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When it comes to the ever-evolving landscape of associations, attracting new members is only the first step in success. The real challenge lies in retaining those members and nurturing a sense of loyalty and engagement.  

But what’s the best way to make that happen? 

As you may have already guessed, a robust membership retention plan is critical to ensure the sustained growth and prosperity of your association. Below, we walk through the essential steps to build a successful membership retention plan that can keep your organization moving forward and ahead of the competition. 

1. Understand Your Members

The cornerstone of an effective retention plan is a profound understanding of your members. Take the time to gather insights through surveys, focus groups, and feedback mechanisms. Identify what members find most valuable about your association and create segmented lists for them in your member relationship management system. Use other tools like Google Analytics 4, your online community platform, and artificial intelligence to identify your members’ and prospects’ unique interests and pain points. This information can then be used to construct personalized strategies based on their unique needs. 

Related: Top 5 Tools to Measure Member Engagement and Activity Learn More >

2. Personalize Your Messaging and Content

Members want to feel seen and heard. Harness the data you've collected to further segment members based on interests, preferences, and engagement levels. Where appropriate, use artificial intelligence (AI) to more quickly and efficiently segment this data. This segmentation will empower you to tailor your communications, benefits, and events, creating a more personalized and engaging experience for each individual. 

Keep in mind that the data you’ve collected will always be changing. To stay ahead of the game, consistently assess member engagement metrics to identify patterns and trends. Analyze attendance at events, participation in programs, and interaction with your communication channels. This data will provide valuable insights into what is working well and where adjustments may be needed in your sales and marketing strategies. 

Related: The Power of Personalization: Tips and Tricks for Driving Member Participation and Retention Learn More >

3. Establish an Open Line of Communication

Open lines of communication are the lifeblood of member retention. Regularly update members on the association's activities, achievements, and upcoming events. Diversify your communication channels, utilizing email newsletters, social media, and webinars to ensure your messages reach all members. Foster two-way communication by creating forums or communities where members can comfortably voice their thoughts and suggestions. 

When sending emails, use your segmented lists to avoid inundating your members with information irrelevant to them and their needs. Measure the success of these emails and keep a close eye on your unsubscribe rate. Sending too many emails with unrelatable content could result in members unsubscribing—or worse, no longer seeing your organization as a reputable and reliable resource. 

4. Showcase the Value of Membership with Unrivaled Resources and Events

Clearly communicate the tangible benefits of association membership by investing in your members' continuous learning and professional development. Emphasize exclusive perks that your organization offers. Some can include: 

Positioning your association as an invaluable resource is key to long-term commitment and can even help grow your organization through word-of-mouth referrals. 

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5. Develop an Appealing Renewal Incentive Program

Create a sense of urgency and excitement around membership renewals by introducing a rewards or loyalty program. Offer exclusive discounts, early access to events, or special recognition for long-standing members. These incentives not only reward loyalty but also instill a sense of belonging, encouraging members to renew their memberships and share their experiences with others. 

Related: 7 Must-Haves in Your Membership Renewal Letter Learn More >

6. Foster a Sense of Community

Build a robust sense of community among your members. Facilitate networking opportunities through events, forums, and social media groups. Encourage mentorship programs to connect experienced members with newcomers. A vibrant community not only enhances engagement but also creates a support system that makes members less likely to leave. 

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7. Seek Feedback and Adapt

Regularly seek feedback from your members through email, your community, networking events, or any other appropriate channels. Actively solicit their opinions on association activities, benefits, and overall satisfaction. Use this feedback as a compass to guide and adapt your retention plan, ensuring it remains responsive to the evolving needs and expectations of your members. 

Use AI to Inform Your Membership Strategy

Developing a robust and successful membership retention strategy may seem difficult—but it doesn’t have to be. Register for our AI Learning Hub now to find out how you can use AI to simplify complex tasks, such as organizing your data or personalizing your marketing and sales efforts.  

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Allison Kral
Post by Allison Kral
January 5, 2024
Allison is a senior consultant at Ready North. She joined the agency in March 2021 and is a 2014 graduate from Ohio University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. With a background in magazine journalism, Allison harbors a love for writing and storytelling. She loves creating compelling content that engages readers and ignites conversations. Allison enjoys working in a fast-paced industry where she can grow, learn, and test her skills. She thrives in environments where she’s able to wear many hats—including writing, editing, marketing, social media management, and more.