How to Get The Most Out of Your Member Retention Data
In a good year, member retention is an important performance indicator that associations use to track the health of their organization. During the pandemic, many associations experienced decreases in their membership numbers as individuals and companies alike put a hold on expenses. Getting inside the member retention metric to understand its key drivers has never been more important as associations seek to turn the tide and improve retention.
Traditionally, most organizations calculate and report on a singular retention rate across their entire membership. This is a good high-level measurement but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to providing you with insights into your organization. When you start to look at retention through a variety of lenses, you can begin to uncover a deeper understanding of your membership.
There are several important factors to consider when looking at member retention: tenure, type of membership, demographics, how the member was acquired, how the member is engaging with your association and more. Analyzing this data can be challenging as it typically resides in multiple systems (e.g. your AMS, event registration system, community platform, even spreadsheets). While wrangling all this data into one place for analysis can be difficult, the benefit of doing so will be worth the investment in time.
Let’s look at some examples of the types of insights you can uncover when peeling back the member retention number just a bit more.
Tenure of Members
Consider renewal rates by tenure with your association. It’s not uncommon for first-year members to have a lower retention rate compared to other segments. At the same time, your analysis might show that members who attend your annual conference have a higher renewal rate than other segments.
Armed with that information, you could offer first-year members a discount to attend your annual conference, and then see if that segment’s retention rate improves. You may find the slight hit to registration revenue is well offset by the longer-term increase in dues and product sales they bring by staying with your association for years to come.
Membership Acquisition Channel
Look at your member retention rate by original channel of acquisition. It’s not just about acquiring new members, it’s also about keeping them.
Initially, a campaign may look successful based solely on acquisition numbers. However, that’s not the entire picture as renewals need to be factored in. By tracking the retention rate of members who joined via different channels, even down to a campaign level, you’ll be able to refine your marketing budget to spend your dollars on activities that bring you members who renew at a higher rate.
Investigate if any of your members’ engagement activities lead to different renewal rates. After looking at the analytics, you might discover that members who engage with your community renew at a higher rate (a common correlation). Knowing this, you could revamp your onboarding communications to highlight the community as a top member benefit and provide an incentive for engaging in the community. Getting new members engaged in your community will yield long-term benefits by way of improved retention. This data can also help you justify additional investment in your community.
Membership Demographic/Career Info
Many associations have long-held beliefs and assumptions about how certain demographic segments of their membership behave. Perhaps you anecdotally think your executive-level members are renewing at a higher rate, but they are not. Viewing retention rates by position can help you identify which segments need extra attention to improve their chance for renewal. In the executive example, you might develop new content focused on executive-level needs or create a focus group of executives to get a sense of what is most important to them to enhance their likelihood of renewing.
Considering retention rates by membership type yields important insights, too. It’s not uncommon for student members to have lower renewal rates than other segments. Using data to validate this assumption enables you to consider steps, programs and offers you can promote to this segment to increase their likelihood of renewing. Data can also help your membership and sales team narrow which target market segments make the best long-term members. For example, if your data tells you that mid-level career members have the highest retention rates, your sales team could focus their outreach efforts on those types of prospective members first.
Ultimately, member retention is more than just a singular number. Thinking about retention at a granular level will help you make more data-informed, strategic decisions that benefit your association.
Read more informative content for association leaders on the CSAE Blog.