Renewal Strategies That Make the Right Call

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In a recently published guide on renewal practices from Canadian software company Wild Apricot (with research from Marketing General Incorporated), it was found that organizations with the highest renewal rates employed phone calls as part of the process.

"A phone call from staff and/or volunteers can be a powerful final step for those members who have not renewed after the first two notices," the guide states. "This offers an opportunity for your staff, board members or renewal/recruitment volunteers to address the member's questions or reservations first-hand."

Two organizations have taken that to heart. At SHRM, there's a whole check-in strategy for members who don't engage by month six—including additional email touch points and phone calls. And 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 anymore.

Here are 9 other renewal strategies, the first three from the Wild Apricot guide:

Tailor the renewal message to your acquisition message. Is your message consistent across your marketing materials? Review your renewal copy to make sure you're reselling what they originally bought. This is especially important when converting new members toward the end of their first year.

Start the conversation casually. When the time comes for renewal, the "ask" can start from a place of conversation and appreciation. Thank the subscriber/member for their loyalty and, if appropriate, participation. Highlight your accomplishments and what you are looking forward to in the year ahead.

Keep it simple. With renewals and acquisitions, keep the offer simple. If it's too confusing—or if people perceive it as misleading—you'll get complaints instead of renewals.

"Build milestones for your customers," said Christina Karabetsos, executive vice president of QCSS. "Have it mirror the way we approach milestones in real life, especially with our relationships. Why should B2B be different? How can we create those kind of milestones? Build in things to look forward to for your customers."

"Never overlook your customers' desire for outcomes," said Barb Kaplowitz of Big Huge Ideas. "There are going to be milestones in their outcome, whether that's a data manager who successfully downloaded data three weeks in a row, or somebody in regulatory compliance who successfully passed an audit. Tie that kind of language into the way you communicate with them."

Employ regular communication. You want to stay near the top of their inbox, said Kristina Dorsey, client director for CQ Roll Call. They had a situation where a Congressional committee added 130 amendments to an appropriations bill. "We immediately put together an email [that said], 'I bet you're looking for these.' We heard back, 'Do I have access to that?' 'Hey I tried to click into that amendment you sent me. Can you send my log-in?'"

Add personal touches. Dorsey said this may sound "corny and cheesy" but it works. She sends handwritten thank-you notes for high-dollar clients—something she learned from her mother. And she buys cupcakes. She sent them to one client after a meeting, writing that, "we're thinking of you." "They still remember that during every renewal," she said. And from her wedding, she recalled that, "calligraphy on an invitation apparently means a lot. Personal things go a long way."

Make it easier for people to log in, said Kaplowitz. "92% of people fail to log in because they can't remember the passwords. Allow them to log in through a social media platform. It's about what's easier for them more than what's important to you."

Encourage subscriber/member referrals. "Re-channel some of those dollars from acquisition into retention and try and build up member referral," said Erik Schonher, CEO and founder of The Schonher Group. "And not through the typical bounty program that [organizations] do, but by really targeting a specific group and making them happy and contented and actually emboldened with a desire to spread the word."

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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…