One association switched from a cumbersome, one-size-fits-all new member onboarding process to a more personalized digital one and got excellent results with better member engagement and retention.
Many of us have learned in the few past months that connections matter—perhaps now more than ever. The National Association of Episcopal Schools saw the quantifiable results of making good and lasting connections when it launched a highly successful automated new member onboarding campaign with the resources—Mailchimp and MatrixMaxx—and small staff it already had in place.
First Months Are Make-or-Break
Staff from NAES spoke about their success in a recent joint webinar with the Matrix Group, which helped them launch their digital campaign. Participants emphasized that the first few months of membership are “make or break” and that the way you welcome and onboard your members sets the tone for the rest of their member experience.
“Never assume a new member knows how to navigate your association and services. It’s not enough to just send a welcome letter and hope for the best,” said Matrix CEO Joanna Pineda.
Make It Tailored, Relevant, and Succinct
NAES replaced its paper mailing with a digital one last year, which was good timing given the tumultuous events that have overtaken the country in 2020, according to Jonathan Cooper, the association’s communications manager. Instead of inundating new members with a packet of publications, NAES now gives them the option to choose the publications they want for free from its online store.
Cooper said this tactic accomplishes a few things: It introduces new members to the online store, it allows NAES to make sure members are getting the publications they actually want and need, and it is manageable for new members because it doesn’t overwhelm them. The open rate for NAES’s personalized email about the new member special gift was 88 percent. Pretty impressive.
Messaging that is bite-sized, frequent, and highly relevant is essential, Pineda said. And not all emails have to be about action. She and Cooper recommended sending emails that are welcoming, informative, and engaging.
“People want the sense that the information they are receiving has been curated especially for them,” she said. “That’s really meaningful to new members. It makes them feel cared for and loved.”
Digital Can Be Personal
One of the reasons NAES stuck with paper mailings for so long, Cooper said, was because it gave the perception of being highly personalized, but he found that “people will respond to the right amount of personalization in the digital campaign and interact with it like it’s a personal letter.”
For example, new members receive a personal email from the NAES executive director, and last fall the open rate for that email was 89 percent. Cooper also realized it was more effective to spread out digital communications to new and prospective members over the course of a few months and not just rely on a one-and-done paper welcome packet.
In addition to executing effective automation, the human touch comes through in the writing. “You have to write in a way that feels both welcoming and warm,” Cooper said, “but also convey a sense of wisdom and experience that will inspire members as well as inform.”