The best way to win back members is to never have lost them at all. Organizations should have a year-round membership retention strategy with separate tactics for different segments of your membership. For example, develop a plan for those in the first two years of membership and a different plan for VIP members. Any membership retention plan should include:
• A well-designed onboarding strategy which includes an assigned mentor
• Frequent communication that engages members
• Tracking member participation in programs and committees
• Membership surveys so you know what your members value and why they belong
• Answers to “What have you done for me lately?” before members have a chance to ask
• Easy one-click renewals and automatic membership renewals
Just as your association has a specific member retention strategy, it should also have a lapsed member process. The first step is a cutoff point where the member is considered lapsed rather than late in renewal. Conduct an exit interview or send a survey. Either communication is also an opportunity to win the member back. Your process should ensure that the lapsed member is not receiving free value from you, perhaps your newsletter, that would reduce their incentive to renew.
Focus on quick win backs. Have someone with a personal relationship, a Board member or an ambassador, pick up the phone and call them. If you do not know why they left, ask them. Apologize for their poor experience as member, assure them that their problem will be remedied, and offer them a free admission.
Filter your lapsed member list to remove those you know have retired, changed industries, had a business failure, or have life issues preventing their participation. Calculate the lifetime value of the remaining lapsed members by looking at how many years they were a member and their revenue contribution. Choose a cutoff point targeting the top 20%, or after a cluster on your report, or at a point that you have the resources to handle well.
When you are trying to win back members, segment the lapsed members, and at minimum have one strategy for the “three to six months” crowd and another for the “over two years” group.
The more distant member has not heard from you in two years. Show them what they missed while they were away and how your association helps its members solve problems. Use a few communications to highlight improvements and describe new programs and services that they may not be aware of.
For the first group, use personalized communication and target the individual member.
• Send a hand-written note that makes them feel like they were an important part of the organization.
• Have a Board member call to invite them to be their guest at an event or join a committee they chair.
• Give them a taste of what is planned over the next few months – exciting programs that they will miss if they don’t renew.
• Tell them the status of issues raised in their exit interview or survey. If you are not going to act on their feedback, thank them for their input and, if you can, tell them why.
To paraphrase that old saying, “If you don’t know it’s broken, you can’t fix it.”
Analyze data from your membership database and the results of exit interviews and member surveys. Compare the characteristics of both existing and lapsed members. Determine if your loyal members belong to a different demographic than the lapsed members. Look for common themes from the exit interviews and be prepared to invest in making improvements.
The Center for Association Resources helps associations develop processes for retaining members and bringing lapsed member back. Contact Rob Patterson at (888) 705-1434 for your free, thirty-minute consultation.