Sometimes, no matter how much effort you put into helping business owners, it’s hard to get them to remain as members of your chamber of commerce. They’ll sign up, show up for a few events, but eventually stop seeing the value.
If this sounds familiar to you, then read on. This guide will talk about how to create a chamber of commerce membership retention plan. We’ll share helpful tips on how you can gather feedback and provide more value to your members.
How to Calculate Member Retention Rates
Before you can come up with a membership retention plan, you should understand your membership retention rate. This refers to the percentage of members retained over a given period of time.
Methods for calculating your retention rate can vary depending upon the statistics your membership management software provides. Here is one way to calculate your rate of retention, assuming you are offering annual memberships:
(#of Renewals in the past year) / (Renewals + Past Due Members) = Retention x 100
Example: During the past year 620 members renewed. During the same period 30 members did not renew and are now past due.
620 (renewals) + 30 (past due) = 650
620 (renewals) / 650 = 0.95
.95 x 100 = Retention rate of 95%
For most industries, having membership retention rates that are above 90% should be the goal. Set this as the objective of your chamber’s membership retention plan.
10 Ways to Improve Your Chamber’s Membership Retention Rate
Every member retention plan needs to include a well thought out strategy. Here are some tried-and-tested methods that you can use to improve your retention rates.
1. Make chamber membership renewal easy
If you make it easy for members to renew their memberships, they’ll be more likely to do it. First, you can offer automatic recurring payments so that members’ credit cards are automatically charged. This creates a frictionless renewal process where members don’t have to take any action to renew unless their credit card has expired.
If members choose not to pay by automatic payments, you should have a membership renewal page on your website where members can log on to your site, make a payment, and finish the process in a few minutes. Using chamber membership software makes it easy.
The Stilly Valley Chamber website is a great example of this. Members can just log in and pay the renewal online, so it’s completely hassle-free. Membership software can also help you send out automated renewal reminders to your members. It’s a good idea to create multiple past due notices to give busy members a reminder or two to renew.
2. Offer multi-year renewals
This might sound like an overly simple strategy, but adding multiple-year renewals to your member retention plan can greatly affect your retention rates. You might try offering multi-year renewals at a small discount to encourage this option.
3. Give new members a warm welcome
When new members sign up for your organization, be sure to take advantage of your membership management software’s new member welcome message so that they’ll automatically receive a welcome email.
Keep in mind that you don’t want your new member to feel like they’re getting templated information. If your goal is member retention, every interaction you have with your members should feel personalized.
So, how do you write the most effective welcome email for your new members? Follow these tips:
- Add links to your website: You don’t want to bore a new member by writing a very long welcome email. Instead, keep it concise and talk about benefits in bullet points and add links to your website for more information.
- Add a testimonial from an active member: Hearing from other business owners will get new members even more excited about getting involved.
- Member name: Use merge tags to embed a member’s name in the subject line. Example: “John Smith, your Gold Member benefits have arrived!”
- Add a call to action and keep it current: It’s tempting to send the same templated welcome email to every new member, but that’s not going to help your retention rates. When people sign up, they’re eager to benefit from your programs. If you’re willing to have discipline in updating the welcome email regularly, your content can include registration links to upcoming events. Regular updates provide the new member with the most recent news about your organization.
- Write a good closer: Don’t just end with something that’s as cold and empty as “Regards,” or “Best.” End your email by letting your new members know what they should expect from you next. Say something like, “In the coming weeks, we’ll reach out to you again with details on what you’ll learn in your onboarding session.”
Think of your welcome email as the red carpet at a grand event. Each new chamber member should feel like they’re joining an organization that truly cares about them and their business. If you’re successful, you’re likely to boost your membership retention rate.
4. Connect with members online
Embracing the digital transformation should be part of every chamber’s retention plan. Consider creating a closed LinkedIn group for your chamber of commerce. The next step is the hard part: maintaining and engaging a social media presence. For this, you’ll need to publish relevant and timely content. If you only publish press releases or articles that promote your organization, you’re going to be ignored.
