A healthy and vibrant association is one with actively engaged members who renew their memberships year after year. While the number of members is an important metric, the accurate measure of success lies in membership retention. In this article, we will explore the significance of retention in association marketing and provide actionable strategies for improving and maintaining high retention rates.
The Retention Challenge
Despite impressive average retention rates (76% is the average retention of membership associations; 85% for trade associations), a report from Advanced Solutions International (ASI) indicates a slight decline in retention over the years. In 2016, 73% of respondents reported a retention rate of over 75%, which dropped to 65% three years later. This survey highlights the need for associations to focus on effective retention strategies.
To improve your membership retention rate, you must first understand your current retention rate. Evaluate the number of members who remain in the organization after one year versus five years to gauge the organization’s growth trajectory. Recognize that some level of attrition is inevitable due to factors like career changes and financial situations.
Assessing member commitment and involvement, especially among new members who may be at a higher risk of attrition, is essential. Consider using specialized membership management software to streamline data collection and analysis. This software can take some of the burden off your data collection, such as a complete contact database that you can search, filter and update member details.
- Evaluate Member Benefits
Regularly assess if your member benefits align with your members’ needs. Conduct a needs assessment and survey members directly on what they like or are missing. Seek input from the staff who know the members the best—those who speak and interact with members daily. Through these methods, identify what’s working, areas of improvement and member frustrations. Additionally, analyze event attendance and other engagement metrics to gain deeper insights.
- Proactive Communication
Welcome and connect with each new member wholeheartedly, utilizing a comprehensive 90-day onboarding plan. This plan should include communication touchpoints that guide them on using your platforms, encourage attendance at association events, facilitate networking opportunities and connect them to free and discounted resources. When new members drop off, it’s likely due to a perceived lack of value. In the first year, it’s vitally important to prove the value they saw when they joined in the first place.
- Harness the Power of Volunteers
Engage volunteers in onboarding new members and reconnecting with lapsed ones. This will help accelerate new member engagement into the association’s network and strengthen the involvement of existing members. Creating an opportunity to welcome new members gives existing members a deeper way to engage and connect with your organization.
Additionally, peers often have more influence than official communications in emphasizing membership value. Your members, committee members and board members are powerful resources in building community and helping new members feel connected. Make outreach an integral and expected part of your membership committee or board’s duties, and ensure the right individuals are in roles responsible for outreach.
- Prioritize Member Engagement
Demonstrating your commitment to members will go a long way in showing your members the association is built for them. One way to show your commitment to members is through tailored products and services that meet their needs. Actively listen to member feedback and implement necessary changes. Recognize and support members through awards and through dedicated resources they can utilize. And when something threatens your members’ industry, work with your volunteers to advocate on its behalf.
- Avoid Assumptions
Don’t assume new members will automatically be a perfect match with your association. Often members do not know if the organization meets their needs until they join and start getting involved. Assess your current practices by collecting feedback from new members. Do the professional resources, in-person events or included member benefits work well for them? Use this information to fine-tune your practices.
- Engage a Marketing Consultant
Consider enlisting a marketing consultant’s expertise or coach to uncover other issues and areas of improvement that the staff can’t see because they are too close and tied to the organization. They can help uncover potential issues and implement effective member engagement plans. Their guidance can significantly enhance retention rates.
Keeping members happy and engaged is the backbone of a thriving association. By putting these strategies into play, associations can hold onto their valuable members, foster growth and continue to make a meaningful impact in their industries. So, with a bit of careful planning, open communication and a focus on member involvement, associations can stay strong even as the membership landscape changes.
Take the next step towards enhancing your association’s success by putting these tactics into practice. Book a free consultation with the association marketing experts at Uptimize to see how member retention marketing is possible for your organization.