When a new member joins your organization, you probably want to jump for joy. All that marketing you’ve been doing is finally paying off!
That said, the work isn’t over yet. (Is it ever?) The next task at hand is getting that member to stay, and here, things can get a little tricky.
To ensure your new members DO stay, here are five new member onboarding mistakes you’ll definitely want to steer clear of:
1. Starting too late
As an association professional, you’re incredibly busy - ALL the time. But if there’s one thing you need to prioritize (and make a habit of), it’s reaching out to your new members STAT. Consider this their first impression of you (as a member). If you don’t reach out in a timely fashion, they’ll assume you don’t care, and that’s a horrible way to get things started.
Now if reaching out immediately really is an issue for you (particularly if you’re a staff of only one or two and simply can’t break away from projects every time a new member joins), use technology to your advantage. Many systems (like association management systems) allow you to automate this type of process, meaning first-touch emails won’t fall through the cracks. (Yes, this may be something you have to invest in, but if better onboarding leads to better retention…isn’t it worth at least considering?)
2. Limiting your communications to just one or two touches
Too often, association professionals send a new member welcome email...and that’s it. But truth be told, that’s not quite enough to get the job done. New members need more than that - they need nurturing, so to speak.
That said, rather than sending one, stand-alone welcome email, consider creating a series of welcome emails - one with info about all your different benefits, one with info about your upcoming events, one with staff information, explaining who to contact and when, etc. The more information you put out on the table, the more likely your new members are to reach out and utilize it.
(Note: With many association management systems, email series can be automated as well.)
3. Treating all of your new members the EXACT same
Many associations send their new members the exact same information - the same emails, the same resources, etc. And to an extent, that’s fine - and necessary (some information really does apply to everyone). But to take your new member onboarding up a notch, a little personalization is needed.
Here’s what we mean: On your member applications, is there a section for special interests? (For example, if you work for a marketing association, you may give people the option of selecting social media, public relations, crisis communications, etc. - to further identify their professional interests.) If so, could you then use that information to send your new members targeted communications? (A blog post about social media, a case study regarding crisis communications, etc.) Sure, you’d probably need to set up separate email lists for your varying interests, but in doing so, engagement would likely skyrocket.
4. Leaving it up to them to meet others/get involved
For the most part, associations do a great job of inviting new members to events. But the one thing that’s often forgotten is how awkward events can be for new members who don’t know anyone. (And many times, that can actually deter new members from attending).
Don’t expect your members to build those relationships (at least initially) on their own. Help them out. As part of your new member onboarding process, come up with a few ways to help your new members get to know others. For example, at events, consider hosting a reception exclusively for new members. (This could be held prior to the event so new members could kind of ease into it.) Another idea: A channel in your online social community exclusively for new members. The more you help your new members get to know others, the more comfortable they’ll feel in your association (and the more involved they’re likely to get).
5. Not following up
Last but not least, there’s the follow-up, and unsurprisingly, this is often where things slip. (More lingering time = more time to forget.) But follow-up is crucial because if you can identify early on whether or not your new members are happy (and whether or not they’re getting what they want out of your association), you can then predict how likely they are to renew. And if they’re NOT happy, you can then do whatever is needed to change their experience/perception.
How should you follow up exactly? An email survey will work just fine. But if you can call your new members and chat with them directly, that’s even better. (Note: A good time to follow up is about three months after they join.)
What does your current new member onboarding process look like? Does it need some tweaking? If you know changes need to be made (you’re just not sure what those changes should be), check out our free guide, 6 Tips for Successfully Onboarding New Members, below!