How Onboarding Is Key to Future Member Engagement
All too often, it’s easy for us to fist pump in the air after meeting our membership goals for the month—and then turn to trying to do something about our disappointing renewal rates. Here’s the life hack for us marketing and membership people in associations—don’t think of “join” and “renew” as distinct processes.
The people who renew are the same as those who joined one year before, etc. So, act to influence your members across that whole lifecycle arc. Your membership software is the key to making this easy.
Meeting The Demand
You market and showcase your brand. You highlight offerings and services. Somewhere along the line you’re positioned to meet a customer’s need and they join your association. You need to deliver on the reason they became a member. But it’s also key to show new members the big picture for your association and how each offering you have meets your new members’ current and future pain points. This tactic is called an onboarding, or welcome, campaign and, when done well, can markedly increase member engagement.
The Onboarding Experience
In its 2016 benchmark survey of association marketing, Marketing General reported 80 percent of associations sent a membership confirmation/welcome email, but only 32 percent had a welcome email series that explained their association to new members. Onboarding campaigns are a best practice for associations because you are solidifying a new relationship by exploring benefits and how the new member wants to engage with you.
Good onboarding campaigns don’t overwhelm new members. Instead, small bites of content personalized to the member with new benefit calls-to-action builds a connection. Remember to carry over themes from your marketing message that resonated. Your new member has just paid you her money—which means she is more willing to pay you attention (than ever before, or after). Your new member also has the highest stock of goodwill toward your association and will be the most receptive to hearing from you. (Don’t take her money and wait to tell her about all the awesome things your association does until 15 days before her membership expires—she sees that for what it is.)
Onboarding is your best chance to personalize your association to your new members and connect with them. It enables opportunities to:
- Increase volunteerism
- Increase lobbying
- Solicit donations
- Lay groundwork for future member engagement
- Boost retention
Even if you already onboard members, don’t fall into the trap of silo-ing by saying “Acquisition is for marketing; onboarding is for membership.” That ignores the lifecycle arc of your new member—and ties your own hands. If you know a new member’s buyer persona and what calls to action motivated her to join, use that data to inform her onboarding experience. You know what to emphasize to meet her needs, and what to introduce to her to delight her with other value-adds in her membership. When your whole team (across all departments) stores data and uses the same membership software, this integration is not only possible, it’s easy.
At Aptify, we’ve long talked about the benefits of Composite Engagement Scoring (CES) for guiding member engagement. How a new member interacts with your onboarding campaign can also guide your future engagement with her. Combine the digital body language from her responses to marketing and onboarding, and you now know what topics interest and motivate her as well as how she would like to engage with your association in the future. Know how frequently she likes communication and what channels she engages, as well as whether you can identify her early on for more followup as a potential member evangelist or a future disengaged member at-risk not to renew.
By the time your member’s lifecycle arc reaches the renewal process and your marketing team needs to reconvince them to pay you money again, you should know a lot. By thinking holistically and using membership software that retains data together across a lifecycle arc, your renewal messages can fit what motivated and engaged each member throughout the past and build upon the relationship your association has already established.
When you use membership software like Aptify, you have the tools to collect and use data from a member across their lifecycle arc to market, engage, and renew your members. The days of “Well, that would be too much work to pass data like that between our Marketing and Membership departments and back again” can be over—if only you’re willing to say “Goodbye.” Do it—it will help you minimize the goodbyes from your own members.
Our Scoring Member Engagement eBook, explains why engagement matters and how measuring it in a new way can have an immense impact on your association. Download your free copy, and feel free to share how you're calculating your member engagement socre in the comment section below.
About Tony Cavicchi
As the Inbound Marketing Manager at Aptify, Tony delivers content aligned to answer organizations’ needs and show how an Aptify AMS will help them better achieve their missions. He knows many challenges faced by the association market firsthand after running digital marketing for three years at HSLDA, an Aptify client. Tony was a political science major, so he’s still a bit of a nerd and follows election news around the world like sports championships.