360 Live Media
360 Live Media is an event strategy and digital marketing agency in Washington, D.C. serving association, professional society, and not-for-profit conferences.
Your best membership engagement strategy

Your best membership engagement strategy (and why it works)

If your associations’s main source of funding comes from membership dues or subscriber revenue, you need to focus on delivering an unbeatable member (customer) experience.


Doing so creates the foundation for a long-term relationship between customer and company (yes, your association is a business and your members are your customers).


The importance of customer experience


“67% of customers mention bad experiences as a reason for churn, but only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain,” according to Huffington Post.

That second statistic is incredible. And it’s frightening. And it totally makes sense.


Why churn happens


When you don’t have a relationship with an organization, a bad experience will drive you away in a heartbeat. Think about the last time you tried a new restaurant and the food and service were mehhh—not so bad that you found a caterpillar in your edamame, but not good enough to return again or recommend to a friend, either.


The same logic applies to associations, membership organizations and professional societies.


If the people you serve don’t feel engaged with your mission or connected to what you stand for, they will eventually leave. And, if that earlier statistic is correct, 25 out of 26 (96%) won’t complain before you notice they’re already out the door.


Engagement overcomes bad experiences


Even the best organizations occasionally deliver poor customer experiences. However, if the foundation of the relationship is strong, it will endure and, perhaps, become stronger as a result.


I go to the same Starbucks every morning on my way to work. I order the same drink every time (grande vanilla latte—it rhymes and it’s delicious). When I walk in, I don’t even say a word. My barista starts making my drink when she sees me. I’m in and out.


The experience is amazing 99% of the time.


Then last week, a new crew of baristas was training…which means the newbies disrupted my flow. On Monday, I was given hazelnut flavoring instead of vanilla.




Tuesday, same thing. Wednesday it happened again. I’m a pretty easygoing person, but three flubs in a row motivated me to finally complain.


Sipping my third, disgusting hazelnut latte of the week (caffeine is a hell of a drug), I sat at my desk and wrote a brief, constructive note to Starbucks support online. I simply summarized the events of the week, my dissatisfaction with the experience and how I knew it was someone’s first few days and didn’t want my complaint to affect them specifically.


Within 24 hours, I had a very sincere apology in my inbox and three free drinks credited to my Starbucks account. Another great customer experience.


How does your association deliver an exceptional customer experience? Does your membership marketing team deliver welcome kits to new members—both print and digital? Do you have an email campaign set up to automatically and consistently deliver value to your members? Do you have a plan in place to mend relationships with members when your organization messes up? News flash: Everybody messes up at some point—you need a plan.


Invest in the customer experience


The important point here is that I already had a great relationship with Starbucks before they messed up. I highly value their service, their product and the joy that they bring to me every day.


When Starbucks faltered, I told them. Just like you would want your best friend to tell you when you were out of line or hurt their feelings. When you have a strong relationship with someone, they don’t push you away when you screw up. They put their arm around you.


The same goes for your members.


If you are consistently delivering value and positive experiences when they engage with your organization, your members will feel deeply connected to you. If you make a mistake or lose sight of their needs every once in a while, they will stick with you and stay engaged. They may even help make you stronger.


What are you doing to measure and ensure your organization delivers exceptional customer experiences? Associations Now has some easy ways to get started. For example:



At a minimum, you should conduct an assessment of your value proposition and communication strategy for engaging your members.


Don’t wait for that one person to complain before you notice the other 25 are already gone.


Looking for a real life example? Download our impact report and learn how we helped the American Land Title Association (ALTA) create a new brand position that reflected industry shifts, thereby making them more relevant to their members.