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What Questions Should You Ask Your Members?

September 27, 2023

At PropFuel, we talk about asking members questions instead of telling them things. Not only do we think it’s a better way of building meaningful relationships between associations and members; it’s a proven way to increase engagement and ROI at each touchpoint. It reduces friction in communication, and allows the purpose of the message to be about the member, instead of being about the association. 

When associations adopt PropFuel, one of the questions they often ask our (stellar!) Client Success team is “How do I know what questions to ask?” Ironically, the answer to this question begins with the end in mind. What you are trying to achieve in your communication is how you can determine what question to ask. Deciding on a call to action is not the solution here; while you would like the member to act, the idea of asking a question is to involve the member as opposed to telling them what to do.

For example, if you’re looking for members to register for your upcoming conference, how would you approach them in a real-life conversation? Would you talk at them for 3 minutes about all of the benefits of attending and then say, “Register Now!”? No! You might say something like, “What did you love about last year’s conference?” and then tell them about what’s happening this year that is similar to their positive experience.

With this communication style, you let the member know that you’re interested in what they have to say; also, it gives you another data point upon which to build in subsequent conversations. Traditional broadcast communications are great for informing members about association happenings, not unlike a bulletin board. However, they’re bad at engaging members on an individual level with relevant content that matters to the member and leads to action.

Are You Planning to Renew?

The struggle of a typical, broadcast member renewal campaign is real, both in staff time and outcomes. Associations send a series of expiration emails leading up to a member’s expiration date. In fact, members are likely to receive 6-12 emails regarding membership status, telling them their membership is going to expire, warning them that it will expire soon, and finally telling them that they lapsed. You would think they would have renewed by that point, right? But many don’t! They let their membership lapse, call or email the association when they can’t log in to their member profile to renew, or call to ask if they even are a member. It's a poor experience for everyone involved, and it takes up unnecessary resources and time for all parties involved.

One of the most successful campaigns our clients run has the goal of winning back lapsed members. It all starts with a simple question: “Are you planning to renew?” This inquiry is not a call to action; it is an attempt to understand an individual’s intent. Isn’t it a more inviting way to open up the conversation about a member’s renewal? In fact, it is. Many associations are using PropFuel for this campaign and see similar results: members renew earlier in the membership cycle, and more end up renewing, period. This approach is so effective that PropFuel associations with a member renewal campaign see a 2-7% increase in renewals, year over year, compared to their previous campaign method.

There is something different about approaching the communication as a question, instead of just blasting them with information, over and over. A similar question to “Are you planning to renew?” is, “Did you know your membership lapsed?” Almost every time a PropFuel association asks this question, more than 50 percent of respondents say, “No, I didn’t know my membership had lapsed.” Sometimes it’s as high as 80 percent, and rarely is it below 40 percent who didn’t know the status of their membership.

By taking this approach, you can direct the people who are willing and able to renew on their own through the process, and those who want or need your help are able to raise their hand to continue the conversation. Your resources can actually go where they’re truly needed, instead of fielding every call or email that comes in with no prioritization.

Member renewals is just one example of a case when it’s useful and productive to ask a question instead of informing members. The next time you go to build a communication for members, whether it’s general engagement, for an event or some other purpose, try this approach and see what happens. Ask yourself, “What would be nice to know from members that they care about, and will help us understand them better?” At the very least, you’ll have a bunch of new information from your members. And best case scenario, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you receive in return (like a pile of renewal money, or even a new ally). 

If you're curious about other questions to ask your members throughout the year to draw attention and drive action, download a copy of the 100+ Questions Associations Should Be Asking Members ebook.

"Now that we are a year out on our renewal campaign, we are seeing the real data conversions there. We now have 95% of our renewals happening before or within a month of expiration – saving us a ton on time and resources for bills and print renewal reminder and calls to go out. And membership was up 7% over the last year so we know those renewal rates are really consistent as well." -Amanda Darnley, AAMFT

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