The Words, ‘We’ll Join/Renew,’ Should Be a Call to Action, Not a Time to Relax

In looking through Marketing General’s 14th annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, lack of engagement remains the top reason that executives believe members do not renew their membership (52%, up from 50% in 2021). That engagement does not happen without a concerted effort, from the beginning, to reach out and connect.

These days we know so much about our members/subscribers but then often fail to use it. For instance, living in Washington, D.C., I belong to the Museum of Modern Art—it seemed to pay for itself for the 3-4 times I get to NYC each year. But the majority of their emails to me stress the mid-week, in-person events they have and not virtual offerings, weekend events, or even Amtrak and bus specials.

More positive, the National Museum of African American History and Culture sends out many member invitations, the latest being a Member Morning on Sept. 24. “We have an exciting event planned, including the opportunity to meet Andrew W. Mellon Director Kevin Young… And, as an added bonus, all Members and their guests will receive a special 20% discount on all purchases in our award-winning Sweet Home Café, as well as the Museum Store.” They also hold many virtual events for members like the one pictured.

Here are 5 onboarding successes I’ve come across where members and subscribers feel the love:

Show and tell. In the personalized onboarding webinars that Lia Zegeye, senior director of membership at the American Bus Association, conducts, she “shows a short promotional video from ABA’s tradeshow, providing a testimonial about the value of the event. Zegeye said she often gets thank-you notes from those attendees who say, “Wow, I had no idea you guys did all of these things!” “It’s a great way for me to connect with our members,” she added. The webinars put a face with a name, making it easy for members to reach out with questions.

Monitor early. “If a subscriber doesn’t have at least 10 page views a month, we run campaigns to engage with them, send them letters from the editor and the CEO, try to understand what they are looking for, and make relevant changes,” said Vaibhav Khanna, product head, BloombergQuint, a multiplatform, Indian business and financial news company. In a retention study last year from the American Press Institute, the biggest gap between what publishers deem valuable and what they aren’t doing well is in identifying at-risk subscribers—83.5% to 19%. The next two are using metrics to evaluate churn—82.6% to 28%.—and track what subscribers read—75.7% think it’s important but only 30% believe they are good at it.

Perfect your welcome letters. When it comes to onboarding, welcome emails are by far most effective at 77%. The more value you can throw into a welcome letter, the better. And the more people you can get involved from a member/subscriber organization will also help you come renewal time. Almost everyone (90%) encourages new subscribers to sign up for their newsletters. However, only some publishers send educational information about how to use their products (46%) or send personal notes from a person in the newsroom (43%).

Dedicate specific space on your site. The Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA) created a new member guide and a special page on their website with practical tips for new members. During the pandemic, HIDA went away from sending out physical packets but then heard from members who preferred receiving something tangible in the mail. Perhaps you could get a sponsor for that.

Provide the breadth of what you do. Especially during the pandemic, customers/subscribers/members may have come to you for one special thing, be that COVID coverage, ways to move forward or how others are dealing with this crisis. So it’s important that you expose them to everything else that you do. “If you are one of the almost a million people who subscribed to our COVID-19 email newsletter, what are the other newsletters that may be valuable to you?” asked Jeremy Gilbert, then of The Washington Post, now of Medill, early on in the pandemic. “What kinds of coverage did you click through from the email newsletter and how can we use those interactions with our site or native apps to get you to stay?”


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