I calculate that it costs membership bodies 8 times more (in terms of time, effort and budget) to recruit a new member than to retain an existing member.
Although new member recruitment is important we need to remember that effective member retention techniques should not be forgotten. The above calculation has inspired this blog and forms part of the latest MemberWise advice sheet, The Perfect Membership Scheme.
Before we ‘dig into’ my top ten tips I should advise this is exactly what they are, and that any tactics deployed should be underpinned by a solid corporate/membership strategy.
Let’s get started –
10. Tax doesn’t need to be taxing! – Check your organisation’s situation regarding membership fees and tax. In many cases tax exemptions and refunds can be claimed and this will take the real cost of membership down (without the need for you to reduce fees or provide discounts). If possible, market the fact as the member outcome will be positive. I.e. Save money.
Example: In the UK membership bodies that can demonstrate ‘learned society status’ to HMRC are eligible to be listed on HMRC List 3. If approved, your members can claim back up to 40% of the cost of membership against their tax liability. If you provide a corporate scheme it is likely the full cost can be offset against the company’s annual tax bill.
9. Think QUALITY – Check, Check & Check again – When members read your renewals copy they will almost certainly be doing so in an active and alert manner. Think to yourself –‘Would I be spurred on to renew after reading this?’
Contributing factors are likely to be appropriate membership value proposition (and effective promotion there of), new core and/or value-added benefits, visible subscription fee increases or decreases, and effective member value proposition. However, you also need to consider other aspects linked to the detail – Is content up to date? Has the renewals collateral been professionally designed? If hardcopy renewals are still administered are you using quality paper? Have you checked your spelling and grammar? And finally has it been checked by a senior stakeholder for technical correctness. You may wish to action my final point for accountability purposes also!
8. Incentivise Opt-Out Subscription Payment methods – Most leading UK membership organisations and associations operating individual membership schemes do this. Why? Because it helps to retain members, cut processing costs and reduces subscription payment processing fees/time. E.g £10 Annual Direct Debit discount.
Interesting Fact A: You don’t need to have tens of thousands of members to administer subscription payments via the Direct Debit scheme. Also, check out new online automatically recurring credit and debit card payment service providers. More and more are popping up!
Interesting Fact B: Some membership bodies charging a large fee can often charge for more regular recurring payment options. E.g. subscription payment via quarterly installments.
We have a dedicated online networking group that can help you get to grips with Direct Debits. We also hold an annual membership focused Direct Debit training course (accredited by BACS). Find out more…
7. Get comprehensive with your FAQs and link to related content – Clearly communicate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to reduce manual queries, interventions and mistakes – Make effective use of them and ensure they are linked to key ‘query points’ during the renewal journey (online or offline). It will reduce the number of phone calls and email queries so you can concentrate on more pro-active membership activities!
6. Consider giving all your content a big KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid! Consider this approach across all literature and make use of strong images and statements. I have always found the key themes of Enhanced Status, Comprehensive Support and a Strong Collective Voice can go a long way. – Also throw in the odd message of support or ‘talking head’ that focuses on positive outcomes!
5. If you need to raise fees (above 3%) give plenty of warning – Nobody likes surprises, particularly when there’s money involved! Be clear why fees are increasing and if possible reiterate that the value of membership far outweighing the cost. Consider highlighting the intangible benefits of membership (e.g. A strong collective voice or enhanced status) and refer back to Tip 10 as this might be a good time to iterate on the true cost if tax breaks can be realized!.
4. Reduce the length of renewal journey – Make it a short as possible and user-test all possible journeys (including online drop-offs, defaulters, lapsers and online payment failures). Consider pre-populating as much content as possible (or simply don’t ask the question for a second time!), ask a ‘critical friend’ to ‘mystery shop’ the entire journey from start to finish and review the content in your automated responses regularly. E.g. Welcome emails.
Suggestion – Create a ‘Top 10 Member Benefits’ piece of marketing collateral and periodically pull out content for articles, campaigns and social media mentions. Just because you are fully aware of the benefits of membership never assume your members will have perfect knowledge. Remember to focus on positive outcomes for the member rather than just ‘promoting a big bag of tricks!’.
3. Make renewing the obvious choice. Consider all the barriers to renewal and break them down one at a time. Make membership renewal as accessible as possible, enable online renewals (half of us don’t!), provide member benefits that exceed or create a new need and consider highlighting to pre-lapsing members what life will be like without membership!
2. Segment, why? Because it’s all about me! – Personalising your messaging will undoubtedly bring you much closer to your members. You can do this by segmenting renewals copy. Consider segmenting via career stage, common business objectives, roles, locations, length of membership.and membership grades. Also, consider writing ‘in the first person’ as it is much more engaging. Online member Personalisation is becoming the norm so this is definately something to watch!
Tip: If your data isn’t clean, take time out to clean it up!
Case Study: If you have different activity taking place in more than one geographical place segment via this. Whilst working with the Royal College of General Practitioners I implemented the use of segmented messaging from the Chairs of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and for International Members. It worked a treat locally and politically with over 50,000+ doctors. Give it a go!
1. Ensure your members are aware of the true VALUE of membership. Think ‘What’s in it for me?’ and if you can’t answer this question quickly you may need to review your current member value proposition (MVP) and/or consider focused member research!
I hope you find these top tips useful!
The MemberWise Network can provide you with comprehensive member-focused help and support, including our new membership focused consultancy services that are focused on increasing member value, engagement and growth. Find out more…