Membership organisations have a duty to protect their most valuable resource: their members. And this means not only finding and recruiting members for their groups, but also ensuring they provide a high quality service with clear benefits to ensure retention of the members they already have.
Here are our top 10 tips for membership management to ensure you get the renewals you need for your organisation to flourish.
1. Value is always top priority
Without a doubt, value is now a far bigger driver than cost for any member considering a subscription to your organisation. Although you will need to keep your costs in line with the marketplace, the critical element that will ensure you recruit and retain the members you need will lie in the value of the service you provide.
This means giving your members the very best you can provide in terms of advice, support and industry information, all of which will ensure they feel proud to be a member and to be loyal to your organisation. By using a membership management support service you can even offer CPD and qualifications to members through their easy to use management software solution.
2. Deliver on your benefits
You will already have set out the benefits that are available to your members, but ensuring these deliver in a high quality and organised manner is critical to your success and to your retention and recruitment of members. Depending on your industry and structure, you may be offering posted or emailed materials, member events, support or group responses to consultations or even PR opportunities for your members. Focus on the delivery of this service and you’ll find your membership and reputation grows in an organic and robust manner.
Of all the membership retention strategies you can adopt, a focus on high value, quantifiable benefits to member’s ranks up there with the most important of all.
3. Create a balanced budgeting strategy
Setting a budget that favours the acquisition of new members over the provision of value and retention of existing members is a false economy. Whilst it is certainly important to drive new members to the organisation, it is also important to ensure you are providing high value to your existing members to ensure retention of those you have already engaged.
Plan for a realistic split of budget between acquisition, retention and growth, with the lion’s share being allocated to keeping your existing members happy.When your current member’s think highly of your service, your reputation will precede you and new members will be drawn to the organisation with less effort and expense on your part.
4. Be savvy with recruitment strategies
To make your recruitment budget stretch further and become more effective, you need to allocate a good proportion of it to research and development of your overarching strategy. Understanding who your target audience are and how to reach them is critical to your success, so make sure you build in plenty of time and resources to strategy development and research.
As a general rule, smaller organisations will find electronic methods of communications to be the most cost effective and easy to manage of the options available. However, if you are at the top end of the market or have a membership base in excess of 5,000, then you might want to consider physical direct mail as an option to cement your position as an organisation of excellence. A 2010 benchmarking survey found the majority of organisations with over 5,000 member’s favoured direct mail over other methods of membership management as this was deemed to produce the best results.
If you intend using email or other electronic methods to recruit new members, be careful in the planning and execution of this activity. With so many users receiving junk mail in their inbox, your email will have to be highly developed and targeted in order to pass the spam filters, and ideally will not be unsolicited. Use social networks or industry related forums to find and target the people who will benefit most from membership of your organisation.
5. Remind, repeat and reiterate
Don’t leave renewal to chance. Make sure there is plenty of warning for your members, and a well structured reminder schedule to ensure they are well prepared for their renewal date. The 2010 Benchmarking Report showed that membership organisations were more likely to enjoy a high retention of members when the renewal programme was well structured and, if possible, when automatic renewals were enabled.
6. Speak their language
For many members, the main reminder of the value of your organisation and their membership of it is the regular and high quality communications that they receive from you. To ensure this works for them, you need to understand your demographic and their preference for communication modes and methods from the outset.
The means and regularity of your communications should directly reflect the level of investment and the expectations you have already given you existing members. If they expect a monthly newsletter, make sure it happens. Ensure your communications are high quality with no spelling mistakes or grammatical errorsand, if needs be, enlist the support of a professional or sign up to a membership management package to help give your communications the edge over your competitors.
7. Networking niceties
These days everyone incredibly focus on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as means of communicating and marketing to their target audience, so if you want to keep up with the competition, having a presence on these networking platforms is essential.
However, as the 2010 Benchmarking Report showed, many specialist member organisations found that industry specific forums and even private, members only networking services were of more benefit to their members.
If you aren’t in a position to host your own forum or networking facility, then LinkedIn offers the opportunity to develop a ‘discussion group’ based around your industry. In terms of membership retention strategies, this is a highly valuable tool as members will be able to make new connections, develop business ideas and potentially generate revenue, all because of a service you instigated. These groups can be open to non-members too, making them a highly desirable instrument in your toolbox of recruitment gizmos.
8. Make it easy… and attractive
Many membership organisations shy away from offers, discounts and reductions, but when you are considering the best membership retention strategies for your organisation it is certainly worth thinking about. Offers such as early renewal discounts or second / third year reductions can really help to get those memberships secured when you need it most.
Even if offering reductions in cost is not something that appeals to you, making it easy for your members to renew is not something which should overlook in membership management. Make it easy for members to renew by offering web based renewal packages and payment by installments, or even consider retaining credit card details for automatic renewal each year to take the hassle out of membership completely.
9. Analyse to understand
As with anything in life, it pays to do your homework. When you are considering where to put your time and money in terms of retaining members, it will be of great benefit to you to know which sectors of your membership are least likely to renew. By performing some basic analytics on the data from the past few year’s renewals, you should come up with a picture of the segment most likely to wander at the end of this term. By identifying these groups, you can put more resources into ensuring their renewal and thereby reap more for your money in terms of growth next year.
10. Make ‘official’ membership retention strategies
Don’t leave anything to chance. Make sure you have put as much effort into planning and strategizing for membership management as you do month to month providing an excellent member service. Consider the points above and relate them to your own organisation and goals, and you’ll be able to develop your own, tailor made membership management strategies to make the most of the opportunities you have.