Have you bought anything online lately and had it delivered?
Okay, I know the answer to that one. Most of us are regular shoppers online, and our experiences with for-profit companies translate directly to the work we do recruiting new members to our associations. How?
Think about your interactions with your favorite online stores. Successful retailers have learned that we want to be recognized personally, and they tailor their emails and texts to us with as much personal information as we will provide. They even remind us we’ve left something in our shopping cart. It makes us feel special, a part of the “in” crowd, and prompts us to buy more.
McKinsey & Company research has shown that 71% of us expect personalization and 76% of us get frustrated when we don’t find it. Your members and prospective members feel the same way, and they transfer their experiences with online retailers to everyone else, including your association. When you welcome new members to your association, make it personal.
One of your goals when you onboard a new member is to start a relationship between the member and the association, and it’s the time to make a great first impression. Here are a few personalization tips for onboarding new members.
- Send every communication from an individual.
Use an individual's email instead of one from info@yourassociation or membership@yourassociation to make the communication more personal. Great choices are the executive director or membership director.
- Send every communication to an individual.
Every letter, email, text, or chat should start with the member’s name. Your CRM or AMS should be able to insert a member’s name into your messages, particularly your welcome messages. Even older technology like Word can insert names from a spreadsheet into mail merges. The icing on the cake? This process can be automated using templatized emails and fields that get replaced with the contact information for each person.
- Establish a connection with a staff member or volunteer.
Think about assigning a membership “buddy” to new members. Give them a person to contact if they have questions about anything, but especially their benefits, resources, events calendar, and online community.
Create a Personal Welcome Sequence
It’s likely that a new member will sign up online. The ease of bringing in new members online is great – but it’s missing that personal touch. When you welcome your new members with a personalized welcome sequence, you’re lessening that gap. They get immediate value from their investment into your association with quicker access to their benefits. Plus, it gives you the chance to get to know your new members.
- Personalize the initial welcome message.
Speak directly to the new members. They may wonder if they’ve done the right thing by joining. Congratulate your new member on making a great career decision and mention how many others are also members. For example, “Congratulations on becoming a GBC Association member and joining 3,500 other professionals in your field.”
- Provide access to your portal.
If you can set up the system to automatically create new login credentials, give a new member access to your portal right away.
- Double-check member information.
Nothing is worse than sending an email to “Hi Deborah” when your member prefers her middle name “Susan.” Use your first interactions with a new member to verify their membership information, including their preferred name. Provide access to the quickest way to correct any errors – their member profile or a staff member who can help.
- Explain what comes next.
Help set expectations for your new members with a guide to what comes next. Share what you will send to them and when. List what events are on the horizon. Explain what can they expect with the details like receipts, discounts, coupons, and renewals.
- Don’t forget videos.
Use videos to introduce your association and welcome new members. A quick video can be easy to create with tools like Loom or Vidyard and add a great personal touch.
What Should Your Onboarding Process Include?
That’s a question only you can answer. Each association is different, and indeed, each member is different. A karaoke night at your annual meeting might help some members get to know each other, but other members may enjoy a quiet coffee break with one other person. With that in mind, plan a variety of contacts so that you can reach most new members in the ways they prefer.
Here are suggestions for your welcome campaign:
- Welcome email series.
Plan a series of emails over several months. You can highlight a different member benefit in each email. You can also provide a quick guide to finding resources on your website or information about joining an online member community.
- Welcome packet.
Some associations mail a welcome packet; others send one via email. Whatever the delivery method, the packet should include your mission and values, member benefits, calendar of events, contact information for key staff members and volunteers, discount coupons, and association swag.
- Personal invitation to the next event.
Send an invitation to the next event from the executive director, event manager, or membership director. Some associations also include discounts to the first annual meeting for new members.
- Personal invitation to new member events.
Plan a new member reception or charity activity at your next big event. Send personal invitations to recent new members. Make sure you have a lively group of current members who can help make the event fun and meeting new people easier.
- Choose a mentor.
Offer a new member the chance to partner with a more experienced member. This can be especially helpful if a new member is attending a very large conference for the first time. A “meeting mentor” can help them navigate the event.
- 30/60/90-day check-ins.
Many for-profit companies arrange these conversations with new employees. Depending on the size of your organization, you can reach out to new members with the same frequency.
- Coffee with a peer.
Arrange a coffee break, in-person or virtually, to have an informal chat with another member.
Celebrate Your New Members
Include a welcome to new members in your association newsletter. It’s particularly helpful to companies joining a trade association. Recognition never hurts!
Ask for Feedback
After six months of membership, your new members should have some opinions about what worked for them during onboarding and what didn’t. Ask for their feedback. Tweak your campaign to reflect what you’ve learned.
Onboarding Isn’t Just for Members Anymore
We think about onboarding for new members, but you can apply similar principles to other areas of your association. New participants in your education program or those seeking professional credentials need information about your association and the process they’ve started, too. Adapt member onboarding tactics to appeal to new audiences.
Associations are known for their caring staff members and welcoming members. Enhance a new member’s experience by welcoming them with the information they need and the personal experience they want.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.