Paul Taylor, Business Advisor from Taylored Resolutions, talks to us about how to ensure your membership renewals process is fit for purpose…
With the annual membership subscription cycle about to start for those of you with a January to December year, I wonder how many times your members will say the above to your team during the renewals process?
Regardless of whether you are a micro or large membership body, for most, membership renewals will become the automatic process, where perhaps we increase annual subscriptions, highlight what we did last year, then dust off last year’s processes, change the date and perhaps the email signature if the Member Service Director has moved on during the year.
Before you consider doing that again this year, a tale about 2 high street opticians and a small independent store…
On the side of your glasses are a set of numbers that detail your prescription and unsurprisingly this is the starting point for your eye test. Slight improvements are made and within the confines of the consulting room everything is fine. Your new varifocal glasses arrive and the technician makes sure that they fit and everything is OK in the shop, however, when you take them outside, something is different, you go back and are advised that the new glasses will take a few days to get used to. You take them back, several times, because you can’t read the name signs across the table from you in meetings, yet alone the scrolling news banner on the BCC News Channel. Nothing changes, so, you change opticians and the process begins all over again, with the starting point the prescription on the side of the frame! Same issues. After another 12 months of frustration, you go to an independent optician and say that you want an eye test, but you want them to ignore the prescription on the side of the frame, which they advised that they would anyway. After a through eye examination, a new and different prescription is arrived at and when the glasses are put on for the first time, you can read shop signs, number plates and finger signposts clearly, for the first time in a few years. The real test, can you read the scrolling banner on the BBC News Channel, yes! Why did you have to go through this flawed process?
Because someone didn’t challenge the thinking of the past and assumed that the starting point was correct.
And it is the same experience for your members, when you don’t ensure that your member renewals process is fit for purpose and accept that what worked well last year may not work well this time. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
From my time in Directory Publishing where annual renewals were as low as 80%, it meant that we had to put on over 30% of new business each year to show realistic growth and like a membership renewal campaign, you needed to have obtained at least 70% of your target within the first 10 weeks of a 20-week campaign to stand a chance of achieving your overall target. And it was a similar story at a professional body where I had recently been appointed as European Director, although thankfully, renewals were slightly higher at around 90%. Having spoken with the team earlier in the year, they had said that many members were saying “why should I renew, I only hear from you when you want money and I get no value for my membership?” After some thought, we collectively decided that we wanted to increase renewals to over 95% and several months before the membership renewal campaign commenced. So we set about putting in place a series of events and actions that were going to significantly change our renewals.
What did we do?
Member engagement strategy
Our member engagement strategy needed to be reviewed as we were great at sending out bulk emails, working on the basis that the more we send out, the better and easier it was to justify our existence.
Open rates and click through rates were poor and average member engagement was around 14%.
We knew from our journey mapping that members joined our associations to advance their career, grow their knowledge and build their networks, with our qualified and senior members just changing the importance of the sequence depending on where they were with their career.
We segmented our membership by job title, sector and location and personalised our communications – with less bulk and more targeted and relevant communications, open rates and click throughs doubled.
Use of our library resources significantly increased, as we highlighted the benefit of each resource and how members would benefit from the book, periodical or newspaper.
We formed a new sub-group in the Netherlands and that team was instrumental in giving back to the organisation and delivering one of the most successful conferences in the organisation’s history.
Back to basics
We also went back to basics and ensured that we aligned our day to day operational activity with the strategic plan and membership strategy.
In the previous years, we had spent too much time listening to and delivering services for an individual member or councillor, rather than focusing on the collective needs of the membership.
So, we started focusing on the key services that impacted on more than 100 members and this freed up a great deal of time with our staff.
We still encouraged requests for assistance from members, listening carefully to their requests, assessing the situation and delivering where we had to and pushing back where necessary. Not one member complained.
