As someone who loves studying different generations and their unique behavioral attributes, I’d planned to attend a session on turning young professionals into raving fans. But while creating evangelists among this growing demographic, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe I should attend another ASAE session on Revitalizing Member Onboarding.
After all, organizations invest so much of their limited resources in acquiring new members. The natural next step is onboarding: the process to welcome these new members and help them acquire the knowledge and skills that they need in order to make the most of their membership. And like the old commercial says, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Onboarding is your best chance to personalize your association to your new members and connect with them – from day one.
While many organizations have an onboarding or a welcome program, they’re missing the mark. Some are creating the wrong impression by taking a “one-and-done” approach where they vanish after a single welcome email. Others are going overboard, sending too many emails about too many things or making broad attempts at engagement. The results are lackluster, with many new members tuning out just when they’re the most excited about their membership.
How can organizations turn the tide and create a results-driven onboarding experience?
The first step is to personalize, personalize, personalize. Take the time during the recruiting process to understand who your members are. Understand their interests up front and know you’re talking to. This allows you to not only immediately highlight the most relevant engagement opportunities but also to show you care – align with members from their first interactions to help them start internalizing the value of your organization. Understanding members as individuals will also help you begin to create personas (we recently wrote about personas here!) and begin developing the key insights necessary to delivering high-impact onboarding campaigns.
Putting those member insights into action via an effecting onboarding program is then just a question of applied learning. The session suggested consistent interaction and encouragement – not just sending them through your 10-email welcome series and expecting them to be excited about receiving an invoice at the end of the year! Create a sustained drumbeat of value throughout the year, with micro-education (starting with basics like how to log-in, benefits) and creating additional opportunities for engagement throughout the year.
Introduce easy ways for members to connect with each other, demonstrate their thought leadership expertise and participate in events. Always ensure your events focus on the three E’s (education, excitement and engagement) and offer new members opportunity for involvement, networking and exposure to new ideas.
Have some of these tactics in place? Maybe you don’t have others? When you have an idea of what onboarding tactics you have and which you want to start using, plot them out in a framework that will allow you to prioritize which onboarding tactics are important (either because they’re going to have the most impact or are something you’re not currently doing).
As noted in the session, most changes to an onboarding program don’t require big dollars – they require creative thinking, clear messaging, resources (staff or volunteer!) and a plan of action to get them all in place.
When it comes to member onboarding, there are no hard-and-fast rules. What works best for one organization depends entirely on their members, their members’ preferences and the type of membership experience an organization wants to deliver. What’s important is to not leave your new members floundering or disappointed. Remember, member retention starts from day one!