Some associations have their own brew of onboarding wonderfulness that they douse new members with. Most associations, though, rely on the old standbys. An invoice or a receipt comes immediately. Sometime within the first week a steady stream of emails comes pouring in; some helpful content and some advertising offers to buy even more, most are ignored. In two weeks to a month a welcome kit arrives which may be such a mishmash of stuff it’s put in the to-look-at-someday-when-I-actually-have-time pile. There may be an invite for a hour-long new member webinar which is a nice idea but who has time for that? At two months a magazine arrives which is skimmed and put aside.
Ignoring the association becomes the default habit
A month, then two months, then three months goes by and our new member has not yet engaged with the association once. Ignoring association communications has quickly become the default habit. Anything that comes from our association is not critical therefore placed into the someday pile but the someday pile never gets any attention because the today pile is always too critical.
New members are quick to admit this behavior. “I just don’t know much about the association”, they say. It is not the association, it is me most members add, “It is my fault, I have not taken the time to read the emails, surf the site or attend the new member webinar. I know I should have, I just have not found time to do it.” And they won’t.
New members are incredibly time starved. They joined with the best of intensions. But now faced with having to work for their membership they won’t do it. We can no longer expect members to take the initiative to spend an hour or more of their precious time getting acquainted with their benefits so they can leverage the association’s value later. But that doesn’t mean they can’t become fully engaged members.
We unwittingly encourage members to ignore us
When we passively send new members the standard emails, more requests to buy or register for an event and piles of papers to sift through we are asking for an unequal exchange. Essentially we are saying: you just paid for membership now please pay some more with your time or your money or both. New members who ignore all the communications are essentially saying: association, you have not proved your value to me yet so I will not spend anymore time or money on you.
Here is the best way to get new members’ attention
Once a member gives us their money (membership dues) and their trust (hope that membership will be worth it) we need to reciprocate very soon by providing them value. New member value is a two part equation:
1. Something that solves a key problem of theirs – which means you have to know what problems your new members are facing, how they are thinking and what they are feeling.
2. Something that gives not takes – we want to show them they made the right choice in joining. It is worth it. We are reciprocating by giving them something not asking for more.
Some associations have solved the new member equation and their members report a lightening blot like moment when they realized the value of the association. I call this the Association Value Trigger Point (AVTP). The AVTP tends to come early on in their membership and these members tend to be far more engaged compared to members who have not experienced an AVTP.
The keys to a great AVTP are to show value early in the membership especially by solving a member problem right away. Do new members also tend to be new to the profession? That opens up a whole range of problems to solve. Those new to the profession need support, have to have a place to ask questions, may be senior in their careers but still need a 101 guide to this profession and they want to connect with others just like them.
Developing or leveraging your own unique Association Value Trigger Point can be a key component to a new onboarding program and better life-long member engagement.