It’s hard to believe that 2013 is drawing to a close and we’re already looking forward to 2014. It’s never too early to start thinking about resolutions, particularly when it comes to important issues like association member retention. What could you have done better to go above and beyond for your members in 2013? It’s almost too easy to allow member retention to get brushed aside as you focus on other issues—new member recruitment initiatives, your upcoming annual conference, industry concerns. But keeping the support of your loyal membership is as important as ever.
There is no one size fits all approach to member retention. Every association is different, and every member has different needs. There are certain basic necessities you need to have in place—a solid CRM system, for one, and up-to-date data on all your members. But a lot of member retention will depend on less tangible pursuits specific to your association.
With that in mind, we’ve put together some ideas for New Year’s resolutions for your executive team to consider when thinking about member retention strategy in the coming year.
Be a Valuable Resource
If an association has done its job, members should immediately think of all the benefits of membership they’ve enjoyed for the previous year when making the decision to renew. This requires associations to act as a valuable professional resource for members year round, which means providing more than the “usual” benefits like entrance to an annual conference (though this is important). Members will appreciate the ways you go above and beyond, offering opportunities for networking, professional development and education, access to industry studies and exclusive reports. These types of benefits aren’t as “flashy” as others, but they can go a long way towards keeping members interested come renewal time.
Be Responsive and Accessible
Repeat after me: don’t take your members for granted. One more time: don’t take your members for granted! Once they’ve signed up, you simply can’t assume they’ll keep coming back for more, even if you’re proving yourself to be a valuable resource. Make sure you’re also being as responsive and accessible to your members as possible. Monitor all your social media channels—you never know when a member will take to your Facebook or Twitter page with an important question. Same goes for email—you might be pushing lots of communications out, but are you monitoring what’s coming in? Ideally, your association has a point person assigned to monitor the “help” or “info” inbox for member inquiries. Try not to let more than 24 hours go by without responding.
Don’t Hide Behind Technology
Being accessible can also extend offline. Set up opportunities to meet with members, particularly new members, in person. You may also want to set up personal meetings with members who have reached certain milestones, such as membership for a certain number of years.
Take the opportunity to visit member companies and hold special events to meet with employees, and answer questions. Got an annual conference coming up? Set up open “office hours” for members interested in learning more about where their dues are going and seeing the faces behind the names.
Sure, member retention is serious business. The future of your association depends on its success. But that doesn’t mean you—and your members—can’t have fun too. Indeed, inserting a little fun into the proceedings can help remind members of why they want to renew. This can mean hosting memorable member events, like networking happy hours, breakfast roundtables on hot industry topics, or holding unforgettable conferences.
Additionally, you can create contests and giveaways to keep things interesting and members engaged even when a major event is not on the immediate horizon. Get your members involved with fun decisions, like nominating volunteers for special recognition or awards. Add creative or humorous content to blogs, newsletters, and other communications. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box—your members will remember it, and even these little steps can make a difference when the renewal reminders arrive.
What’s your creative approach to member retention? Share it with others via the comments section below.