Email Tactics to Win Back Lapsed Members

Sending automated and personalized email messages to lapsed members can help you slow membership churn. Here’s how one association did it—plus, a few tactics to try in a win-back campaign.

Do you take your association’s lapsed-member rate personally? That’s a natural reaction, but instead of fretting over membership churn, you could turn it into an opportunity to change your tune—especially how you communicate with former members.

That’s what the American Association for Respiratory Care did recently. In a blog post by Higher Logic’s Caitlin Struhs, AARC described how it reversed a downward trend in renewals by using an automated email campaign in which messages were personalized based on how long a member was out of touch with the organization.

AARC started by looking back at why former members first decided to join and discovered that many had come for professional development and online learning opportunities. To win them back, AARC crafted email messages for two distinct categories of lapsed members.

In one category—those whose membership had expired three to six months prior—AARC promoted its latest online and continuing education courses with an invitation to rejoin and sign up for a class. For those whose membership had lapsed seven to 24 months earlier, the campaign urged them to “rediscover” membership. These messages highlighted several enhancements and new benefits that made membership more valuable.

The results? Together, the campaigns brought back almost 800 lapsed members and garnered more than $64,000 in dues revenue.

Tactics to Try

Despite its potential power as a marketing tool, only about half of associations (49 percent) in the 2018 Marketing General Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report [PDF] said they used automated emails to engage members.

“There’s always an opportunity to engage, but associations have to do it in strategic and personalized ways,” says Barry Williams, director of marketing at the digital engagement firm Cerkl and a former marketing operations manager at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Personalization should always be the goal, but automation is the tool to help drive the message.”

Here are three tactics Williams says associations can use as part of an automated win-back campaign:

Ask for feedback. One of the first messages you send to lapsed members should ask for feedback. A simple survey or online form could help you better understand why members decided to leave. Williams recommends keeping the survey short—it should take no more than two minutes to complete.

Slow down your cadence. Lapsed members probably don’t want to hear from you as often as members, so less is more. Williams suggests sending a single message each month. New technologies, like machine learning and artificial intelligence software, can help you analyze engagement and schedule emails to be delivered at times when the user is most likely to open a message.

Plug into RSS feeds. Finally, remember that it’s not all about you. Williams says he sees more associations pivoting to industry or professional newsletters that serve up links to third-party content (you may have noticed some additional sources in your Associations Now Daily News email, in fact). An RSS feed can be configured to automatically curate relevant and timely news for your readers. “That’s a newsletter tactic that can help save your team time,” Williams says, “and it keeps individuals engaged with what’s going on in your industry.”

How do you reach out to lapsed members? Have you tried email automation or personalization in these efforts? Leave your comments below.

(Talaj/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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