New members have a secret: they secretly hope joining your association wasn’t a dumb decision that will cost them time and money.
Joining an association isn’t like other purchases. New members are taking a chance on what they hope will be a transformative experience for their career or their business. Your job during the new member’s onboarding experience is to guide them onto the path for fulfilling those desires.
An exceptional onboarding experience will make new members feel welcomed, understood, and reassured they made the right decision.
In the old days, association staff gathered around the conference room table for “stuffing parties.” The membership version involved putting together welcome packets full of folders and flyers, the member directory, and the latest issue of the magazine. We ended up with paper cuts and packages so heavy we called them “door stops.”
The first thing members got from their new association was information overload. They set the package aside to read later and rediscovered it when moving out of their office.
We also subjected new members to information overload during orientation. They zoned out as we droned on and on through a benefits presentation, much of it having no relevance to the poor member.
Thankfully, we wised up. Associations developed a new perspective on the member experience and invested in technology that delivers relevant information.
Onboarding is now primarily a digital experience. Associations tailor content to the new member’s needs and interests. The onboarding campaign lasts throughout the member’s first year, so they’re never subject to information overload.
Member journey mapping can help you understand how members feel at each point of their membership journey—from visiting your website as a prospect, to completing the application, paying dues, waiting for a response to their application, and throughout the new member onboarding process. With this understanding, you can anticipate a new member’s expectations and eliminate obstacles to their success.
You have a lot to accomplish during onboarding, so take advantage of the momentum sparked by the new member’s decision to join. You must quickly make a positive impression.
During the first weeks of membership, a new member wants to know:
In her recently released book, Elevating Engagement: Uncommon Strategies for Creating a Thriving Member Community, Amanda Kaiser says new members observe at first, still weighing whether they made the right decision. Then comes assessment. They “start to layer judgment on top of their observations. Each new member is trying to determine if the association is for people like them.”
Your job during the first weeks of onboarding is to prove that, yes, they made the right decision—the association is for them. You can’t make a convincing case until you learn more about them and can speak in specifics.
If you quickly help new members get value from their membership experience, they’re likely to develop an association habit.
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