Using data and digital to target new members - and increase retention



For the Royal Society of Medicine, ensuring members renew at the end of their first year of membership is crucial. Gavin Berkerey, Marketing Manager, explains how the RSM decided to dramatically improve email correspondence with newly-joined members to increase engagement, with the ultimate aim of improving the renewal rate at the end of the first year.

Gavin Berkerey
Royal Society of Medicine

Before we began the project, new members of the Royal Society of Medicine would receive a welcome pack through the post, including their membership card and a welcome letter.  From day one they’d also receive the same emails as other members. Email content was tailored to some extent, reflecting preferences and offering relevant information, but didn’t speak to these individuals specifically as new members.

The RSM offers a wide range of benefits to all members and we could see that new members had so much to choose from, they didn’t know where to begin! Data from member surveys and telephone conversations with lapsed members revealed that the key reason for not renewing was that members were just not using their benefits. We decided to introduce a dynamic and personalised sequence of emails from the point a member joins to improve use of various aspects of membership, with the aim of increasing engagement and encouraging renewal. 

The project took three to four months from start to finish, involving colleagues across multiple departments, our internal design team and our existing e-mailing software and CRM system. The most time consuming - and important - aspect of the work was mapping the audience types to ensure we could deliver appropriately tailored content: we have 7 grades of membership at which new members can join, as well as 60 Sections (spanning all medical specialities). We designed a 6-week programme of emails, starting as the member joins, to inform them of the key products, services, events and other benefits most relevant to them, and linked to RSM content available elsewhere.

The programme of welcome emails was introduced in March 2016, with new members at that time renewing in April 2017.  Since implementation, we have seen that engagement levels have improved significantly: not only did the open rates for the emails increase by +50%, but we had an amazing +200% increase in click rate.  We’ve tracked event bookings and video use - two key benefits promoted to new members - and seen double the number of attendees and viewers.  We’re also monitoring for changes in end-of-year renewal; we have a 6-month grace period, so it will be a little while before we can say for sure what improvement there is on last year’s renewal rate, but it’s looking good so far.

The success of the welcome email programme in increasing participation and engagement with new members has been hugely encouraging, and we’ll be continuing to use it exactly as it is: our wider content updates regularly, so the email content also changes and offers the most up to date and relevant information.  We’re considering how we might apply the same thinking to other stages of the membership lifecycle, particularly in relation to re-engaging with members who have not attended events or made use of other benefits in a while.

It’s really worth thinking about how to nurture your new customers – it’s too easy to assume that they will behave like your other customer groups, but time spent on them now should pay dividends in the longer run.



Gavin Berkerey has been a Marketing Manager at the RSM since 2015. He has substantial integrated and digital experience, leading on brand, acquisition and customer retention activity to prospects and existing customers.  Gavin previously worked across a wide range of sectors in integrated and direct marketing agencies.  At the RSM, he is currently focusing on member and delegate engagement and renewals.