How to Win Members and Influence Renewals
Members are the lifeblood of every association. While maintaining a solid membership represents the central mission, acquiring new members remains a yearly challenge. According to the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, less than half of all associations increased their new member acquisitions in 2018 and nearly 25% of associations saw a decrease in renewals. To keep the fresh faces rolling in and the familiar faces smiling, associations must continue finding new methods of increasing and maintaining their membership. The following tips might just do the trick.
Perhaps the most effective method for attracting new members and driving renewals is by improving membership value. Although this can be done a number of ways, increasing sponsorship dollars and involvement can go a long way to achieving this goal. To increase sponsorship dollars, associations need to find more sponsors or find more innovative means of sponsor involvement. The key for the latter option is integration.
By better integrating sponsors in its initiatives, an association can provide sponsors with more valuable opportunities and offer higher sponsorship levels (and prices). This could mean giving sponsors direct access to an event audience as a guest speaker or allowing them to host a focus group. These opportunities can prove mutually beneficial if done right, ensuring sponsors want to maintain and further develop this relationship.
PROVIDE VALUE IN VALUABLE LOCATIONS
Both new and established members look for value in their memberships. An effective method for an association to demonstrate value is to establish itself as an authority in the industry. This can be done online by starting or joining meaningful conversations. Try hosting informative discussions and providing actionable insights that potential members can join in on or, at the very least, notice.
To accomplish this effectively, associations need to identify where their potential members congregate and what interests them the most. This may require the association to divide potential members into demographic groups. It might start a LinkedIn discussion on specific industry topics or share relevant stories and news via Facebook or Twitter.
HOST MUST-ATTEND EVENTS
While it may sound easier than it is, hosting events that sponsors want to participate in and members want to attend is a powerful way to drive both renewals and new members. Associations can come up with a variety of ways to create a must-attend event, but demonstrating value is paramount. A great way to create value is to make the event unique, offer something members and potential attendees can’t find anywhere else.
This might involve taking some risks. Try discussing cutting-edge topics or projected industry trends. Recruit new speakers who haven’t done the industry event speaker circuit and those who bring with them new ideas. Integrate sponsors with similar interests to improve event workshops, focus groups, and discussions. Finally, invite or incentivize members to bring a guest and a potential new member.
LISTEN TO CURRENT MEMBERS
One of the best sources of information for an association is their current members. This is a group that knows what they want and what they need from their association. Conduct a member survey to generate a list of improvements and share the results with members. Most importantly, make sure to address the feedback. Follow through on promises and prove to members that their input is important and highly valued.
TAP INTO PREVIOUS MEMBERS
According to the 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 16% of members choose not to renew their memberships on average. While these former members have a variety of reasons for not renewing, this group represents a very valuable source for both referrals and renewals. Equipped with these former member’s contact information, associations can use targeted advertising and offer special member discounts for best results. Facebook’s target audience feature can help streamline this process.
KEEP MEMBERS ENGAGED
Engaged members are often loyal members, and proper engagement starts at the very beginning. As soon as new members join, personally thank them and provide them with an orientation. Familiarize them with the association. Show them how to access member benefits and encourage them to participate in the community. If possible, connect new members with a mentor or a more experienced member to accommodate this process.
From there, keep your members informed. Notify them of current discussions, upcoming events, and professional development opportunities. Be sure to ask members what level of communication with the association they want and honor that feedback.
UNDERSTAND THE MEMBER LIFE CYCLE
Members want different things at different stages of their careers. While offering a one-size-fits-all benefit system might be easiest, it’s more effective to offer something for each of the various groups. If done properly, members will continue finding benefits in their association and continue their engagement over the course of many years.
The first here is to understand the member life cycle. Identify what the member career stages are and what professionals need at each stage. For example, new professionals might seek out events to attend or mentoring opportunities. More experienced professionals may look for continuing education courses or professional development workshops. Meanwhile, industry veterans may find value in more hands-on opportunities, such as volunteering with the association, delivering event speeches, or contributing content for training.
GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
While paid advertising is a great way to get new members, there are other, more inexpensive methods. Natural advertising, for example, that which comes from members simply because they wish to share an association’s value with those around them, can cost nothing. For this to happen, however, members need a reason to discuss the association and they need to do so on a public channel.
Try starting a conversation on the channels your potential members use, like Facebook or LinkedIn. Encourage members to share stories or accomplishments, post pictures or give out event and workshop invitations. Even if this advertising doesn’t directly result in new members, it will generate a buzz and familiarity within the industry.
RUN A SUCCESSFUL MEMBERSHIP DRIVE
Membership drives represent one of the best ways to create an influx of new members. These concerted efforts to market an association and generate interest in joining can take on a variety of forms, but the results can prove very beneficial. To get the most out of a drive, develop a strategy, make a budget, and utilize all the resources available.
Membership drives might be as simple as an advertising campaign, email or phone campaign, incentivized referrals, or a resource giveaway. Some associations host small events, like luncheons, business spotlights, or speaker events, or larger events, such as networking events, charity drives, or conferences.