Next, we looked at our events and, like many of you, had to wrestle with free events, being oversubscribed, with 50%+ no shows on the night. Our epiphany moment, was one dark January night when the talk was on biometrics and security management. A great talk, but we asked how many it was relevant for and only 2 people put their hand up, out of 100+ delegates.
Over the next few months, we spoke with everyone who registered for an event to find out their needs and requirements and listen to their concerns about belonging to the association.
The conversations were rich in content, often brutal, compared to the annual members survey, although they seemed to be more authentic, as members did not hide behind the cloak of anonymity and were comfortable that they would not be vilified for publicly expressing their concerns.
The outcomes, were brilliant.
We charged for our events, raised the quality of our speakers, ensuring that the topics were relevant to our members’ needs and requirements, no shows dropped to less than a handful and the average event evaluation rose to 4.6 out of 5.0 with a 98% completion rate for evaluations, which included great ideas for future events.
New member service
We introduced a new member service, based on our conversations, to assist our members arriving from overseas to the UK. And, working with key stakeholders, we were able to assist them with opening bank accounts, distributing their CV to agencies and providing assistance with the VISA application process.
Then we went proactive promoting this service to members thinking of coming to the UK, holding webinars and face to face events when we went overseas. It was a significant result for us.
We decided to put together a very basic value proposition that just said things in cold numbers:
– Your subscription was – £y
By doing the following you saved:
– Read the Economist online £x
Attended conference at early bird rates – £x
Usually, the savings considerably exceeded the annual subscription.
When Leeman Brothers crashed, within 10 minutes of the announcement, we were on the phone to all our members there, offering them meetings with our recruitment partners and indeed 1 of those partners also rushed to Canary Wharf to set up a pop up office, which we were able to guide members to. Within 3 days all our members had found alternative employment and we ensured that this was communicated to members.
We then looked at our lapsed members for the last 10 years and put a campaign together to contact them and asking them to rejoin, stating that we had changed and they should give us a try. Again, we had some excellent success.
We changed the timing for our planned annual activity: we decided that instead of waiting until the first week of March to ring around the final laggards, we would bring forward our activity, sharing the workload and talking to members sooner rather than later. And so began our phone campaign in late January.
Because we started the process earlier, there were more calls to make but, again, some of the conversations were constructive and gave us an improved insight into the needs of our members. Whilst others were brutal, this time on both sides, as we were able to stand our ground, pointed out that we had put on a great and relevant programme, which they had decided not to attend or even read their emails and we were able to highlight how we had changed. It made a huge difference.
The lessons learnt
1. You need a great team who are fully committed to achieving the results
2. Listen to your members and don’t be afraid to push back when required
3. Challenge the status quo – what worked in the past may not be the right path for the future
4. Just do it
The message we then heard from our members when they returned home? “Why don’t we get the same high-quality service in Australia, that we received in Europe.”
Are you looking to go through a major change project in the next 12 months? Perhaps a new CRM system or a new membership renewal process.
Research tells us that there is only a 30% probability your change initiative will succeed. This is because most membership organisations and trade associations adopt a ‘trial and error’ approach to change which comes with a very high cost in terms of lost time, reduced confidence, wasted money and poor utilisation of resources. But you can improve this probability of change success.
Developed by Dr Chris Mason, following an 8-year PhD on the subject, the change success model will identify your change potential percentage (with an ideal score for success being 78%), which of 8 change scenarios you fall into and the strategies you can implement to boost your potential for change success.
Outcomes of the diagnostic:
1. Discover your change potential score
2. Discover which of the 8 change scenarios you and your team fall into
3. Discover strategies that can be implemented to boost your change potential
4. Receive a PDF report emailed to you outlining the steps to change success
To receive your FREE no obligation report, simply click on the following linkwww.tayloredresolutions.com/change-success-diagnostic and answer 20 questions.
Taylored Resolutions provides bespoke services to membership organisations and trade associations, including membership growth and strategy planning and team building workshops, as well as, implementing CRM systems and good corporate governance.