Posted by Divya Tandan on Apr 18, 2021
We often see associations apply a number of strategies to recruit members only to see their retention levels decline. More often than not, it’s the new members that joined in the last year that decide to leave the organization.
And, the primary reason they do? The 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report attributes it to lack of communicating the value of benefits, difficulty meeting the needs of their diverse memberships and proving the ROI of being a member. In other words, it comes down to engagement, or the lack of it.
So where do you start?
Engagement starts at the onboarding level. Evidently, it’s also this stage in member engagement that is not invested as heavily by association members. We surveyed 1,000 associations just like yours about what their onboarding process is like, and found that:
  • 95% of associations send a new member welcome email
  • 60% of membership chairs personally call new members in the first week
  • 44% of associations had a mentorship program where new members are assigned to a current member
  • 8% continued to follow up with new members after the first 2 weeks of them joining
  • Less than 2% continued to follow up with new members after the 1st month
As an end result, 47% of associations reported losing more than 3 members that had joined in the past year.
The first 90 days are the most crucial for a new member, because it’s during this month and half  that they are evaluating you, assessing the value membership to the association offers them and trying to familiarize themselves with all the resources made available to them. It’s the best time to begin strengthening your relationship with them, and keep them engaged ensuring they don’t slip through the cracks.
4 ways to make a lasting impression
Every relationship begins with a conversation, and with learning about one another. You use the ‘honeymoon’ period as it is called to make a positive impression and create a foundation baseline for this new relationship.
1)Personalized Touch Points
Sending individual emails to each member is time consuming, but personalization can still be part of automated emails (i.e. emails that an AMS system would send out on your behalf on a set schedule). Email automation is not only for businesses. Create an automated welcome campaign series that drips emails to new members on a pre-defined schedule. Doing so lets you share information about your association in chewable bites opposed to overwhelming them with every resource available to them.
This is also your chance to educate them on the value that your association brings, the various activities they can get involved in and how. Ensure that every email that is part of your campaign has a call to action inviting them to learn more.
At MemberNova, we call this SmartAutomation. With personalized content snippets and mail merge fields, new members begin receiving emails on your behalf as soon as they’ve been approved.
2) Let them do the talking
Once you’ve educated your new members about your organization, it’s time to learn more about them. What are they looking for in terms of membership goals, and how more importantly, how will you help?
Surveys are a great way to learn more about new members, where you can use the results to further define your membership strategies. Whether you choose to link the results directly to the members’ profile or keep the answers anonymous, surveys will give you insight into the types of events to host, membership options to offer, newsletter content to share based on the topics they are interested in, and much more.
MemberNova’s Smart Search list allows you to dynamically create distribution lists based on results from surveys and questionnaires, helping you send targeted messages to those interested, which in turn will increase your engagement rates.
3) Create a community
What if there was an easy way to connect new members with your network? Traditional methods suggest meetings, and social events, which are great because they allow us to feel part of a tribe, but what if there was a way to translate that digitally? Member-only forums/communities allow you to do just that.
Create a community specific to new members, where they can connect with one another and existing members, and participate in conversations that interest them. When these communities are available through an app or mobile device, that increases the likelihood of members participating even further.
4) Continue to foster the relationship
It’s important to continue your onboarding well after your new members have established themselves in your association. Continue to foster the relationship by remaining member-centric. Offering opportunities to engage is one aspect, but analyzing their engagement patterns and scores will give you more insight into their member experience.
Create and send a check-in survey once again to see how your association’s offerings have aligned with their expectations. Reference their answers from your first survey and ask your new members to share their thoughts. When you are able to reference previous answers, it shows you as an association listen and care about your members.            
At MemberNova, we believe onboarding new members is a crucial part of every association’s strategy. That’s why our survey series are customized for the individual member, going as far as displaying their previous answers for them to review and asking for their opinions again.
A strong onboarding process ensures you form a solid relationship with your members, while insights reports into their engagement levels allow you to identify high-risk fleeting members from future advocates, giving you the ability to strategically implement targeted renewal campaigns.