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By: Tony Cavicchi

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December 14, 2017

How Onboarding Is Key to Future Member Engagement

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.

With a solid inbound marketing plan, you can expect membership rates to continually increase, but it's also important to proactively focus on delighting those members throughout their time with your association -- not just a month before they'll need to renew. It's smart to do this through relatable and relevant content, such as your website, blogs, social media, and emails -- but perhaps one of the most overlooked tactics to increasing member engagement in the long run is the "onboarding."


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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, it can markedly increase member engagement.

The Onboarding Experience

In its 2017 benchmark survey of association marketing, Marketing General reported 81% percent of associations sent a membership confirmation/welcome email, but only 35 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. 

How-Onboarding-Is-Key-to-Future-Member-EngagementGood onboarding campaigns don’t overwhelm new members. Instead, small bites of content personalized to the member with new benefit calls-to-action build 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:

  • Upsell
  • Increase volunteerism
  • Increase lobbying
  • Educate
  • 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.


Future Member Engagement

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 follow-up 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.


Key Takeaways

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.

  • Although meeting membership goals is important, it's also vital to ensure you're keeping those members engaged after they join.
  • One of the most overlooked tactics to increasing member engagement in the long run is the "onboarding."
  • When done well, a welcome campaign can markedly increase member engagement.
  • Good onboarding campaigns provide content personalized to the member that help build a connection.
  • Combine the digital body language from member CES responses to your marketing and onboarding strategies.

What are you doing to increase membership engagement and renewal? Comment below to let us know your ideas. If you want more information and tips on how to achieve a better renewal rate, check out our ebook, "Getting Started with Inbound Marketing for Associations," to learn some tried-and-true inbound marketing strategies you can implement to keep your members delighted for years to come.


About Tony Cavicchi

As the Inbound Marketing Manager at Aptify, Tony delivered content aligned to answer organizations’ needs and show how an Aptify AMS would help them better achieve their missions. He knows many challenges faced by the association market firsthand after running digital marketing for three years at an association. 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.

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