Churn is an unavoidable part of association life. You may think of your association’s membership or event attendees as being housed in a big mixing bowl—“If we add 100 new members to the bowl this year, we’ll have a bigger membership cake than last year!” In reality, your membership and attendee bases live in a colander—permeable and forever leaking members, attendees, and revenue.
Churn means that for every new member you enroll or new event attendee you convert, there are members who decide not to renew or people who do not return to your conference the following year.
Nearly everyone I’ve talked with desires a lower churn rate, since it means their marketing teams do not have to make as many first-time sales each year. While this is certainly true, your membership and events should always have some natural churn. Without attendee turnover, your events will begin to feel stale if the same people always attend. And without churn on the membership side, your association may not be exposed to the developments and new ideas percolating around your industry.
Knowing your membership or event attendee churn rate can help you understand how many new attendees or members you must acquire to replace people who leave, to break even. This knowledge also helps you understand the targets you must hit to truly grow.
Baselining your churn rates can and should influence your marketing. How much of your effort should go toward trying to get people to try your event for the first time versus trying to get them to remain loyal and return? Clearly, it takes very different messages to accomplish these goals. And if you see an unexpected spike in churn following an event, it can signal changing industry dynamics or even issues with your value proposition.
Like everything listed above, your marketing list is subject to churn, although it may be less apparent. Marketing list churn results from prospects changing email addresses—which is typically triggered when someone changes companies or the industry. Some prospects may also opt out of your emails over time.
Understanding the annual churn within your email universe gives a baseline of how many new prospects you need to acquire each year.
This intelligence can drive your partnership and list acquisition discussion and also prompt more creative lead capture strategies.
Churn is present within your organization, but by measuring and monitoring it, you can impart strategy and gain intelligence that can make your marketing more effective.