Monday, January 26, 2015
In simple terms, a prospective member goes through a four step buying process and ideally each step of the join process is anticipated and supported by the destination association.
The prospective member join process begins when a prospect says, “I have a problem.” The prospect may need some piece of information or some specific training to learn a new skill or maintain a license. Or the prospective member may need to tap into a network for career or businesses advancement.
The next step for the prospect is to search for a solution. This most likely will be done online. But he may also ask for a recommendation from a friend or colleague. Options that they may never have been aware of before come into focus.
Once options are identified, the prospective member will evaluate the choices. Should the prospect just use Google since there is no direct cost for this information? How about an industry publication? Or would a full service provider like an association with information, training, and networking be the best solution?
Finally, the value offered by each provider is weighed and the transaction is completed.
At the same time, an association has its part to play in this buying process.
First the association needs to anticipate the needs of prospective members. What does research show are the challenges faced by people in the industry or field? Do potential members like to meet those needs through meetings, publications, social networks, or a website? How much can they afford to spend for a solution?
Secondly, the association needs to be sure that it is easily findable and offers an initial opt-in opportunity for the prospect. Will web searches bring the association’s solutions to the top of search engines? Can search engine marketing, online content marketing, and website remarketing ensure that the association regularly pops up as a prime solutions provider? Is a prospective member’s contact information collected for additional follow-up after an initial inquiry? Are members ready to recommend the association to those who are searching? Maintaining a presence allows the association to be a part of the prospect’s evaluation process.
Next, the association needs to understand and present a very clear and compelling value proposition to the prospective member. Why is joining the best value for the money compared to the other options that are under consideration? What are the immediate and longer term benefits of membership? What is the key promise that the association can deliver that no one else can match?
Finally, the association must make the actually joining transaction simple and easy. With website joins, it is amazing how many prospective members abandon the online shopping cart of some associations because too much information is requested, the sign up process is too complex, or there are unclear instructions. The lower the commitment of time, money, and information required to join the less of an impediment the transaction process will be to completing the join process.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
We have just launched the questionnaire for the 2015 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report and I want to invite you to participate.
The annual Benchmarking Report is the association industry’s most comprehensive study on membership marketing and gives you the opportunity compare your organization against almost 1,000 other associations.
If you are a previous participant, please use the personalized link that you received in our email directed to you. If you have not received an email invitation to participate, you may use this link.
The survey should take less than 20 minutes to complete.
This annual study has provided critical comparative data on how individual, trade, and hybrid membership organizations promote awareness, target and recruit new members, and engage and renew their current members.
To thank you for your participation in this best practices research project, MGI will send you a printed copy of the full 2015 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.
Your participation is much appreciated. No specific responses will be reported from any individual or association without their written consent.
Please take some time now to participate in the 2015 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research by using this link.
Monday, January 5, 2015
We all want to increase membership retention. Here are some tips that you can implement this year to help make your membership stickier and encourage members’ to stay with your organization.
1. Increase the number of contacts and relationships you have within a member’s organization. This is particularly applicable for trade group memberships where it is important to identify the membership champion, decider, approver, and user.
2. Reward continuous membership tenure with loyalty points or recognition with a “member since” award.
3. Limit access to members for important, critical, or timely content and communicate these limitations to members. Members only content might include alerts, salary and industry surveys, standards, and notifications on regulations.
4. Provide member financial incentives beyond member discounts like members only product sales, group purchasing, and free shipping.
5. Exclude non-members from the benefits of full access to your organization’s social media networks.
6. Require continuous membership for participation in hard to find industry specific services like professional liability or workers compensation insurance.
7. Gain members approval for auto credit card or EFT renewals or installment billing to turn membership renewals from opt-in to opt-out.
8. Maintain important data for members for third party validation of certification, continuing education, graduation, and awards.
