Why People Join and Renew – or Don’t; the Value of Conveying Benefits and Your Commitment to Innovation

Asked what keeps you up at night, one respondent wrote: “Growth and innovation… how to find new offerings (and staffing to support that) to keep our mature members engaged.” According to Marketing General’s 14th annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, innovation and clearly conveyed benefits can drive membership success.

Executives reporting increases in one-year and five-year membership levels and increases in new member acquisitions and member renewals are significantly more likely to consider their organization to be extremely or very innovative. About one-quarter of respondents currently have a framework in place for innovation and new ideas (26%, up from 20% in 2021) and one-third are working on developing a process to support and grow innovation and new ideas (32%, up from 27% in 2021).

Just like the Q&A period can be the most beneficial part of a webinar, individual comments in the back of a survey report can be the best part of those. In both cases, they can just be so much more specific. Here are some key respondent quotes from Marketing General’s 14th annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, which can be downloaded here.

Ask members to get members. “The most valuable recruitment strategy is enlisting the support of current members. A current member testimonial is invaluable. We ask current members for referrals and introductions, we ask for testimonials, and we recognize the current member as the referral source in our newsletter when announcing new members.” Of the marketing channels used for member recruitment, email (48%), events and meetings (30%), and member referrals (28%) are considered the most effective.

Ask the right questions. “We utilize member satisfaction surveys to determine what benefits to highlight to potential members, which benefits to remove, and other ways we can improve the membership experience. We do these about every other year, but we would like to do them every year to better support our strategic plan.” When creating the survey questions, ask yourself, “What do you want to know?” For example, do your subscribers want an app version of the brand? Is there price sensitivity? What topics do they want covered? It’s important that the surveys are timely (don’t contact an expired reader about why they didn’t renew two years later). Also keep it brief (“this is a 3-minute survey”) and make sure that at least one question is open-ended.

Share key information. “We’ve shifted to offering more white papers and infographic documents sharing important data with our members that they can share with the C-suite, keeping members engaged.” This works on a few levels—shows transparency and trust; delivers important information; and gives staff a way to look good with their higher-ups.

Start young. “We have an extensive and successful program to engage students and trainees that runs year-round with science and soft skills webinars, networking and panel discussions.” We may not see the revenue return on this right away, but it’s certainly worth the investment, plus it can uncover more young and diverse people for your regular programs.

Don’t give up on non-renewals. “For several years, we have run an acquisition campaign that begins approximately 2 months after our non-renewed members lapse. This campaign targets these lapsed members as well as other targets we have in our database with an email and telemarketing campaign. Benefits of membership renewal at this time include prorated membership fees and a contest where all renewed members are entered into a prize draw. This campaign usually results in 15–20% of our acquisitions annually.” Results show that organizations with renewal rates at or above 80% are significantly more likely to offer a two- to three-month grace period. But going beyond a simple phone call—contests are always well-received—makes sense.

Convey your benefits. “Know your audience! What are their challenges? How can your organization help? What is your competitive advantage over the competition? Then, create a persona and carve benefits specific to the target audience. Make it short, specific and digestible.” Another respondent wrote: “We developed a member benefit summary that outlines all the benefits that the member has received.”

Tell stories digitally. “Digital content—podcasts, interviews, webinars—have been a great tool for engaging members and letting them tell their stories.” Lack of engagement remains the top reason that executives believe members do not renew their membership (52%, up from 50% in 2021). About one-third of respondents report that members do not renew because they believe the membership lacks value.

Again, you can download the report here.

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