Associations connected with members more thoughtfully and deliberately out of necessity during the recent period of isolation and uncertainty. A membership expert offers advice on ways to sustain those relationships by fostering more personal and responsive connections.
More than a year of instability has made the community and connections associations provide more compelling than ever. Giving members ways to connect—with each other and as part of an association—has never been as vital, along with a more personal, one-on-one approach. These are all key to member retention, said membership expert Scott Oser, president of Scott Oser Associates.
Oser, along with Dan Ratner, senior director of member services at FMI, The Food Industry Association, and Cynthia Simpson, M.Ed., CAE, administrative assistant at the Urgent Care Association, will be presenting at ASAE’s Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference (MMCC) this week on long-term strategies to increase member retention. Here’s a preview.
Giving examples of what’s working at their associations, Ratner and Simpson will talk about how to better engage members, starting with an effective onboarding process to properly welcome them and getting them involved from the beginning. They will also discuss facilitating smaller groups for members to connect and bringing them together in different ways, so they feel a true bond with the organization.
“The deeper the connection that your members feel, the more likely they are to renew,” Oser said. Because there is so much less in-person connectivity, he said engaging people online and providing a platform to bring those conversations together is proving to be “effective and important.”
While the onslaught of crises and challenges seem to have subsided for now, members are still looking to associations for guidance. One way to provide that is through more personal connection, Oser said. That one-to-one connection and engagement communicates that you are not only there for them, but that you also realize they have been struggling, things have changed, and you are their resource and partner.
“It’s about more than just generating revenue,” he said. It’s also about more than marketing, conference numbers, and paying dues on time.
A positive trend that emerged in the past year is associations got a lot better at trying out new ideas without the usual testing and retesting that can take months. “It’s OK sometimes to take a bigger risk and really try new things without going through that formal process,” he said. That doesn’t mean it’s OK to throw caution to the wind, however.
“Associations learned that it is OK to change pieces of their messaging and their marketing programs,” he said. “You’ve got to hedge your bets a little.”
Another positive takeaway is that “associations are strong, and they do provide value,” Oser said. Many group saw increases in retention rates because they provided so much value for members even with higher unemployment, furloughs, and other challenges.
A recent survey conducted by Advanced Solutions International found that membership engagement increased for 49 percent of respondents and member retention was up or held steady for 57 percent of respondents. “They were sticking with their association membership because it was providing the right resources,” he said. Going forward, continuing to communicate value, and making sure that value is what members want, will be crucial.
“I’m definitely feeling optimistic about the future, and that recruitment and retention rates should stay strong,” Oser said.