To ensure that your members look forward to seeing your posts on social media, whether you have a group or just a social media page, follow these tips:
- Schedule posts: Regular posting can quickly become a chore. You can use social media management tools to schedule posts, track engagement and generate reports. That way, you’ll maintain a strong presence in your members’ minds.
- Re-share your members’ posts: People joined your organization so that they can feel like they’re part of a community of business owners. If you see interesting content being posted by member businesses, don’t hesitate to share them on your social channels. It’s important to add context to the shared post. For example, you can add a sentences above the post such as, “We’re proud of longtime member [Business Name here] who just recently broke ground on a new headquarters building,” or “Our member [Business Name here] provides interesting insights on the local commercial real estate market.” If they created the post on more than one platform — say Facebook and LinkedIn — you can share it on both. Don’t forget to tag their business when naming them.
- Create and curate: Every successful social media presence combines original content with reposted content from other websites. Don’t just repost articles without commentary; add your own insights or an interesting teaser to let followers know why they should click to read. Create your own original posts that provide helpful information about your industry or the business environment in your local area.
Content idea: You can create a survey in your chamber of commerce software to ask members about local business trends they are seeing in their own establishment. Fellow business owners love to hear what’s going on in the local business economy.
- Showcase events: Creating and sharing your own or your members’ events on social media will increase attendance all around.
Content idea: If you don’t already have a community calendar where members can post events, create one. You can screen these events before they are posted and you can also see which ones might be fun to highlight on your social media accounts.
- Respond promptly: Having real-time engagement with members is priceless. Respond as soon as possible to their comments on social media and make sure that everything you write is personalized. If being on social media regularly isn’t for you, consider if there’s a trustworthy and well-spoken board member or communications chairperson who may have interest. Finding someone who has good spelling, grammar, and tact is key.
5. Send interesting email communications
It’s not unusual for a chamber of commerce to send email blasts to members regularly, but are your emails actually being read by your members?
Your chamber management software along with an email marketing integration can help you send newsletters to all your members and generate reports. Reporting on clicks and opens helps you learn if your newsletters are successful so you’ll know what to do to keep people engaged.
In general, you’ll want to send emails that follow these principles:
- Well-timed: Sending five emails in a day isn’t just overwhelming, it’s annoying. Poll a group of your members such as your board or communications committee to learn how frequently they want to hear from your organization by email. Adjust your sending frequency accordingly.
- Consistent: Create email series on a specific topics such as, “Town Council Update,” “Tourism Report,” or “Economic Development News.” Members will know what to expect and will be more likely to open and read these emails if they receive information that is valuable to their business. You may also want a home for this information on your website, perhaps as blog posts with specific categories applied so the information is easy to find in one place. In addition, it’s a good idea to customize your chamber membership software to allow members to easily subscribe or unsubscribe from these series by logging into their account.
- Tailored: People who have been members of your organization for a year or more don’t need to receive a series of onboarding emails over and over. Group your members with tags or labels like “committee members,” “event-goers,” “volunteers” and “inactive members.” Then tailor and send unique content that would be of interest to each of these groups.
- Relevant: Staying relevant is at the core of every membership retention plan. Speak from the point of view of a leader in your community and share exciting news or useful educational materials. Share your insights about current issues in your town. You can survey members or your board to learn what topics are most important. If you don’t consider yourself an expert, ask your board members to write guest posts about what trends they are seeing in their business for your newsletter or blog. It’s common for the chamber president to have a regular letter to members that’s included in the newsletter.
- Focused: Keep every email message you send to your members concise. Unless the email is an enewsletter, stick to one topic and save other matters for another email. For enewsletters, it’s ideal to not include entire articles in your emails. Instead, have a graphic or photo, a headline, and a short blurb with a link to the full post. This way your members can scan the newsletter and click only on topics that interest them rather than having to scroll down endlessly.
When it comes to communicating with people via email, the content of your message matters just as much as timing and frequency. If you pay special attention to your email messages, you should see your membership retention rates get better. Keep this in mind when you’re coming up with a strategy for your membership retention plan.
6. Partner with other businesses for discounts
Whenever a chamber of commerce member is asked why they joined, they’ll likely say that they did it to expand their network.
