September 22, 2010

What is it that you want to renew?

I'm just a bill.  No, not the Schoolhouse Rock song.  Although I should now wish you good luck on getting that tune out of your brain.  I'm talking about the financial kind of bill, specifically the dues invoice or "membership renewal."

My American Society of Association Executives membership renewal just arrived.  As bills go, it's good enough.  It's easy to read and understand, and updating my information and preferences is pretty simple.

But, it's just a bill. And an impersonal one at that.  No cover letter from the organization's leadership. No images of people (not stock photography) that reinforce this is a community of like-minded colleagues.   No narrative or appeal designed to renew my enthusiasm for the profession and/or the organization.  The little marketing text offered seems like an afterthought, stuck on the back of the invoice page and drawing on fairly nondescript boilerplate copy.

So in the end it's just a bill.  But it could be so much more.

It's one thing to merely renew people's financial commitment.  But when you can renew their passion for the profession, their contribution to the community, and their interest in (and engagement with) the opportunities available ... that's really something, something we should all be pursuing.

Guess what?  Without doing enough of the latter, you're going to quit getting the former.  In short, if you want to keep the money coming, you have to keep the heart, head, and hands engaged.  And your membership renewal can make a contribution to doing so.

10 comments:

Ellen said...

Jeffrey -- It seems to me the membership renewal format is a tangible illustration of how an organization perceives its members.

Every organization needs to look at that appeal for renewal and think: "How are we portraying our perception of our members with this appeal? Are we showing them how much we value their continued support? How much we will miss them if they turn this appeal down?

And we will miss them, won't we??

Melody said...

True, most bills are rather dull. How do you make a membership dues invoice exciting?

Deirdre Reid said...

You're right, it's disappointing to see how renewals are handled at ASAE. I keep thinking that ASAE renewals (and everything else they do) should be the cutting-edge best of the industry model. I know, that's a lot of pressure. Heck, they could change the renewal format each year as part of a continuing conversation/study about what works best and what doesn't. They could even ask us to rate the renewals we receive (tell us why they're asking, of course). Wouldn't we all get that and be appreciative of their efforts? In the end, they'd be doing it for their members.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Deirdre:

Thanks for your comment. You've inspired me to go to the Models and Case Studies section on the ASAE site to see if there are any great examples of what others have done. Or maybe a Membership Renewal Makeover should be a quick session at next year's Membership and Marketing Conference.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Melody:

I think one way is to view it not only as a bill but also as a communication and marketing tool. The invoice part is critical obviously, but I bet communications and marketing professionals would include different content and visuals. Publication designers would make it look different.

We probably need to think about what messages do we want to send to (1) get people to renew quickly, (2) see renewal and remaining a part of the community as valuable to their professional success, and (3) elicit their brief feedback on how we could serve them better and make them even more likely to renew in the future.

Wes Trochlil said...

I'll be the contrarian and say that the membership renewal invoice (or ANY invoice) should be as to-the-point and specific as possible, with no cover letter, no flashing lights, no nothing. For MANY members (like me), all I need to know is that my renewal is due, and I'll renew.

Invoicing is designed to collect money and any collateral materials will distract from that goal.

Wes

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Wes Trochlil
Effective Database Management, LLC
17820 Julie Ann Court
Hamilton VA 20158
540.338.9404

Author of "Put Your Data to Work: 52 Tips and Techniques for Effectively Managing Your Database," published by ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership and available from ASAE: http://tinyurl.com/dyw9y2

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

I'm with you in spirit Wes, but don't think it has to be so black and white as you've made it out to be.

It wouldn't have to even involve additional collateral or inserts (though I somehow pay my monthly utility bills despite the inserts that come with them every month.

The invoice/renewal is one of the few communications EVERY member receives. Seems to me we can make it more compelling and functional than something any accounting intern with a Microsoft Word template can produce.

But, as you note, whatever form it takes it ultimately must bring in the renewals and the checks.

Dave Lutz said...

Jeffrey, great post! I agree that this is an opportunity to deliver value that every association should consider. It's not about selling, its about thanking members for past support and making a promise to deliver more in the year ahead.

David M. Patt, CAE said...

I'm with Wes on this. Yes, the invoice can be made more appealing, but the selling of ASAE should not be made in the invoice. It should be made all year long.

Members should not be asked to renew their commitment at dues payment time. The commitment should already be there - the invoice is merely the final step. It should be a matter-of-fact event.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

David, I definitely agree that the experience year-round is what matters most on the invoice, but that doesn't mean the invoice has to be treated only as a bill.

If we want people' to renew their membership in the complete spirit of the word and not just their "financially current" status, we should be thinking more broadly.

The decision to renew isn't always made based on left-brain analytical criteria, so our renewal materials shouln't rely on them exclusively for their format either.