Any professional membership body which wants to understand its members and create better, more helpful experiences should have a member journey map.

That doesn’t have to mean an elaborately designed poster, or a colour-coded representation of each and every action a member takes within your world. An effective member journey map is one provides a clear vision for improving engagement. There are no rules about what that has to look like.

In respect of building journeys, the key foundation block is that it is a journey, a progression, so your visualisation of it should take that form, it’s sequential, it follows a pathway.

You’re going to want to map a variety of information against the various stages in the journey so give yourself plenty of space and yes, you’ll probably want to use colour to differentiate the various types of information you want to portray.

Enough of the visualisation side though now, what we really need to focus on is the information, what is it you’re looking to depict, and why.

The purpose of a member journey map

The purpose is to help you understand what members want at different stages in their careers and to offer them services and products to help them meet those objectives. Equally you’ll have goals for what you want or expect from them at different stages, which you’ll want to draw up so you can align the two.

The first part of your build is to define the career stages which your members are going to follow. That should be relatively simple, albeit it will be tuned to your own profession and organisation, but by way of example it may be:

  • Student
  • Graduate
  • Newly qualified
  • Certified
  • Experienced

Now consider what it is they want from you at each stage, for example your members may be:

  • Students who want knowledge
  • Newly qualified professionals who are looking to build networks
  • Certified professionals wanting to build their experience
  • Experienced professionals who want profile, kudos

The second side of the map should portray what you want from them at each stage, for example it may be that:

  • You want a Student to follow the profession and join their representative body
  • You want newly-qualified professional to go on to seek certification
  • You want certified professionals to stay with you throughout their career, to explore and develop specialisms
  • You want an experienced professional to contribute back to the industry, and to their professional body

Validate your assumptions and expectations

Before you set your parameters, reach your conclusions, and base decisions on them, it’s important to validate your assumptions and expectations, and you have two key sources to draw on: your existing data, and your ability to conduct simple research.

First and foremost, review your data! You’ll have a wealth of information available in your digital systems, relating to a range of key areas from when and why individuals take out membership, when and how they do engage with you, why they suspend or leave membership and so on. You should be able to explore who reads the newsletter, attends events, contributes to journals and discussions, accesses the library, asks for and expects more than outbound communications from you.

Use this stored information to challenge your assumptions and expectations, move from the anecdotal to an evidence base, and don’t be alarmed if the majority of your members appear to be complacently paying subscriptions through the middle of their career without appearing to ask much of you, that’s not uncommon and it doesn’t mean they don’t value your services!

It’s always good to then supplement the information you find in your records and systems with current opinion, so give yourself time to conduct some simple research. You have a connected audience who are listening to you and many of whom will be happy to share their opinions. As well as asking them what it is they value about their membership, don’t be afraid to prompt them also to tell you what they don’t value too. You don’t want to be allocating your resources and prioritising your efforts in directions where they’re not seeing the value.

Connect your services to member needs

Having collected the evidence around what members do – and don’t – want you now need to look at your own objectives, and to catalogue your products and services against them, which you can do by drawing up a matrix to show which activities serve which objectives.

With all of that knowledge now available to you, piecing it all together then becomes a question of mapping your products and services against member needs at each career stage, and against your objectives. The map should enable you to represent and understand, for example:

  • How are they positioned
  • How are they tailored to their primary audience
  • How are they spread across member groups
  • How do they stack against your objectives for each group, and overall

Draw up the map, share it for comment, test it out, tune it and confirm it, and then go back to its purpose. The map at this stage depicts how you’re currently operating and delivering services to members; its purpose is to help you improve and enhance your recruitment and retention strategy, and to enable you to allocate your resources to best effect. It’s a decision-support tool so use it to inform both tactical and strategic planning.

Decision support

Look for gaps where you’re not serving either your members needs or your own. Develop products and services to fill those gaps. Equally, look at where the bulk of your effort and resources are being spent, are you servicing the different member stages appropriately. Are you putting a lot of focus on activities which don’t deliver you much value?

As you identify areas where you aren’t delivering sufficiently against your objectives use that to drive new initiatives, it gives you real targets to aim for and areas to focus on. Similarly whenever new initiatives are proposed (from anywhere), assessing them against member journeys should help you make the case for investing in them (or not).

Building our member journey maps which are effective isn’t a simple task. You want to use as much data as you can to build them, to ensure that they are valid tools by which to be influenced when making decisions about your products and services, your strategies and initiatives. They are however worth the effort, done right they add a huge amount of value to you and to your members.


If you would like to find out more about the value of a member journey maps and how to build one, attend our free upcoming webinar ‘Support your professional members at every stage of their career‘, on 2 December at 9:30am.