9. Enhance member visibility with directory listings, vanity email addresses, referral links from your organizations website, certificates for display, window clings, and member usage of your organization’s logo -- all limited to continued membership.
10. Monitor members interactions with the organization through email opens, purchases, and participation in social media and develop and intervention plan to reach out to those who are not engaged.
This list is only a start. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section here.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
The other day, I received a membership recruitment mailing offering an end of the year 50% off first year dues discount from a respected professional association.
As a reader of this blog, you may know that I believe in making special offers available to recruit prospective members. And done wisely, a special offer will produce more than enough new members to pay for the discount or premium and future renewal rates will only be marginally affected.
However, there is a difference between a well-planned, tested, and strategic use of a special offer and -- to use a football term -- an end of the year “Hail Mary Pass” that is designed to prop up final membership numbers.
With a steep 50% off discount, it is unlikely that the additional response will make up for the lower price. And even if it does, the members that are obtained will likely continue at a much lower rate when the full price is requested at the time of renewal.
The best approach to membership recruitment continues to be a regular stream of value laden communications that include an incentive to act within a given timeframe. This approach allows for testing and optimization of the program over the course of the year.
As football seasons draw to a close, we may see some amazing come from behind victories in the last seconds of a game. But I would rather have the outcome of the game clear in the third quarter because my team executed and effective game plan from the start. As we go into the next year, be sure organization has a well thought out membership recruitment strategy and schedule in place.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
At this time of year, many of my clients are working on their 2015 membership marketing plans. If that is the case for you, be sure to step back as you plan and keep in mind the big picture. Membership is all about relationship. There is a marketing lifecycle that you need to keep in mind. In membership, the marketing lifecycle segments the membership experience into five consecutive steps:
1. Awareness is when prospects first discover you.Awareness is typically developed through a proactive online presence using the multiple opportunities that are now available to marketers ranging from SEO, to social media, to lead generation, to SEM. Offering free content and to capture an opt-in and contact information from a prospective member is particularly powerful way to initiate a relationship with a prospective member.
2. Recruitment is when prospects choose to try you.
Recruitment capitalizes on the awareness that has been established and invites the prospect to become a member by presenting outstanding value and a special offer to act now. Membership is what marketing call a “push” product and needs to be sold. If you build it they typically will not come unless asked.
3. Engagement is when new members feel they belong with you.Engagement is the key to high retention rates and sustained membership growth. Membership engagement is built through encouraging usage of the products and services made available by an organization and by understanding and presenting relevant and targeted information back to the member that fortifies the value of membership.
4. Renewal is when lapsing members decide whether to keep you.
Renewal is a confirmation of the value members feel they have received from the organization. It is a vote of confidence or no confidence. Renewals are a campaign not an event and require frequency and multiple channels to break through the clutter of competing demands on members’ time and resources.5. Reinstatement is when former members agree to return to you.
Reinstatement programs offer opportunities for lapsed members to reconsider the decision to join when presented with fresh messaging and perhaps new benefits. It is always easier and more cost effective to try and restore the relationship with former members than to recruit a brand new member.By keeping the framework of the relational lifecycle in mind, you will be sure to cover the important elements of building a strong membership marketing program for the upcoming year.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Often I hear that readers of this blog use statistics from the Benchmarking Report for board and volunteer presentations. To make presenting this information easier, I have uploaded a presentation ready copy of the report. Feel free to use it. My only request is that you provide attribution with any data from the report that you present.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Last week I had the opportunity to present at the ASAE Annual Meeting with Greg Melia and Krista Barnes on the opportunities and challenges associations are seeing with hybrid membership models.
I also wanted to share the information and slides here.
Hybrid membership models take a long term marketing concept called product line extension and apply it to an association’s membership product. Many associations are moving away from a traditional “one size fits all” membership and instead offering a portfolio of membership options that allow a prospect to select a package that best meets their content needs and budget. Hybrid membership models range from a tiered membership structure, to group membership, to an option for selecting either individual or organizationally based membership package. Properly deployed, these new models can help an association increase member engagement, numbers, and revenue.
