How to Maximize Association Renewals: 5 Tips for Success
Each year, associations of all shapes and sizes face the same challenge when it comes to membership renewals. Retaining members is the key to associational success, but it’s also one of the more difficult tasks for an association. Attracting new members is important, but keeping members engaged year after year is what enables associations to thrive and last. Typically, once a member renews once or twice, they are much more likely to stay a member for an extended period of time. That makes the first renewal the most important of all. Associations should place as much or more importance on these early renewal drives than they do with new member initiatives.
According to the 2015 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, approximately 70% of first year members renewed their memberships. While that number is promising, most of the 30% of members who chose not renew did so because of elements within the association’s control. Considering that most associations only increase new membership between 1% and 5%, membership retention is essential for an association’s success. If an association can increase their member renewals by only a small percentage per year, they will likely do more for their overall membership than growing it through new members. More importantly, the association increases the chances of making a member for life with each renewal. Yet, despite the importance of membership renewals, the Membership Marketing report found that only 47% of associations focus their primary efforts on membership retention. Perhaps this is because associations are unsure how to best approach renewals. To help change this trend, here are five tips your association can use to increase membership renewals.
1. Keep Looking Ahead
The moment a new member joins an association or one renews their membership, the next renewal process officially begins. Member retention is the result of members perceiving value in the membership year over year. Since the first renewal is the most important, associations must pay particular attention to new members, ensuring they are aware of what value and benefits are to come from their membership in the future. This means proper planning, making a schedule far in advance and creating excellent communication with members. For those associational initiatives that are part of the larger and ongoing mission statement, provide members with a progress report and future plans setup to help meet the overall goal of the association. All these steps help instill future and continued value in a membership, informing members that their associations are working toward a goal and that a renewed membership is integral to the association meeting its targets.
2. Getting That First Renewal
There are several renewal strategies that associations employ when trying to retain first-year members. While new members are often the most engaged, many existing members tend to put off renewing until the latest possible period, some until it’s too late. To dissuade members from waiting too long, an effective strategy is to offer an early renewal discount. According to the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, associations that offer this type of promotion saw a 5% increase in renewals. Another option is to create a bundled package with a membership renewal. Whereas the discounted elements in the package are attractive for members, bundles can also help associations sell some of its underperforming items. Combining seasonal or time-sensitive discounted offers with a membership renewal is another powerful method for creating a sense of urgency in the membership renewal process.
3. Customize Renewal Messages
Direct and personalized communication is extremely important in the renewal process, especially early on. In order to discover what members find the most value in, associations simply need to ask. Reach out and probe members in the beginning about what it was that attracted them in to join the association. Track this information and use it again when asking the member to renew. Offer or advertise something of relevance that is upcoming, something that only a membership renewal provides access to. Not only does this increase the value of a membership renewal for that specific member, it also shows that the association is aware of who their members are and what they value most.
4. Highlight Benefits Over Features
To properly communicate value to modern members, particularly when addressing younger generations, it’s important for associations to highlight the benefits of a membership rather than the features. In today’s associational landscape, members need to be constantly reminded what their association’s goals are and how those goals plan to be met. This requires frequent updates and notifications about how the association is progressing toward its mission statement. Ensure the association has a clear vision and let members know what steps or advances have been made in pursuit of that vision. Monthly or seasonal updates provide members with the assurance that their membership is meaningful and dedicated to a larger cause.
5. Communicate Early and Often
Communications between the association and members should never be overbearing but they should be regular. For best results, renewal messages need to be frequent as well. According to the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, associations that had between seven and 15 contacts asking for renewals saw their retention rates increase 11%. These renewal contacts can be part of a larger series, such as a membership progress report, advertisements or a monthly newsletter. The renewal process should be as easy as possible. The longer the process takes to complete the longer members will put it off. Encouraging membership renewals can be done quickly and effortlessly through digital marketing, providing members with a one-click method directly from the association’s social media accounts.