What Strategy Leads to Membership Growth?

In our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Study this year, we asked participants to tell us their membership growth strategy. We offered three options:

1. A greater priority on acquisition than retention
2. A greater priority on retention than acquisition
3. An equal priority on acquisition and retention

Then we cross tabulated these answers with reported membership growth rates over one year and five years.

Which one do you think correlated with increased membership growth?

It was interesting to me to see that putting a priority on membership acquisition compared to a retention strategy or a balanced strategy directionally linked to growth in membership. The following chart shows the proportion of those who reported following one of these strategies who experienced at least one percent growth this past year or over eleven percent growth over five years.
How do I explain this outcome?

Here is my theory. There is only so much you can do to keep members. After awhile you reach the point of diminishing returns by trying to renew retired members or those who have left the field. But there is always more that you can do to get new members. So moving additional investments to acquisition is more likely to pay off for a membership program.  What do you think? 

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