With inflation soaring, UK households are braced for the biggest fall in living standards since records began. The OECD has this week marked Britain down as the only G7 country expected to suffer a shrinking economy next year, and it seems unemployment is growing again.
We are all having to make difficult decisions about how and where we spend. Items which would previously have been seen as essential are starting to be questioned. Your members will be scrutinising everything leaving their bank account and questioning whether this expenditure represents value for money. This goes not only for individual consumers, but trade members, too.
Faced with this gloomy outlook, what can membership organisations do to retain members and (whisper it), grow?
Before even thinking about strategies to retain your membership and grow, it’s important to understand how existing members feel about your current offer. Do you know which aspects are most valued by your users? Which features and member benefits are used the most?
This is where it’s crucial to have current data. With the changing economic climate, what members thought six months ago may be completely out-of-date. Look at the statistics provided by your membership software platform and website analytics. Monitor sentiment on social media.
Ask for feedback from your membership services team. Maybe even carry out some telephone interviews with members. And if you haven’t carried out an all-member survey recently – well, you know what to do.
Refine and develop your membership offering
Once you have the right data, you can start to analyse your membership offering. Which of the features and services you offer today do members value the most? Is this aligned with your current communications, both to existing and prospective members?
If members say they value your e-learning and professional qualifications more than your 24/7 legal advice, is this reflected in your messaging? If some membership features are significantly under-valued or under-used compared to others, could your membership offering or pricing tiers be revised?
Given the cost-of-living crisis, any opportunities you can create to help your members save money (through perks and money-off goods and services), or increase their earnings (think career development, jobs and business connections) should be on the table, too.
Focus on member retention
Retaining existing members should always be your number one priority. Everyone knows it costs less to retain an existing customer than it does to acquire a new one. But how do you do this when the economic climate is so dire? By demonstrating a return on investment for members.
Ultimately, the value you provide to members must be over and above the price they pay for membership. This could be a tangible saving (such as the monetary value of features and services members receive as part of their membership), or an intangible one (such as the average value of contracts won by members of your association).
Having a clear value proposition and communications platform is only one part of the picture, though. To avoid unnecessary churn, make it easy to be a member! Making members jump through hoops to renew their membership or change their plan not only leads to frustration and lost revenue – it can seriously damage your brand. Today’s savvy customers expect a slick online experience, so your digital interfaces need to be earning their keep.
Offer a range of payment methods and ensure your UI is the best it can possibly be. If you’re not confident your journeys are performing as well as they could be, consider investing in some user experience research and testing.
Get creative with member acquisition and growth
So now you’ve thought about member retention – what about new member acquisition? With budgets likely to be under pressure over the coming months, it’s unlikely you’ll be investing heavily in new paid channels. But creativity, as they say, often arises out of necessity.
Perhaps you’re considering expanding your membership to cover other geographical or customer segments? If so, could you partner with other organisations with a relevant customer base to help you get established?
Tools like digital badges are a low-cost way to turn members into ambassadors and build your brand, too. Making it easy for members to share accomplishments and achievements doesn’t just make members feel valued, it’s a great way to send traffic back to your website.
Don’t forget your referral program either; members will appreciate opportunities to reduce the cost of their own membership by recommending your organisation to friends and colleagues. Just make sure the incentive is compelling and the referral mechanics are right.
Diversify your income streams
How else could you increase revenue, beyond expanding your membership base? Analyse your current offer. Look at what members are telling you. If they value training and professional development, could you partner with training providers to offer accredited qualifications? Workshops, or other chargeable events?
Could you charge for printed certificates, course manuals, online learning or CPD? Perhaps you could sell physical products such as merchandise or books? Again, bring it back to what your members value now, and what they might want in the future. In difficult economic times, offering products and services that will help your members develop and progress their careers will always make good business sense.
There are undoubtedly challenging times ahead. But this is not a time to be timid, it's time to connect with your members and respond to their evolving needs.
To find out more about how Tahdah has helped organisations like the Royal Life Saving Society transform their organisation to better serve learners and members, watch this video. And if you'd like to have a chat with us - get in touch.
Tahdah is the all-in-one management platform that helps you save time, save money and reduce risk. Our easy to use software offers everything you need to manage your membership including digital certification, training, e-learning and CPD management.