It’s hard to believe how quickly this picture has started to feel like a cliché of our times: 

… a mid-career professional sitting in her makeshift home “office” at the dining room table, trying to keep projects moving and priorities a priority when they are mentally and emotionally strained, struggling to stay focused and motivated, and — oh yeah — among the frazzled ranks of the world’s newest homeschool/tutor/tech support for her two elementary-aged children. 

Of course, it’s not just your members who are juggling so much as they work from home — this is likely what you and your staff are facing, as well. Growing your association’s membership and creating vital, effective retention strategies were already a challenge, and 2020 has only made things harder. A recent study by Marketing General Incorporated found that 39% of associations surveyed believe their membership will decrease by this time next year. That’s a pretty staggering number.

Cobalt has a deep track record of partnerships with associations and certification organizations. We have an acute sense of what you’re facing as an organization, and we have some good news for you. Your CRM and association management software can do a lot to help you build a confident, effective strategy for staying connected with your members. Here’s an outline for how to adjust your retention strategy during this pandemic crisis.

1. Get to Know Your Members … All Over Again

Revisiting your member profiles is a good place to start. If you’re like most organizations, this isn’t something you look at very often or in too much detail. After all, you know your members, right? Of course you do — but now is a good time to take a closer look — and let your AMS help you do that efficiently and confidently.

Your central concern is identifying at-risk members. What data should you be looking at? This will be different from one association to another, but consider corners of your data you might not have previously connected with retention. Every interaction with your members could hold a clue about their retention potential so try to look at things with fresh eyes. 

For example, are some of your members working in an industry — either directly or adjacently — that has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic? Entertainment? Travel? Restaurants? Even if they’ve managed to somehow stay afloat, they’re likely cutting expenses and there’s a good chance they’re at-risk.

2. Build Two Lists of At-Risk Members

Once you’ve identified likely at-risk members, the next important step is to sort them into two lists: those your team will work to follow-up with personally, and those you’ll reach out to through automated message sequences and channels. Once again, your CRM/AMS should be able to make your work here much, much easier.

For many associations, where someone is in the Membership Lifecycle and their Engagement Score are two solid data points that could work together to help you find the folks you might lose this year.

Has someone traditionally been active on committees or highly engaged but is close to having their membership lapse? They are a likely at-risk candidate and this is probably the kind of person that you’ll want to include on your list for a personal phone call, email, or another outreach effort from your team. 

3. Start Your Outreach Efforts … and Keep Taking Notes

At this point, it’s time to start putting those retention outreach efforts in motion.

Personal Outreach

How many of your members wind up on the personal follow-up list will be directly related to your team’s capacity to reach out to them. Your staff’s efforts here will be critical but so is what you’ll learn as you go. This is a great place to make sure you’ve got your CRM set up to capture as much as possible about those phone conversations, email exchanges, and other contact points. 

Automated Outreach

You can achieve remarkable retention success with outreach that is at least partially automated. However, your success here will probably depend somewhat on the sophistication of your association management software and how your team implements it into your communication flow with members. Make sure your drip campaigns, lead nurturing sequences, and other materials are freshly updated and speak directly to the pandemic realities people are facing. Then get them in front of those at-risk members — and keep a close eye on performance metrics.

The Ideal Retention Cycle

We’ve mentioned ‘keeping notes’ in the last step because it’s actually two steps in one. The three-part process we’ve been describing is the classic model for success:

  1. Collect Member Data
  2. Analyze Member Data
  3. Take Targeted/Informed Action

As you start rolling out your revised retention efforts, it would be great if you are also collecting new member interaction data you can use to start the cycle all over again for refinement. This is the ideal scenario, but the reality is that nearly every organization struggles to implement each step effectively. Some teams go light on step one and don’t have enough or the right kind of data to move forward confidently. Other teams collect mountains of data but aren’t exactly sure how to sort and analyze it, and their initiatives aren’t as well-informed as they could be. 

In this season, your team’s success or struggles with this process are going to make even more of an impact on retention, and the Cobalt team wants to help you with that. We recently produced a 30-minute webinar just for associations that will give you a sense of what’s possible for your team and your members when your AMS solutions are optimized for retention. The webinar covers exactly the scenario we described earlier — using your AMS and data points like Engagement Scores and Membership Lifecycle to identify at-risk members — so you can take action. Check it out, and let us know if you have any questions.

Take a Closer Look at What an AMS Can Do for Your Retention

Cobalt has been working in the association space since 1996, and we’ve seen firsthand how much organizations need AMS solutions that can help them with each step of this process — and what that success can look like. If you already know your team needs a new AMS, take a copy of our Association Management Software Buying Guide with you today. Our team packed it out with our best practices for that process. 

Whether you’re actively shopping for a new CRM or AMS, or just thinking ahead to your next upgrade, let our team give you a product showcase of Cobalt’s refined AMS solutions. A showcase will quickly cover how to:

  • improve efficiency and make your job easier by leveraging a modern AMS built on Dynamics 365
  • make your members’ experience better using our flexible member portal
  • gain easier access to data to make better decisions using robust reporting capabilities including Power BI

Connect with an AMS Expert

We understand associations and the needs you have throughout the process of researching, selecting, and implementing new membership management software. Wherever you are in your AMS search today, we can help you find clarity about your options and take the next steps with confidence.

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