Membership is the lifeblood of many organizations. This message has been hammered home for me through my work with non-profits and membership organizations such as the American Marketing Association and my own volunteerism with the Jaycees and other groups. But membership can and should be defined more broadly beyond traditional groups, clubs or associations. Sure, insurance companies call them policyholders, retailers call them shoppers, and financial companies call them cardholders, but in truth, policyholders, shoppers and cardholders are all members of an organization. Membership implies belonging while being a customer implies transaction. But in an increasingly digital world where customers connect with other customers about their experiences, more organizations should think about their customers as members. Amazon. AAA. American Express. These are just a few of the organizations with robust curated communities in which the lines between customers and members are blurred. And for good reason.
Active members, be they of your organization or of your digital community, are more likely to engage with your brand than non-active members. Moreover, active members are potential brand advocates, championing your brand and singing the praises of your products and services.
Despite this, and despite the fact that it costs far more to obtain a new customer (or member) than it does to retain an existing one, marketers still tend to spend the bulk of their time on attaining new customers and new members. It’s time to end the revolving door, retain more of your key constituents and turn them into brand advocates. Here’s how:
- Give a Warm Welcome
Personally welcoming each new member to your organization or your online community and showing interest in his or her comfort, interests and motives will go a long way toward building a long-term, positive relationship. Foster open dialog with your members and understand what they want to get from their membership experience, as motivations and expectations are not universal. It’s also important to introduce your new members to existing members as part of the welcoming process—which can be done in myriad ways depending on the size of your organization and the capabilities you have. Many organizations, for example, manage online forums or social communities that enable members to connect with others on various topics. Social media, conferences and webinars are just some of the tools available to help new members feel welcomed and included right off the bat.
- Help Them Accomplish Goals
Individuals join organizations or online communities for various reasons (e.g., sharing perspectives, networking with others, developing skills). A customer might join a retailer’s online community, for instance, because he or she wants to voice his or her experience with a particular product. Or an individual might join a professional organization to help him or her develop professionally and connect with others in a particular field. Take some time to understand the short-term and long-term aspirations of your members and what they hope to achieve by joining your organization or community. Once you know their goals, you’ll be better suited to help your members accomplish them.
- Make It Personal
To establish and maintain active involvement among your members, it’s important to personalize their experience and guide individuals to the tools and resources that will be most interesting to them personally. Online profiles, surveys, website cookies, and of course, old-fashioned dialog are tools that can help you personalize and customize each member’s experience. You can further leverage your knowledge of individual members’ interests and goals to customize the communication you share with them, the events you invite them to, or the content recommendations you make. By providing a more customized, personalized experience, organizations can help foster feelings of inclusiveness and increase brand loyalty.
- Gather Feedback
Are your members satisfied with their membership experience? You won’t know if you don’t ask. Provide feedback loops and prompt members to share their thoughts on their experiences. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ve given them the opportunity to spout off to you (instead of on social media) about how crummy your organization is? Even if (or when) this happens, the intelligence gathered from those dissatisfied cohorts is invaluable. No one likes to read hate mail, but it can be incredibly useful for uncovering problems. If enough members complain about the same thing, you’ll have a good idea of an area of improvement the organization needs to focus on.
- Show Your Appreciation
As members take action within your organization, whether it be attending an event, sharing a product review or signing up for a newsletter subscription, be sure to follow up with them and show your appreciation for their participation. It’s true what your mother said, “A thank you goes a long way.” An email, a shout-out on social media, or a mailed letter that expresses your appreciation can do wonders in making people feel valued. And valued members are loyal members. For your most active members, you may even want to reward them for their ongoing contributions and make them feel even more special (e.g., VIP programs).
Don’t let the revolving door of membership hit you on the way out. Value the members you have and help them have a positive relationship with your brand and your community. If you’d like to know more about how to drive member retention or discuss a retention-building strategy for your organization, contact me or send us a note today.
Senior Director, Financial Services
Heather is a leader in the Qualitative space with over 16 years of research experience and a true passion for advancing methods and moderating techniques toward an end goal of well-informed business decisions. She joined the Financial Services Research division of Escalent with an objective to propel financial services Qualitative to even greater heights. She is an in-demand problem solver for many repeat clients – from wealth to banking to insurance to businesses of all sizes. Heather has a bachelor’s degree in Commerce with concentrations in Marketing and Management from the University of Virginia, a Masters of Research from the University of Connecticut, RIVA training, and Unilever moderator accreditation.