Should associations co-source their member engagement?

I’ve spoken with a number of Directors of Member Relations at various associations. One of them was one of an eight-member staff. Another works with 17 other people, and a third works with more than forty staff members in the corporate headquarters of an international organization. Their member engagement goals for 2016 vary, and their strategic marketing initiatives are vastly different, but the one thread that connects them all together is the need for a more focused member retention strategy. The ways they’ve done it before – sharing responsibilities between staff with already-full plates, sending out email reminders that may or may not get opened, or bringing on part-time temps or interns for targeted, short-term campaigns – are simply not as fruitful as they need to be. The result is associations bleeding members at a faster rate than they can recruit, which means annual revenue falls, budgets get squeezed, and strategic initiatives get bottle-necked, sending them on a year-after-year downward spiral.

It’s time to pull up out of the dive and join association-industry thought-leaders in modeling the successful strategy of customer engagement in the software/technology industry. It’s time to explore co-sourcing.

Get the most out of your talented staff

Tech companies have already moved to a model where they find the most effective and profitable pieces of their customer engagement continuum to co-source. This allows their highly skilled experts who are well-equipped to handlethe most value-added activities. These experts no longer waste their valuable time resetting passwords, addressing billing concerns instead of doing what they were hired on to do – be experts.

You were hired in as Director of Member Relations or Member Engagement Coordinator. By following leaders from other industries in your own member-engagement systems, you’ll not only find more valuable time available to your internal teams, but will also discover new ways of turning fixed costs into variable ones and driving new revenue. You could turn the tables as an innovator in the associations industry.

There are many great partners who can assist in handling inbound/outbound phone calls, social media concerns, or even email inquiries. By using a partner to co-source your level-1 member engagement, you can optimize your membership experts’ time and energy.

Drive revenue from seasonal fluctuation

Customer service at a tech company requires being a thoughtful planner and an execution specialist in order to handle planned and unplanned spikes in call volume due to holidays, server issues, or acts of God (the East Coast recentlymissed countless customer-engagement opportunities due to inclement weather shutting down the customer service and tech support operations).

In the same way that tech and E-Commerce companies build in redundancy to handle these seasonal fluctuations around major holidays, annual software license/subscription renewals, and unpredictable external circumstances, associations should be planning ahead for predictable and unpredictable seasonal changes in member engagement demands:

  • Contacting previous conference/expo attendees to drive event attendance/sponsorship
  • Responding to time-sensitive pre-conference email inquiries
  • Making anniversary-based calls every month to expiring members to drive retention
  • Fielding weekend/after-hours emails and calls (especially if the office is closed unexpectedly)

By building in member engagement redundancy, you guarantee that your members can reach a live membership specialist when they need one, and that you don’t miss out on critical member touchpoints throughout the year.

Lead generation is expensive and time-consuming…

I recently found this quote that compared marketing cut-backs to stop a clock – budgeting for Marketing costs more money, but not budgeting for it costs even more.


Many companies are finding new, affordable ways to keep lead generation and prospecting initiatives happening year-round without breaking the bank.

Associations need to seriously examine their member prospecting initiatives. By not taking the time and, yes, spending the money to mine for new members, you end up costing the organization potential revenue by missing out on the dues and non-dues contributions made throughout the member lifecycle. Again, however, consider how you’re using your internal experts’ time.

Co-sourcing your recruitment/prospecting is a good way to mine your database of non-member contacts for potential new members. Then, follow up on warm leads internally and close the deal!