Membership Life Cycle Part III -- Membership Engagement

In earlier posts, I comment on the first two stages of the membership life cycle: Awareness and Membership Recruitment.
Now I want to focus on how we keep these new members from flying away from your association.

Once a member joins, he or she becomes the most likely member not to renew. Almost every association that I have worked with has its lowest renewal rate among new members. That’s why we call the first year of membership the conversion year.

Over the years, there have been many attempts at increasing renewals for these first year members. Some associations resort to sending the member a BIG new member kit to make them aware of all the association has to offer.

But there is a better solution. It is called engagement – encouraging and initiating interaction between the member and the association.

In a recent post on Growth through Membership Retention, I outlined the results from data analytics project that we conduction that showed for one association the powerful impact on renewals from different types of member interactions ranging from a member purchase to getting the member to call the association.

The survey results from ASAE and the Center’s, Decision to Join highlights the same concept. There is very little statistical difference between non-engaged members as lapsed members. “Those who are not involved lie perilously close to former members in their overarching assessments of the value they derive from associations. If former members are thought of as being dead, the uninvolved are close to comatose” (page 4).

So then how do we engage new members?

Many associations are now moving a conversion program which is a multi-step, multi-channel communication. The program is NOT built around informing the member about the association, but it is dedicated to generating a second interaction with the member. Essentially, a new member conversion program continues to “ping” the member until a response is achieved.

The program might include: a letter from the members personal member service representative asking them to call
  • an email assisting the member with registering for the password protected membership web site
  • a mailing with a dollars-off voucher for a first purchase
  • an email survey verifying the use of member benefits
  • a courtesy call to answer member questions
How important is getting a second purchase or interaction? In consumer marketing, customer-retention expert Jim Novo says, “If a customer has not made a second purchase by 30 days after the first purchase, the customer . . . is telling you something is wrong.”
Have you had experience in engaging members? Please share your thoughts.


Lindy Dreyer said...

There's been a lot written about engagement--how to create it, measure it, grow it. But there's another issue that affects new member engagement--trust. How can you build trust between your association and your new member? Demonstrate again and again that you have your new member's best interest in mind.

Tony Rossell said...

Lindy -- As usual great comment. I am curious what other readers ahve to say on this topic. It is a little harder to measure than engagement. I will touch on this when I wrtie up my post on Life Cycle Part IV -- Interdependence. Tony

Vinay said...

This is such an important topic. Thanks for writing about it Tony.

At GRC Direct, whenever someone new tries us, I never really consider them as a client, until they have done at least 3 projects with us. I see the first 3 as simply them kicking the tires. And it's up to us to engage this individual during this early crucial phase of this relationship, to find out what made this new person try us in the first place, and so on. When we take the time and make the effort to do this well, it always leads to a very long-term mutually beneficial relationship. Given our client retention rate, I am convinced this process works.

This brings me to associations. When a new member joins, I firmly believe they are looking for something very specific, looking to solve a problem or challenge they are having.

Unfortunately, typically we start to flood this new member with first our welcome kit, then newsletters, managaznes, various promotions (email and direct mail) and so on. What we're hoping is this new member will figure out what all we offer, make the connection between our offerings and their needs and then take advantage of our offerings and all this will happen magically just when that new member needs those solutions. Result, not surprisingly, is low retention rates among new members.

I believe it's responsibility of us association folks to immediately engage the member (say by a phone call or email communication), find out what lead to their joining, and then direct them to a solution. Make it easy for them. Then as they use the proposed solution, then even follow-up to make sure it worked.

By having the member experience value as soon as possible, they are then much more likely to remain engaged and thus renew. An add'l benefit is this. No matter whether we're trade or individual based group, in the end, people do business with people. By having such one-to-one exchanges early on, the human element also comes into the fold which further contributes to engagement and renewal.

Think of it another way. Let's say you're the new kid in a new school. What's easier? We're left on our own till we figure out the system and make new friends? Or if we're assigned some sort of a mentor, a fellow student who then takes around, shows us the ropes and introduces us around?

Isn't the new member situation very similar for us associations?

Tony Rossell said...

Vinay -- Good points. I think what you are describing is marketing terms is individualized communication. The technology both electronic and print is now at a point when this type of "one to one" communication is available. It is very effective. Tony