What's more important? Attracting new members or keeping the members you already have? A participant in the 2015 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Study has the answer.
"Recruitment and member acquisition is the first step in the process, but far from the most important. The lion's share of energy should be spent on members after they join."
Renewals are important. Association executives know that, and they make time to encourage loyalty over the years, but it can be a frustrating process. Why? Because many associations treat renewal campaigns and processes like they are big, hard-to-change initiatives. In reality, there are little things that you can do in a short amount of time that make a big difference.
Let's look at four quick, easy changes that association executives can make that have a big impact on membership renewals.
Everyone who joins your association should receive a welcome email complete with a personalized message and tips for how to start getting involved. Make that email more personal by signing it yourself with a sincere "Welcome to the group! John Smith, Director of Membership" at the end.
By signing the welcome email, you break down hierarchical barriers and make yourself and other association leaders more accessible. According to the Chicago Tribune, this is something that many younger generations, millennials included, want.
Even if members aren't interested in breaking down hierarchies, a personal signature from an association executive will make them feel special. They're important enough to be noticed by top leadership, which automatically starts their member experience off on a positive note.
To keep the positive, friendly atmosphere going, consider extending personalized signatures to other communication campaigns as well. For example, you can sign appeals to volunteers and event registration reminders. How many more people will show up to your events if you sign registration reminders with this:
"I can't wait to see you there!“ Chad Jones, Executive Director
How many more people will renew if they feel personally connected to association leadership through your newly personalized, signed communications?
Your association's best members might include advocates, volunteers, and the most active contributors in your online community. These are members who are engaging regularly and working to further your association's mission, so take the time to thank them.
For online community contributors and volunteers, consider sending out a quick thank you (personally signed, like your welcome email) in the community newsletter. You can also give your top members a shoutout at an important event or thank them through email. Consider including data to highlight results as well. Here's an example of a fast, data-driven thank you that could easily be included in a newsletter:
"I'd like to send a huge thank you and round of applause to Jamie Davis, who signed up five friends through our new refer-a-friend program! Great work Jamie! John Smith, Director of Membership"
Every time you recognize top members, you show them that their contributions are valued and explain the impact your most involved members are having. That encourages them to continue participating and remain members. It may even motivate other members to participate more so they can be honored alongside their peers.
To be effective at retaining your members, you have to understand their interests, priorities, concerns, and motivations, all of which is very personal. Fortunately, you can easily connect with your members on a personal level using social media. Start by becoming active on Twitter, and tweeting to your members to build stronger relationships with them.
Building stronger relationships doesn't mean you have to post only your own thoughts all the time, or have dozens of one-on-one conversations. You can share content from your association or other industry news that you find interesting as well. Your members will find that information useful, and it will show them that your association is keeping up with current trends.
You can also follow your members on Twitter to see what they're talking about, and carry your involvement and social sharing to other social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Each site will contribute more information on your members' interests, and you can use that insight to build more engaging benefits around the topics they're most engaged with.
Combine the insight you get from social media with activity data from your AMS and online community software for a more complete picture of your members' priorities. Data from your AMS software will give you a more personalized view not only of your members' interests, but also which of your benefits they're engaging with the most. The more you use that information to fine-tune your benefits, the more value members will see in your association, and the more motivated they will be to renew.
Turnover is often a big concern in associations, and new or inexperienced staff that are worried about their jobs can't properly focus on members and member benefits. That lack of focus can result in poor quality work, lowering the value that members get from your association. That, in turn, can trickle down to harm member renewal rates.
It's a vicious cycle, but one that you and your fellow executives can break. Begin by starting conversations with your employees and empowering them. Recognize your top staff members, and actively work to make all your employees feel comfortable and secure in their jobs so they can focus more on your members. Put policies in place to reduce turnover and give staff the ability to focus on their tasks.
When you're working with staff, don't forget to ask about their needs. Is there anything you can help them with? There may be something you can do to help them be more effective, such as helping them get feedback from members, or assisting with strategic initiatives like member renewal campaigns. Input from both you and your members could help employees and programs be more effective.
As an experienced association executive, you have a wealth of expertise and the ability to make a difference for your staff, your members, and your association as a whole.
Start with these four easy tasks to make yourself easier to talk to and foster a productive environment for your employees. For your members, take steps to be more accessible and personable in communication so they feel connected and valued by you and your association. The influence from these changes can greatly improve the entire culture of your association, improving member renewals potentially even spilling over to other strategic initiatives like member acquisition.