Skip to main content

You’re a membership organization. Your raison d’être is to grow and maintain a strong and loyal community of members, facilitate access to knowledge, services or information and provide a platform for engagement.

So why do so many members fail to take advantage of the great services and benefits you provide them?

There are a couple of traps that I’ve seen membership organizations falling into which could easily be avoided. If email isn’t used effectively, this key channel for engaging your members will see falling perceptions of the value of membership, or worse still a trend towards declining renewals.

Trap 1#: All members are keen members

All members are potentially interested in all the information and opportunities we have to offer, so we need to lay out our ‘whole stall’ to everyone, right? Wrong.

Chances are that the emails you’re sending are packed with so many competing things that it’s hard for members to see the wood for the trees.

A lack of targeting means that ultimately, you’ll lose members. Far from presenting information in a way that will invite readers in, too much content will alienate your audience. If you’re not actively directing members to aspects of membership which resonate with them personally, they’re far less likely to engage in any of the great stuff your membership will offer them.

Membership organizations have perhaps the biggest opportunity to create a more personal experience for their customers than any other type of organization. Failing to segment data in order to better target emails is therefore a massively missed opportunity; even the most basic segmentation to target content more appropriately is likely to get far better results.

Historic England played an absolute blinder with their “I am London” campaign, which saw a massive 59% open rate and 66% click-through rate purely by segmenting by location and targeting only their London-based members who would find the emails relevant:


Trap #2: Member services sell themselves

Sure, services and benefits are usually among the reasons that attracted your member in the first place. But being truly customer-centric isn’t just good practice for membership organizations – it’s essential to creating a strong and active member community. So, if you’re not thinking of your member journeys then you could be losing out, because if you’re not enabling good member experiences and doing all that you can to ensure that members are active in taking up member services and benefits, then their feeling of value in membership will start to wear thin.

Typically, email readers scan content and in this digital age have become fickle about what they ingest; taking little time over making decisions and taking action.

This makes clear, concise messaging and easy user journeys ever more important – readers won’t stick around if their experience isn’t good! How many times have you quit reading an email, or stopped part way through a process because what you’re trying to do feels like it’s ‘too arduous’ or taking longer than you’d like?

Our clients at RIBA, a professional membership organization for Architects, saw that offering an easy member journey to earn Continuous Professional Development points would not only boost their registrations and make for a better event, but also enable members to fulfill annual learning requirements for their professional status. What was important was to quickly and simply convey how their members could benefit from their CPD roadshow, where it was taking place, how to find out more/register and then make that process as easy as possible.

This customer-centric approach to content with a clear and responsive design saw staggering uplifts in interest for the event from the previous year – evident in increases of over 100% in click-throughs.

So, the next time you think you might be unknowingly doing yourselves and your members an email disservice, I hope that making one or more small changes to avoid these two major traps will instead guide you in the direction of ‘how to keep members and engage people’.