In simplest terms, successfully managing (and growing) any membership organization boils down to two key objectives.
Member acquisition. And member retention.
While many membership professionals focus their growth strategies on luring new members into the fold, the bigger and more urgent challenge that most organizations face today is churn – i.e., the unhappy outflow of members who for whatever reason decide their needs have not been adequately met.
For example, more than 20% of members say they have canceled their membership or let it lapse in the last year. And when asked their reason for ending membership, 32% said it was too costly, 19% said it had too little value, 16% forgot to renew, 13% can get same benefits elsewhere, and 12% said there was a decline in benefits.
So what can you do about member churn? Focus heavily on member engagement.
Simply put, member engagement is the ongoing interaction between a member and organization in exchange for meaningful value.
In previous blog posts, we’ve also defined it as “…building relationships with your members, adding value to their lives and capturing their attention just often enough to remind them of the role you play in it so there’s never a doubt.”
For example, 58% of alumni organizations report a lack of engagement as the primary reason members don’t renew.
Member engagement is something many organizations continually contemplate, but rarely take the time to define. A key component mentioned in the definition above is that in order to achieve meaningful engagement, interaction must be frequent. Sending emails one or two times a year won’t cut it.
The other essential piece of information the definition points out, is that there must be value involved in the transaction that is of personal relevance to members. Offering them something like a logoed bottle opener or a campus bookstore discount is unlikely to be enough to cross that perceived value "tipping point."
Member engagement is affirmed, reaffirmed and/or damaged with every interaction, including reading a tweet or Facebook post, a “Like” on Instagram, looking at an email, utilizing member benefits, etc.
Each of these interactions should be connecting the organization with the member’s needs and preferences. Create those relevant messages with frequency, and that’s how member engagement is built.