Scott Oser is president and founder of Scott Oser Associates in Washington, DC.
Your membership can’t grow if you don’t nail the onboarding process. Here are six strategies to make members feel welcomed.
Research has shown, time and time again, that member-based organizations with high retention rates often excel at growing their member numbers as well. After all, if you were to lose a large percentage of your current members, you would be forced to spend a lot of time, energy, and money bringing in new members, and we all know that the cost to bring in a new member is significantly higher than the cost to retain a current one.
A proven strategy to increase member engagement and retention is to create a strong onboarding program. Here are six ways associations can do this:
Do hit them fast. Amazon and other retail entities have conditioned us to expect instant gratification. You can no longer afford to wait days or weeks to send members a welcome note or confirmation message that their membership has been received. When a member joins, don’t wait to let them know that their membership was received. Do it instantly after they click “join.”
Do hit them often. Frequency of communication is also important. Onboarding is not a one-and-done activity. To truly engage your members, communicate with them consistently. Would you feel part of something if you only heard from that group once a year before they asked you to renew?
Don't hit them too hard. You have so much great stuff to tell your members, and they need to hear it, right? Of course. But members cannot take in too much information. Pace your onboarding communications so that members receive information in digestible chunks. If you don’t engage them in a way that they can handle, you risk overwhelming them, which will ultimately lead them to ignore or block your attempts to communicate.
Pace your onboarding communications so that members receive information in digestible chunks. If you don’t engage them in a way that they can handle, you risk overwhelming them, which will ultimately lead them to ignore or block your attempts to communicate.
Do hit them with targeted messages. No two members are alike. They have unique roles within an industry or profession, different roles within their organizations, and varying levels of experience and expertise. Use the data you have on your members to communicate with them appropriately. Using the same generic message for all members is simply not effective, or needed.
Do hit them from different directions. People have certain habits and ways in which they like to be reached. Some prefer email. Some like to talk on the phone. Believe it or not, some even like receiving mail. Your members are no different, and you need to do your best to understand what their communication preferences are, and do the majority of your talking to them in that way. It will take some time and technology for you to do this well, but the return is worth the effort.
Do hit them with different voices. Many people in your association have the potential to form relationships with members that will reinforce retention. You have staff members at varying levels who serve different functions. You also have board members and other volunteer leaders. Also, don’t forget about industry partners, and if you have chapters, component relations leaders too. All of these individuals are part of your association community and are critical to an onboarding experience. It is your job to figure out how to best use these assets.
You have all the tools, skills, and people you need to form a strong member onboarding program. With some data analysis, resource allocation, and creativity, you will be on your way to retaining more members and watching your membership rates grow.