When it comes to retention, there’s a lot to consider, such as member expectations, increased competition, and evolving member benefits. At the end of the year, some members choose to renew, and others simply forget or choose not to. It all comes down to what the association is (or is not) doing.
This week, Community Brands hosted a webinar to discuss how to nurture relationships with members and encourage membership longevity. Tara Pawlak, Membership Marketing Expert, and Tirrah Switzer, Association Advocate, explained the importance of conveying membership value and tactics your association peers are using to increase retention.
Member Attainment: What Makes Members Stick Around?
Tirrah Switzer shared significant findings from Community Brands’ Member Engagement and Loyalty Study, which outlined members’ satisfaction with their professional associations based on the stage of their career. The study showed that association members later in their careers are most likely to renew their memberships, but they are reported to feel less connected and less satisfied with the organization. Early in their career, members are more likely to feel connected, but less likely to commit to renewing. The bottom line is Associations need to continually prove their value to new members to ensure retention.
Attracting new members is an ongoing struggle for all associations. The benefits that appeal to newly recruited members are not what keep them renewing. The importance of different benefits changes for an individual throughout their career. Early careerists value benefits that will help them find employment, gain skills, and connect with peers. Later careerists will look to ethics and advocacy resources over certifications and training. Your organization must recognize and address members’ needs in each stage of development to remain a necessary part of members’ lives.
Read 10 Ways to Reduce Member Churn for Additional Retention Strategy Ideas
Must Haves to Building or Updating Your Member Retention Plan
The sequence of a successful retention strategy starts with creating a goal. Assess your current retention needs by looking at how your association’s retention is trending. Analyze your membership data from the last twelve years. When Tara and Tirrah pooled the webinar audience on where their membership has been trending the last 12 months. They discovered 21% are seeing membership growth, 42% were seeing no change, and 38% are experiencing a decline.
Next, identify the benefits your organization provides to your members, such as e-learning, events, employment opportunities, etc. There were ten critical resources associations should offer to remain a valuable resource for members. Among the top retention drivers discussed were:
• Industry news
• Professional standards or code of ethics
• Reputation or status associated with membership
• Representing member interests
Then, set out to advertise those benefits to members and member leads. Tara Pawlak stressed the importance of clear messaging about what your association offers.
“Your association can’t be everything to everyone… be clear of what value you offer your members and give members what they want. There’s no better way to retain a member,” said Tara Pawlak.
She talked about making your website and member portal a source for the latest industry news, trends, and regulations. As well as the importance of helping your members refresh professional skills through relevant learning formats.
New members usually decide whether they will stay with an association within the first month. Optimize your on-boarding and renewal processes to make new and returning members feel welcome. Download the Member Renewal Timeline for an effective map of retention touch-points. Segmented member lists ensure appropriate messaging for different member types and avoid information overload. Don’t inundate, advocate. Share with members the value they get from membership with your association consistently.
“Features tell, but benefits sell. Think of it this way; people have little interest in purchasing a bed. What they want is a good night’s sleep. Associations must go beyond selling a list of items that come with membership dues; you have to sell what membership at your association will allow them to do,” said Tirrah Switzer.
Lastly, take feedback from your members when offered. Surveys are an easy way to take a pulse on member satisfaction and gain feedback on where your association is missing the mark. Focus on creating an inclusive, equitable culture within your association. A collection of members and staff from different backgrounds, career stages, ethnicities, and experience levels will benefit all. To attract and retain members, they must be a priority.
Watch the Full Webinar on Proven strategies to Increase Member Retention.
Community Brands conducted studies on important topics facing member-based organizations, including what benefits matter most to members, what makes members loyal to their organizations, and how member needs and preferences vary based on generation and loyalty segments.
While recruiting new members is a high priority, retaining members is the foundation of an effective membership program and certainly one of the greatest challenges for associations. Associations pay 5 times more to attract new members than they do to retain an existing one. Learn 10 strategies to help your association keep your greatest asset – your existing members.
Increase member retention with a clear plan for consistent, value-add, touch points. Advocate member benefits and gain member feedback without inundating inboxes. This informational guide utilizes personalization to collect and impart information in a way that resonates with users encouraging feelings of connection and loyalty to your association.