Recruitment and new member acquisition is always an important piece of the membership funnel for Associations. After your hard work has paid off and you have new members, make sure you keep them year after year. Putting some effort into welcoming new members through a New Member Journey program, will go a long way toward turning your newest recruits into engaged and renewing members.
What is a New Member Journey?
You have a year to show new members that there is value in belonging to your organization. A “New Member Journey” maps out communications, activities, and events that you will use throughout the year in order to engage those new members. It helps you explain the benefits and increase the value of belonging to your organization.
Benefits vs. Value
While benefits are often the reason that people join an organization, value is why they stay for the long-term. Benefits are the things that people “get” when they join, such as a subscription to your professional publication or free admission to your museum. Value is how those benefits make the member’s life better or easier.
For example, a subscription to your journal is a benefit, but having access to the industry’s latest research findings helps you do your job better and makes membership a value to you. If your new members never use the benefits and experience value, they will be reluctant to renew their membership. Make sure they know how to use the benefits and how the benefits and the organization add value to their lives.
Creating your New Member Journey
New members are different from experienced members because they are… new! The New Member Journey spends time during the first year explaining who the organization is and what membership includes.
As you map out your New Member Journey, consider these common goals:
1. Educate New Members about your Organization
After a member enrolls, send information about how they can engage in everything you have to offer…but not all at once. Use different communication channels to accomplish this. For example:
- Send a series of welcome emails.
- Mail a packet of information shortly after the email series with more in-depth information.
- Provide benefit sheets for each of your signature benefits that walk new members through the what, where, when and how of that benefit.
- Encourage new members to connect through social media for on-going organizational updates and networking opportunities.
Your main goal is to make sure they understand what the benefits are and how to start taking advantage. If your new members start engaging with your organization, they will begin to see the value of belonging.
2. Understand why the new member joined
An important piece to engaging and retaining new members is understanding why they made the decision to join your association. So ask!
If you understand your new members’ reasons for joining, you can personalize the experience for them. For example, if a new member joined in order to make professional connections, then you will want to make sure they know about upcoming networking opportunities.
You can do something as simple as a free online survey, or get more detailed with a Personalized URL (PURL) campaign. The advantage of a PURL campaign is that you can personalize the experience (and the specific questions asked) based on the members’ answers. The PURL can be automated so that a member’s answer leads them to information specific to their interest. You can view reports in real-time on how your new members are engaging and what their interests are.
3. Engage the new member so they feel like they belong to your organization.
If you educate members about your organization and find out why they joined, then you will know how to engage them. Some components of New Member Journeys include:
- Mentor programs. Match a new member with a seasoned member who is willing to reach out and answer any questions.
- New Member Networking. Look for ways to bring new members together. Be sure to have seasoned members join you, to help engage and share the value of your organization.
- Committee involvement. While not every new member has the time or desire to volunteer, many will welcome the opportunity to make professional connections and learn from others. Be careful not to put too much responsibility on the new member. You are trying to engage them, not overwhelm!
The most important part of the New Member Journey is that you have a plan, even if it is simple. If a new member goes through the entire first year without engaging in any way, they are less likely to renew. As you move them through the membership funnel, the focus on benefits will slowly turn to a focus on value. When your members value your organization, you will have engaged, long-term members.