4 Effective Strategies for Boosting Member Loyalty in Associations

Callie Hinman
July 17, 2019

How did brands like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix manage to build such a loyal following? By becoming so indispensable that their customers can’t picture what life was like before they started using the company’s product or service.

If you want to increase the loyalty of your members, you need to have the same objective. You must make membership in your association an integral part of your members’ lives to the point they can’t even fathom the possibility of not renewing.

Having worked closely with associations for over a decade, we’ve had the opportunity to hear firsthand which approaches to fostering loyalty are a slam dunk and which can inadvertently push members away. In this article we’ll share four of the most effective strategies our association partners have used to increase member loyalty in their organizations.

Leverage the Power of Good Content

On-demand access to current industry news, trends, and updates is the second biggest driver of renewals for over half of the respondents in Community Brands’ most recent Member Loyalty Study. If you want to improve retention, make your website the go-to place for the latest expert advice and insight. You'll also need to inform members when you have new resources available by:

  • Promoting your content in your newsletter and other emails
  • Featuring your content prominently on your association’s homepage
  • Sharing links to your content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Further, make it easy for members to share the content with their networks since this can help increase awareness of your association.

In addition to distributing resources you’ve created, post content from popular industry publications and other thought leaders on your social feeds, too. There’s an overwhelming sea of articles, eBooks, and infographics out there, and a decent percentage are less than stellar. So if your members can count on you to be a curator of valuable, relevant content from trusted sources, it will go a long way towards earning their loyalty.

Maintain an Engaged Online Community

Hosting in-person events and regular member meetups is a critical part of fostering member loyalty. But sometimes engaged members are too busy to consistently attend. And geography can be an issue as well, especially in larger states. While these members appreciate the association and its other perks, their external obligations prevent them from enjoying one of the most attractive benefits of membership in a professional association: a sense of belonging.

An effective strategy for ensuring every individual has the opportunity to build relationships with other members is to build an active online community. Online message boards provide a forum to ask questions, offer feedback, voice concerns, and recount personal experiences with other members all over the country—or the world. A searchable directory of member-managed profiles helps people find others who work in similar roles or share common interests and offers an easy way for members to connect with one another. You can also take advantage of social media and create a LinkedIn or Facebook group for your association.

Offer Extraordinary Benefits

Among the other top benefits participants in Community Brands’ survey say encourage them to renew are continuing education courses (both online and in-person) and job skills training. In other words, these are two member benefits you must not only provide but also prioritize.

You must update and refresh your available professional development activities regularly. You’ll also want to ensure the workshops and trainings you offer are tailored to your members and are ones they will want to attend.

Most importantly, when you promote these benefits, highlight the fact your association is providing these continuing education and training opportunities exclusively to your members, that they were created specifically with your members in mind, and that no other association can provide the same experience.

Opportunities to network and socialize are also highly valued by association members and their quality is definitely taken into account when a member is considering whether or not to renew. This means that if it’s within your association’s budget, you also need to focus on hosting frequent events at cool venues with fun activities and presentations from sought-after speakers.

Give Members a Voice (and Listen to What They Have to Say)

It’s essential to consistently broadcast important news and information to members. But allowing members to respond to your communications and express their opinions ad hoc is just as necessary—especially if you want to boost member loyalty.

Beyond the previously-mentioned online forums, Facebook and Twitter are particularly helpful for encouraging more interactive, two-way conversations between members and the association’s administration. You can also email surveys to your members, put a questionnaire on your website, and/or post polls on your social accounts.

Invite members to share their opinions about the association and ask them to be completely forthright and honest. Even if some of the feedback is a little harsh, it’s much better to find out what you can do differently and make those changes before your renewal rates plummet.

One of the most important parts of the process is to make sure members know you’re listening by telling them exactly how you plan to use their comments to improve the association.

As you ramp up your efforts in each of these areas, think about how you can make the actual process of renewing as convenient as possible. Instead of requiring members to fill out a physical form and/or mail in a check, allow them to complete the entire renewal process online. You should also consider offering a recurring payment option for dues.

In a recurring payment model, members provide their payment information and are automatically charged on a monthly or annual basis. They don’t have to worry about remembering to pay, and you don’t have to worry about reminding them. Online renewal and recurring payments are not only more convenient for everyone, they can also have a big impact on retention.