Schedule Your Membership Marketing Phone Consultation

The Washington DC area pretty much shuts down for much of August. That means my schedule is unusually free. I could take another vacation with my family, but I thought I would try something new this year and offer a free half hour phone consultation to my blog readers. I am setting aside time the week of August 3 to 7 for these conversations.

My hope is that I will be of help to your membership program and at the same time learn from what you are doing and get some more material for fall blog posts.

If you are interested, I have set aside some time slots for next week and will allocate them on a first come first serve basis.

You can connect with me either through LinkedIn or my contact information to the right on this blog.

I look forward to speaking with you.

Date Set to Present Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

The past several weeks, I have been sharing my initial findings from our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey. I hope that you have found it helpful. We are now writing the final report.

We will be releasing the report at the ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership Annual Conference. If you are at the conference, you are invited to participate in a session that I will co-present on this research along with research from my friend, Sheri Jacobs, CAE. She will highlight her updated research on the state of the association economy. On this blog, I previously reported on the original edition of her research and I am sure her updated data will be very valuable.

We have titled the session: How do You Compare? Benchmark Your Association against Industry Research in Membership, Marketing, Meetings and More. The session is on Monday, August 17 at 2:00 in room 802A of the Toronto Convention Center.

If you are one of the more than 400 survey participants, you are scheduled to receive your personal copy of the research report the first week of August. For those who did not participate, we will provide copies to those who attends the session.

This presentation is done with the permission of ASAE, but is designated as an "unsession". It will be promoted exclusively through word of mouth and social media. So feel free to jump the fence to attend and share the date and time with others.

A Wake-Up Call for Associations

Most associations that I interact with view competition as coming from the association next door. Going forward, I think that it will most likely be coming from a for-profit company. And in my mind, the best way to protect and grow your association before this happens is to build relationships and connections through membership with your market.

Companies moving into the traditional association marketplace are eager to fill any vacuum that they can profitably find in the markets you serve.

That’s why developing or hiring expertise in membership marketing is more important today than ever for associations.

Here is one example, Merion Publications; the publisher of ADVANCE Newsmagazines. They provide a magazine, current job listings, education/events, job fairs, and communities to professionals in the following fields.

Imaging & Radiation Oncology
Directors in Rehabilitation
Physical Therapists & PT Assistants
Occupational Therapy Practitioners
Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists
Long-Term Care Management
Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine
Administrators of the Laboratory
Medical Laboratory Professionals
Health Information Executives
Health Information Professionals
Nurse Practitioners
Physician Assistants
Healthy Aging

I do not want to communicate that there is anything unethical with companies moving into the realm traditionally owned by non-profits. They see a market opportunity and have taken advantage of it using the marketing and sales expertise that they have honed over the years.

The questions associations should ask themselves are: How well prepared are we to deal with for-profit competition? Should this be a wake up call for our association? Is business as usual sustainable?

As I have shared on this blog, building the membership relationship is driven by making prospective members aware of who you are, actively recruiting these prospects, engaging new member in the organization, and effectively renewing them.

Agree or disagree, please let me know your thoughts on this.

Never give up on Membership Renewals

Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” And it would appear that as it relates to membership renewals, he may be correct.

In our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey, we asked “when does your organization finish renewal efforts” by months from expiration. We then cross tabulated this against their reported membership renewal rates.

The data appears to indicate that organizations that stop their renewal process earlier are more likely to have membership renewal rates under 80 percent. However, those that continue in their efforts to renew members are more likely to have membership renewal rates over 80 percent.

In fact, those who say that they “don’t stop contact” are 83% more likely to be in this higher renewal grouping than those who stop contact earlier.
But wait there is more.

Using the same cross tabulation, this trend also appears to be true when we asked in the survey how long a member is “graced” with the continuance of membership benefits after expiration. Organizations with longer grace periods tended to report renewal rates of over 80 percent. In fact, groups that grace member benefits three or more months are nearly three times more likely to have renewal rates over 80% (9% compared to 26.5%).

