Have you ever considered that the word “retention” is really a sales-focused word? When we work on retention, we want or need to get that renewal. We are focused on money and not relationships. If you shift your strategy to engagement, retention should take care of itself. Remember, it’s people who run a business. We need to connect with people and then the business will follow.
In shifting our thinking to engagement with retention as an outcome, try using these five strategies:
- Understand that participation does not mean engagement for your members. You see and regularly connect with the ones who participate. You must dig into collected data on your members in order to determine who is at risk. You can use lack of participation as an indicator of the ones who might need a more specific touch. Clearly if they don’t participate, then engagement means something else to them. You need to find out what they value in order to determine how they will connect with their membership.
- When you have established those members that need a more specific, personal touch, the next step is to make sure the outreach is coming from the right person. Is this someone who needs a visit from the CEO, the chairman of the board, the membership director, the tourism director, the events coordinator, or a specific board member? Make sure to match the member to the person they would most value connecting with in a visit.
- Set an appointment for a visit because you just want to “stop by” and say hello. Do not walk in the door with organization “show and tell”. Go to them with the sole purpose of listening. You can’t actively listen if you’re busy talking about all the great “stuff” you have going on in the organization.
- Start your conversation with, “tell me about your business!” Make it about them. Experts say the one word we have the strongest response to is our own name. Well, guess what, they want to talk about them and not you, so let them talk!
- In actively listening to what the member says about their business, their issues, and what keeps them up at night, you will learn just what solution your organization can provide. Walk away from that meeting with an idea of something that you can send back to that member that will help them be engaged in a meaningful way. Go back to your office, put together those thoughts and be intentional about making the next connection with them to share your ideas; ideas that were based on what they said about their needs.
If we are working on solutions that have value for our members; if we are working to connect them with those solutions; if we are not approaching them with a one-size-fits-all package; if we are actively seeking to understand what “being engaged” means to them; then retention will happen naturally. Create a space for building relationships and you will end up with raving fans, who will become not only ongoing members, but a referral for new members along the way!