Member Engagement and Retention for Your Association
As we have been discussing in recent blogs, your membership is the bread and butter of your association – it brings in revenue from your membership dues and is a major selling feature when you try to bring in sponsorship income. But a critical component to this process is not only building your membership, it is keeping your membership as well. Member engagement and retention is the essential third leg on your stool of association success.
Why is Member Retention Important?
What is member retention? Member retention means that once you have secured a member, you have to keep working to make sure they stay with you. Building the membership of your association without membership retention strategies is a little like herding kittens – as soon as you chase one, another sneaks off. From a financial standpoint, it is cheaper to keep a member than to secure a new one. It costs an average of seven to 10 times more to gain a new member than it does to retain an existing one (1). Membership retention helps support the growth and financial security of your association.
Membership Retention Best Practices
So, how do you retain members? Here are some great member retention ideas.
Know your target audience. Any good member retention strategy must start with understanding your target audience. If you try to appeal to everyone, you will likely appeal to no one. If you don’t have a clear picture of who your ideal member is, your membership numbers might look good at first, but your member retention rate will plummet once they figure out you aren’t right for them.
Create a beneficial onboarding process. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Even though it is early in your relationship, your onboarding process plays a significant role in member retention. Personalize each member’s onboarding experience to ensure they understand how your membership works and what you offer and explain any tools they need to know how to use to get the full value of membership. But, be sure to take a balanced approach so new members don’t feel overwhelmed, or worse, nagged. Once they have a general idea of how things work, leave them to figure it out on their own for a few months before checking back in to see how they are doing.
Collect feedback, feedback, and more feedback. The best ingredient in your membership retention formula is a good defense. To be able to anticipate challenges, you have to be in constant contact with your members. You can’t fix problems if you don’t know where they are. Interview every member who joins and every member who leaves. In between, offer polls and surveys for updates on their needs, expectations, interests, concerns, and goals.
Offer long-term incentives. Short-term benefits are great to get members in the door, but you have to think about your long game to increase member retention. Instead of offering a discounted membership to new members, think about decreasing fees for members who have been with you for five or 10 years. Existing members might get a bit salty if they see new members getting all the perks.
Employ technology. Utilizing customer relationship management (CRM) software can help you create customized regular communication with your members. It can also help you calculate your membership retention rate and collect relevant data to help you understand ebbs and flows. Automate your renewal reminders and, if possible, your renewals themselves. Member retention rates can drop simply because your members are busy and may forget to renew. If you make renewals automatic, be sure to give members ample notification and prepare a way for them to receive a prompt refund if they didn’t intend to renew.
Overcommunicate your benefits. You could have incredible membership perks, but they aren’t going to get used, or help with your member engagement and retention, if no one knows about them. You work so hard to offer your benefits, so brag about them! As soon as you are tired of talking about your membership perks, that’s when people will finally start to actually know what they are.
Innovate. When thinking about how to retain membership in your organization, it is important to constantly evaluate what you offer your members. The worst reason to do anything is, “because we’ve always done it this way.” Host events your members are interested in. Offer trainings, leadership opportunities, continuing education, and masterclasses to your members. Provide relevant, current content and downloadable tools. Pairing new members with more established members for a mentorship program can help member retention on both sides. Find out what your members’ most pressing challenges are and help identify solutions to add to the value of your association.
Celebrate retention. Lauding membership renewal is an important part of any member retention program. Look for opportunities to highlight long-term members, share their testimonials, and honor them on their anniversaries to let your members know you appreciate them and foster member retention.
Offer flexibility. Your members may have to discontinue their membership for any number of reasons, not all of them permanent. Offering members the opportunity to pause their membership can be a successful way to retain members in the long run. You may also consider setting different levels of membership to ensure your offerings align with varying members’ goals.
Build a community. Your member retention plan should include creating a network for your members. The perks and benefits of your organization can help lure them in, but it’s the ability to connect with others that will help them want to stay.
Too often, associations neglect their member retention strategies, and it is to their detriment. The success of your organization overall will be defined by your member retention. Don’t let the hard work you put into cultivating new memberships and soliciting sponsorships be lost by neglecting your current members. Paradigm can help you create a comprehensive strategy to propel you towards your association revenue goals. We will partner with you to develop a membership retention strategy that identifies who you are, your differentiators, and your value propositions – and communicate it in such a way that will resonate with your audience, and clearly set you apart from your competition. Please contact us today to get started.