Client research that I have read independent of this study often suggests that one of the most common reasons for a member to lapse is that he forgot or did not get around to renewing. So it does not surprise me that those who keep working at restoring the relationship with a member end up keeping more members. Members tend to leave an organization for reasons of omission not commission.

So if you have members in your database who have not renewed, keep a perspective that they have not renewed “yet” and try to reconnect with them. Never give up.

Retention Rates by Membership Size and Association Type

The other day a comment was left on one of my posts requesting more detailed information on renewal rates based on membership size and also on association type. So here are a couple of tables on these items.

For those of you who follow the association industry closely, you will not be surprised that trade associations show higher renewal rates compared to individual membership associations. Associations with smaller memberships also report better renewal rates.

As always when I report on renewal rates, I add the disclaimer that comparing renewal rates is a challenge because there are many variables from association to association including business rules, dues amounts, and marketing environments.

Top 10 Methods to Engage New Members

Part of my thinking in developing the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey was simply to find out what association marketers are doing. So it has been interesting going through over 400 responses to see all of the activities that are taking place in membership. This makes the seventh post on what I have found.

One question that we asked in the survey was to list all of the communications methods that were in use to engage or onboard new members. Here are the top ten as reported by survey respondents starting with the most used.

In addition to the most used methods, some of these engagement techniques also correlated with organizations that reported higher renew rates in the survey. (Please note, I am not saying that they caused higher renewal rates, but that they were more likely to be practices of groups that reported better renewal rates.)

The methods that correlated with higher renewals are what I would call “high touch’ contacts and include mailed welcome kits, volunteer or staff welcome calls, new member surveys, and a new member reception.

What is also of interest to me is that the associations with larger membership counts were the more likely to report on using volunteer or staff calls to new members compared to other sized groups. I had assumed that it would be associations with smaller memberships who could handle these personal calls.

Methods that were very rarely used to engage new members were telemarketing welcome calls, early bird or “At Birth” renewals, and a using custom new member renewal series.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for additional Membership Marketing Benchmark Survey findings.

How Associations Can Create an Indispensible Brand

Two of my colleagues -- Bill Jerome and Page Stull -- have just released a white paper on branding that I have found very helpful. The title is: “How Associations can create an Indispensible Brand and Why Most Don’t”

The paper defines how associations can “build a strong brand by outlining the power of a brand, the mistakes associations make in developing their brand, the key measurements that lead to the strongest brand for an association, and the appropriate steps to identify and promote an association’s unique and ultimate brand.”

I particularly like the member centric view of brand that the paper presents. To assess your brand, the paper asks how your members would answer these questions.

“What does the association stand for that is important to me?”

“What can I do now that I could not do before I became a member?”

“What does this association do that no other association can do?”

“How does the association fulfill its mission so that I can easily enjoy all of the benefits I need?”

You can download a free copy of this whitepaper and others produced by my company using this link. If you have questions on branding, you can reach Bill Jerome through LinkedIn.

And the Best Membership Recruitment Offer Is . . .

In direct marketing there are three traditional keys to success: list, offer, and copy. A good promotion, for example, should include some type of offer to highlight why the prospect needs to respond now.

So as part of our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Research, we asked what recruitment offer was most effective in getting the most new members. We also cross tabulated their answers with renewal rates.

Respondents reported that the best recruitment offer was a “discount on first year dues”. This did not come as a surprise to me, because I have tested a discount many times and with a variety of organizations. It has consistently tested well.

But here is a BIG SURPRISE. Some marketers claim they do not use a discount because it will hurt renewal rates. However, the research shows that of those who offered a new member dues discount 75% had renewal rates of over 80% and 25% under 80%. This outperforms the overall respondent base with 68% having renewal rates over 80%. In other words, new member discounts actually correlate with higher membership renewals.

Here is how respondents report the “most effective offer in getting more new members”.