Here are the slides and notes from the ASAE Annual Meeting session.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
At some point you reach the limit of how often and how many direct marketing efforts that you can send out to your established lists of membership prospects. But most groups still say, “I want more!”
This is when inbound membership marketing can become an important new contributor to your media mix.
Inbound membership marketing helps you reach new prospects that you may not have interacted with before and allows them to raise their hand and come to you in search of the very information and products that you produce.
Here are four proven sources to feed you inbound marketing efforts.
1. Google and Facebook Remarketing – After all of your efforts to drive a prospective member to your website, you may be shocked at how many abandon your join shopping cart before completing the transaction. One of my clients has over 10,000 shopping cart abandons from their join page each year. Remarketing efforts – following your visitors around the internet and Facebook with ads – encourages those visitors to return to your site to gain more information and perhaps complete their transaction.
2. Paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Search Ads appear when a prospective member enters a word or phrase into a search engine that matches one of your keywords. They are effective because you are responding with your information directly to a seeker who wants some piece of information that your organization possesses.
3. Content Ads – Whereas search ads are driven by keywords, content ads are shown on other websites offering information that relates to your products and services. When the prospective member’s reading interests are a match to what you have to offer, your ad is displayed.
4. Social Media Advertising – Many social media sites offer millions of more impressions than one will ever achieve with traditional direct marketing efforts. LinkedIn allows you to target ads to very specific job classifications, titles, and associations. And Facebook allows you to match your current members to potential prospects who are on the site and display ads to these look-a-like audiences.
All of these inbound online marketing sources come with these additional benefits:
· Awareness – Many more prospects will see your ads than will click on them, but you typically pay just for clicks.
· Coverage – Online advertising gives you access to every corner of the world where there is an internet connection.
· Flexibility – With these online efforts, you can adjust and allocate funds on a daily basis to maximize response.
· Speed – You can literally have a digital advertising program up and running and producing response in a day.
· Measurement -- You can know impressions, clicks, and with good tracking the number of members joining.The most important aspect of optimizing each of these inbound sources is thinking through the tactics on how to gain an opt-in for follow-up with anyone who does come to your landing page or website from one of these sources. Lead capture and relationship building is where the pay-out comes from these efforts.
Developing an inbound membership marketing program is not at all meant to eliminate traditional tools like direct mail, email, and telemarketing. If these tools are productive by all means continue to use them. But at some point even these established methods will see diminishing returns. You need to find new, untapped audiences for the information and services that you offer and inbound membership marketing has proven to be an excellent tool to assist with reaching new prospects.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
It is my pleasure to announce the release of the 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. With site registration, a free download of the report is available using this link. Please download your copy of the report now and let me know what you think.
A final and full printed report has also just been mailed to all of those organizations who participated in this year’s research.
This marks the sixth year that Marketing General Incorporated (MGI) has surveyed associations to better understand what is going on in the membership market and what is working best to recruit members, engage new members, renew existing members, and reinstate former members. It also marks the highest level of association participation with 865 separate associations sharing their data.
The 2014 Report includes new questions related to social media usage, email frequency and open rates, and who pays membership dues (individuals or companies).
I think you will also find trend information from ongoing questions over the past six years very useful. This year results show that the majority of associations (53%) are seeing their membership counts continue to increase. However, average renewal rates for both individual and trade associations eroded this past year.
The most important aspect of this report is that it goes beyond cataloging the practices of responding associations; the Benchmarking Report also takes these practices and cross-tabulates them with the membership outcomes that associations are experiencing. The comparison of practices and better new member input, renewal rates and overall growth provides strong directional information to help you select the tactics and strategies that might fit into your marketing plans for the upcoming year.
