Two years ago, the Enrollment Management Association took the leap to rebrand and position the association to better represent the suite of services it provided.
With a staff of just under 50, this rebranding was necessary to not only guarantee EMA survived and thrived in the coming years but also to ensure that their members and nonmembers knew EMA had resources beyond what its former name—the Secondary School Admission Test Board—implied.
But this rebranding was more than just a name change: It was an internal culture shift with buy-in from staff and board leaders, allowing allowed them to take a hard look at their processes and build a membership journey to resonate and represent their membership. Using stakeholder interviews, internal discussions, and board engagement, they were able to develop a core membership retention plan that led them to 96 percent retention of their 11,000 member schools.
“Before this process, we were not capturing our renewal rate. We needed to build the tools to capture this and become more data-driven at the membership level,” says Director of Membership Lauren Von Euw.
As a starting point, EMA’s three membership staffers looked at best practices in the association industry and then worked to refine their messaging and build out resources that worked for their members. Specifically, they looked at the cycles their members experienced month by month.
From there, they created touchpoints to provide resources and opportunities to their members during the times they needed EMA most. The staff was able to showcase their deep understanding of their membership and use the voice of the members when communicating to add value to the membership experience. Throughout their marketing and membership messaging, they include photos of their members to keep a personal connection. Even outside of its members, EMA made their communication intentional to really reinforce that the new brand was more than just a name change.
We needed to build the tools to capture our renewal rate and become more data-driven at the membership level.
Von Euw also worked to develop a simple, easy-to-use member engagement score. Encompassing EMA’s major products and offerings, everyone in the organization could quickly see at a glance how engaged that member was. This score, based on 100 percent, broke up the membership into four major categories (from most engaged to least engaged): loyal advocates, engaged members, sporadic members, and checkbook members.
The membership department monitored this score and was able to understand who was at risk when renewing. They could also monitor with members were dropping and use their time and resources to target those at-risk members and understand what would motivate them to renew. The data-driven approach allowed for the creation of a communications plan that touched these members more frequently, especially first-year members.
Von Euw says this journey would not have been possible without buy-in from the entire organization and the knowledge that everyone is responsible for membership, even if you do not interact directly with a member.
As a result of these increases in membership, EMA was able to show value, build their brand, and increase their bottom line. The latter led to being able to add two new staff members to the membership department.
Adding this new staff broadens the capabilities of the team, allowing each team member to have a regional membership portfolio. The goal is to develop stronger relationships with that region, which will ideally lead to moving members up to the loyal advocate role.
Next up on EMA’s plate is to check in with members to get their perceptions of the rebranding effort and other changes. In addition, the association is getting set to deploy a large loyalty survey which will give them rich data to customize their messaging and build out resources. This will provide for the next stage of refinement in ensuring they are making the most of targeting and engaging their membership.