Depending on the industry you’re in, it can cost up to seven times more to acquire a new organization or association member than to retain one. So, how do you and your organization keep the love alive? How do you keep them coming back, again and again?
Think of each member as a relationship, which it is. How do you nurture and cultivate the other important relationships in your life? Keep in mind that what works for those relationships will also work with your members.
Make it Personal
Personal touches always make a big impact.
Handwritten notes really stand out and give people a sense that you’ve gone to some trouble to acknowledge their value. This has even more impact the more our lives are technology-driven.
Just like a personal note, receiving a paper invitation in the mail is rare and exceptional these days, and makes an impression. Hire a calligrapher and bless your members with a handwritten shot of gratitude and you, too, will be blessed in unimagined ways.
Personal telephone calls made simply to express appreciation are thoughtful. This is also an opportunity to check in and ask whether you can do anything for them that’s not already being done. A procurement specialist explained one of the ways vendors earned her loyalty,
“As a purchaser for a large business for many years, I appreciated not having to make that call to my regular vendors and partners each time. The great ones always seemed to call me just at the right moment. I felt like they valued me and my business, and I got to cross off an item on my never-ending to-do list. It was a feel good moment that had me turn away others trying to win my business. Their genuine attitude and intention of being of service left me feeling well taken care of by them, and I rewarded them with more business and referrals.”
Offer customization. Find innovative ways to customize either your products and service offerings, or the customer’s experience of your products and services.
Communicate with a vengeance
There’s nothing like proactive communication to improve a relationship. The same way you feel loved and special when your friends and family keep you updated on the events in their lives, your customers will appreciate being informed about what’s new in your business, especially when it might affect them. Everything from new services, events, to changes in business hours and notices like new personnel assigned to handle specific organization tasks.
Figure out what channels of communication are most effective. Social media offers several platforms for communicating with your member base. Decide what platforms (social media and otherwise) are best suited for your business and your members. Today’s members and partners expect options. Make sure you’re reaching each of your members how, when, and where they wish to be reached. This can take some time and effort to master, but you will find it makes communicating easier.
Solicit your members’ opinions and suggestions as an ongoing practice. Your members know better than anyone in your organization just how well you’re serving them. Give them a voice, and then let them know you listened and are receptive. It’s not necessary to implement every suggestion, but keeping communication channels open will benefit you in the long run.
Respond to your members quickly. Always. As personally as possible.
Sharing is Caring
Giving back is always a good practice and helps you and your members share a sense of goodwill and purpose. Give people an extra reason for supporting your organization while giving meaning to the money they spend with you.
Let them know a portion of their money is going to a worthy cause. Partner with an appropriate beneficiary, whether it’s a local animal rescue, food bank, or homeless shelter. If your orgnaization is local, think local. If you are regional, consider a cause that impacts the same region where you do business. If your members are across the United States, think that sort of reach. And if your emmbers are across the globe, consider a strategy that has global impact.
Set up volunteering opportunities in your community. Invite your members to join your team for cleanup days or charity runs, etc. Sponsor a golf tournament or organize your own to benefit a local cause.
Share your expertise to help disadvantaged segments of your community.
Become a mentor of at-risk youth or start your own associated organization to mentor young entrepreneurs or young leaders.
Deliver an inspirational speech to local students.
Invite students to learn about your business and how you became successful.
Collect clothes for or feed those in need.
What You Appreciate, Appreciates
Thank them. Sincerely, thoughtfully, and personally. By acknowledging their value to you and your organization, you let them know they make a difference. We’ve already covered the high impact of personal notes and phone calls. Here are a few other ways to thank your members.
Custom holiday gifts (please, not a wall calendar. You can be more creative than this). Present it to them in person, if possible.
Acknowledge special dates like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Consider what is appropriate for your business. This could be in the form of a special offer, acknowledgement on social media, gifts of limited edition merchandise, or even a simple handwritten card sent in the mail. Whatever it is, make it about them, and they’ll feel the love.
Loyalty reward programs are well received. Just be sure to make it personal if you want it to have a greater impact. Reward repeat business with exclusive perks, discounts, and VIP status.
Reciprocate. If your member has a business, support them in their business by becoming their customer or advocate.
Free samples or extras thrown in with a large purchase are always a fun touch, and can expose your customers to new products they may buy in the future.
Reward referrals with recognition, appreciation and appropriate cash or merchandise rewards.
Show Them You Care
Make sure the atmosphere you create communicates a value of caring. Your business environment, whether brick and mortar or online, should send a message to your customers that they are your honored guests.
Your physical place of business should be kept sparkling clean. Make sure you budget to refresh everything from time to time. It’s not something people notice consciously (unless you haven’t cleaned since 1999), but it registers with people at the subconscious level. Dinginess repels rather than sells.
Offices, event venues and the like should be appealing.
Online photographs must be clear and vibrant.
Make everything sparkle: lighting, music, décor, merchandise, even speakers…all should be inviting your member to want to linger.
Treat you employees and contractors well. Be consistent. Treat everyone who touches your organization well, and it will come back to you tenfold. How you treat your employees speaks volumes about your character, and your members are listening.
Bonus: When your employees feel loved, that love can’t help but spill over to your members. Take care of your employees and volunteers and they will help you take care of your members.
Stand by your work, products, and services. Guarantees build trust.
Teach what you know about your product or service. This might take the form of lists of tips and tricks, videos sharing innovative ways to use your services or products, or insider tips about some aspect of your organization. This type of engagement speaks to your expertise and it demonstrates your passion and generosity in business.
Show attention to detail. A generic box or bag is an anti-climactic way to end your member’s experience. It’s like throwing a wet blanket on a fire that might have kept you warm for a very long time. Be thoughtful with your packaging.
Wondering where to start? Choose just one of the ideas, above, today and adapt it to your organization and your members.
If you really want to nail the member experience piece of your business (and I highly recommend that you do) map out all the touchpoints your members have with your organization's brand. Once you have the member journey mapped out, think about ways you could make each of those moments easier and/or more memorable for your member and partners.
We don’t remember what people say, or do, as much as we remember how we felt. See your members. Care about them. Value them. Appreciate them. They will have no reason to go elsewhere.
Carey R. Allen is Membership Expansion Designer would love to help you make your members feel special. www.careyrallen.com