Defining Practical Strategies for Increasing Member Engagement and Retention
When we speak with association leaders and subject matter experts about the most important challenges and the pain points they face, they will most often put member engagement at or near the top of the list.
Associations know how important engagement is in keeping organizations healthy and advancing their mission, yet many are struggling to use their digital channels effectively.
A recent association benchmarking survey quantified the challenge of engagement. This study showed that 55% of associations felt that engaging members is a challenge.
Traditionally, member engagement meant participation in annual conferences, training programs, or purchasing publications. With the advent of email, social media, and scores of apps, digital outreach became a quick, easy, and less expensive way of connecting with members. These digital options also brought forth a substantial number of new competitors vying for members’ attention.
Oren Ahronson, CEO of InLoop points out that,
“With the huge volume of data and spam that we receive every day, a simple approach of posting content to a website, email, and on social media no longer achieves the goal of engaging members. This is especially true in trying to get members to engage with digital content. These responses elevate engagement levels which are crucial to increasing association member recruitment and retention.”
The rules of the game have changed. Associations need a more strategic approach with specific objectives and metrics. We provide practical tips for increasing member engagement.
In a world where electronic communications transfer information in nanoseconds, bombarding your members with “information overload” engagement is not just the existence of a relationship between an association and its members. You also need members acting on those communications and renewing their memberships.
Engagement = Member Recruitment + Action + Retention
Since each association has different goals, the exact definition of engagement will vary across associations. But the primary objective remains the same… increase engagement by increasing member participation, acquisition, and retention.
However, Wendy Scott, a Partner at ReedScott warns that,
Associations often focus primarily on recruitment while tolerating a decrease in retention until it’s too late. Delivering valuable, customized content is one of the best ways to retain members and remind them of the value you provide to meet their current and, hopefully, unmet needs over time. Retention is crucial because it can cost up to six times more to recruit a new member than the cost to retain an existing one.
Indications of Member Engagement Issues
How do you know if you have an engagement issue with your membership? According to ReedScott, there are several reliable indicators:
Warning Signs that You May Have a Retention Problem
- your association has a retention rate that is less than 75%
- attendance at conferences and meetings is decreasing
- the number of members volunteering is decreasing
- you are seeing a decrease in benefits utilization
- your sales from multiple revenue streams are decreasing
Time and time again, we see that the members who are highly engaged are the ones always coming back. So how do we measure engagement? And why is it important to measure it?
It is important to measure engagement for the simple reason that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Without data, you have no information upon which to make sound decisions about which direction to head with your content and communication strategies.
But, how can your association figure out how to measure engagement?
At a high level, measuring engagement is about aligning metrics to your strategic objectives. At a more detailed level, these metrics will be specific to each marketing channel. AI is playing a larger role in how we measure engagement by providing personalized content to association members.
Strategies in keeping members engaged rely solely on the content we send to members; content must be useful and unique to the personal needs of all members. We only have a short window to catch the attention of our members, so we have to be sure we take full advantage of all the resources available to us in this increasingly technologically-run world.