Proven Renewal Strategies From New Survey Report

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I recently went pretty far in the furniture store West Elm's online buying process for a coffee table. At the end, the store closest to me didn't have it in stock so I abandoned ship. I also wasn't sure if I could get it all assembled or had to do it myself.

Of course, since then I've received many emails referring to this coffee table. I understand. But I don't think it advances the purchase possibility enough. They haven't reached out to ask why I abandoned or what could be done to convince me to buy. They pretty much dwell on the same price discount.

What brought me to this subject is Marketing General Inc'.s 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. It's association-oriented and numbers-heavy, but it transcends to anyone doing sales and renewals. They do a smart thing and list the verbatim answers to some open-ended questions—such as this:

Describe an acquisition or recruitment strategy that you [have] employed that has been very successful? "Abandoned online application follow-up—we target cart abandoners with a series of three follow-up emails, let it rest for 6-9 months, and then roll into our direct outreach content series."

They don't post those follow-up emails but I hope they delved further than just price. Here are more verbatim, success-story responses from the report with some SIPA-fication:

Member referral program: "We asked members to refer other professionals who would benefit from the membership. The first year of the program we offered a $50 discount on the renewal for the member and a $50 off membership to the new member. We also added a draw at the end of the year so all members who referred someone would get a chance to win prizes." Interestingly, the prizes did nothing. The members were happy to make the referrals. "We are now pushing to improve the value proposition and the communication of the benefits to members."

Multi-year discounts have been huge for us. "It has to be a significant discount to generate significant interest, but when you consider the number of people you don't have to run through the renewal cycle over and over (while losing many of them), it's worth it."

Personal calls are the best. "For us, each institution has a different stakeholder so one-on-one communications makes the biggest difference." I'm sure SIPA member QCSS would agree. (Note: staff phone calls was third in the survey behind email and direct mail in generating renewals.)

Going over surveys of membership experience while member is still active has provided insight into problems that can be rectified prior to membership lapse. "If we're proactive in searching for concerns and addressing them ASAP, in many cases we can salvage membership." This reminds me of one of Robyn Duda's event recommendations I wrote about yesterday—getting event feedback at the event where a problem might be rectified rather than waiting until after.

"We recently reviewed our renewal letters, making them more compelling. We added in the 'cost per day' to make the dues for individuals seem more reasonable. Bill Haight, president of Magna Publications, has echoed this sentiment in the past: "Here's a tip: Let a good promotional copywriter take a look at the confirmation and renewal letters and let them put a little personality in them... Instead of 'Here's how you distribute the access code to your colleagues,' try, 'Be a hero, and your colleagues will love you when you show them how easy it is to access these wonderful resources.' So keep that selling personality in all your communications."

"We have tested a 15-months-for-the-price-of-12 against a straight $15 discount. Even though the former promotion is worth more to the member, the $15 dollars-off promo is much more successful. It appears to be the 'immediacy' effect that makes this the offer to beat."

"We offer a free 3-month membership (individual) to people attending our conferences for the first time. The conversion rate has been high."

"We went back to some direct mail outreach. We found success in sending an application that was already filled out with the information we had on the prospective member. All they had to do was pay." (Note: direct mail was second in the survey for generating renewals behind email.)

"We did a three-part campaign with informational videos on an upcoming tough subject. We released the videos on YouTube each week and sent an email to our non-member lead group with the chance to watch the video. Each video had between 3,000-8,000 views each."

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…