Growing retention in an association takes a lot of energy from all aspects of your operations. Marketing typically gets the brunt of the responsibility for attracting new members and keeping them engaged, but a true retention strategy contains efforts from all disciplines inside the association. No one department can be responsible for the full engagement of a member. Once a member is a part of your organization, they touch customer service, communications, member services, events, etc. Their experience in all of these aspects of your association drives the retention of that member.
Let’s take a look at some of these items and how they work for member retention.
When a customer becomes a member of your association, they bring with them an expectation of value for your association. It could be word of mouth, an email blast, or a printed ad, somewhere along the way they developed a perspective on the value of your association and it will only grow as they engage further with you. In case you missed that - They have a perceived value. So at all levels and roles within the association there must be a standard for value presentation to fulfill this value and then exceed it. Sometimes this can be called “brand experience” or “customer service” but we are really talking about is the value each one of these services conveys to that member during their membership. Countless books on customer service and brand will tell you that each interaction creates touch points that define the value and experience each member has. For example, a great conference followed up by horrible member services, equates to the lowest value of the two. Simply stated, everyone needs to be aware, and have a plan for setting a standard for value presentation with members both new and old. Can you identify the value your role presents to a member? If so, how do you execute that to exceed the stated value?
In our digital age, if you do not have an online presence you are already behind the times. You might have a Website, but does that Website allow for members to self-service their accounts? Create recurring payments for membership? Track and provide conference and purchase history? The Website falls into the same value presentation that we mentioned earlier. It’s a core channel that can drive lots of value for your members. You can do this by presenting a value to the current member, as well as the prospective member. Many organization focus on attracting members with their Websites, but few focus on keeping members engaged and getting value from the membership with this powerful tool. By defining your retention model first, you can then find ways technology can service those needs with your Website. The growth potential with this channel is immense; why not use it for retention too?
Another simple tool for setting value presentation with a member is a welcome kit. This is a wonderful opportunity to allow all aspects of your association to establish a value presentation with this new member. Beyond the typical ID card and brochure, this kit might include member services contacts, information on newsletters, and most importantly next steps like involvement areas for new members. When you focus on acquisition, the welcome kit is your finish line. When you focus on retention, it’s your escalator. It is the beginning of a relationship that will guide a member from “anonymous new member” to potential leadership or deeper involvement in the organization. You must know the engagement progression that needs to take place for your new member to become an advocate, leader, and lifetime member. This starts with the welcome kit. It sets the tone, delivers on preconceived value, and moves them forward to exceed that value.
Through the lifespan of this member, you need to present consistent communications that have a clear value presentation. A weekly or monthly newsletter with news and updates is essential, but it must also work to build a value presentation to the member. Each piece of communication should contribute to the value presentation for your membership driving that member to new levels of commitment, engagement, and ultimately retention. During your editorial process, keep in mind the progression that needs to take place for your member to further engage in your organization and cater to that path. Make sure you include opportunities for those call-to-actions in your communications. This goes beyond conference sales and industry news. How is your association bringing value to that member, and how can you share that?
In closing, Member Retention is becoming a more important topic with associations across the US and abroad. With more associations being born daily, your market share is at stake. Developing value in this competitive market, then delivering to exceed that value will be a true path to retention for your membership.