Create a Yearlong Email Drip Campaign That Engages New Members

Delivering useful, actionable information to members throughout their first year will have them ready to renew.

So you’ve got a bevy of new members in your organization. Great news—but keeping new members engaged until renewal isn’t easy. Associations must captivate new members throughout their first year to build their member base long-term.

“It’s about nurturing them in that first year because that is critical to them coming back,” says Rachael McGuffin, membership and community manager at the International Society of Automation (ISA). “You lose most of your members in that first year.”

A drip campaign is an effective way to engage members, as it delivers personalized, relevant information. Some organizations run drip campaigns that last just a few months, but research shows that new members respond best to a campaign that lasts their full first year and is delivered through email, as association leaders rated email as their most effective engagement tactic for new members. Use these tips as you create your own yearlong email drip campaign.

Focus on Nurturing Members

The goal of a first-year campaign should be to provide members with essential information that will help them make the most of their membership. At ISA, members receive four emails, one per quarter:

  • The first is about getting started, showing new members how to set up their member profile.
  • The second is about making connections, offering information about divisions within the organization that members can join.
  • The third is about staying informed, explaining how to get the latest industry news and content that will help them professionally.
  • The fourth is about getting involved, detailing how members can volunteer at ISA.

“These emails actually had a higher open rate than any of our other emails at ISA,” McGuffin says, noting that this campaign’s key performance indicators (KPIs) exceeded industry benchmarks.

Provide a Call to Action

Every email in ISA’s drip campaign directs members to a landing page with more information. Research shows that calls to action can have a dramatic effect on engagement—in some cases, a 371 percent increase in clicks.

“You definitely want your call to action right upfront,” McGuffin says. “It’s about giving them something to do.”

Don’t Fill Up Member Inboxes

ISA’s new-member campaign is only one part of its communications strategy. Consider how frequently you contact members overall to determine an appropriate number of drip campaign emails. McGuffin has found that spreading out a small batch of emails across a full year has kept new members engaged without overwhelming them.

“Talking to members too much might scare them at first,” she says. “They’re also going to be getting emails about our products and services, so we have to be careful not to bombard them.”

The optimal email cadence will depend on your members, but organizations such as MarketingSherpa have found that most people would like to hear at least monthly from organizations they’ve done business with. According to SendGrid’s 2018 global email benchmark report, the nonprofit industry’s median monthly send rate is two emails a month.

Take Advantage of Automation Tools

Email marketing automation platforms are powerful tools for drip marketing campaigns. You can set up a campaign that is triggered by a specific action—such as a member joining your organization—and from there, the series of emails is sent automatically. Each recipient is on his or her own timeline, so the message is always relevant.

Use Segmentation to Personalize Messaging

You can divide your group of new members into smaller groups based on location, age, areas of interest, and other factors. Many email marketing platforms let you segment your audience, so you can tweak your messages to cater to each group.

“It adds a whole new level of complexity, and if you are able to do that, I say go for that,” McGuffin says.

The result? Higher open rates and click-through rates, according to Klaviyo’s Email Segmentation Benchmark Report.

Measuring Success

Email marketing platforms track metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and bounce rates. Compare these KPIs against nonprofit industry benchmarks to get a sense of how your campaign is doing. This will help you hone your campaign so you can better engage future members. And if you’ve done new-member drip campaigns before, you can see if there have been year-over-year improvements in engagement and renewals.

(LdF/iStock/Getty Images)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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