Only 24% of association CEOs/executives say their associations do a good job onboarding new members.

In a recent quick poll conducted by Avenue M in late September 2022 with 21 association CEOs/executives, 52% shared they needed room for improvement onboarding new members, while only 24% said they are doing a good job, and 19% stated they were not. (Click HERE to participate in future polls.)

It comes down to a basic reality: It’s not about you, and it’s not a time for transactions. It’s about personalizing the member experience by finding out what they need from the get-go, which doesn’t need to be difficult, expensive, or complicated.

For example, one CEO panelist shared that through the group’s LMS, it has a course to help members make the most of their membership and a drip campaign highlighting member benefits. Another said the association has created a welcome portal on its website for members and renewing members to get up to speed on benefits and programs.

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Why is it important to get it right? Here’s a real-life example. A few years ago, while training for the Boston Marathon, I sustained a common injury among runners I knew wasn’t too serious. I initially ignored it because it had taken me six attempts to finally qualify for the marathon. After a few weeks, it was obvious I needed to see a physical therapist. On a Monday morning, after a long weekend run, I limped into her office. All I could think of was, she better not say these four words: You. Can’t. Run. Boston.

That didn’t happen. She immediately made me feel at ease. We discussed my goals before she created a treatment plan. Over the next three weeks, she continued to ask questions and provide exercises that would speed up my recovery. A week before the race, she uttered four words I actually did want to hear: You. Can. Run. Boston.

I share this story to emphasize how essential it is to put members and their needs first. Imagine if the physical therapist had started my appointment trying to sell me something like a compression wrap or a series of 10 sessions. What if it had been more important for her to make a sale without knowing anything about what I needed and why I had gone to her for treatment? Instead of trying to sell me a solution, she focused on solving my problem. Because she helped me solve my problem, I’ve referred many clients to her practice.

Now consider how your organization onboards and welcomes new members. Does your organization ask them why they joined and what they need? Is your organization a problem solver or a salesperson? Do you connect the dots between what your members need and how you can help them get their jobs done?

Looking for ideas to up your game? Read our quick summary of the following articles and click the links below.

Six Ways to Make New-Member Digital Onboarding a Success
Lia Zegeye, senior director of membership at the American Bus Association, recommends showing members the value of membership at the outset and introducing them to benefits they might not know about. Zegeye conducts the onboarding webinars herself, which further personalizes the process and connects them with a name and a face right away.

Her mantra is: “Keep it clean, concise, and easy to digest.” Here are her six recommendations for effectively welcoming and onboarding new members digitally.

  1. Make it personal.
  2. Show, don’t tell.
  3. Guided website tour.
  4. Engage with social media.
  5. Share incentive programs.
  6. Highlight social responsibility.

Six Ideas for Upgrading Member Onboarding
Proactively giving members a compass to navigate their journey from the start, and making sure they understand the clear value they are getting makes all the difference in promoting a high level of engagement and enduring retention.

Here are a few ideas to give your member onboarding process a boost.

  1. Personalize early.
  2. Instead of an onboarding packet, consider drip marketing.
  3. Lean on your chapters—but not too hard.
  4. Integrate your social strategy.
  5. Don’t drop off too quickly with your messaging.
  6. Offer special notice at events.

Virtual Happy Hour for Newbies
The article covers five ideas to consider to increase your association’s volunteer health score.
A main reason a lot of professionals join associations is to connect with like-minded peers. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) welcomes new members with a six-part video series showing them benefits–and an invitation to a virtual happy hour. The happy hour gives them a chance to connect with each other, but it also allows staff to find out what members really want.

Jennifer Nanni, ACLM’s senior director of membership said, “Between the videos in the welcoming email, as well as the happy hour, this gives them that opportunity to feel included, brought into the family, and engage with us further.”

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Lisa Boylan
Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, President & CEO

(Image: Adobe Stock)