Big data: a new way to reach disengaged members

02 AUGUST 2017

Daniel Romney, IET
Daniel Romney, Data Marketing Manager, IET


Taking a big data approach, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has been able to identify members at risk of lapsing and do something about it. IET Data Marketing Manager Daniel Romney explains this new initiative. 

As IET members reach the end of their year of membership, they receive communications calling for them to renew and they either respond – or they don’t and lapse. We realised that to improve renewal rates, we had to do something different.

In an ideal world, we’d pre-empt those members who lapse and convince them to stay. Which led us to the question…can we predict which of our members are going to lapse?

It’s reasonable to assume that members who don’t engage with IET emails (who don’t open them or click on content) probably value their membership less. If they value their membership less, they could take one look at their renewal notice and decide not to pay.

We wanted to see if there was evidence to back up these speculations. So we looked at big data on our members, which means that we stitched together member details with their email behaviour tracked by our email software.

We then assigned a rating to each member based on their email behaviour. Each member was defined as having ‘excellent engagement’, ‘medium engagement’ or ‘poor engagement’ according to how many emails they had opened and clicked on.

Once each member had a rating, it was a case of waiting to see how they responded when it came to renewing their membership.

Our data showed us that our hypothesis was correct. A member who shows poor engagement with our emails is far more likely to lapse than a member who shows excellent engagement.

Acting on new insight

Now able to predict which members were more likely to lapse, we moved on to stage two of our initiative: convincing those members to stay with us.

In December 2016, we isolated a group of poorly engaged members, who were due to be billed in the first six months of 2017.

We targeted these members in a marketing campaign ‘Gear Up’, urging them to make use of all their member benefits (‘all of the gears’).

The campaign avoided email, given that these members were clearly not responding to this channel. Instead we used SMS, social media, direct mail, even personal calls – in a real effort to reach out to them.

Our hope was that the disengaged would realise the value of their membership and start using it. Then upon receiving their renewal notice a few months later, they would decide to stay with us.

Investing in disengaged members

As might be expected, we have had to put money and people into the initiative. There are costs involved in extracting the email data and costs associated with the marketing campaign.

Also, a large part of my role is now liaising with our email software provider and internal teams to collect data, which I then analyse.

Promising results

The early results, however, are outweighing the costs.

Among the disengaged members we isolated in December 2016, there was a portion who had opted out of marketing, so we couldn’t send them Gear Up. These ‘opt-outs’ provided a basis for comparison. Those who received Gear Up renewed at a higher rate than the opt-outs. Plus, the renewals are worth more than the monthly cost of the campaign (which currently still includes set-up costs).

Overall I’d say it’s a win-win initiative. We’re seeing a return on investment, and we’re guiding  disengaged members towards a more fulfilling membership experience. 


IET logoThe IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with over 168,000 members in 150 countries. It is also the most multidisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century.

The IET is working to engineer a better world by inspiring, informing and influencing our members, engineers and technicians, and all those who are touched, or touch, the work of engineers.