Renew Your Renewal Program

Today's focus is on the critical area of keeping your current members by improving your renewal efforts.
Even small improvements in the renewal rates for an organization can have a dramatic impact on the overall membership.  For example, going from the average individual association renewal rate of 79% to an 85% rate, increases the average tenure of your membership from 4.76 years to 6.66 years.  That’s a 40% jump in tenure for a 7.5% lift in renewal rates.
Here are some adjustments you can make in your renewal program that will pay immediate dividends.
1. Increase the Frequency of Contact -- Research shows that associations with better-than-average renewal rates have between seven and 15 renewal contacts in their system.  However, you can measure the impact of increased touches on your own.  Simply add one additional mailed notice to your current program and divide the cost of this additional step by the number of renewing members.  It will almost certainly be less expensive renewing that last member than acquiring a brand new member.
2. Start Renewals Earlier -- When the renewal series begins also has an impact on renewal rates. The most effective series starts more than three months before expiration.  To avoid the inevitable member complaints of why early renewals are being sent, try including an "early bird" special offer to reward those who respond early.  Like it or not, there is a lot more competition for our members’ attention, so giving them an early warning of their dues payment coming up makes a difference.
3. Offer Members Payment Options – If your members pay their dues out of their own pocket, making automatic credit card renewal plans and installment options available can dramatically improve renewal rates.  One association reports increasing on-time renewal rates using an installment option from 55% renewal for non-participants to 82% for participants.
4. Use the Information in Your Database – The “finger prints” of your members’ behavior is captured in the form of data throughout your organization.  Properly analyzed, this data can tell you who is likely to renewal and who is at risk.  For almost any group, usage of the website, opening emails, and product and service purchases are a positive predictor of renewal.  None usage by a member may require an intervention even before the renewal program begins to help communicate the value of membership.
5. Use Personalization Print Technology – The question some will ask at this point is how do I pay for these additional renewal strategies?  One solution is to move to a template renewal notice and use personalized laser printing to vary and customize your message.  This should result in much lower direct mail production costs.  Just like the laser printer in your office, you can print copy, graphics, and member specific information on a blank renewal form each month.  This variable printing allows for savings through postage presorts, less inventory storage, and the complexity of having your lettershop insert different renewal notices into different envelopes.
It is my observation that for many membership organizations renewal programs can fall into a rut.  The same program is run year after year.  Even worse, some programs continue to decrease the frequency of mailings to save costs and rely more on email and then they are surprised when renewal rates falter.
That is why it is important to take time each year to re-evaluate your renewal communications and the results that they are producing and evaluate changes that can help you pop your numbers.  Sometimes simple adjustments can produce highly profitable results. 

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