Mindset is a funny thing. Once we have made up our minds about something, even unconsciously, that decision informs every subsequent interaction we have with it. Whether it’s an adult wrinkling up their nose at a steaming plate of broccoli, as they flashback to their first childhood encounter with the offending vegetable, or your parents being unable to forgive the restaurant down the street for the terrible service they experienced in 1981, we see evidence all the time that our mindsets are stubborn and are formed very quickly.

Amanda Kaiser’s webinar was focused around new member engagement, which she believes all hinges upon curating exceptional first experiences. For Amanda, the first experience a member has can be a “window of opportunity”: open it up, and they will engage early, and if they engage early, they will engage for life.

This is no new theme to Amanda: she has conducted 332 interviews with association members about member engagement, the findings of which are published in her e-book, and she presented on similar ideas at the YourMembership Xperience 2017 Conference which you can read about here.

The full recording of the webinar is linked below, but here are three key takeaways from the discussion that show the importance of early member-engagement for fuelling wonderful, long-term membership experiences.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE EVERYTHING

Studies show we only have 3 seconds to create a first impression – but that one moment is all it takes for someone to make up their mind.

Even more importantly, once a first impression is established, it colours the whole experience that follows. “When somebody joins an association, and they are welcomed right at the start, they make their membership wonderful for themselves”. If a member’s mindset is positive from the beginning, it has a domino effect: they will be more willing to open themselves up to opportunities, more interested in reading emails and communications from the association, and more confident about interacting with other people in the space.

Companies across different industries – in the physical and the virtual world – are leveraging first impressions, carefully curating the initial welcoming experience to show that they really care about their customers. Disney might well be the master of this, establishing value from the second someone books a trip, and expertly personalising each guest’s experience so nobody feels invisible or overlooked at ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’.

PRODUCT IS NO LONGER KING – OR AT LEAST IT SHARES THE CROWN

Society has shifted its focus on stuff, to be more concerned with experiences. From the way we spend our time to the way we spend our money, our behaviours now seem to be attempts to “recapture time”, so we can focus on being present.

On top of this, “what we come to expect in our personal lives, we come to expect in our professional lives”. As we demand more meaningful experiences and more active participation through our personal choices, we expect something similar with our professional encounters. Members will not just demand better value, but better experiences.

If associations don’t craft, curate, and deliver these experiences, there will be huge problems that seep into membership engagement, growth, and retention.

HOW MEMBERS PERCEIVE THEIR JOINING PROCESS ISN’T WHAT WE ASSUME

Research into the membership pathway experience yields some surprising results. As association professionals, we tend to think of the joining process as a one-year cycle: at the start, a new member is presented with an initial welcome package and an overwhelming list of benefits. They will then be added to a member list, communicated to, engaged with, and treated like everybody else for the duration of the cycle, before being reminded to renew at the end of the year.

Members, it turns out, don’t perceive their joining process in this cyclical way. In fact, it is at the very moment of joining that they start evaluating whether or not to renew. In their initial few weeks of membership, when they are open to being engaged, excited about the opportunities and possibilities, and anxious to have their decision to join validated, new members are testing the benefits of the association and making up their minds about their commitment. The renewal notice does nothing to convince those whose opinions are already set: it serves only as a reminder, not as a conversion tool.

So what do new members actually want? And what can we do to leverage this and engage them early?

Lucie has always been driven by teaching and learning. Masters degrees in philosophy and religious studies from Edinburgh and McGill Universities have proved to her the power of ideas, while two years building and growing a dedicated local membership for the children’s tuition centre she ran in South London was a lesson in turning shared ideas into an engaged and flourishing community.

Lucie has always been driven by teaching and learning. Masters degrees in philosophy and religious studies from Edinburgh and McGill Universities have proved to her the power of ideas, while two years building and growing a dedicated local membership for the children’s tuition centre she ran in South London was a lesson in turning shared ideas into an engaged and flourishing community.

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