Membership

For Member Onboarding, Think Outside the Inbox

By / Apr 16, 2019 (Ekaterina Antipova/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Email remains the most popular way to engage new members, but some associations are testing creative alternatives in an age of email fatigue.

When a new member joins your association, the first thing you probably do is send an email to make that person feel welcome.

According to a 2018 new member engagement study [PDF] from Dynamic Benchmarking, LLC, and Kaiser Insights, LLC, association professionals said email was the top communications tool of choice to welcome members: 96 percent of respondents send at least one new-member email as soon as an individual clicks the join button.

But what if your email open rate is lagging? Email fatigue is a real problem. Some associations recognize this and are testing alternative methods to reach new members.

Jane Nassiri, director of customer success at MemberSuite, an association management software service, challenges membership professionals to think outside the email inbox. She says it’s possible to reach new members in a variety of ways and argues a multi-pronged strategy works best for new-member onboarding.

“Back in the day, everyone had an email set up [and] ready to send, but moving forward, I think the expectation has changed,” Nassiri says. “A lot of associations are developing new welcome strategies that make members feel part of something more special.”

Examples that she’s seen work well include mailed welcome kits; form letters with elements of personalization, addressed to the individual and written in the voice of the CEO; and even tried-and-true membership cards, a physical reminder that members belong.

Online Engagement

Of course, email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Many associations have begun to use marketing automation tools that help to personalize email communications and move new members through the onboarding process. But don’t forget to consider other communication channels where your members might be active online, Nassiri says.

“A lot of people are on social media these days,” she says. “So, whether it’s a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or LinkedIn, you can reach out by tagging new members in a post.”

Getting social with the onboarding process is something that the Air Conditioning Contractors of America does every month with its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

You could also consider tapping into office collaboration platforms, like Trello. The Iowa Lean Consortium took that approach last year. Since many of its members are project managers who are already plugged into the platform every day, ILC created a Trello kanban board—an interactive list that helps new members get oriented in a variety of benefits and services.

“You have to be creative; you have to think outside the box and come up with inexpensive ways to engage,” Nassiri says. “Which is why, a lot of the time, I think you’re seeing associations engage online. It keeps costs down, and it keeps the conversation going.”

Have you found new ways to engage new members that don’t involve email? Post your ideas below.

Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. More »

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