Retaining members can be a familiar formula for many associations, but what you may have known to be true about keeping long-time members engaged may have shifted over the years.
If your association is one that keeps their member retention strategy at a constant, you might find the same old tricks getting stale. While a retention plan may be secure and effective when it’s first introduced, it may lose some of its spark as time moves on and members become accustomed to it.
In a 2017 study conducted by Advanced Solutions International (ASI), just 65% of respondents could claim that their member retention rates reached over 75%- which is a significant decrease from the 73% who surveyed just the year before. And while decline isn’t always necessarily a cause for alarm, it can mean something in your member retention plan isn’t working the way it used to.
So, it might be time for your association to re-assess its member retention plan- and luckily for you, there are resources to help you do so.
Let’s take a look at a few common misconceptions about member retention- how it works, what you’re doing to help keep those members around, and why your plan could be failing. By seeking out overlooked mistakes and dead ends in your member retention strategy, you could save your retention rates and send them skyrocketing.
Data isn’t always the answer.
While collecting member data can save your association in many situations, it should never be relied on as the sole source of answers to your member retention problems.
Now, we’re not saying your membership data should never be used when looking to retain members. In fact, data is a vital part of any association’s member retention plan. It allows you to get down to the brass tax of your membership- finding out who they are, how they use your association to grow as professionals, and what they’re looking for to further that process.
However, many associations who find themselves getting caught up on numbers can often focus strictly on data trends and now on members as an individual, living breathing account of their frustrations and struggles.
So, instead of having your team constantly crunching numbers and coming up with solutions based on quantitative information, you might fare better by sitting down with your members and having a one-on-one discussion on how to keep them satisfied.
If you’re a bigger association with many chapters, getting ahold of each and every member can actually be an impossible task. In order to save time, your association can use helpful tools like surveys and suggestion boxes in order to collect qualitative feedback from your membership. But you should always remember a phone call can always go a long way.
If you are a smaller association and/or you have the luxury to, having in person conversations with your members can not only help you learn more about their wants and needs, but also allow them to engage with you on a first-hand level. It’s that personal connection that can persuade members to stick around with your association when renewal time comes.
So, while data is the answer to many member retention questions, it’s not always the primary solution.
Never take human connection out of membership.
And speaking of that power that comes from a real, human interaction- viewing the membership process as a transaction of money for services instead of a living, breathing collective can leave your chances of high retention in the dust.
While it is true, membership can be boiled down to a technical process that brings in revenue for your association, it should never be the driving force behind what your association does. After all, chances are your association has a much bigger mission that it strives to achieve every single day. Putting revenue ahead of that ultimate goal and the wellbeing of your membership can leave your members feeling unappreciated, taken advantage of, and even hurt.
So, it’s important that your association focuses on creating long-lasting relationships with members from the minute they first join. After all, a new member’s first few moments with your association can make or break how they view your organization. You want to be sure to be active in engaging them every step of the way.
Similarly, coming up with different ways to show your members appreciation can go a long way.
Your association has so many different opportunities to open up recognition programs and appreciative gifts for long-time members. Incentivizing membership by offering discounts and recognition will give members something to look forward to when they hit major milestones in their time with you. And it could be the push they need to stick with your association.
Higher retention rates can lead to more revenue.
So, what are the benefits of having a high retention rate? Of course, you do want to hold onto your membership and keep your members satisfied, but are there any other upsides to increased member retention?
The answer is yes- and it all has to deal with member dues and revenue.
According to Marketing General Incorporated’s 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, associations with high renewal rates (80% or above) raise dues annually. That’s right- they have high retention rates while still increasing the price of membership each year. But how is this possible?
It all has to do with quality. If members know what they’re receiving is a valuable deal they can’t pass up on, they won’t shy away when prices are increased. In fact, so long as they know their dues pay for an offer worth more than that, they’ll continue to pay even after a price increase.
So, if your association has ever put member retention to the side or considered it a non-necessity, you should be rethinking your perspective on it. Especially for those associations who are always on the hunt for new revenue sources (and let’s be honest- that could be almost every association).
In addition, focusing on your association’s return on investment for members can help you increase those retention rates. Remember, you want members to feel like they’re getting more than the price of your membership, whether that’s in discounts, exclusive events and conferences, professional resources, or anything else you have to offer.
Rethink your retention strategy to see your membership thrive.
Creating a new and improved member retention plan is as easy as finding the faults in your current one and re-strategizing. You should never throw away something that isn’t entirely broken, but filling in the holes where members seem to be slipping through can mitigate lower retention rates in the future.
If your association can actively put member communication first, take things other than data into consideration, and recognize the value of a high retention rate, you can work towards a longer membership lifespan in the near future.
Posted November 26, 2018