There is a lot to know about running a membership-based organization: it’s a large amount of responsibility, often only held by one or two people. Your day-to-day work presents its own challenges on a small scale, from sitting through meetings to managing spreadsheets, but there’s a number of challenges to be found when addressing the large-scale, big-picture parts of your work that can’t be solved in a day at a desk.

We’ve decided to try to narrow down that big picture by boiling it down into a smaller number of important ideas that will all help you out when taken to heart. Whether you already do many of these things or none of these things, becoming aware of and adopting these habits will help set you up for success in managing your organization’s members.

1. Plan your members’ experience

Think about the first moment a potential member engages with your organization. That doesn’t mean the first time they reach out to you – that means the first time they become aware of it. Your promotional material, your name, and the places your name appears all are likely to start building an impression as soon as it passes in front of them, whether they realize it or not. Your brand begins well before first contact with a potential member, and you want to think of any exposure to your potential member as a first step in a process with a lot of steps ahead of it. Think of the way your organization will be talked about in reviews and searches, and plan as if everyone who walks through your door might have heard that talk, too.

When a member does reach the level of interest where they begin to research your organization, know what their search is going to bring up; careful use of keywords and SEO techniques means that you have a lot of power to reach different audiences if you can predict their interests. You should make a habit of Googling yourself – in a private browser window, so that your cookies don’t affect your search results – and see what comes up. Use what you learn to understand what might be going through a potential member’s head when they find themselves presented with a sign-up link or a membership application, and treat it all as part of a cohesive experience instead of several disjointed stages – or else they’ll feel disjointed, too.

2. Question your routine – and consider your alternatives

How much research have you done into the tools available to you as a membership manager? How many plugins have you tried, and how many software suites have you examined? For some, that answer might be “none”. Managers often end up working with a system that hasn’t changed since they entered the role, not for lack of caring but for just having never gotten a push to step back and ask themselves, “Is my current workflow and setup as efficient as it could be? Or have I just gotten used to its flaws?”

Explore! Investigate your options. The odds that any of us are going to nail it on the first try, without having to make several attempts or many gradual improvements, are pretty low, so you owe it to yourself to budget some time and research your options. There might be software that does certain tasks more efficiently, or which makes it easier to export the spreadsheets your organization maintains. The cost of a membership management suite is often outweighed by the stress it relieves by bringing all of your tasks under one umbrella, and the time it takes to switch over will be quickly outweighed by the time it saves you overall.

3. Define success for yourself, every time

How are you measuring your success lately? What does success mean to you? And when was the last time you asked yourself that question? Everyone wants their organization to grow, but even that is an open-ended statement with a lot of possible meanings. Are you looking for an increase in revenue, an increase in enrollment, an increase in engagement? All of these things are good, but a plan that tries to achieve everything all at once is bound to fail. Pick a goal, and plan around that goal – once you’ve identified the problem and come up with a battle plan, then you can start worrying about how that interacts with the rest of your ambitions.

It’s also important to take your work in stages: if you want to increase your revenue, are you going to do that through increased enrollment, or by selling other features to your existing members? If you’re worried about enrollment, you also need to structure it around goals that are not as broad as “recruit more members.” Figure out where your problem is – are you losing potential members during the sign-up process, or are you just not getting their attention in the first place? Identify the problematic parts of the sales funnel and take them on as individual goals; a blanket statement like “we want to grow” is a wish, not a plan, and plans are what will drive your organization forward.

4. Don’t take churn casually

This one goes without saying, but it’s worth a reminder. It can be very easy to write off a frustrated member, client, or customer as impossible to please, and you might be right – but to make that assumption too early is to shoot yourself in the foot, and you’re doing them a disservice as well. Keep on top of your analytics, and watch who’s slowing down – or who’s already drifting away. Now is the time to figure out how to engage them again, instead of letting the problem fester until it’s beyond repair.

5. Watch for opportunities

There are always new places to go and ways to improve. It’s important to keep imaginative and ambitious when it comes to fulfilling the goals you set out for yourself and for your organization. This means paying attention to networking events and online discussions relevant to your field, but it doesn’t just mean that. It also means that you need to be aware of all the tools available to you, whether they’re features in a membership management software suite, plug-ins, networks like LinkedIn, and make sure you’re not passing over anything that would be useful to you. We talked about setting yourself up with the right tools, but it’s not enough to just have them in hand – subscribing to a software suite is only step one, and knowing what it can do for you is just as important!

This habit is listed after the last one – being on top of churn risk – for a reason! Every member at risk of churning is, yes, a risk, but they also represent potential: not only can you win them back if you prove that you can go above and beyond for them, but whether or not they stay, simply asking for their input as to what went wrong will give you valuable feedback, and it’s up to you to use this feedback to prevent the same thing from happening again. One door closes, as they say, and another door opens, but they don’t talk about trying to find a doorstop while this happens, and that’s precisely what you should do.

With this advice in mind, we wish you all the best in setting yourself up with new habits – and setting

your organization up for even greater growth.