When reviewing your marketing and communications strategy, it’s worth remembering that retaining existing members should be among your top priorities. Estimates suggest that it can cost five times as much to recruit new customers/members as it does to hold on to the ones you already have, and yet it’s not uncommon for organisations to focus the bulk of their resources on member recruitment rather than on retention.
Loyal members will not only contribute via their continued subscriptions and engagement in your organisation’s activities, but they are more likely to act as recruiters themselves via personal recommendations to friends and colleagues.
Digital channels provide cost-effective opportunities for professional bodies to draw members closer using a range of communications techniques that add value and promote loyalty, but how do you make sure you’re optimising your approach?
1. Get personal
A lack of relevancy can often be a reason why members do not renew – a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work Happily, digital platforms can help us better understand members (ideally with data they have given us), which in turn means we can personalise benefit offerings, such as regional events or tailored content, for instance.
2. Be engaging
As a rule, the more engaged members are, the more likely they are to retain their membership. Because they are so responsive, digital channels can offer quick ways to engage, via social media feedback and online forums, for example. It’s essential that members see this interaction as a benefit of membership so be clear about what you – and they – are getting out of it. Consider how to best use this interaction – perhaps by pulling feedback into a study and using the aggregated information to improve member benefits.
3. Amplify member value
As with offline communications, it’s crucial to keep reminding members about the value of membership. Whenever you’re creating a communications piece – even if it’s destined to be seen by a wider audience – remember to frame the news item or event announcement in a context that will resonate with members. Even just the mention of a member discount when promoting events reminds members what they receive from membership, as does using the ‘language of membership’, for instance: “For our members” or “As Sally, one of our members said”.
4. Stay responsive
The key benefit of digital is its immediacy. In the past, member feedback (both good and bad) would have been phoned in or sent through the post. Now, organisations are able to receive feedback immediately, offering the platform for a speedy resolution of issues that could radically change member perceptions. By turning challenges into opportunities, you can show how customer-focused you are and help keep members onside.
If membership organisations are to stay relevant, we need to tune in to the evolving needs of our audiences – whether large or small. By understanding and utilising digital communications channels intelligently – and with the customer at the heart of the process – you’ll be able to more effectively target your resources at the holy grail of member retention.
Abby Wright-Parkes is a membership development and marketing consultant who works with professional membership organisations to recruit, engage and retain their members. She operates under the brand name, Optimist Consulting (as she is one!). Connect with her via her website or @abby_w_p