What’s the most important part of any membership organisation? Without a doubt, it’s the members. With this in mind, how can you increase your member engagement, loyalty and turn your members into advocates?
It’s worth remembering; it’s far more cost effective to keep your members/clients happy than to get new members. According to Amy Gallo of the Harvard Business Review, “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”
So, it’s critical for all businesses and membership organisations to look at how to keep members happy and engaged, with the goal of converting them into advocates. For me the best way ensure member advocacy is to be more human by being more engaged with your members. Reach out to them, listen to them, hear what they want and understand what they value so you can serve them better. In a nutshell… be human.
Here are some of the things I recommend to my clients, and help them, do:
- Develop communications with members. Be intentional in all your communications. Look at how you are engaging with them – from digital, direct mail, web, insights, events to human interaction. Is there any part of this engagement that could be improved? Understand who your current advocates or fans are: What makes them love you and your brand? What do you do for them that you could do for other members?
- Put a member advocacy process into place. Once you know where your touch points are – review them and make sure you have regular contact with your members, beyond the standard newsletters. Make sure you are reaching out to them at different stages of their lifecycle with something of value to ensure you are giving them what they need or want. Make sure you speak to all members with intention – personalise your communications, depending on what stage they are at, such as new members (why did they join?), advocates (why do they love you and how can you do more?) to the unengaged members (what can be done to make the membership more engaging and valuable to them), even those who have left (how can you encourage them back). Think about what each type of person may want from you at that stage.
- Ask for feedback from your members. See what is working, not working, what they want and how you can improve. Start by reaching out to all your members with an online form to get the maximum number of responses, then follow up with an interview with a selection who have given mixed results. Ideally have someone outside the organisation so the members feel they can be open and honest in their feedback. Try to do this yearly and follow up with them to tell them what changes you may have made as a result of the feedback. Be accountable to your members.
When I do this for my clients, I interview a selection of members at different stages of the relationship with the organisation and those that have different levels of satisfaction (good and bad) – and find out the patterns that may emerge, as well as, pulling together ideas for development and improvement for the organisation. Obviously, the interviews yield a huge amount of amazing qualitative feedback, but I put a quantitative element to the feedback – it makes it easier to compare results in the future and see in a nutshell what the big issues are.
The most common request from members I’ve interviewed is that they would like more proactive communication from the organisation and more human engagement between members. People want a community…
- Build your membership into a community. This will lead to more human connection between members, more engagement, loyalty and humanity within the organisation and a place for members to feel part of something together. Dr McMillan & Chavis defined the sense of community in 1986 as, “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.” Building a community and encouraging your members to be part of that community goes beyond the paid, transactional benefits of the membership. The true value of the membership should be what “money can’t buy.”
- The bottom line – be more human… think about encouraging human engagement and interaction throughout the organisation.
There are many different membership organisation types with different services, content, training, events etc, but I believe if one focusses on members as advocates, the organisation can benefit from better member retention, ideas for improvement, content, collaboration, marketing, business development, cross selling to membership growth.
If you have any good examples where you have successfully implemented a client advocacy programme, or if you would like to discuss or share ideas around this, I’d love to hear from you!