I hope that you find the 2014 Report of help as you seek to maximize the membership results for your organization.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
In the coming months, I am presenting two sessions on the transitions and opportunities that are taking place in the packaging of association memberships, otherwise known as membership models.
What an increasing number of organizations are doing is re-packaging their traditional membership offering to appeal to new market segments and to adjust to new business realities. They are encouraging the market to drive their membership product instead of their bylaws.
There is one change in particular to highlight. An increasing number of individually based associations appear to be offering both individual and institutional membership instead of the traditional clear delineation between an individual membership and company or institutionally based structure.
In fact, since starting our Membership Marketing Benchmarking research, the proportion of associations reporting that they offer a combination or “hybrid” membership has gone from 17% to 28%. And as the chart below shows, this has been accompanied by a drop in associations’ reporting that they only provide individual membership from 54% to 44%.
When one looks at the outcomes of adopting this hybrid membership model, one can also see the wisdom of considering of these changes. In my consulting experience, it is not unusual to see organizations that offer both individual and institutional membership options achieving five to ten points’ better renewal rates with their institutional membership offering compared to their individual membership. Additionally, our 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report highlights the mean renewal rate for individual membership associations is 76% and the mean for combination associations is 80%. Both, however, fall short of the mean renewal rate for trade or institutionally based associations of 85%.
Perhaps the reason for these better renewal rates is an institutional membership will typically be paid from a company budget, not out of an individual’s wallet. Also, an institutional membership obviously supplies benefits to multiple people adding to the potential endorsers of continuing the membership relationship.
Finally, offering a combination of membership may help with recruiting new members. Our research shows that combination associations were more likely than both trade and individual membership organizations to report an increase in new members over the past year.
One of the 4 P's of marketing is "product", so adjusting the membership product to meet the changing market conditions is an important strategy for associations. One of these adjustments to the membership model that seems to have been beneficial, in particular for individually based associations, is offering the option for the members’ companies or institutions to join and hold the membership as an organization.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
The famous quote from John F. Kennedy, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” certainly applies to membership.
In our soon to be released Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, we cross-tabulated organizations that reported an increase in membership numbers to the outcomes that they were experiencing in other areas of the association.
When we compare associations who saw a decrease or no change in membership over the past year to associations reporting growth in membership, we see associations with increasing membership reporting better performance in many categories.
Here are the associations reporting increases in a category -- like meeting attendance or volunteerism -- broken out by the percentage who had memberships that Increased/Unchanged/ Decreased).
· Attendance at annual conference/trade show (55% vs. 45% and 34% respectively)
· Attendance at professional development meetings (52% vs. 38% and 33%)
· Attendance of webinars (70% vs. 45% and 54%)
· Volunteerism (37% vs. 30% and 17%)
· Number of members who acquire or maintain certification (59% vs. 42% and 36%)
· Purchase of non-dues products (45% vs. 24% and 25%)
· Purchase of non-dues services (46% vs. 28% and 17%)
· Number of visits to members-only section of website (61% vs. 48% and 36%)
Fundamentally, for most associations, members are the driving force behind attendance, volunteerism, and purchases. Members pay the association to be customer. A growing and thriving member base contributes revenue and time to all areas of an association.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
There are some excellent sessions on the schedule for the upcoming ASAE Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference on June 17 and 18 in Washington DC.
I will be a co-presenting one session that I think many membership professionals will find of help. It is titled, “Membership Model Makeover.” I will be presenting along with four other knowledgeable professionals:
- Bryan Kelly, Director, Marketing, Aptify
- Ford Bell, Executive Director, American Alliance of Museums
- Jeff De Cagna, Chief Strategist and Founder, Principled Innovation LLC
- Richard Grefé, Executive Director, AIGA
With all of the economic, social, and technological changes over the last number of years, associations have an opportunity to reinvent themselves for the 21st century. In our session, we will share examples from association executives and consultants who have been part drastic membership model changes. These makeovers examples demonstrate how organizations can change decades of tradition to make real differences in their membership.
