AARC Wins Back 800 Members in 45 Days

April 14, 2015

The American Association for Respiratory Care’s membership was stalled. A flat line in the association’s core group of active members was even starting a bit of a downturn, as membership renewals seemed to be taking a slight dip. The steady decrease in membership renewals gave rise to the growing number of lapsed members. Sherry Milligan, Associate Executive Director of Membership, was determined to find the right action plan to quickly change the current trajectory. Knowing that new member cultivation would not be a quick and easy fix, AARC identified great potential within the growing lapsed member base.

AARC sought the help of Informz to get a fresh set of eyes on what they were doing and how they were doing it. With new insight and perspective, AARC and Informz developed a targeted customized Win Back Campaign strategy.

In just 45 days, AARC had nearly 800 members rejoin the organization, bringing in over $64,000 in membership dues.  

I spoke with Sherry about AARC’s membership challenges, the win back campaign strategy, and lessons learned.

Vivian Swertinski, Informz: What membership challenge did you face at AARC?

Sherry Milligan, AARC: Our membership had been in decline over the past year and had been nearly stagnant for two years prior to that. We had over 18,000 lapsed members within a 24 month time period. We were seeking a way to stop the bleed and to get membership moving in the right direction.

VS: What corrective action did you take to address this problem?

SM: We saw our lapsed member base as a challenge but also as an opportunity. Knowing that it’s easier to keep or recapture former members than it is to cultivate brand new members, we felt we had a good base to work from. We decided to enlist the help of Informz to develop a marketing strategy for implementing a “win back” campaign. The campaign objective was to reach out to prior members to generate interest and encourage them to rejoin AARC.

VS: Can you describe for me the specific program that was developed to win back the lapsed members?

SM: Working with the Informz team (who was a fresh set of eyes on our membership value proposition), we evaluated what the triggers were that members said contributed to their initial decision to be a member of the AARC. We also evaluated feedback data from previous lapsed members to understand potential reasons for not renewing.

Based on the analysis two different communication strategies emerged. The key messaging for members who lapsed within the past 3 to 6 months needed to be different than the message given to those that lapsed between 7 and 24 months ago.

The key messaging for recently lapsed members (3 to 6 months) focused on promoting online continuing education which is what we knew to be most appealing to the audience. The messaging was direct and inviting – two steps and you’re back.  Step 1 – Enroll, Step 2 – Sign up for Class.

The key messaging for the balance of lapsed members (7 to 24 months) featured new enhancements and developments that had been made in the last year that they might not know about. These new enhancements would add value to the member experience; essentially we were asking lapsed members to take another look and “rediscover” AARC.

VS:  Did the execution plan include any testing? Were there any surprises?

SM: Yes, we ran several tests using the 10-10-80 testing concept. The idea is to test various email components using 10% test panels and then apply the winning elements to the final version of the email. We tested different subject lines, some with personalization and some without. We tested the friendly from; instead of having it come from a generic “AARC” email address, we tested a person’s name. In one of our tests we tested a longer message vs a shorter message.

Everything we learned was intriguing. Personalization in the subject line (using the person’s name) drew far better open rates. Having the message come from a person (our membership chair) rather than a company really boosted opens and clicks. I had thought a shorter, snappier letter would actually garner more clicks, but I found the longer letter drew a better outcome. It was fun to see what pulled greater responses.

VS: That illustration is a perfect example of the value of testing! Having insight into the best subject line, the best friendly from and the best message before launching the final version is powerful. What results are you seeing with this win back campaign?

SM: We are very happy with the results of the campaign. Nearly 800 lapsed members have rejoined AARC resulting in over $64,000 in membership dues. We saw open rates of 40% for the more recently lapsed members and 33% for those whose membership lapsed 7 to 24 months ago.

VS: What additional opportunities do you see to expand or improve the program?

SM: We hear that some of our members may feel a greater sense of affiliation with a local or state chapter than they do with the national. I’d like to test a letter that targets their loyalty to their state. It would be interesting to see if that works.

We evaluated the open rates for the 7-24 month group to see what months pulled the best results. Those are the months we’ll use to target messaging to in the future with a fully automated win back program.

VS: What advice do you have for other associations who are looking to implement similar tactics at their organizations?

SM: Get someone new to take a look at your messaging. You might be saying things in an old, stale way. Use tools to help you automate and generate emails. None of us have the time to constantly be manually sending out emails of this kind. It makes perfect sense to automate. Make sure you track. It’s gratifying to see who had joined as a direct result of your effort.