The Renewal Process Starts When Your Members/Subscribers Start

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"You can't be all things to everyone, so determine what people find most valuable and your key areas of strength and put your biggest efforts into these things."

A couple months ago I wrote about the 2015 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report put out by Marketing General. Though it focuses on associations, the report offers lessons in renewals and memberships, a path more and more publishers are taking. The above quote came when the report asked for lessons learned.

Before we move to 2016, let's revisit this report with seven more takeaways.

1. Take time to onboard your subscribers/members. The top reason for members not renewing is lack of engagement with the organization (38%). "The key is onboarding," Robert Skrob, head of Membership Services Inc., a new SIPA member, told me last week. "Many have joined because of a particular problem [meaning] they've come for a need. You have to focus on that need immediately. That first point of contact is crucial... You want to become their trusted source."

Here are the top communication methods being used to onboard new members: Email welcome (76%), mailed welcome kit (49%), membership card or certificate (41%), invite to use members-only website section (39%), invitation to join online community (28%), welcome phone call (27%). Ten percent sent a new member survey, and 9% mailed some type of business gift like a calendar or notecard.

On that last item, SIPA member RigData has enjoyed big success sending a wall calendar to their customers. I can attest that it is a wonderfully useful tool that keeps RigData in front of you all year.

2. Encourage subscriber engagement. This tag-teams with one. Associations with increases in overall membership were also more likely have a strategic initiative for increasing engagement. "You want to engage [your members] as early as possible," said best-selling author Robbie Kellman Baxter at last month's BIMS. "If their behavior changes, you want to understand why it changes and be able to respond. Occasionally there might be a good reason—if I belong to a gym and move away, say—but usually it's something you can try to address."

3. Find your brand ambassadors. Survey participants remain consistent with previous years reporting that word-of-mouth recommendations (49%) and email (32%) continue to be ranked among those channels considered most effective in recruiting new members. how many emails to a member (in a week) are too many? When asked how many emails members receive from the respondents' organization each week, the median answer is three.

4. Plan ways for your subscribers/members to network. The top reason given for joining an organization is networking with others in the field (23%). Next is access to specialized and/or current information (12%), advocacy (10%) and continuing education (9%)—so training should be on your radar as well.

5. Focus your message. "Difficulty in communicating value" (33%) was by far the biggest challenge in growing membership. Communication can get so muddled today. Oftentimes, we don't get to the point fast enough. Be up front about the value you are offering and the difference you can make. Know your elevator pitch.

6. Celebrate milestones. SIPA will hold its 40th Annual Conference June 6-8, 2016, so you will be seeing content celebrating that. A respondent in the report said: "It's a great 'excuse' to promote the size, scope, and offerings of the organization. When we reached 6,000 members, we made a big splash, thanking the members and recruiting new. We had a microsite and offered generous prizes for members and new members to participate in activities."

7. Lastly, think Mother's Day and don't forget to call. It's easy to do what's easy—meaning email, automation, tweets. But 43% of respondents credited staff phone calls for renewals. The number was even higher (58%) for renewing larger businesses. Those are huge numbers. (Sometimes we even forget iPhones can make calls.) A phone call may also get you information on what you're doing right—and wrong.

The complete report can be downloaded here

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…