A Surprising Tactic to Engage New Members Emerges

Email and phone calls remain the top two ways associations are engaging new members, but an upcoming report reveals a different method is fast becoming popular, likely because it offers a different level of personalization and immediacy.

A New Member Engagement Survey [PDF] by Kaiser Insights, LLC, and Dynamic Benchmarking, which first came out in 2018, is in the process of being updated. A sneak peek into some emerging trends may surprise you.

For starters, the use of online communities for new member engagement has grown 40 percent, moving up from seventh to third in tactics associations reported they used to onboard new members. Community leaders are welcoming new members within the online community by name and asking them to introduce themselves to others in the community.

“This is a very important new member engagement tactic,” said Amanda Kaiser, CEO of Kaiser Insights, and coauthor of the study. “This is one of the biggest changes that we saw in terms of the 16 tactics that we researched,”

Not surprisingly, emails remain at the top of the list and are “nearly ubiquitous in new member onboarding programs,” Kaiser said, with almost 98 percent of respondents so far reporting they still use email.

That makes sense. I recently wrote about how, based on findings from the 2018 study, associations that had the best renewal rates used an email plan that roughly follows a 3-3-6 schedule: three emails the first week, once weekly for the next three weeks, and then monthly for six more months. It is a tactic that remains highly successful.

“We’re still seeing that in the data,” Kaiser said. “It very much correlates with what was going on four years ago.”

Tactics Vary by Association

Another emerging trend in the upcoming study is that email as a tactic varies among types of associations. For example, professional associations that use email to onboard new members report the tactic is very effective. However, trade associations that use emails to onboard new members report it is not as effective.

Kaiser suspects this is because professional associations often attract a lot of people who are doing the same thing—such as nurses, doctors, and lawyers—and there’s a better opportunity to reach them when they are students. That helps in predicting what is going on in their lives so associations can better give them what they need at whatever stage they are joining.

But it’s harder for trade associations because they have people coming in at every stage of their careers and at all levels of the corporate hierarchy. The only thing that ties them together is the industry and that means their needs might be more diverse than just sharing a profession.

Meanwhile, when small associations are onboarding new members, they tend to focus more on one-to-one contact and their new member plans tend to be simpler with fewer tactics and a shorter time span of engagement. They typically send out a welcome email, phone call, and digital welcome packet in the first month someone joins.

Alternatively, larger associations that have thousands of new members joining means it’s harder for them to engage in that kind of personalization, but they tend to have much more sophisticated, year-long new member engagement programs with tactics like email drip campaigns and new member surveys.

Another method that is still going strong is phone calls, with only a slight dip in associations making fewer phone calls four years after the initial report. It remains the number-two tactic.

The newer study will likely reveal insights the first one didn’t, for example, “there is a perfect new member engagement plan for any type or size of association,” Kaiser said. And while email and phone calls remain strong, online communities are emerging as a popular tool in the new member engagement toolkit.  

(adventtr/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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