7 Ideas for Increasing Your Renewal Rate

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I recently read that in 2014 the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) began integrating the expiration dates of individual members and subscribers into all the email newsletters they send out, with a link to renew (or to join, for nonmember recipients).

"That link is the number-one most clicked link on any emails that we send at any time," Misti Storie, former director of training and professional development at NAADAC, said in Associations Now. "Just by sending our normal information out, this link is a constant membership recruitment tool that has increased our numbers exponentially without any extra staff time on our part."

It makes sense. I received a great offer to renew from Smithsonian Magazine the other day but my expiration date was not on there. I decided to wait for the next issue to come so I could check but by then momentum was lost.

Here are seven more tips for renewals and recruitment:

1. Celebrate company and/or membership/subscriber milestones. It's a great "excuse" to promote the size, scope, and offerings of your company. "When we reached 6000 members, we made a big splash, thanking the members and recruiting new ones," said a respondent in Marketing General's Benchmarking Report. "We had a microsite and offered generous prizes for members and new members to participate in our activities. We'll do it again when we reach 7,000 members, and 8,000..."

2. Pitch to people's pride in their profession. Wrote another respondent: "Our most successful recruitment and retention effort was a direct mail/email campaign that encouraged non-members to "stand" with the organization and support the efforts of the professional organization to advance the specialty. The word 'stand' proved to be very powerful. We wanted to represent the diversity of our [subscribers/membership] while still focusing on the point that the organization represents all physicians in this specialty. It was very successful."

3. Customize your renewal emails to each member/subscriber. "Use specific examples of activities they participated in, such as the annual conference or educational webinars, committees they serve on, or other benefits they took advantage of," writes SIPA member Real Magnet in their blog. "Highlighting and personalizing the value they have received by being a member [or subscriber] will make it much easier to justify renewal. Once the member renews, send them a thank you note and stop sending renewal notices."

4. Make the right call. In this age of text, email and other "easy" forms of communication, we tend to forget about the phone. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine places phone calls to members who haven't renewed after three notices. About 40% of those reached renew. They also get insight about lapsing members who may have changed jobs or can't afford it. Don't have the people power? "Outbound telemarketing is still a tried and trusted way to grow your business," writes SIPA member QCSS in their blog. "It is a way to associate a friendly and trusted voice with your products and services."

5. Send out a survey to non-renewing subscribers. "We got more reinstatements from that survey email than we did from sending dues renewal notices and letters," said one respondent.

6. Build a strong personality for the editorial team. Use promotional emails from the editors, and use of personal salutations—even names in subject lines. This also makes sense because in a recent subject line analysis, the use of the word "editors" tested very well.

7. Check in with your subscribers/members. At the Society for Human Resource Management, members who do engage and those who don't are treated differently. "If they haven't engaged with us by month six, we have a whole separate program that includes additional email touch points and phone calls that we haven't done yet," says Lisa Diener, director of marketing at SHRM. "That's sort of part of our enhancement strategy, to do a check-in."

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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…