Member engagement

Personalized engagement: The key to membership retention and renewal

It’s nearly impossible to re-engage a disenchanted member who’s decided membership isn’t worth their time or money. A renewal campaign isn’t likely to change their mind. You can’t let members reach this point. 

Instead, demonstrate the value of membership for each of them throughout the year. An effective engagement and retention strategy offers each member the information, programs, and experiences they need to help them advance in their career. 

Experiences are a vital element of membership value. When renewing, you want to evoke positive emotions and memories of their experiences with your association.

Personalized engagement begins with understanding 

Before deciding to renew, members review the year to assess the value they received from your association. Was it money well spent? Or could they use it more wisely in the coming year? 

To understand a member and earn their loyalty long before the renewal decision, you must know what content and experiences will appeal to them and make them aware of those opportunities. If that seems granular and personal, it is. But what was once impossible—connecting personally with each member—is now possible thanks to technology that brings the power of data analytics and automation to your desktop.

Personalized engagement requires collecting data that helps you understand and connect with each member. Instead of blasting out the same program promotions to everyone, target each promotion to particular member segments based on their:

  • Interests
  • Past engagement
  • Member type
  • Career stage
  • Company size
  • Demographics
  • Location

The member’s personal or organizational characteristics determine what information comes their way. 

With marketing automation, you can place one member in multiple segments based on their demographics, expressed interests, and past engagement. With this data, you can deliver relevant information only: 

  • Personalized content
  • Program recommendations
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Career resources
  • Online community discussions
  • Learning pathways

When members receive personalized emails, they know your association is trying to understand them.

Additional resource: The art of measuring member engagement: Best practices and strategies

Member retention starts on Day 1 of membership 

Instead of asking people to complete long membership applications, gather that information and get to know them during new member onboarding. Over time, ask them about their membership goals, interests, and demographics. Use this data to connect new members with relevant resources, people, and experiences.

Personalize automated onboarding campaigns for each member segment. Map out a heavy-duty onboarding email campaign for the member’s first two months, then send personalized touches throughout their first year. Always intersperse a human touch, which is more appreciated than ever in our AI age. Recruit volunteer ambassadors to contact new members to discuss membership goals and guide them to the needed resources and experiences.

Get to know your members all over again 

What about all the members who joined before you had an onboarding campaign and didn’t receive this special touch? Many have probably forgotten about or didn’t even know about some of your member benefits and programs. 

Send an automated, targeted membership value reminder campaign to these veteran members. Review demographic and engagement data to determine which benefits and experiences would interest them. If possible, configure your member portal to display personal reminders of the value they received over the past year. 

Every renewal is a new opportunity to learn more about your members. Ask them to update their profile with their interests, job challenges, and learning needs. Follow up with renewing members who don’t update their profiles. Tell them why this data is important: you use it to introduce them to content, education, and opportunities that will help them achieve their goals.

Regularly email polls to gather data about members’ interests, opinions, and needs.

Every informational and promotional email shows you understand the member—or you don’t. You’ll only send relevant content, announcements, invitations, and program promotions by leveraging data to tag and segment members.  

Improve your association’s membership renewal process

Per MGI’s industry research, 51% of associations said the top reason for members not renewing is a lack of engagement. Other reasons for non-renewals are a lack of value (33%) and forgetting to renew (32%). 

Lack of value is why members don’t engage in association activities—these two reasons for not renewing are related. You can fix this problem by providing programs and experiences that members value and developing strategies to connect and engage them with that value. Thanks to data and technology, it’s challenging but doable. 

If your association has a Salesforce unlimited (or above) license, try experimenting with your free Einstein field to predict which members might not renew because of poor engagement. Craft a unique renewal campaign with a plan to re-engage these at-risk members, but do it several months before their membership expiration date.

A more straightforward issue is helping members remember to renew. 

  • Document and distribute a staff plan for keeping member profiles updated.
  • Collect second email and mailing addresses.
  • Conduct seasonal profile update campaigns.

Begin renewal campaigns three months ahead of membership expiration. Use a mix of renewal channels. Start with email, the most effective method, per industry research. The average renewal campaign includes six emails. Set up workflows to send these emails automatically via your CRM, AMS, or other platform. 

Personalize renewal campaigns based on the member’s engagement history, member type, career stage, and other pertinent data. A CRM like Salesforce can help refine your messaging using A/B testing to see what works best for different segments. 

But what if your emails aren’t getting through? After several email attempts, add phone calls, voicemail drops, and mail to your campaign. 

Auto-renewal prevents forgetfulness. 37% of associations use auto-renewal. People are used to it. Installment plans, used by 31% of associations, are also helpful to members on a budget.

When a member’s expiration date approaches, keep renewal top of mind. Ask your CRM/AMS implementation partner to design a renewal alert for members who have logged in to your site or portal.

Use nurture campaigns to keep lapsed members close

Sometimes, it’s not you; it’s them. Some members can’t renew because their employer doesn’t pay for membership. Instead of cutting these members loose, nurture them as warm leads for relevant events, education programs, products, and political action campaigns.

But, sometimes, it is you. Non-renewing members didn’t see or experience the value of membership. Start over. Add them to nurture campaigns that treat them like prospective customers for relevant events, education programs, products, and activities. Ensure you understand where they are in their career, their interest, and how you can help them move forward.

You must prove your value throughout the membership year to increase the renewal odds. But you can only do that if you know what members value. 

With the help of your CRM tools and data, you can personalize your association’s engagement with each member and feel confident that they’re still enchanted at renewal time.