If you’re like the staff at most associations and chambers of commerce, you take great pride in delivering benefits and services to your members. You come into work each day looking for more ways to increase membership and retain the ones you have.
After months or years of your hard work, it's a great feeling to see your membership numbers rising. Now, what can you do to make sure this even greater number of members stays happy and renews their membership?
Here are seven points to remember when thinking about ways to keep your members connected to your organization.
Keep in Touch
An open door and continuous communication is a key way to remind members you are there to help them throughout the year. A great way to reinforce that is to call them at least once a year. Twice would be even better. Yes, this seems obvious and it takes time. If you build a plan and stick to it, you'll starting seeing results almost immediately. Your members will genuinely appreciate the proactive personal communication.
Make this an organizational priority and involve your entire staff. Put the members that you don’t see at events at the top of the list, while the ones you do see can be the later calls. Ask about their business. What success stories can they share with you? What’s challenging their business right now? Work on building a relationship between the member and your organization.
Don’t Make Issues the Only Initiative for Contact
While keeping in touch, remember that their upcoming membership renewal should not be the only reason you contact them. Likewise, they should feel able to contact your organization about anything, not just a problem they face. Let them know you are there for them when business is going well, too. Place a call to them or send a short note when you see them mentioned in the news or hear about them from another member. They will appreciate the contact!
Be Open to – and Encouraging of – Productive Criticism
This can be a tough one. While building relationships with your members, it is all too easy to forget there are going to be areas that need work. Ask the members what they think. Let them know feedback is welcome. Both sides of any partnership need to learn and grow. By acting on input from members, your organization can quickly develop a reputation as a critical partner in their success.
Don’t Use a Blanket Approach for All Members
There may be a certain number of members with your organization, but that does not mean each member receives information the same way or communicates best using one method. Recognize the differences in your members and treat each member according to what suits them best. The size of a company, the number of employees and numerous other details can make a big difference in the member’s receptiveness to various bits of information. Use your membership management software to help determine what information to share with the different groups. Keep notes in the membership database on any communications to keep all employees on the same page in terms of communication with a specific member.
Embrace Social Media
Take full advantage of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. All three are great ways to get information out to members on upcoming events, share pictures of important happenings and help promote any important information members need to know. Being a part of their daily newsfeed and keeping your organization on their mind is a great way to stay in contact without cranking out loads of email newsletters. And, by engaging your members on social media they can help you share your messages.
Create a Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs do not have to be complex and time consuming. However, they are a great incentive to keep the communication open with members, help them in small ways and keep them interested in membership renewal. It can be as rewarding the board member with the best attendance. Or, give members who attend 6 consecutive lunches a free registration for the next one. Keep it simple to manage and easy to reward your members.
Remember that while your organization is an entity, you are the face or representation of that entity. Be grateful that your members have a moment to spare for you, and focus on delivering benefits that help their businesses grow. Attitude and communication are everything; focus on making genuine connections with your members and building on their partnership with your organization.
A friend of mine, Beth Bridges from the Clovis CA Chamber of Commerce, recently posted that she was having a hard time dealing with some bad news that a member and friend had received. She naturally wondered if others struggled with balancing business and friendship at their organization. I responded that I believe this is what makes chambers of commerce and business associations so special. The fact your staff becomes a big part of your members' lives (and vice versa) is a great strength of your organization.
By building these relationships you can turn strangers into friends, friends into members and members into more salespeople for your organization.
With these seven points of focus, your association can create stronger relationships with your members and improve retention. Happy members who are receiving value from your organization will provide more word of mouth advertising, helping membership numbers increase even more.
What methods is your association or chamber of commerce using to keep members coming back for more?
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