Why Don't They Renew Membership? They Don't Know What You Do.
Every membership survey ever done says the reason people don’t renew membership is lack of value.
The top reasons always include lack of engagement, value, or ROI. Which begs the question: “What do our members want us to do?” But you should be asking: “What do they think we do?”
A prominent medical society, which struggled with member value like many others, asked that question and got a shocking answer: Members knew about the flagship journal, and that was it. Yet, 20% of established physicians knew about anything they did besides the journal. They did not see the value because they did not see the valuable things the association had to offer. So they had no reason to renew membership.
What If They Did Know?
The real question was: “How would they feel if they did know”? To test that question, they experimented. They had conversations with physicians about the organization and all of the great work they did, after which they asked if they would join or renew. Nearly all of them said they would. However, their feelings changed dramatically when they understood everything the organization did. They called these conversations “Twenty Minutes With Tim” (not his real name). They believed if they had twenty minutes with any physician, they could convince them to become a member and renew membership.
There is a critical point here: Members were not asking for anything new or different. They were not complaining about things the organization didn’t do. They didn’t know about the things the organization did that they cared about. The challenge was not what offerings to create but how to showcase the great offerings they already had.
Too Many Choices Is A Bad Thing
Of course, you don’t get twenty minutes with every member. You might only get twenty seconds while they scan an email or a post from you. A natural response might be to send them an exhaustive list of all the things you do or try to drag them to your website to learn more. But you are probably already doing those things and still not getting through to them. Your current methods do not work because of the way members think about value.
Think about those greasy spoon restaurants with the huge laminated menus of 500 things you can order. Do you read the whole menu? Or do you immediately jump to the things you like and ignore the rest? You might even find it off-putting that you have to work that hard to get what you want. Your organization is not a greasy spoon, but you might be acting like one if you try to tell your members about everything hoping that they find something they like. So how do you hone down the menu when everything you do is so good?
It's Not A Transaction Thing
The next insight from Twenty Minutes With Tim was that members were not all about transactional value — I give you this, you give me that. Some cared about member benefits and discounts. But many did not care about that at all. They cared about better patient outcomes. About fighting insurance companies and big pharma. About improving their practices. And more. They were not looking for a deal; they were looking for an ally.
The beauty in this was that the organization had lots and lots to say about the things members cared about. They had done fantastic work and had great results to share. When members knew about those things, they saw the value, and had a reason to renew membership. For themselves, but more importantly, for the profession and their patients. They saw an organization they wanted to ally with — and a reason to renew membership.
Want Them To Renew Membership? Tell Them What You Really Do.
This was the kernel of a new membership brand and marketing strategy that transformed member perceptions and tripled the member growth rate in one year. Read more about how they did it here.
This organization is not alone. Time and time again, associations that ask the question “what do they think we do?” realize their members really have no idea what their association does and that therein lies the root cause of why members don’t engage and don’t renew membership.