New Member Onboarding Tips to Boost Long-Term Retention

Do your new members have commitment issues? Here are three tips to improve new member onboarding and boost long-term retention.

By Evan Hendershot – Digital Marketing Specialist    

It’s not easy to commit. That’s why 8 out of every 10 people fail to follow through with their New Year’s resolutions. It’s why some folks resist the new enterprise software selected by your executive director or IT department. And it’s why I still can’t speak Spanish despite 12 years of on-and-off attempts. 

The same goes for association membership. The big leap occurs when a new member joins. They’ve finally committed. At that point, you have one year (or the length of your standard membership term) to get that member to see the value in your organization. It’s the age old question of, “Are these benefits worth the cost of membership?” 

Fair or otherwise, that question will likely be answer by your new member within weeks or months of joining. That’s why the new member onboarding process is such a make-or-break moment for your association. If you’re unable to communicate the best benefits of membership, that new member is much more likely to become just another name in your database — ready to leave the association as soon as their membership expires. 

So, what can you organization do to keep members from slowly drifting away as soon as they join? Here are three tips to help you create a new member onboarding strategy that keeps new members around for years to come. 

Encourage Digital Communication 

There’s a 71 percent chance your member renewals either stayed the same in the past year or decreased, according to Marketing General’s 2019 Membership Marketing Benchmarking ReportRather than looking at that statistic with a pessimistic gaze, let’s put on our rose-colored glasses and recognize the room for improvement. 

In an age of endless digital connectivity, with your average American checking their smartphone 52 times each day, your association may be able to use its social media channels to be omnipresent in your members’ lives (or at least on their social feeds, but what’s the difference these days?). Try to encourage members to follow the association across platforms as soon as they join. That way, they will never miss your how-to articles, members-only webinars or the association’s other great content. 

A more successful engagement technique, however, is to encourage participation in the organization’s private online community. While social media engagement rates hover around 0.5-5 percent, nearly 50 percent of online community members are actively engaged. 

Those engagement metrics sound about right, which is why the team at Protech shares webinar registration links and other helpful documents via the Protech Users Group. Private communities like these are an incredible engagement tool, and they’re very accessible to new members who may be intimidated or hesitant to attend in-person meetups. 

If your association has an online community, you certainly won’t want to let too much time go by without introducing it to new members. 

Slowly Roll Out Member Benefits via Marketing Automation 

The sheer amount of benefits offered by your association could be overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, the most obvious benefits might not be found in plain sight. 

We’re fortunate to experience that phenomenon at Protech. Our Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure-powered association management software (AMS) has so much to offer that some of the best benefits of being a Protech user would be missed had the customer not been reminded over time via automated emails.

Automated campaigns like these don’t need to be overly complex. Try spreading an email series out of the course of six or seven weeks, highlighting a different benefit each time. If this is your first new member onboarding campaign, there’s no need to get fancy by setting up multiple actions and triggers or negative paths. A simple, timed release will be just enough to help members comfortably assess what is available to them. 

Ask for Feedback 

Your new member onboarding will never reach its full potential without feedback. What’s working? What isn’t? A basic survey after a few months of membership will help your new member onboarding campaign improve and show them that you care about their membership experience. 

Simply surveys can be set up via Microsoft Forms, SurveyMonkey or some campaign automation tools (like ClickDimensions). 

Final Thoughts 

None of these new member onboarding tactics are a sure thing. Some new members just have commitment issues. Others might not be suited for the association life. Or, it’s possible that new member onboarding campaign kept someone interested enough in the organization to continue exploring their newfound member benefits. 

Whatever the end result may be, there’s still a fine line membership and marketing professionals must walk. How many emails are too many? When is the right time to ask for feedback? How do your newest members prefer to consume association content? To find out how six associations answered those questions and more, download the e-book, “Association Experts Share the Hidden Truths to Member Engagement.” 

About the Author: Evan is the digital marketing specialist at Protech. He previously served as a reporter and assistant editor at a newspaper in South Dakota, building relationships with readers to build a bigger audience. For more from Evan, check out this blog post.