If you are a reader of this blog and can attend the conference, please stop by and say hello.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
For decades loyalty programs have been growing in the for profit world as a major component for engaging and retaining customers.
Those old of us to remember will recall collecting S and H Green Stamps which were one of the very first retail loyalty programs. Merchants gave out the stamps to customers as incentives to shop at their store. Once enough stamps were collected, they could be redeemed for desirable products from a catalog.
Today, a huge percentage of companies have incorporated loyalty programs as a core component in their marketing efforts including airlines offering free tickets, hotels offering free stays, and grocery stores offering discounted gasoline. Even my local sandwich shop and barber have loyalty programs.
The goal obviously of a loyalty program is to keep and reward your very best customers and members.
However, it is rare that I come across an association that has overlaid a loyalty program onto its membership. Many organizations do not recognize the diversity in their members and treat their best members in very much the same way as everyone else without regard to the value they bring to the organization. In a diverse membership, a loyalty program helps define who these most valuable members are and encourages behaviors that lead to greater value from those less engaged.
In order to build a Loyalty Program, here are five recommended steps to follow.
1. Determine what behaviors lead members to loyalty and retention by defining “Key Performance Indicators” (KPI). Basically to start a loyalty program, you first want to evaluate what behavioral variables correlate with (or are predictive of) longevity and purchases by a member (maximum ROI).
2. Select a method to calculate loyalty. Once the KPI’s that indicate loyalty are identified, a model can be built using an algorithm to calculate the mix of actions that an organization wants to reward and a POINT system devised to encourage the behavior leading to loyalty and retention.
3. Find the types of rewards that are motivational. Building the rewards for loyalty will also be important. Rewards could be in the form of one or more categories:
a. Member Recognition
b. Personal Benefits
c. Professional Benefits
4. Capturing and reporting on Reward Points. The behaviors that are to be rewarded need to be captured and translated into points. To encourage these activities, point values can be sent to members and available on a rewards website.
5. Building a communication strategy. An incentive for encouraging the behavior that an organization desires is only as good as the ability to make members aware of the program and communicate to them the benefits that they can receive. Once the system is built, consistent promotion of the loyalty program in membership and product marketing materials really helps to encourage participation.
We all know that there are very profitable members and members who contribute far less economically to an organization. A loyalty program helps incentivize the profitable members to do more and helps lift the less profitable members to higher levels of usage and engagement.
However, even if deploying a full loyalty program seems like too large of an endeavor, most organizations would benefit by implementing at least the first two steps outlined above. Defining what behaviors lead to your most profitable members can drive focus and efficiency in your organization.
Monday, April 14, 2014
One of the questions that I find most interesting in our Membership Marketing Benchmarking research is, “What are your organization’s top challenges in growing membership?”
The answers fall into two broad categories. The first are environmental challenges outside the organization. These are situations like the economy, competing organizations, market perceptions, and industry consolidation. The second are institutional challenges inside the organization. These are challenges like the ability to communicate value, insufficient staff, identifying prospects, lack of marketing expertise, and the lack of a plan or strategy.
The outside challenges often need long-term strategic changes in the organization and can be more difficult to address. However, the inside challenges many times can be addressed by adding outside partners with specialized expertise for a period of time.
For example, an experienced research firm can help an organization better understand its value proposition and select the marketing messages that best communicate it to members and prospects. And when peak work times are present, staff can be supplemented through marketing temporary firms or contractors.
When identifying prospective members is the challenge, a list broker can help. List brokers have numerous tools and contacts available to help find prospects for your marketing efforts and since they receive a commission from the owners of the prospect lists they find for you, their services are effectively free to you as the list buyer.
Finally, there are a number of marketing firms that specialize in membership marketing including my company, Marketing General Incorporated, which often will provide a free consultation to help you define your needs and possible solutions.
