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Revitalising membership renewals and retention at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)

Summary: The CIEH faced a challenge when membership renewals started to decline for the first time since it began in 1883. Aika, an Agile Rose Director, was tasked with addressing the issue, in her then role as Head of Marketing & Communications. What steps did she take, and what were the results?

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is the professional voice for environmental health, representing over 10,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors.  

Aika is a Director of Agile Rose Marketing. Prior to this she was Head of Marketing and Communications at the CIEH, having risen up through the organisation.

The problem
For many decades, CIEH membership renewal numbers were regularly stable and high, year on year. Membership fees were typically paid for by the employer, as part of staff benefit packages. However, as budgets in the profession were cut by recessionary pressures and legislative changes lightened requirements on businesses, membership renewals began to significantly decline.

This, combined with a reduction in new professionals coming into the sector, meant that the CIEH needed a more proactive approach to keeping current traditional membership levels stable. It was at this time that Aika took responsibility for the membership marketing.

The challenges
The CIEH is a well established organisation whose methods had worked successfully for many years. Introducing disruptive, yet effective changes to the very diverse range of stakeholders was always going to be hard. It also took time to convince them of the need for a proactive and integrated renewals and recruitment campaigns.

Other challenges included:

  • No agreed view on who the members were in terms of job role, level, sector or evolving needs.
  • No clearly defined articulation of membership benefits, as well as features.
  • Limited data and contact information on membership in databases that were hard to use and interrogate.
  • An out of date web platform and multiple, confusing website(s).
  • No significant digital strategy or tactics beyond the static website.
  • A regional network whose communications were inconsistent and often conflicting with those of head office.

The approach
The starting point was to develop an extremely thorough understanding of all stakeholders’ roles, motivations and perceptions. At the same time, to recognise what was working for them - and what was not - in their engagement with the CIEH.

This was achieved through:

  • Surveys, focus groups and interviews with external and internal stakeholders.
  • An edited, clearer set of organisational objectives to enable marketing prioritisation.
  • A two-way dialogue with key stakeholders to test each new proposed approach, and refine it before roll out.
  • Resource and budget reviews and re-allocation, based on the above.

The results of the membership renewals and retention campaigns

A good marketing strategy and plan should direct and inform other areas of activity and give confidence to the direction the organisation is taking over time.

Top level marketing results at the CIEH under Aika's marketing leadership included:-

  • A redeveloped membership renewal programme, increasing retention by 10% and securing 98% of income 4 months ahead of the previous years.
  • A membership satisfaction and data collection market research programme, delivering robust data that instigated membership service improvements, informed the policy team’s direction and enabled clear sight of the membership life cycle.
  • Significantly enhanced membership experience, increasing membership engagement by 30% via:-
    • Creating an integrated online strategy including; development of new websites, membership portal, social media programme, brand refinement, new email delivery platform, introducing email best practice and community management.
    • Working with the Editorial and Policy teams, building an integrated programme of online newsletters and e-zines. This provided promotion of the institute's work and ongoing promotion of membership benefits, plus cross promoting revenue generating membership services.
    • Introduced a data management and CRM strategy enabling intelligent targeting and increased ROI.
    • Increased email response rates by 20%, reduced cost by 25%.
    • Coordination, development of guides, templates and support for regional volunteers that resulted in consistent brand and messaging in a more accessible format for members. Regional autonomy was retained but with increased transparency for all stakeholders.
    • Research that identified untapped and new membership areas providing new revenue streams and enhanced the CIEH’s positioning.

Whilst also:-

  • Saving 95% of the events marketing budget.
  • Increasing classified advertising by 25%.

And changing the organisation's mind-set (mostly) to increase orientation towards the value that marketing can deliver.

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