Simple Ways to Revitalize a Member Onboarding Program

The earliest member interactions can lead to long-term member engagement. If your onboarding program needs a shot of energy, consider these small tweaks to make the welcome feel more personal and relevant.

Too often associations have a “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to member onboarding.

Maybe you have an automated or drip email campaign or rely on a welcome packet full of information for members.

Either way, Ashley Uhl, CAE, founder of Association Think, says you could be contributing to information overload.

“Many associations fall into the same traps,” she says. “You find something that works and stick with it. For most associations, what works is—to put it bluntly—welcome overload.”

In her roles as both a membership professional and consultant, she’s worked to streamline the onboarding and orientation process for associations.

“There are several ways to go about this, depending on your membership size, budget, and staff time,” she says. “Member onboarding is a prime example of something that is not one size fits all. It’s not even one size fits most.”

To add a personalized touch to the welcome experience, Uhl suggests a few small tweaks to your onboarding program.

Ambassador programs. Association staffers don’t have to be the only ones to welcome new members. Creating ad-hoc or micro-volunteering roles for existing members to serve as ambassadors can add a personal touch to the new member experience. “Long-time members are often more than happy to evangelize your association too,” Uhl says. Asking them to call or email a new member, or even establishing a conference buddy system for first-time attendees, can help ensure newbies navigate their earliest experiences with ease. When paired carefully, these relationships can also turn into mentoring opportunities between experienced and young professionals.

Message templates. A few weeks ago, the inbound marketing firm HubSpot released a set of onboarding templates that you can download here. While they’re geared toward customer retention, they can easily be tailored for member-specific communications too. Thinking about a new member welcome as a series of messages helps associations to build a personalized experience, Uhl says. That includes email templates and phone scripts, and other less obvious tactics like an in-app welcome message. HubSpot Content Strategist Christina explains why this welcome is so important: “A greeting message is an in-app welcome message that greets users on their first login and encourages them to take the first step in setting up their accounts,” she wrote in a blog post. “It’s best practice to ask the user to do only one thing (i.e. change their password or turn on email notifications), and should include a video to guide them.”

Orientation videos. Uhl also suggests that associations tap into other creative outlets that add personal touches to a member onboarding program. “Lean on your graphic designers and creative team to develop something bright, eye-catching, or in a stand-out size to make people notice and want it,” she says. Often video is an underutilized format for onboarding. With it, associations can educate or train new members, whether it’s a step-by-step guide or orientation program. For an example of what that might look like, watch how the Association for Talent Development uses video to bring new chapter leaders up-to-speed on tools, resources, and support services.

What new or interesting tactics have you used to tweak your member onboarding program? Post your comments in the thread below.

(Olivier Le Moal/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By 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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