by A.J. Windle, Director of Operations
Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with many great non-profit associations. Their lifeblood is membership and every great association’s goal is to maximize their membership renewals. In a perfect world 100% of an association’s current members would renew on an annual basis, allowing the association to focus on new growth and providing value-added services to the membership. Well, this isn’t a perfect world and there are always a percentage of members that decide not to renew or forget to renew each year. For this reason, associations must allocate a portion of their marketing dollars on membership retention. Plus, the cost of renewing an existing member is far lower than the cost of acquiring a new member. It just makes good business sense. Quality Contact Solutions has extensive experience in assisting non-profit organizations and associations with achieving their membership renewal goals via outbound telemarketing. We have helped many associations maximizetheir renewal percentages and keep their costs low through outbound marketing so they can focus on new growth for the association. As Director of Operations, I am deeply involved with ensuring each client association achieves its goals on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Through these experiences I have identified 5 best practices to consider when setting up a new telemarketing services campaigns for membership renewals:
1 – Renew before they Lapse
This is one of the keys. So many associations focus their attention on their lapsed members; however they do not have a strategic plan or the man power to focus their attention on renewing their members before the membership expires. It’s only when they see the large groups of members drop off that you get that “Oh no” moment that creates a reactive situation that requires a team to chase those members. The problem with this is that now you have to pull budget from somewhere else you weren’t expecting and if your members are already lapsed, getting them to come back creates an extra level of difficulty.
My advice is to be proactive. When looking at your plans each year, create a strategy that focuses on renewing your membership base prior to expiration. Have some time tables set in place for contact. My personal preference is to start reaching out to these contacts through outbound marketing and other channels 6 months prior to expiration. Most often, renewals come down to timing. So if they aren’t ready the first time you call them you have 5 more months to try and wrap it up before the member lapses. This keeps a constant reminder in the member’s mind and builds the urgency of renewal over the course of time. Outbound telemarketing is a great way to reach your member base early and get those renewals before its too late.
2 – Use Multiple Contact Channels
If you’ve read my articles concerning lead generation, or other sales campaign strategies you know that this is a “must have”. Many associations I have worked with do try and renew members prior to expiration however they only work through one marketing channel and that is usually mail or email. While email can be a less expensive option, I have found that it is much harder for people to say no over the phone then it is to hit “delete” on their keyboard or toss an envelope in the trash.
That’s where the multiple channel approach of adding outbound marketing comes into play. Members have preferences, some like online, some like mail, and some like a call. Personally I may receive an email or mailer on one of my subscriptions which is nice to know it’s expiring but at the end of the day I would be much more apt to renew if someone called me. It’s just easier! As you look at your renewal strategy I would encourage you to keep this in mind and make sure outbound marketing is a part of your plan.
3 – Have a Wireless Strategy
Because the Federal Communication Commissions (FCC) Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) only allows wireless numbers to be dialed on an Automated Telephone Dialing System with prior express written consent, many associations have eliminated dialing wireless phone numbers all together. (Side note: The TCPA applies to both business and consumer calls, unlike many telemarketing regulations that only apply to calls placed to consumers.) This has created a huge gap in the number of members that will not renew simply because they are not being contacted. Here at Quality Contact Solutions we know and understand the rules behind the new TCPA. We provide telemarketing services that focus on calling wireless phone numbers using a non-ATDS that is backed by a 288 page Rock Solid opinion letter. This technology allows Quality Contact Solutions to close that gap for our clients and keep their membership loss percentage at an all time low.
4 – Discount Strategies
Discounts can be a very effective tool for outbound marketing sales staff when looking to maximize membership renewal rates. They also make the member feel warm and fuzzy about the renewal of their membership. The key here is making sure you aren’t being too aggressive and giving away more than you need to while at the same time not doing enough and losing the member over a few bucks. Now I know the argument on the other side of the coin is that every dollar you give away increases your cost and lowers your membership marketing return on investment. This is potentially true. For that reason, the answer isn’t black and white. At a minimum, each association should do an analysis of its membership renewal rates and test different offers to identify the sweet spot for the highest membership renewal rate at the ideal ROI.
Take a look at the length of renewals of your members and what type of discounts they have received in the past. Have they renewed every year for the last 5 years or have they been a member who comes and goes from year to year? Is this their first year renewal? Have they received a discount in the past and what type of discount have they received? All of these questions can help you come to the right decision when setting a discounting strategy for each segment of your membership file.
My last piece of advice with discounting is to be flexible. Once you’ve set a discount stick with it; however, don’t be afraid to adjust it or test new strategies. You should also allow for some flex with your telemarketing membership renewal frontline staff. Give them options to discount less or increase the discount a little more to close the deal with someone who is sitting on the fence. Regardless of your decision today, know that there will probably be a need to adjust your guidelines at some point in the future.
5 – Multi-year Deals
Lastly, one of the best ways to maximize your renewals both from a short term and long term perspective is to offer multi-year deals. Think about it. You are paying for the renewal call anyway. If they renew 1 year, you pay for another call next year. However if you offer a 2 year or even 3 year renewal and they agree, then you have just eliminated the telemarketing services cost of that call for the next two years. Now you can you do one of two things with that money: Re-allocate those funds the next two years to prospecting for new member growth through your outbound marketing channel or use the savings to improve member services for your association. This is the magnificent benefit of multi-year deal renewals. And, it’s such a relief to know that you have X% of your membership already renewed for an additional 1 to 2 years.
Quality Contact Solutions is a telemarketing services firm specializing in inbound and outbound marketing solutions. Over the years we have used our experience and industry expertise to assist many associations with increasing their member renewals while at the same time reducing cost. If you are looking at taking your membership renewals to a new level with unparalleled results and professionalism, give us a call at 1-866-963-2889 and press 1 for sales. Or email me at [email protected] We would love to help!!
A.J. Windle is Director of Operations for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing organization. With responsibility for overseeing the daily operations of client programs, A.J. is relentless in his pursuit for ensuring every client program is reaching the desired goals – every day. With over 14 years of experience in Telemarketing, A.J. has built his career on creating win-win relationships between his team, his clients and his telemarketing vendor owner-operators that drives unparalleled success. A.J can be reached at [email protected] or 516-656-5106.