Make this the center of your membership retention plan. Organize networking events that will allow people to meet with other members. This will help them find new business alliances. But don’t just introduce business owners to one another. You should also introduce them to vendors that can help them run their business. If you can provide them with member-exclusive discounts, that’s even more helpful. Some chamber software allows members to create member deals or coupons to share with the public or fellow members.
7. Market your members aggressively
One of the other main reasons businesses join their local chamber of commerce is for publicity. If you want your membership retention plan to be successful, you should help members market their businesses. Hosting a chamber member directory on the chamber website is a great way to do that.
Also mention members online and offline as much as you can. You can create a form on your website where members can submit information about their successes. Include a field where the member can add in a web page link that is related to their happy news. Feature members on your website, talk about them on your newsletters and tag them on your social media posts. Also encourage each member to update their business directory profile regularly so that you can talk about and promote their latest projects.
When it’s time for renewal, business owners will hopefully remember how much promotion and connections they’ve received from your chamber.
8. Share how you are helping your members
Transparency should be part of your membership retention strategy. If business owners know what sort of activities your chamber is engaging in, they’ll be more likely to see how much value they get from supporting you.
In general, you should keep members informed about the following:
- What new businesses are moving into the area or are considering relocating to your town? If your economic development team is playing a role in these efforts, be sure to give them a shout out.
- What measures are you lobbying for? Keep members interested in your organization by sharing with them how you’re working with local governments to advance their interests.
- Which charities are you supporting? How can you get members involved? Let businesses know that by being a member of your organization, they can easily contribute to charitable organizations. If these charities offer volunteer opportunities, share those opportunities. Some chambers provide ways to connect charities with potential board members. You can even plan a chamber volunteering day where chamber members gather to help one or more local charities.
- What is your organization’s stance on political issues? Which candidates are you endorsing and how can they help your members? Let people know which candidates support their business goals.
Be sure to mention many of the ways you are helping members in your chamber renewal letters. Don’t just cover the topics above; include mention of the ways you are promoting members as well as the members-only benefits and events they have access to.
9. Leverage your event calendar to support members
Every chamber of commerce organizes events. During normal times, these events include ribbon cuttings, workshops, networking events and more. Covid made online events like webinars and virtual happy hours more popular.
To make event management easier, you can use chamber of commerce management software to host your calendar and event registration. Create some events that offer member and non-member ticket prices. Member pricing helps with perceived value.
Allowing your members to post events to a community calendar can also increase member value and make your website a resource for visitors and community residents. Use your email marketing platform to let members know about upcoming events. This will boost event attendance and along with that, member retention.
Evaluating past events should also be part of your member retention plan. Send surveys to event registrants and ask them if they got what they expected from the event. Then make any necessary adjustments.
10. Publish members-only content
Not everything you publish has to be posted for public consumption. A lot of the educational materials and report data you produce should be restricted to members only. Member survey results are a great example of content that can be password protected.
Give business owners a chance to access member-only content; creating an account on your website can allow them to gain access to pages that are only meant for people with an active membership. If your content is good enough, they should easily be able to see value in renewing their membership year after year.
Why Did Your Member Decide to Leave?
Whenever a member fails to sign up for renewal, you should learn why. Send members who lapse or cancel membership a survey that asks for a reason, which may include the following:
- Change of job or business focus
- Not enough time to use benefits
- The value does not justify the cost
- The chamber does not address my concerns
- Went out of business
- Closed due to Covid
- Others (please provide reasons)
Be sure to include a link for the member to rejoin in case they may have simply forgotten to renew. Your chamber of commerce software can help you send out links to surveys, collect feedback through forms and consolidate data for reporting. Consider lapsed members’ opinions whenever you make your membership retention plan.
No two chambers are the same, so there’s no membership retention plan that will work for all organizations. That said, two-way communication is crucial.
Time to Make Your Own Membership Retention Plan
Your retention rate reflects the health of your organization. When people stay as members of your chamber, then you know you’re doing a good job. We hope that these membership retention tips will help your chamber of commerce thrive!