Your current members are your best prospects for the next year. So keep them.

It’s hard enough to find new members to your association – there is no need to compound the problem by not employing an effective renewal campaign to keep the ones you already have. After all, you spent a good penny on marketing to convince them to join in the first place – perhaps as much as one full year of membership dues. Now, at renewal, is when you will see the biggest return on your investment. By and large, renewal campaigns don’t cost near the amount in marketing dollars that new member campaigns do – sometimes it only takes a single letter or e-mail – so that second or third or fourth year of membership dues goes right to your bottom line.

But just because you have everyone’s e-mail address doesn’t mean the “ask” is a slam dunk. And just because you see the value of the association, there are some people who will have had a bad – or nonexistent – member engagement experience in the previous year and will remember that when your renewal notices show up. So map out your renewal campaign with these eight tips.

  1. Timing. If your association provides critical benefits, don’t wait to renew a member right at their expiration and risk their losing access to those benefits. While losing those benefits might make someone “miss you” enough to renew, the thought of losing them should be enough. Besides, you don’t want the person to get used to not being a member, even for a little while. Most will appreciate uninterrupted service of their benefits. So ask in advance of the expiration date.
  1. Variety. E-mail may be cheap, but consider how many e-mails your association is sending out and what your e-mail stats are. Do you want your e-mail renewal notice to get lost in the inbox? Or not opened because, overall, your association e-mails have a 20% open rate? A multi-channel approach – snail mail, e-mail, perhaps a phone call provided it’s from someone in the home office and an “authority” on the association – will be sure to reach your members.
  1. Copy. Personalize as much as possible. Don’t make how much is due the first thing in your letter. You are in the relationship business with your members, and if the dues are the first thing they see, they’ll think you see them as nothing more than a dollar sign. Mix up the messages with each effort, remind them about a different benefit each time, call to mind accomplishments over the past year that were due in large part to their being an active member; and change the message based on different membership levels if you have them.
  1. Publication. If you produce one, use it. Our association surveys indicate that many times, an association’s publication is the single most tangible member benefit, and the one most valued by members (often in contrast to what the staff and board think is the most valued benefit). So make use of it in your renewal series – cover wrap, belly band, insertion, something to communicate that if they don’t renew, they won’t receive your outstanding publication anymore.
  1. Response. Be sure to provide multiple response methods to make it as easy as possible. A coupon/invoice, a phone number, website checkout, e-mail… and make instructions clear. If a particular member number is necessary to complete the renewal, include it with every effort so that they don’t have search for it.
  1. Enclosure. Consider adding a brochure or card (or a direct link to a page on your website) that reminds a member of your entire list of benefits. Maybe there is something the member forgot about and will want to use in the coming year. And include a list or link to the staff with contact information. These can double as tools for use in new member marketing efforts, too.
  1. Survey. Your last renewal should include a short, 3-5 question survey (or a link to a digital survey) as a means to gather data on why someone is not renewing. You may find they are simply not a viable prospect anymore, or you may learn of things you can change or modify to improve the member engagement experience during the year. Those who are not renewing will usually be extremely honest – maybe brutally so.
  1. Tracking. Keep data and report on each effort, modifying if necessary but always making sure to give the message and the campaign a chance to run its course. Perhaps e-mails work better with a certain segment of your membership, and letters work better with others. Maybe a message about advocacy resonated better than one about conventions. The point is, if you are unhappy with your renewal rate, maybe it’s not the entire program; maybe it’s just one or two efforts. However, if the member didn’t find the value they were expecting or had a poor membership experience, that will also reflect in your renewal rate – and will be a more difficult issue to address.

Pay attention to your absolute best list of prospects for the coming year – your current members. They’ve already joined once, they’ve taken part of your benefits, and you have cultivated a relationship with them. Don’t take them for granted with a poorly executed renewal program.

Article written by:

Jake Smith

Publications Director