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How to Reengage Lapsed Members Authentically

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It can be expensive to acquire new members. An effective member renewal experience could make the most of your resources—you just need the right tools and tactics.

Associations are always trying to reach their people. But that doesn’t have to mean recruiting new members—sometimes it’s about making sure the people who know you stick around.

Many associations saw a membership increase during the pandemic as professionals attempted to gain insights and stay in touch with peers. But it can be a challenge to reengage these members. Even so, associations are rethinking their efforts to recruit new members and are prioritizing engaging the members they already have, explained Janelle Benefield, vice president of AffiniPay for Associations.

“Everybody wants to get new members, but it’s very expensive to market to get new members,” she said. “So I think there’s a renewed focus toward really paying attention to who’s already there, who’s already paying, making sure they get maximum value.”

But getting renewals isn’t a gimme. In a world where your members’ attention is pulled in many directions—and in an economy where staffing challenges mean you might not be able to devote as much time to retention as you’d like—how can you be sure your retention methods land?

Here are a few tactics worth considering.

Embrace New Channels

Email is the most common channel for renewal messaging, as cited by benchmarking research from Marketing General, with 98 percent of associations using it. But you can’t rely on just email. Marketing General recommends other channels, such as phone calls and telemarketing, to reach renewing members.

Another option: texting. Last year, AffiniPay began testing a text-based payment integration for its legal customers and found that it worked extremely well for that audience—and that the results carried potential for associations too.

“Associations have very similar problems to what we saw in the legal market,” Benefield explained. “They want to make sure that the members that are due to renew or lapsed don’t miss those communications. So text messaging becomes a very intriguing channel for solving these long-entrenched problems in the association space.”

“Everybody wants to get new members, but it’s very expensive to market to get new members. So I think there’s a renewed focus toward really paying attention to who’s already there, who’s already paying, making sure they get maximum value.” — Janelle Benefield, AffiniPay for Associations

Consider Signal vs. Noise

Another issue with blasting renewal messages on high-volume platforms such as email: Your organization is competing for your members’ attention, and that competition isn’t just other associations but every other email they receive. Diversifying your messaging strategy and being intentional about promotional versus membership communications can help your audience find more value in your outreach.

Texting can play the hero again here, and the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) shows its potential. The society used texting to reach audiences for renewals, and found results by narrowing in on specific demographics.

Kristin McGill, ICPAS’ membership director, explained that the messaging strategy was scaled back for two reasons: research and effectiveness.

“We intentionally did not pair it with anything else, just so we could assess results,” she said.

Those results have been strong thus far, driving about $53,000 in revenue. McGill added that, unlike email and other channels, the organization hopes to keep texts focused on its member retention goals.

“We’re hesitant about using it for promotional purposes,” she added. “We wanted to make sure that it’s strictly related to their membership itself, so that’s why we wanted to focus strictly on renewals and confirming new memberships.”

Lean Into Automation

When many associations are making do with limited staff, direct member interaction might seem like a luxury. But Benefield noted that while this is a challenge, it’s a manageable one.

“AffiniPay has the heart of a startup, yet we understand and appreciate the phrase of ‘do more with less’ as a possible recession approaches,” she said. “We are familiar with the sentiment and understand associations are in that mindset going into next year. This is the time to try new tools.”

Automation doesn’t have to mean bombarding members—you can connect it to your other tools to reach the right audiences. Combined with personalization, automation can invite results and ensure messaging reaches its audience at the most important time.

Target With Segments in Mind

Consider not just how you’re messaging, but to whom. Simply sending messages to everyone in your database may be a nonstarter. But experimenting with select audiences can prove immensely valuable.

ICPAS’ McGill noted that in a recent test, her organization texted a targeted group of new graduates. While they are given free membership upon request until they get a job, response rates have traditionally been low. However, a texting-based campaign sent to 900 student members improved results.

“We had over 200 recent graduates say yes, I want to be a member—that’s the most we’ve ever seen in one outreach,” McGill said.

Not every association, or even every segment, will have the same results. Maybe you’ll find that a “text us” widget on your website is better. Maybe some segments prefer email or even direct mail. Ultimately, testing will help you assess your strategy’s success.

“It’s about learning your members and learning what their preferences are,” Benefield added.

AffiniPay for Associations, an AffiniPay solution, is an online payment technology developed specifically for associations and nonprofit organizations as a secure way to accept credit, debit, and eCheck payments. AffiniPay is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and offers a modern payment gateway that integrates with more than 30 software solutions and is trusted by more than 10,000 associations.

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