Are Your Member Perks Inviting Churn?

When a single benefit or annual meeting draws members in, membership churn can become an issue for associations. With the same concern emerging for streaming video services, a membership pro sees a solution in offering year-round value.

As streaming competition has flooded the entertainment market over the past year, a discussion familiar to membership pros has begun to emerge: How are these streaming services going to deal with membership churn?

As a Bloomberg Opinion piece explains [subscription required], many people signed up for streaming services to watch a single show or a handful of buzzworthy delights. But once viewers finish watching those particular offerings, the wealth of competition invites people to cancel their subscriptions and turn elsewhere for their next entertainment fix.

And according to Lane Velayo, CAE, owner and CEO of Synergos AMC, streaming services are the perfect way to frame your association’s approach to engagement and member churn. If members are joining because of one event or a temporary discount, it may not be enough to keep them around, he says. Instead, associations should focus on creating constant value.

“Just like we see with Netflix and HBO and everybody else, people are buying these subscriptions,” he says. “They want immediate gratification, and they want something to keep them continually engaged. And we have to look to our missions and visions as association leaders to say, ‘How do we continue to do that?’”

One way, says Velayo, is to constantly hit members with value. While the pandemic has messed up plenty, it actually offers an opportunity on this front to change things up.

“As work changes, as things become more virtual,” he says, “is this an opportunity for us to reimagine some of our product offerings so that we’re not so reliant on this one physical, in-person thing that we’ve always done?”

Velayo compares this to streaming services in another way: Many of them have developed a variety of options to keep viewers interested over the long haul.

“It’s not to say that that one Game of Thrones type of show isn’t going to be a core driver for you, and that in-person conference or that leadership opportunity could be that core driver,” he says. “But I think that there are ways that we can curate that content or make those community networking opportunities more relevant year-round.”

While more diverse membership offerings are easier to build in a digital environment, this is also true for your competitors—just look at Netflix’s growing number of challengers. Velayo notes that this means the churn could be driven not just by member disinterest, but by added competition.

“We are going to see more competitors, more entrants into the marketplace—that feeling that they can offer, in a more agile way, the same types of content, the same types of experiences that associations used to have the market on for the longest time,” he says, suggesting that associations adjust accordingly.

How can associations update their strategies? Some thoughts from Velayo on the tradeoffs between value and member churn:

Focus on repackaging broadly. Much as Velvet Chainsaw’s Sarah Michel, CSP, said in a recent interview on hybrid events, one way to extend the value of the content you create during a big event is to share it in an asynchronous way, allowing value to translate to different audiences over time. Velayo expanded on this idea, suggesting that national associations could build digital content opportunities from all parts of the organization. (Keeping with the TV theme, he compared the approach to Netflix’s aggregation-focused early years.) “How can we be aggregators and curators of the best of that content from a lot of different partners, whether that be state chapters or affiliates or any of those types of things?” he says.

Want just one big event? Adjust accordingly. Offering a membership with year-round value can be a useful strategy for many associations, but some may feel they can best serve their audiences through either a single primary event or a big event paired with a couple of smaller ones. “That’s fine,” Velayo says, “but you should be pricing your membership and your nonmember cost to attend accordingly.” He adds that associations that do this need to understand what it means for those events—that they must become true can’t-miss experiences.

Use the pandemic as an opportunity to adapt your member offerings. Whatever you plan to do, Velayo says, take advantage of the current moment to tweak your model to match future needs. He encourages associations to take advantage of this rare time and be mindful about which direction the organization wants to go. “Use this as an opportunity to come out of it more resilient than they have ever been,” he says.

TV streaming services are facing concerns about subscriber churn right now. (stefanamer/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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