<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=520757221678604&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Aimee Pagano

By: Aimee Pagano on May 19th, 2022

Print/Save as PDF

It's not me, it's you: key indicators that your members are leaving you

member engagement | Member Communications | Communication Preferences | Subscription-based marketing | membership renewals | membership decline

mailto:demo@example.com?Subject=HighRoad Solutions - interesting article

One of the obvious and most critical objectives of any association is to retain membership. Retention is a key performance indicator that impacts brand reputation, member satisfaction, and conclusively—financial statements.

The issue, however, is that generational and cultural landscapes are constantly evolving—yielding new consumer-buying behaviors, content-consumption preferences, and desired communication channels. 

As market demand is rewired, businesses are all seeing a natural need for remodeling, restructuring, and/or rebranding so that they're lock in step with audience expectations and needs.

Associations, and certainly memberships, are no different. Naturally, member-based organizations have to be extraordinarily proactive when it comes to identifying and dissuading member exits.

So what exactly is changing?
In order to predict when something is going to happen, you need to first determine why it may be happening so that you can draw correlations and make data-based, cause and effect inferences. 
A good portion of this is based on demonstrated behavior patterns by large swaths of audiences—in other words, generalization. One of the biggest generalizations come down to a very similar word—generations. 
The generational divide has a strong hold on what's happening with the majority of associations and non-profits. Simply put—legacy organizational models just aren't organically attracting—and keeping—audiences as they have in the past.
For instance, Baby Boomers tend to prefer more in-person events, conference calls, and more traditional methods of communication. They're the hand-shaking crew. 
Gen Y and Z, however, tend to gravitate toward social and search platforms. They consider these platforms life lines, leveraging them for advocacy, networking, research, just to name a few. It's their primary form of inbound and outbound communication compared to their more seasoned counterparts. 
So let's dig into what most social media platforms and search engines are in the eyes of younger generations compared to the value prop of most associations:
The Value Prop that Most Associations Offer on Some Level What Social Media and Search Engines offer to Next Gen
Networking Virtual Networking
Events Virtual Groups and Meet Ups
Credentialing  For-profit Online Learning
Education For-profit Online Education 
Research/Publications Research (driven by SEO)
Foundations Crowd Funding
Advocacy Advocacy (driven by groups and algorithms)

Before feathers get ruffled, yes, the value prop offered by associations and non-profits far outweighs the static that comes across most social media channels and search engines. Not to mention, it's practitioner-driven, vetted and, often, certified content. 

I know this. HighRoad knows this. Your loyal members know this. But do younger generations know this? Even more so, do they care? 

That's what most associations and non-profits should be thinking about right now. Because knowing this is the first move toward a solution. 

That's, of course, just one example but the sentiment is there—if you're thinking about your audiences through an empathetic lens, you'll naturally be able to uncover the "tells" that your members are en route to lapse. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the key indicators that your members are unhappy with their current experiences:

Declining transactional engagement 
Starting at the top, if they are spending less and/or making less frequent purchases on events, products, or member services, that is a sign of disengagement.
This should be the most alarming flag because they're clearly not taking advantage of your value prop. The all inclusive membership "product" isn't meeting expectations because the components within that product—free education, discounted education, feelings of inclusivity, cause-based programs, etc.—are either getting diluted by outside competition or are losing relevance.
Declining cash cow program sales—such as in-person events (factoring COVID out)—is the first huge indication that your members are looking at greener pastures.  This is often an indicator that the comradeship and intangible appeal offered by your membership as a "community" is losing its luster. 
Declining loyalty sales
Program sales and overall member loyalty is expressed through Member Lifetime Value (MLV).
If you're seeing a steady decrease in MLV—calculated by average order frequencies multiplied by average order values multiplied by average years of membership—there's a high likeliness that your membership numbers are going to decline even if you haven't realized those renewal hits yet.

Similarly, if your Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is increasing beyond your MLV, there's a strong indication that your programming is still valuable to your constituents but the umbrella that is "membership" is becoming less and less relevant. 

In other words, your audiences may still want to purchase from you but not make a full commitment to your mission and goals in the long term. 

Declining behavioral engagement 
Less on the financial side, although all intertwined, behavioral disengagement is an early sign members could be walking out the door.

Most behavioral disengagement can be tracked across your digital interactions. Declining clicks, conversion rates, page views, social hits, form fills, chats, etc. are quantitative proof of a disconnect between content topics, content format, and/or delivery preferences. 

This often can be managed by simply tweaking your marketing efforts so that they're content-rich and in line with your personas. The caveat is that your program content needs to map to what you're selling. 

Most modernized digital marketing platforms will offer the ability to either lead or engagement score your members and prospects based on their digital interactions with your organization.

This functionality is an evergreen way for you to not only identify your most and least engaged but gives you aggregate insights into scores overtime (year-to-year comparisons). This helps you track the cyclical ebbs and flows and provides solid predictive benchmarks.

For instance, if for the last 5 years, average member lead scores spiked during your certification window, but in year 2022, those numbers stayed flat, it could be an indicator that a competitor is encroaching in your CE space.

Upswings in unsubscribes and opt-outs
Email Preference Centers (EPC) are there to keep you compliant, right? Of course they are. But they can offer so much more when leveraged in the right way.
Your Email Preference Center actually acts as a data incubator. There's alot you can learn about your org just by analyzing subscribes vs unsubscribes.
If you start seeing an increase in global unsubscribes and opt-outs within your Email Preference Center (EPC), a few things could be happening:
  • You're hitting them up too much via email.
  • Your emails are too promo-heavy and not education and content-forward.
  • They're just not interested in your programming. 

Similarly, if you're seeing that your members are selecting mostly digital subscription preferences and opting out of more traditional content formats like events, that right there could indicate that your pillar programming just isn't cutting it with your constituents anymore.

Lack of diversity in content consumption isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just means that you need to take a hard look at what may need to change with your membership model

Declining membership recruitment
A decline in membership acquisition could also indicate that your dues numbers are going to follow suit. If your programming is no longer attracting new members, there's a high likeliness that your existing members are running parallel with this trend. 

You can track this by your Lead-to-Conversion Rate (LCR), expressed by the number of leads (prospects) you surface by the number of users who actually convert to membership.

From a growth perspective, a decline in pipeline “win” percentages is a strong alarm for org stagnation.

Member churn isn't the end of the world
One of the biggest issues with member churn isn't the churn itself. It's acknowledging that your organization's value prop may not be what is used to be and adapting accordingly from an org-wide perspective. 
Yes, of course you need a reliable way to predict when your members are disconnecting with your association. But more importantly, you need to configure your findings in a way to get your entire organization on board with altering future outcomes through change.
Identifying the indicators is the easy part. Catalyzing on your learnings is the biggest challenge.

Member engagement declining? We can help. 
Book a time with us today to learn about the growth and engagement tools and approaches that can help you first track disengagement, then present it in a way that's meaningful for org-wide change.   

About Aimee Pagano

Aimee joins HighRoad Solution with 15+ years of integrated marketing and communications experience, primarily in client-facing roles within the association and SaaS space. Her specialties include persona development, content strategy/management, lead gen and awareness campaign development, and website development/optimization.