Give Your New Member Engagement Program a Makeover

Written by Amanda Kaiser on February 22, 2018

Shirley looked at the metrics of her 6-month new member email campaign. The first email generated a 40% open rate and the second a 47% open rate. The rest of the emails were each getting between 33 and 38% open rates, except for the third and fourth email, which had 14% and 19% open rates respectively. These results were baffling - the third and fourth emails offered high-value content. Overall, new member renewal rates had increased a couple of percentage points since the program was implemented. This was directionally good, but not good enough.

“Hmmmm…. what to do?”, she thought.

One insight we learned from the New Member Engagement Study is that program planning never really ends. 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 onboarding, orientation, or welcome program for new members that’s not performing to its potential, what should you do? Each one of these programs is an intricate puzzle that 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. Here are some other variables that can significantly impact the new member experience:

Strategize Your Tone

Take a spin through your email inbox and you will notice 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 that beyond the numbers, they want to make their members feel happy and excited about joining or 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. Our new member just shelled out hundreds of dollars to join. According to members, it feels unfair or aggravating when they encounter an immediate request for more money after they join. Members start to wonder if the only way to get any value from the association is to pay more. If that is the case, when does it end? Focus on delivering value first and refrain from upselling until the member is established.

Keep it Simple

We have so much to tell new members, it’s challenging to reduce each interaction 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. Make your messaging attractive to new members by delivering one piece of much-needed value into their hands. Focus on the thing new members, specifically, need most.

Focus on Value

Is networking or the annual conference the association’s top member value? Well, it might not be new members’ biggest value. Other members might love these things but new members have different needs. They might be new professionals, new to the industry, 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 when we show them we can solve their most pressing problems first.

Play the Long Game

How long should your program follow new members? Programs last anywhere between three months and three years. According to the study results, programs that follow new members seven or more months achieve the best results. So if you want to boost your program’s overall results, try extending your program three months or so, no matter its current length, and see what happens.

New member engagement programs are malleable, leaving us with tons of opportunities for experimenting. If you are not happy with your program’s metrics, try playing with some of these variables.

Find out more in the New Member Engagement Study at Dynamic Benchmarking. You can download our report for free and participate in the survey to compare your program against your peers.