We don’t have to tell you about how the association model works: attract members, delight members, keep them renewing their membership year after year.

The delighting members step is critical to ensuring renewals; unfortunately, it's also the most difficult. In order to retain members, associations have to understand which content, products and programs are most interesting and engaging. 

If you’ve got a member renewal problem, you aren’t alone. According to MGI’s 2021 Member benchmarking Report, 45% of associations saw a downturn in member renewals last year.  And most association leaders know low engagement is their greatest enemy. In fact, 50% of MGI respondents  cited “lack of engagement” as the #1 reason for member churn. 

So why are associations across the board reporting lower engagement and retention? They aren’t listening to their members.

Yes, yes, we know you’re doing market research, sending annual surveys and asking members what content they want at your events. But you could be doing more. You could be utilizing the data you already have to better understand, then serve members. 

Your data can tell you: 

  • How engaged is the membership overall?
  • Who is at risk of not renewing?
  • Who is the most engaged?
  • What programs or content is engaging the most members?

To keep renewal numbers high, it’s important to be able to answer these questions. To do so, you’ll need a data strategy. But there are steps you can take in the meantime to boost association member retention.

Segmentation and Targeted Communication

One of the most common association communication tools is email. During the pandemic, senders have sent more email more frequently. It can be overwhelming for members. So much so that in the association world, we’re seeing open and click-through rates suffer as people just get tired.

It’s not that your members are tired of good, relevant emails. They’re tired of filtering irrelevant emails. 

Instead of blasting everyone, try creating audience segments and sending just the messages you know they’ll want and need. In doing so, you’re creating selective email campaigns and doing the filtering for them. When promoting your products, programs, and events, you can send fewer emails targeted to people who want them. 

Try pulling groups of events and webinar attendees from your learning management system (LMS). You could also create groups based on common demographics in your association management system (AMS). Then ask yourself what these groups might want or need to hear to keep them engaged. 

By using data you already have from your LMS and AMS, you’ll be able to build more dynamic segments based on audience behavior. Then, you can generate real-time feedback loops between your audiences and campaigns, further targeting your content to the members that need it the most.

Dynamic Onsite Personalization

Personalization is another common association tactic that you can do right now!

Associations are like a digital big box store. Pay to get entrance, and everything inside is yours. But once you’re inside, finding things is a challenge.

However, in the digital world, you can provide your members and audience with the boutique experience at the big box price. 

One simple way is to place personalized “widgets” on your website. Just like Amazon uses a series of personalized blocks on their homepage, you can use one to deliver personalized content. Imagine being presented with things you haven’t seen or read, but are likely to want to read or view.

It’s like going to a local bookseller and the owner saying “we just got something in that I think you’ve love.”

For these widgets, we see 2-3x increase in engagement when compared to engagement with editorially chosen content.

To do this, you might need someone to do the custom coding on your website. To do it in-house, some website platforms are easier than others to customize. 

The Easy Way to Boost Engagement and Retention 

Segmentation and personalization are two proven tactics for driving engagement. But for many associations, actually doing this sort of digital marketing is complicated and difficult to execute.  

The path of least resistance is to install a customer data platform like Hum that has this functionality already built in. 

Hum is purpose-built to help associations, societies and member organizations create the experiences members want, need. 

Here’s how we work: we integrate our CDP to show you what your audience is most interested and inspired by. We then use this data to understand what events, programs, content and more should be paired with specific segments of your audience. Then, we execute the marketing and outreach on your behalf to make sure your members are delighted.  

Ready to implement steps to retain your association members? Download our free Executive Guide to Digital Transformation to learn the basics of using your first-party data in a more strategic way.