Shirley looked at the metrics of her 6-month new member email campaign. The first email generated a 40% open rate and the second email did even better with a 47% open rate. The rest of the emails were decent each getting between 33 and 38% open rates, except for the 3rd and 4th email. They had 14% and 19% open rates respectively. These results were baffling because both the 3rd and 4th email offered highly valued content and education. Overall new member renewal rates had increased a couple of percentage points since the program was implemented, which was directionally good, but not good enough.
“Hmmmm…. what to do?”, she thought.
One insight we learned from the New Member Engagement Study is program planning never really ends. Furthermore, set-it-and-forget-it programs do not work. The most successful program managers continually experiment, measure, and evolve their programs.
If you have an existing new member onboarding, orientation, or welcoming program and you have a feeling it is not performing to it’s potential, what should you do? Each one of these programs is like an intricate puzzle which gives us opportunities to play with and test many different variables. You might already be doing A/B testing, trialing alternate timing, or fiddling with the frequency. Additionally, here are some other variables that can significantly impact your new member’s experience.
Strategically Plan Your Tone
Take a spin through your email inbox, and you will see significant variations in tone. Some emails are stuffy and institutional; some are fun and friendly. Some are welcoming, and some have a very administrative feel. How do you want your new members to feel after they read an email from the association? Many respondents said of their programs overall, “it’s not just about the numbers, we want our members to be happy and excited about renewing.” Establishing the right tone in each message plays a big part in reaching this goal.
Refrain from Asking for More Money
For many associations “early career members are extremely price-sensitive.” Price sensitive or not nearly everyone is attuned to fair value. Our new member just shelled out hundreds of dollars to join, and now we are asking them for more money? Members say this feels unfair and maybe even aggravating when they encounter an immediate ask for more money right after they join. Members start to wonder if the only way to get any value from the association is to pay more, and if that is the case, when does it end? Many new member engagement programs focus on delivering high value first and refrain from upselling until the member is well established.
Protect Each Message from Complexity
We have so much to tell new members, so it becomes challenging to reduce each touch to just one key point. However, lengthy emails do not get read because members do not have enough time. Complex looking emails do not make an impact because members find them confusing and ignore them.
Stop new members from ignoring your messaging by delivering just one piece of much-needed value into their hands. Focus on the thing new members, specifically, need most. Promoting six values in one message is far less effective than promoting one value in each of six messages.
Focus Only on The Value New Members Need
Is networking the association’s top member value? Well, networking might not be new members’ biggest value. Same with the conference. 3-7 year members and long-time members might love these things but, new members have different needs. They might be new professionals, new to the industry, new to the profession, new managers, or new business owners. Whatever the trigger is that prompted them to join may hold the key to the special solutions that they need us to provide. New members hardly know a thing about the association and they will only learn about the association when we show them we can solve their most pressing problems first.
Extend the Duration of Your Program
How long should your program follow new members? Some programs last three months, some six months, some a year, some three years. According to the study results, programs that follow new members 7 or more months achieve the best results. So if you want to boost your program’s overall results and you have a 4-month program try extending it to 7 months. If you have a 9-month program, try extending it to a year.
New member engagement programs are malleable. They leave us with tons of opportunities for experimenting. If you are not happy with your program’s metrics, try playing with some of these variables.
This post covered only a handful of tips for improving new member onboarding, orientation, and welcoming programs. Find tons more in the New Member Engagement Study [at Dynamic Benchmarking]. Not only can you download our report for free, but you can also still participate in the survey which allows you to filter the data to compare your program against your peers.