If your organization’s membership growth is being held back by issues that can be addressed and solved by adding expertise from partners in the membership marketing community, why not reach out and ask for assistance?
Friday, April 11, 2014
Only 30% of associations participating in the 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report said that they have increased renewal rates over the past year. And 27% of associations report that their renewal rates had declined. Individual associations in particular saw average rates drop from 79% to 76%.
So with this discouraging news, what should associations do? How can an association move from flat or declining renewals to better renewals?
So with this discouraging news, what should associations do? How can an association move from flat or declining renewals to better renewals?
One solution is to learn from the behaviors of what the associations are doing that have seen an increase in retention. And the great news about data is that we can look at the reported activities of respondents to the research to see correlations with groups that are seeing increased renewals. These correlations do not necessarily mean that any single activity will automatically change outcomes. However, when you see certain actions correspond with better renewals for some associations, it makes sense to investigate how these options might be used in your association and develop and test the solution and then implement what works.
From our research, here are four categories of actions an association might take that correlate with increasing renewal rates.
1. Increased Member Usage – In many cases, when there was an increase reported in the attendance or purchasing of an association’s products and services there was also an increase in renewal rates over the baseline of 30%. For example, 41% of the associations that reported an increase in attendance at professional development meetings saw an increase in renewal rates. Similarly, 43% who reported an increase in book and directory purchases saw and increase in renewals and 37% who reported an increase in annual conference attendance saw an increase in renewals.
2. Increased Membership Marketing Budgets – In most cases, when there was an increase reported in membership marketing budgets, there was also an increase in renewal rates over the 30% baseline. For example, 50% of the associations that reported an increase in spending on renewals saw an increase in renewal rates. Similarly, 44% who reported an increase in recruitment spending and 39% who reported an increase in on-boarding and engagement spending saw an increase in renewals.
3. Increase Payment Options – Providing additional ways for members to pay also can help increase renewals. For example, 44% of associations offering multi-year renewal options saw an increase in renewal rates along with 43% of associations offering and early bird renewal discount, and 41% of associations offering an automatic credit card renewal option. Again, these are against a 30% baseline of associations reporting an increase in renewal rates.
4. Increase Renewal Activity – The tactical steps an organization takes to try to increase renewal rates also has an impact on the outcomes. For example, 71% of associations that extend a grace period two months or more to allow members to renew have renewal rates over 80% compared to 50% of associations that limit the grace period. Also, 69% of associations that include phone contacts as part of their renewal efforts have renewal rates over 80% compared to 44% of associations who do not use phone efforts. And 66% of associations that use direct mail as part of their renewal efforts have renewal rates over 80% compared to 45% of associations who do not use direct mail.These findings are just a highlight from the results of our benchmarking research. A full, printed report is scheduled to be distributed to survey participants in June.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
The theme for the 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report is the continued positive growth in association total membership numbers.
A total of 894 associations participated in the research this year and altogether 53% of them reported growth in their overall membership numbers. While 15% said that their membership stayed the same, 28% saw a decline, and 4% were unsure if their membership grew or declined. A full 24% of associations saw total membership growth of 6% or higher. While only 8% of associations saw total membership declines of 6% or more.
Interestingly, the growth again this year did not come from increased renewal rates, but from higher levels of new member recruitment. Overall, 59% of all respondents said that their new member input had grown. But of those associations showing an increase in total membership, 70% said that their new member input had increased. While only 17% of those associations showing a decrease in total membership said that their new member input had increased.
The same was not true with renewals. Only 30% of all respondents reported an increase their renewal rate this year (down from 35% last year). In fact, the mean renewal rate reported this year fell from 79% to 76% for individual membership associations and from 87% to 85% for trade associations. It did increase from 76% to 80% for hybrid associations (those that offer both individual and organizational membership).
