You can have the best systems, the best platform, a great idea, plenty of money and every other advantage, but you will spin your wheels if you are unable to retain your members and meet their needs. Increasing member engagement should be at the forefront of any organization's retention strategy and should be viewed as a non-negotiable area of practice in a ferociously competitive membership-based climate.
Member engagement is a practiced methodology systematically created by individual organizations to increase member retention. Of course, delivering what we promise is important, too, as thousands of member surveys show that client satisfaction is the number one reason individuals renew their memberships. What your members want and need matters, and if we can keep our members engaged and satisfied at the same time, they will remain happy and stay with you year after year.
Because our industry is membership-based (equating high member engagement to higher renewal rates), how do we actually keep members engaged? First, there is no right or wrong way to encourage engagement. Certain things work for some club organizations that may not work for others. Each organization must develop its own ideas and methodology for engagement and must develop their own unique scoring methods.
Understanding your audience and your audience's communication preferences is important when creating programs and processes for member engagement. One member might like to stay connected with the club through social media while another member might prefer emails and newsletters, and yet others may like to simply attend club events. You should establish a quantifiable scoring method to measure success, something that will take some time and energy. Member engagement also is affected not just by what is engaging to the member but by what best encourages the desired outcome.
So what member touch points should you focus on in the development of your member engagement game plan? Here are three touch points on which to focus:
1. Your website. Your website showcases your product. The goal for any membership website is to get members to the site and keep them coming back. I'm a big believer in selling value. Drive value through your website. Members love seeing value in what they pay for, and your website can be a great way to show value. Conversely, a poorly created website can work against you.
Fresh content is key. Make sure your website is up-to-date, targeted to your audience, graphically appealing, contains a tablet-friendly design and is easy to navigate with intuitive navigation.
Questions to ask:
- Is our website user-friendly?
- What are our members looking for regularly?
- What do I want them to discover?
- Does this showcase our club in the best possible light?
2. Online communities and two-way communication. Your website can start the process of keeping your members engaged. However, you must keep them engaged and participating. This is done by offering fresh content through other channels and enabling two-way communication. For fresh content, you can create live links to:
- Your newsletter
- New articles
- Important club information (changes, additions, etc.)
- Any publications you have created and have emailed to members (and can include another link to your blog)
To enable two-way communication, you must have information flow between you and your members through:
- Online forums. Members like to know that they are being heard and that you care about what they have to say.
- Email communications.
- Online mini-surveys or questions to start a conversation.
- A blog that enables members to comment on your posts. Be sure to respond to their comments.
3. Social media. Social media, when used correctly, becomes another value-driven asset to retaining members or to aid in the recruitment of new members.
The whole purpose of social media is to expand our networks. Share your members' information, retweet what they have to say and post on their business and/or personal pages.
Keep in mind, though, that your club's social media strategy needs to be determined based on your particular goals, along with the goals of the organization. Link everything together—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.
Finally, sometimes you just need to pick up the phone and call your members. A phone call is the perfect platform for opening the door to engagement, and it instills trust. Your members will love hearing from you by phone.
So there you have it: Keep your members engaged, meet their needs and deliver what you promised with world-class service. And enjoy the process. Members are our reason for being.
Ronna Clements is a membership sales director veteran who has won numerous awards over her career for outstanding sales performance. She has selectively worked with premier organizations in top-tier clubs. As an established director, her philosophy is grounded in value-added selling with a focus on establishing long-term relationships with clients and members. As a result, she sets the pace for revenue generation in a highly competitive customer service-driven industry. Her personal strengths include a foundation in industry best practices and professional ethics, and she is known for her informed, direct and motivational speaking style. As a living health advocate, she maintains a healthy lifestyle and has a relentless passion for optimal health. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.