Member retention rates are falling, or perhaps they just are not rising. Or your new member renewal rate is far below the average member renewal rate. Or members join but they do not move up in the engagement hierarchy. These metrics probably indicate there is a leak in your membership pot.
Most associations have seen indicators like these at one time or another, and when we see these warning signs, we race to fix the problem. But do we know what the exact problem is? Before deciding on a solution know that weaknesses can be found in three different areas.
Typically when associations see flat or declining metrics they assume they have a value problem and a value problem you may have. Some associations are still offering solutions to the issues that members had ten, twenty, or forty years ago but, are not providing solutions to the critical challenges members are facing today. If you suspect that your association has a value gap start asking members what their most challenging professional problems are. Ask them what their organization is struggling with most. And ask them to forecast the most significant challenges that will face the industry or profession in the next three years. The answers to these questions will give you the landscape of all the current problems your association can be solving to boost the value for members.
Once you are sure, the association is offering a great value to your target member groups the next step is to determine if you have a marketing problem. Sometimes there is a gap in understanding between our members and the association. Our emails explain the benefit but members either ignore our emails, or they misunderstand our explanation. Once again talk to members. After they have told you what their problem is then we can ask if they have tried the corresponding benefit. When they say, “I’ve never heard of that before, but tell me more, that sounds interesting,” you probably have a marketing problem.
When the value is excellent, and the marketing communicates the value to members, but metrics still are not rocketing off the page there still could be a final problem to debug. You may have a user experience problem. User experience problems can be things like lengthy or hard to complete forms on your website. User experience problems could be staff not picking up the phone or returning calls. User experience problems could be a cold welcome at a chapter event. Members know when a poor user experience prevents them from engaging and will tell you if you ask them.
When your metrics indicate there is a problem talk to members to find out what the source of the problem is.