I have a good friend that I see too infrequently. We have lovely, fascinating, far-ranging conversations when we see each other. Without time constraints, these conversations could continue non-stop for days. But time is always an issue. We schedule one-hour morning walks, which often stretch to two hours. Because we run overtime so often, I think we book our walking “appointments” less often than we should.
Everyone’s schedule is busy. I don’t know one person that isn’t zinging here and there, trying frantically to get it all done. Because we are all so time-starved, we notice how long things take and may decide to steer clear of things that take too much time when they are good for us.
My research found that associations have a 3-day to a 3-week window of opportunity with new members. It is the rough time frame that new members are most interested in learning about the association they just joined. During this short window, they will read our emails, try a benefit, and take our phone calls. From the time they join to about three weeks after, we have to get them on the path to engagement. This window is also when members discover how much time the association will cost them.
Committing to an association requires time. 1-3 days for a conference and more with travel. A few hours for a chapter meeting. Hours for an online meeting. Hours to read the research. An hour for most webinars. It takes time to read white papers and articles, watch online courses, or talk to a consultant. Some benefits are super time-intensive, like academies, and some are quick, like a short article that takes three minutes to read.
If the first three emails new members receive, link them to long-form content and day(s)-long events, a member may assume that the only way to extract any value is to trade in a good chunk of their time. Precious time, they might not be able to give up right then. So they start to ignore messages from the association because of the assumed significant time commitment.
If, however, most of the first three emails link new members to short-form content that is high value but quick to digest, members may take the time to engage, even if only for 4 minutes. In 4 minutes, they get a bit of value, which makes them interested in the following email. This time they spend 7 minutes scanning a white paper. Perhaps within the first three weeks, they also watch an hour-long webinar.
I like to tell clients to make their early interactions with members frictionless. Stack some quick, free, and valuable messaging early in your new member onboarding program to get new members primed for greater engagement later.