Member Onboarding Series, Part 3: Embrace Long-Term Strategies

Onboarding doesn’t stop after you’ve welcomed new members into the fold. Read on for ways to ensure that new members are primed to take part in the organization months or years down the line.

‌This is the final part of a three-part series on member onboarding. The first part was on the state of welcome packets, and the second part was on making sure members get their money’s worth.

Slow and steady wins the race, they say. Translation: You might be putting a lot of work into the early days and weeks of onboarding, but you may need to do a little tuning down the line to ensure it will take.

And with that, the final installment of our member onboarding series looks at long-term member onboarding strategies.

Broaden the Relationship Base

For trade associations built around organizational membership, it can be easy to center engagement on a single VIP. This can prove to be a mistake in the long run, as it can limit engagement down the road—especially if that point of contact leaves.

Joel Nepomuceno, the director of membership for Research!America, said that one of the most interesting challenges that has cropped up in recent years involved an organization whose CEO departed, which created a problem when it came to renewal time, as that was the organization’s primary point of contact.

“When that person leaves or retires,” he said, “then it’s like you’re left scrambling to illustrate the value to somebody else who may or may not want to know about your association, right?”

The solution to this issue, said Nepomuceno, is to ensure that there isn’t a single touchpoint of member engagement by building relationships more broadly throughout the organization so that the relationship has more depth. Putting that infrastructure into place may take resources—but the cost of not doing so is pretty high.

“It’s like their renewal potential automatically goes from, like, 92 percent to about half,” he said, as a disappearing contact can translate to the organization not understanding the reasons to maintain the relationship. “It’s sort of building that relationship over again.”

Are They Logging In?

But what about individual members? What are the signs they might need a little more TLC to ensure they’ll stick around come renewal time?

According to Kaiser Insights’ Amanda Kaiser, the point of attention might come down to what they’re not doing after joining.

“New members are coming in and we’re trying our best to engage them, but there’s this huge portion that never log in,” she said. “You can see they’re not using their login credentials, they’re not using their benefits, none of that stuff.”

That, she said, is an opportunity to lean into the value discussion with your members—first by working on building a stronger experience that can help to properly put them on the path toward long-term engagement.

“I would love to see associations lean into the experience part of things,” Kaiser said. Her forthcoming Elevating Engagement includes a guidebook to help highlight strategies to improve the experiential part of engagement.

Once you’ve identified members who are at risk, maybe that’s when you pick up the phone—even if your association is a larger one.

“Maybe you can’t afford to call everybody on the phone,” she said. “But maybe you could call the at-risk members on the phone and just say, ‘Hey, welcome to the association. What are you doing? What are your goals? What are you struggling with? Maybe there’s somebody I can introduce you to, or some data I can get for you, or resources,’ or something like that.”

Showing that your organization represents more than just an occasional reminder can be an excellent way to ensure that less-engaged members eventually switch gears.

(Caiaimage/Andy Roberts/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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