keeps them informed, excited, and motivated for the next step. 

4. Build Stepping Stones.  

Resources: courses and/or workflows in your LMS or learning platform 

A certification can feel overwhelming or even insurmountable. Consider offering micro-credentials – this break things up into smaller, simpler pieces along the path to a certification. Similar to helping learners level up and staying in touch with them, these quicker wins increase their positivity and pacing towards that larger goal. 

5. Make It Public. 

Resources: a public directory and search function within your LMS or learning platform 

Once a learner completes their certification, make it easy for current or prospective employers to verify the accomplishment. A public online directory lists credential holders with certification details (date earned/ expired, program requirements). Bonus: boost visibility AND alleviate staff time on manually verifying credentials.  

6. Give Learners the (Self Reporting) Power. 

Resources: a CE tracking tool in your learning platform 

Give learners a place to easily record, upload, track, and document progress on their certification journey. The benefit is two-fold: learners have an organized, self-service tool to manage a (often) multi-year process, and you can better track progress, promote courses, and communicate in a timely manner (i.e., don’t send that “you’re short on CEs this year” note on December 31st). 

7. Join the (Accountability) Club. 

Resources: online community platform or member directory in LMS or learning platform 

If we share our goals, setbacks, and wins with others, we’re more likely to keep at it. Plus, everybody likes a slick new badge. Assign learners “candidate” badges when they first start to show off in your online community or member directory. This creates accountability and buzz, making it easy for learners to find each other and foster that support network. 

8. Make It Easy + Keep Them Moving Forward.  

Resources: marketing automation or email marketing platform, workflows in LMS or learning platform 

The right communications help remove obstacles and banish that pesky procrastination monster. And don’t forget: veteran learners going through re-certification need love to. Share status updates and suggestions on how to earn CEs – certified members are loyal members, so remember the Stay in Touch tenet and apply it here, too.  

Subtle scare tactic: a dip in certification renewals can have a ripple effect. Think decreases in revenue sources, from membership dues to conference attendance. 

9. Let’s Brag. 

Resources: digital badge software, course tracking tools via LMS or learning platform 

If your learners have completed a certification, it’s time to celebrate! Provide digital badges through easy mechanisms (think simple software like Badgr to direct links to LinkedIn or other social profiles) where they can show the world. 

Designing for a new future

Designing New Future blog post

After spending over a year relatively sequestered in my house, like so many people, I’ve decided it’s time for a few renovations. As I work through what to do and how best to approach it, I’ve been a voracious consumer of blogs, articles, podcasts, and Pinterest images. A piece of advice I stumbled across in this process – and my apologies that I don’t remember who gave it – was “Don’t design for things you don’t need.” 

In other words, one of the first steps of your project should be evaluating what you own and how you use it –   and ruthlessly purging things you don’t use. Does it make sense to invest thousands of dollars designing a solution to house Grandma’s china set when you have no intention of ever using it? 

Balancing tradition and innovation

Associations are often at a crossroads when it comes to innovation. Many are steeped in tradition and serve as the bedrock for the field they serve. But as industries grow and evolve, members also rely on their associations to keep pace. (Arguably, the association should be – and keep members – at the forefront.) It’s a tricky spot to be in, right? How do we honor Grandma’s china, while still allowing ourselves the space and flexibility to meet today’s (and tomorrow’s) needs?

The recent pandemic provided a unique opportunity to move forward exponentially, rather than the incremental change associations tend toward, so as not to rock the boat of tradition. Dad’s hand-me-down 15-volume set of encyclopedias? In the past, we likely would have moved them to the basement to see if anyone noticed they were gone. They would have languished there, gathering dust for a few years before a brave soul would be so bold as to donate them; but most of us would leave them there and continue to pile up more relics around them.

Adapt, test, repeat

With the challenges COVID-19 presented, we didn’t have time to worry about hurt feelings. Our focus was getting staff up and running remotely and continuing to deliver the programs and services for which our members counted on us in new, virtual environments. Adaptation became de rigeur. We experimented. We iterated. We evolved at a record pace. Members accepted that there might be hiccups; they appreciated we were trying new things to best meet their needs.

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) recently conducted a survey regarding the impact that COVID-19 had on certifying organizations and their programs. The lessons learned in shifting to more remote solutions is clear: flexible tech will help us and help our members.  

Survey respondent takeaways included: 

  • Frequent and clear communication with a focus on empathy, flexibility and value 
  •  Embracing new technology tools and providing training to support their use 
  • Collaborative relationships and information sharing 

It is important to remember this was a forced entry into change and flexibility – we often adapt quickest when it’s our only option. However, certifying organizations still had positive outcomes from this shift and plan to stay agile for the long run. About one third of surveyed organizations added live remote proctoring as a test administration method, and over half of respondents plan to keep remote services. This is groundbreaking in a field that has largely upheld the sanctity of in-person exams.

56% of surveyed organizations plan to continue the use of virtual/remote meetings, and 43% plan to continue the use of remote proctoring.

As the world starts to return to “normal,” not everything has to go back to how it was before. Associations are experimenting with hybrid events – incorporating the best of their virtual offerings developed over the last year+ with the in-person interactions we all miss.  

Many certification bodies increased their communications during the pandemic, which can only serve members better. Ramping up communications, promotions, and outreach will provide a steady flow of info for members, as well as collect valuable data on their feedback and evolving needs. The ICE survey found over one third of respondents increased the amount of marketing and communications related to promoting certification and/or recertification. In turn, 20% of respondents increased customer service capacity to address applicant/certificant needs.  

“In the long term, organizations will benefit from the adoption of new technology, increases in automation and improved communication channels. These rapid reactions to the pandemic provide increased flexibility for responding to future crisis events.” – COVID-19 Impact Credentialing Survey

Flexing your flexibility

The last couple of decades, as we’ve converted our processes and data from piles of paper to digital solutions, we’ve built complex, large-scale databases and integrations meant to keep our organization running like a well-oiled machine. We set out with the best intentions but have ended up with behemoth builds that hamstring us with less flexibility, less accessibility, and less time to experiment lest something break or disappear. 

We’ve ended up with a basement full of old encyclopedias, Grandma’s china, and other relics of bygone days, when once we had dreamed of a rec room that would make the whole neighborhood jealous.

Today, we’re presented with an opportunity to start fresh. Look at things in a new light. Get rid of programs and processes that have outlived their relevancy to make room for new and exciting things. A “return to normal” doesn’t mean we can’t continue to experiment. Iterate. Advance.

Members are far more accepting – and expecting – of progress than we might have given them credit. Staff is more resilient and capable of change. And sometimes it’s ok to let time-honored traditions go with gratitude (kudos to Marie Kondo!) so that we can focus on what is really important.

Heather McNair
Heather McNair

Heather McNair has centered her career around developing loyal customers for over 20 years, with experience across the association, software and publishing industries. She is passionate about using technology to increase customer and member engagement and retention.

When not at her laptop, you can usually find Heather looking like a mad scientist in the kitchen, experimenting with a new recipe or craft cocktail, or in her garden nurturing her “plant babies.”