Still maintaining strong renewal rates obviously assists with growth. Of those associations that report an increase in overall membership, 56% of them had renewal rates of 80% or better. Conversely, of those associations that reported a decline in overall membership only 26% had renewal rates of 80% or better.
This is the sixth consecutive year that this membership marketing benchmarking research has been conducted. A full, printed report is scheduled to be distributed to survey participants in June.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Do you need some fresh ideas on how to improve your marketing? Then take a look at a new booklet just published by Marketing General Incorporated, 100 Super Marketing Hints. It is a free download.
You will find some great ideas ranging from email marketing improvements, to print production costs savings, to digital advertising enhancements. Here are some of the hints.
· In email marketing, use snippet text, not only will it show in the preview pane and above the fold views when images are turned off, it will appear in the initial inbox view.
· Keep mail pieces under 11 1/2” x 6 1/8” to qualify for letter-sized postage rates.
· Custom envelopes can be expensive and take weeks to manufacture; using a standard size or die could save up to 30%.
· When conducting online, quantitative research, save space in your survey by embedding demographic data that is already in your database.
· When running campaigns in Google Adwords, select your keywords with care; Quality Score can have a huge impact on your campaign.Starting out every promotion with the question, “what can I do better?” is the way to keep learning and to improve your results. So I hope you find these fresh ideas of help. You can get your copy of the booklet using this link.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
As the final installment of my three membership resolutions for 2014, let’s focus on the critical area of keeping your current members by improving your renewal efforts.
Even small improvements in the renewal rates for an organization can have a dramatic impact on the overall membership. For example, going from the average individual association renewal rate of 79% to an 85% rate, increases the average tenure of your membership from 4.76 years to 6.66 years. That’s a 40% jump in tenure for a 7.5% lift in renewal rates.
Here are some adjustments you can make in your renewal program that will pay immediate dividends.
1. Increase the Frequency of Contact -- Research shows that associations with better-than-average renewal rates have between seven and 15 renewal contacts in their system. However, you can measure the impact of increased touches on your own. Simply add one additional mailed notice to your current program and divide the cost of this additional step by the number of renewing members. It will almost certainly be less expensive renewing that last members than acquiring a brand new member.
2. Start Renewals Earlier -- When the renewal series begins also has an impact on renewal rates. The most effective series starts more than three months before expiration. To avoid the inevitable member complaints of why the early renewals are being sent, try making including an "early bird" special offer to reward those who respond early. Like it or not, there is a lot more competition for our members’ attention, so giving them an early warning of their dues payment coming up makes a difference.
3. Offer Members Payment Options – If your members pay their dues out of their own pocket, making automatic credit card renewal plans and installment options available can dramatically improve renewal rates. One association reports increasing on-time renewal rates using an installment option from 55% renewal for non-participants to 82% for participants.
4. Use the Information in Your Database – The “finger prints” of your members’ behavior is captured in the form of data throughout your organization. Properly analyzed this data can tell you who is likely to renewal and who is at risk. For almost any group, usage of the website, opening emails, and product and service purchases are a positive predictor of renewal. None usage by a member may require an intervention even before the renewal program begins to help communicate the value of membership.
5. Use Personalization Print Technology – The question some will ask at this point is how do I pay for these additional renewal strategies? One solution is to move to a template renewal notice and use personalized laser printing to vary and customize your message. This should result in much lower direct mail production costs. Just like the laser printer in your office, you can print copy, graphics, and member specific information on a blank renewal form each month. This variable printing allows for savings through postage presorts, less inventory storage, and the complexity of having your lettershop insert different renewal notices into different envelopes.
It is my observation that for many membership organizations renewal programs can fall into a rut. The same program is run year after year. Even worse, some programs continue to decrease the frequency of mailings to save costs and rely more on email and then they are surprised when renewal rates falter.
That is why it is important to take time each year to re-evaluate your renewal communications and the results that they are producing and evaluate changes that can help you pop your numbers. Sometimes simple adjustments can produce highly profitable results.