Membership renewal tactics

Making members stay is more than an administrative function. Tony Rossell suggests 10 strategies with a marketing focus for boosting the numbers

To obtain and retain members, associations must always begin the conversation with delivering value and encouraging engagement. But they would be remiss if the conversation ended there.

Membership and marketing professionals are also responsible for managing an effective renewal system to maximise the number of members who stay with the association.
Here are 10 tactics for improving the results of a renewal programme:

  1. Frequency: The days when an organisation could send out one, two, or even three renewal notices are gone. Research shows that associations with better-than-average renewal rates have seven to 15 renewal contacts in their system.
  2. Timing: When the renewal series begins and ends also has an impact on renewal rates. The most effective series starts more than three months before expiration, often with an early-bird special offer. Similarly, organisations that do not end their renewal efforts until at least three months after the members’ expiration date also see higher renewal rates.
  3. Channels: Marketing technology now allows for an array of channels to use for renewals. Options include mailed notices, email, phone calls from staff, volunteers or states as well as telemarketing, Google Remarketing and website interstitials. Some organisations are now requesting an opt-in for texting in order to alert a member that his/her membership is nearing expiration. All of these tools have value, but direct mail remains the single most productive renewal vehicle.
  4. Conversion: Associations with a high level of new members should consider creating a separate strategy for first-year members. Almost always, these members are the least likely to renew. Efforts to retain new members are often called conversion strategies, since the new member is often ‘trying out’ the association. A good conversion programme begins the moment a new member joins.
  5. Budget: Most organisations underbudget for renewals. However, a member retained is as valuable as a new member. Calculate how much is spent for each renewing member by each step of your renewal series. You might be surprised how high your ROI is even on your last effort.
  6. Payment: Renewals are designed to collect dues revenue. So, creatively thinking through payment options needs to be part of the marketing equation. Automatic credit card or EFT instalment renewal is probably the most important payment option. These methods turn renewals from an opt-in decision to an opt-out action. Offering a monthly credit card instalment option can be very powerful for members who are not reimbursed for dues from an employer.
  7. Offers: Gaining members’ attention with special offers in the renewal communication can incentivise greater response. Try offering a free report that can be downloaded after renewal or a renewal sweepstakes through a postcard to members. Offers prompt members to act now instead of putting renewals off to a later time, which may never come.
  8. Personalisation: Individualising your renewal communication with members can be done fairly easily both in email and mail using the information held in your database. For example, one powerful message is “because of your membership, you saved $50 on your product purchases this year”. A trade association might also highlight a regulatory or legislative issue of concern to the member by saying, “we had success on the legislative issue that you told us you were most concerned about this year.”
  9. Testing: Trying new renewal tactics and verifying their effectiveness through statistically valid tests keep a renewal programme fresh and optimised. However, take care; renewal payments are a critical revenue stream for most associations, so it is wise to try changes with a segment of your members first before rolling out a new concept to everyone.
  10. Analytics: No association has a monolithic membership. Different segments of your membership renew at different rates. So it is important to track which members are the most likely to renew and which are least likely to continue with you. This analysis allows you to allocate your resources in the most efficient way. The best members may only need a few contacts while more contacts and more expensive channels may be needed for lower-responding segments.

Reprinted with permission. Copyright, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, Washington, DC.

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