It’s safe to say that organizations that are built on people – communities – are at the heart of any impact of change. Recessions, booms, pandemics and digital transformation trends shape member expectations, the value delivered and the combined experience.

Where should your focus lay as a membership organization?

With that in mind, membership organizations need to be armed with the latest best practices and innovations in order to grow their members, their revenues and the value they bring to their community.

If they don’t, then the expected happens – poor retention, low attraction and less relevance to audience needs.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts on where member organizations should put their focus and how they can flex to suit priorities. But first, let’s get an overview of where we are.

Revolution or evolution – the challenges and opportunities in the membership world

Whether you are a professional organization or association built around a vocation, a non-profit created to make a positive difference or a commercial business who recognizes subscriptions from loyal customers are the bedrock to success; membership growth is key.

COVID-19 has indeed made an impact on how member organizations conduct themselves and support their communities, but the specifics of the impacts show that an acceleration of what was already there, has happened. By this I mean,

  • the growing popularity of digital channels like social media and webinars away from physical events such as trade shows and conferences for member recruitment and engaging with current members or facilitating community activities
  • preference of automatic billing for renewals as a cost effective and convenient retention tactic for both organization and member
  • the need to engage new members with innovative, multi-channel and relevant value propositions to address declining member segments and demographics

What the pandemic has shown us is the need to be lean, agile and proactive as a membership organization in order to flex to the needs of members within a shifting context.
If you were reliant on sending paper-based renewal letters to your members, would they have been arriving in an empty office? If the majority of your community budget was counting on a trade event which was cancelled, how did you fulfil objectives of recruitment, knowledge sharing and research?

Some useful membership sector analysis to share

The latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated for me holds some fascinating insights into the state of the market; and urges us to support you as member organizations to equip yourselves with the most robust and future proof membership models and technologies. Here are some highlights:

  • 42% of associations increased their numbers against 27% who said that their membership has declined
  • The first and most noteworthy condition for membership success is understanding and building the value proposition for your membership. The challenge is that only about half of associations consider their value proposition to be very compelling or compelling (48%)
  • Top areas seeing greater member engagement and participation are mobile apps, public and private social networks, webinar attendance and young professional programs
  • When associations establish an active program to engage members and increase their usage of benefits, membership retention increases. This year, 78% of associations that have seen an improvement in renewals state that they have a tactical plan to increase engagement
  • The mean renewal rate remains at 78% for individual membership associations and 89% for trade associations
  • Associations seeing membership gains are more likely to have raised their recruitment, engagement, and awareness budgets from the previous year. The additional funding was mostly directed to recruitment and engagement efforts
  • The top impediments to effective marketing are the lack of marketing results tracking and analysis reporting (39%) and inadequate membership dashboards (34%)
  • Associations with increases in their membership over the past five years are significantly more likely to have a process in place for innovation and new ideas.

So it is clear for me that establishing and maintaining a membership model across member recruitment and retention, that is flexible enough to embrace innovative approaches is key.
Join me and my colleague Jeroen Paters in forthcoming membership articles where we will be focusing on four key areas that should be addressed in your strategy:

  • Marketing Automation and Member Journeys
  • Member Customer Service
  • Membership Insights
  • Financial control and Renewal Billing

In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear your current challenges and ambitions as a membership business.

Article initially published on LinkedIn