New member retention is critical to the success of your organization and member retention is a contact sport. Both conventional wisdom and numerous member surveys tell us that (first-year) new members are most at-risk for non-renewal. Fair enough, I couldn’t agree more. The important question is what to do about it? I suggest to my clients that they create a 12-Month/12-Touch New Member “Showing the Love” Assimilation System. The idea is a combination of my Relationship Bank Deposit recommendations in my second book, Developing Strategic Alliances and an idea from John Gray, Ph.D. who is the author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.
I’m sure you’ll agree that one must make Relationship Bank Deposits before one attempts to collect a withdrawal. For new member retention, this is huge. For anyone that disagrees…try getting money from a bank with which you have no prior relationship and you’ll quickly see it is a no-go. In relationships the ratio is generally 10 to 1, meaning 10 deposits for every withdrawal.
A number of years ago I sat in the audience when John Gray addressed the National Speakers Association and I’ll always remember this; it is about the points. He had a bouquet of roses on a pedestal close to his lectern. He made a statement alluding to the point that if one gives the bouquet to their special someone, it is one point. However he stated that if one gives only one rose, it is also one point. He lectured the men in the audience about giving the bouquet once a year and thinking one is done. Not good enough he stated. However, give one rose a month and one has earned 12 points.
New Member Retention
Putting the two ideas together we have the 12-Month/12-Touch for New Member Retention “Showing the Love” Assimilation System. The idea is simple, in addition to everything else you do for your members, have a special “onboarding” process that consists of one touch each month for the new member’s first year. Then in a year’s time when you request that they renew, sufficient Relationship Bank Deposits have been made to justify a Relationship Bank Withdrawal. This will be equally successful for individual membership organizations and those with company memberships.
The 12 Touches Delivery
Many associations and societies have automated new-member emails that go out at various intervals. This would be great if their open-rate was better than the common 20-40%. What it means though, is that 60-80% of the emails sent are never opened. Some organizations even mail a new member package with lots of stuff. However, for new member retention wouldn’t it be better if the stuff was dripped out over time?
Your plan should be to mix up the conduit for delivery: USPS, UPS, FedEx, email, phone calls, etc. Each month have a different kind of touch using a different delivery method. This will assure that most of your touches are being received. One of my clients came up with a novel idea; on the new member’s birthday, that first year, they received an email telling them to respond within 48 hours and the organization would send them a cool T-shirt with the organization’s logo. They have been getting excellent results from that single touch.
Various Touches to Consider
Remember, for successful new member retention, mix it up over the first 12 months and be careful of not relying too heavily on email because of open rates. The below are simple to do, you will need an organizing system that might be as simple as an Excel spread sheet or as complex as using your Association Management System (AMS).
• Telephone call from membership director
• Telephone call from chapter leader (urging them to get involved locally)
• Telephone call from executive director
• Telephone call from member of the board of directors
• Mail simplified new member package
• Mail membership pin
• Mail membership card
• Mail membership certificate or plaque
• Mail specialty advertising item (swag, trinket, tchotchke)
• Mail Association logo wear
• Email new member information bundle containing several documents of interest (generally as PDFs)
• Email containing new member video
• Email containing new member survey
• Email discount coupon for your products/services
• Email special new member discount for annual meeting
• Email video message from executive director or president
• Email directions video about how to navigate your organization’s member-only website section
For effective new member retention, do not limit yourself to the above. Meet with staff and/or volunteers to determine what kind of touches would be appropriate for your organization. Develop in implement your own 12-Month/12-Touch New Member “Showing the Love” Assimilation System and I can assure you that your new member retention will skyrocket.
The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.