Growing your membership is about more than clever techniques to attract new members. These might help you bring in a few members, but if you’ve failed to recognize and respond to important strategic considerations, you can’t confidently expect consistent growth!
The healthy, sustainable growth that member-driven organizations love can only come from a strategy to membership growth developed on solid principles. This article is meant to introduce you to a few of the most important ones. By learning and acting on them, you can help your organization avoid the risk of boom-and-bust member numbers, and rest confidently in the healthy long-term growth of your membership.
To get started, let’s look at the most important consideration to long-term membership growth:
1. Focus on Retention First
When thinking about an approach to increase the size of membership, it’s easy to think in terms of ‘How do I get more members?’.
This kind of thinking will likely lead us down a path to all manner of membership-acquisition tactics and strategies that will no doubt be helpful – but they won’t be nearly as helpful as they could be if our first question is a different one.
Instead of first looking for ways to add to your membership, it’s important first to check if there are any fixable ways that you’re losing them. In the same way that it makes no sense to pour water into a leaky cup, it would be foolish to pour time, energy, and money into acquiring members when your churn rate is higher than is has to be!
Of course it isn’t possible to plug every leak. Every member-driven organization has a churn rate. While a degree of churn should be expected, having a strong renewal rate gives your organization the best foundation possible for sustainable, healthy membership growth.
2. Spend Less Time on Administration
Having a strong renewal rate is the first step to healthy, long-term membership growth.
But how much time do you spend on the average renewal?
One of the unique challenges to running a member-driven organization is that as your membership grows, the time and energy you have to spend managing members grows faster.
This is why the tools you use to manage your members become so important to the growth of your membership. When you’ve got the wrong ones, too much of your time is required to simply stay on top of your members, and little is left over for to find more!
Alternatively, when you’ve got the right ones, administration is streamlined. You’ve got better tools to understand your membership, and more time to grow it!
3. Segment Your Members
Your membership appeals to different types of people. By segmenting your memberships into distinct groups based on explicit criteria, you can identify better understand what attracts people to your membership, and use this understanding to attract more.
When segmenting your members, it’s important to think outside the box. Your membership categories likely spring to mind as the first criteria for segmentation, but also think in terms of:
Interest: What brings different members to your organization? A bit of investigation into the question might reveal a common thread among your members that you can pull to attract more! Maybe a significant portion of them applied because of networking opportunities available at your events. Create some and deploy some marketing materials around that message, and enjoy a powerful new magnet for member acquisition!
Behavior: Are you tracking how members and non-members engage with your organization? Maybe your website recieved an influx of traffic after awareness generated after one of your organization’s public events. With the right tools tracking, you can identify that audience and respond to their interest with tailored messaging better optimized to compel them to apply!
Age, location, values, communication preferences, even lifestyle can be criteria you use to segment your members into distinct groups you can use to better target your member acquisition efforts.
4. Get Feedback
Do you actively reach out to your members, or provide channels that members frequently use to get in touch with you?
Feedback from members is something that all membership managers are bound to get in the course of their day-to-day, but having a formal approach to collecting and responding to that feedback lets you get value from it.
Do you have a formal strategy to collecting member feedback? Devoting a set amount of time to it as part of weekly work and tracking member comments/concerns can reveal tremendously valuable insights into the needs, wants, and expectations of existing – and potential – members.
More Renewals: Members will tell you why they might consider churning if you ask them! Write down their answers and analyze the results to identify patterns you can address to maximize your renewal rate.
More Members: Members will also tell you why they became a member, if you ask them! Having a formal process guarantees that this information is always being collected, and storing that data helps you once again identify patterns you can leverage to grow your membership!
5. Get Value From Old Members
Even though they aren’t paying your organization renewal fees anymore, churned members can provide a lot of value. All it takes is a little knowledge an initiative to access it. Here are a few ideas you can try:
Bring Members Back: Just because a member has left does not mean that they can’t come back. Circumstances change, and the ones that caused a given member to leave may no longer be relevant. Targeting old members with tailored messaging and promotions can help you re-capture their membership!
Ask Why They Left: If old members aren’t interested in coming back, they can still offer value in the form of insight into the reasons they left. Acting on any of those reasons that are in your power to address will help you prevent other members from churning for the same reason, and might just be what it takes to bring them back after all!
6. Help Members Make Members
Every member-driven organization will likely develop a small group of ultra-engaged members. They come to all your events, open all your emails, frequently engage with your member portal, etc.
These member evangelicals are pillars of your organization already, but provide them the tools to do so, and they can have a much bigger impact on growing it.
Do you have a referral program that members can use to help you bring in more members? A formal program for member referrals is a great way for your organization and it’s members to enjoy the value of word-of-mouth.
Provide members a convenient channel they can use to send referrals, and a compelling reason to spread word of your organization, and you can expect them to do so!