5 Stages of the Membership Lifecycle

Membership growth relies on both new acquisitions and renewals–not one or the other. An organization can’t grow solely off of member renewals. And if your membership modely relies soley on recruiting new members but fails to retain existing members, there’s likely something broken in the member lifecycle journey.

The “lifecycle journey” we’re referring to is the five stages a prospect goes through before and after they become a member of your association:

  1. Awareness
  2. Recruitment
  3. Engagement
  4. Renewal
  5. Reinstatement

This article explores the five stages of the membership lifecycle journey and what they mean for you as a membership organization.

Member Acquisition

Member Acquisition is an ongoing effort that includes two stages in the member lifecycle journey: Awareness and Recruitment.

Before a membership organization can recruit new members, people need to be aware that it exists. Only then can an invitation to join the organization’s membership site be extended.

1. Awareness

In the first stage of Member Acquisition, awareness, the goal is to share valuable information that garners the attention of your ideal audience.

For people to become aware of your organization, you need to get the word out. You can build brand awareness through content marketing (e.g., social media, blogs, videos), email marketing, word of mouth, etc.

Although awareness alone doesn’t acquire anyone, it prepares your audience for the next step: brand recognition. Once someone is aware of your brand, you want them to recognize your branding the next time they see it.

Familiarizing prospects with your brand warms them up for the recruitment stage.

2. Recruitment

The next stage of the membership lifecycle is recruitment: when you turn leads into members. Successful membership recruitment relies on several steps listed below.

  • Understand your audience. Before communicating anything to your prospects, you need to understand who they are, what they want, where they live, when to target them, and how best to reach them.
  • Communicate the message. Strong copy will do the work for you, but it must focus on the benefits your audience will receive from exchanging their resources for your offer, not its features.
  • Utilize strategic, creative design. Good design is an essential ingredient in the recruitment stage. It piques the interest of potential members by promoting your offer in an appealing way, but it requires quite a bit of A/B testing to get right.
  • Craft the offer. The previous factors culminate in the final step: your offer. Each step is designed to make your offer attractive to leads, presenting them with a desirable key that unlocks the benefits of your membership site.

The content you share to attract prospects and the desirability of your offer will determine how successful you are at recruiting new members.

Member Retention

The next three stages in the member lifecycle journey are Engagement, Renewal, and Reinstatement. These are part of Member Retention.

If the goal of membership organizations is to grow, the acquisition phase must be followed by retention programs.

3. Engagement

Keeping members engaged gives them a reason to continue their paid membership. Think about it this way: if your organization bills members on a recurring basis, you need to deliver value on a recurring basis. So ensure that you regularly share fresh content that benefits both new and existing members.

In addition to content, community plays an important role in your member engagement strategy. Encourage interaction within the community through questions and discussions. Rather than having members contact a support email, consider creating a dedicated forum for this type of engagement.

When members see a return on their investment through your value-added member engagement efforts, they’re more likely to stick around. MGI testing has shown that members who have non-dues transactions within their organization are far more likely to renew than those who don’t.

High engagement paves the way for successful member renewals.

4. Renewal

Member renewals are the foundation of organizational growth and cannot be emphasized enough.

The renewal stage is when a member’s membership is ending, and they decide whether to continue it. The act of renewing is a vote of confidence in your organization while choosing not to renew expresses a lack of confidence.

Depending on the industry, acquiring one new customer can be five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Bain & Company indicates that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%.

In light of those studies, the renewal process should continue as long as your efforts do not exceed the dues’ value. Some member organizations take it even a step further, sending renewal notices until the cost exceeds a member’s lifetime value.

Whichever you decide, put strategies in place that help you retain members and minimize cancellations. Additionally, track the reasons why members don’t renew to understand how you can combat future cancellations.

5. Reinstatement

A membership cancellation doesn’t mean that the journey is over. The fifth and final stage of the member lifecycle journey is reinstatement: when former members agree to return to your organization.

Members will inevitably leave no matter how great your organization or offer. However, an effective reinstatement program presents timely messaging and exclusive offers for past members, encouraging them to rejoin.

Some of your lapsed members may need time before they are able to rejoin. In the meantime, a reinstatement program ensures that they don’t forget about you.

Keep in mind that the longer you wait to reach out to a lapsed member, the less likely they are to reinstate. It’s much easier – and cheaper – to draw back former members than it is to acquire new ones.

The initiatives you employ in the reinstatement stage overlap with some of the tactics in the Member Acquisition phase, bringing the membership lifecycle full circle.

Are the 5 stages of life cycle for memberships clearly mapped out in your organization?

Do you have a reliable strategy for each of the five stages?

If not, Marketing General Incorporated (MGI) is adept at assessing, developing, and executing growth strategies for membership organizations that work. We work closely with our clients to evaluate each of the five stages across the member lifecycle journey to determine where improvements can be made.

Request a membership consultation with MGI today.

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