The Best Onboarding Tips For Your Association

Onboarding new members is a vital step for any association and at times one that’s missed or under-emphasized. During the first year of membership can have a large impact on whether that member will decide to renew their subscription with you or not.

If your planning to onboard with the goal of retention (which you should), it’s all about building a bridge with your members and continuously engaging them at strategic touchpoints. Engagement during their first year of membership, along with the coming years after, is the best way you can ensure members continue coming back for more.

Simply put, it’s the process you have in place to help any new members acquire the appropriate knowledge and skills that they require to make the most of your membership site or online course.

With an effective onboarding process implemented, you’re not simply taking a member’s cash and leaving them to flail about. You’re taking their hand and walking them through their first couple of steps so that they can become familiar with your website and aren’t left lost without any clue on what they should be doing.

Whilst the most appropriate solution for on-boarding will differ from site to site, your goal is to have the following bases covered:

  1. Remove any technical challenges
  2. Deliver immediate value
  3. Integrate the member into your community
  4. Encourage content consumption
  5. Reward desired behaviors

The results for a positive onboarding process are more engaged members who achieve better results, stay around for much longer and refer your sites to other like-minded individuals, leading towards some amazing results.

There are tons of various ways that you can onboard your members. Which one of these best suits you all comes down the type of information you need to provide and the kind of memberships you are planning to run. Here are some ideas you can use:

Welcome email: Ensure your first email truly counts. Make the new members feel welcomed and valued, let them know what to expect and how to begin their journey.

Getting started guide: Offer them all of the necessary information and steps they require to get moving through your site and find anything they may need.

Walkthrough video: Develop a video that takes them through a tour of your site and all the different sections they have access to.

Email sequence: Place a sequence of emails that will gradually introduce them to your site and all the various features implemented to help them while they browse around.

On-site messaging: Utilize a system such as to deliver onboarding messages when the member logs on to your website.

You may want to consider combining some of these methods, such as the welcome email that contains a walkthrough video. Generally, it’s recommended that most sites would benefit much more from incorporate email sequences targeting new members and help them to get the complete experience of your membership.

In truth, though there aren’t any cemented and fast rules when it comes to member onboarding, and you may wish to test some of these different methods to see which ones give you the best results. The methods that compliment you, and how in-depth your onboarding needs to be, all comes down on the kind of membership site you’re developing.

Newly implemented onboarding member programs are a structured plan for communicating with new members consistently and frequently during the first year of membership with the idea of engaging each of these new members.

For those of you who are planning to implement a member onboarding program for your site, or if you already manage to set one up and wish to revamp it, here are some things that have been proven to be very successful.

Some sites will have a three-day to three-week window opportunity to engage with each of their new members. The reason for this is because new members will want to know as soon as possible how the site can help them, what the value is, and most importantly, they wish to confirm they did not make a mistake by becoming a member of your site.

Now, how can you pull this off?

Consider providing them some packets of value.

For instance, if new members are also upcoming professionals, maybe sending them a short article about how to properly impress their manager during the first couple of weeks on the job. Short articles, videos, and other helpful advice can provide a frictionless path for new members to engage and get a sense of what the membership can offer them.

If you manage to provide any value immediately, that member is on their way towards engagement. If you don’t manage to pull this off properly, then they’ll decide to ignore you then instead.

Scripted, written and calendarized plans can have massive success rates.

How many emails will this new member receive? When shall they receive them? What will each message contain? Will someone call each of these new members? The most successful new member engagement plans also include tons and tons of detail.

Some of the most successful plans that have been documented are emailing members three times during the first week of membership. A website that can even call their new members. Some sites even send out new member packets, videos, or invite new members into a monthly held orientation webinars.

New member onboarding programs should perform much better as each year passes.

You may be wondering why.

This is due to program managers measuring the success of each message and recreating the ones that perform poorly. Often programs are reviewed twice a year to ensure messages and channels are still being effective. Cut out any underperforming strategies and test something new in its place.

Testing out various tactics, such as a different email tempo or sending out various types of content, can reveal to you which one has a higher return rate, and which one keeps new members from coming back.

Let’s discuss the more tactical side of things. It’s possible to provide members with a much deeper, and meaningful experience by concentrating on specific campaigns and utilizing appropriate KPIs to gauge success.

Begin by accessing every interaction between the member and the organization during the first year of membership. This should be considered as “member journey mapping.”

Group activities into campaigns, and identify every element of that campaign. Measure both the importance of the campaign and each element within it against the perceived member value. By going through this process, you’ll have a significant method for prioritizing the respective member experience.

One thing you could do is create a “Welcome Campaign.: This can be pulled off through a single email or a series of automated emails that welcome members once they’ve joined, and continue to draw them in by sharing the benefits and including a call to action (CTA).

Calls to action are measurable and a core opportunity to ensure your members become engaged.

Focus on including CTAs in your different campaigns. Clearly state and direct the action you want your members to take. For example:

Studies have revealed that 69% of first-time posters continued posting these messages throughout the year, so if you can get over the initial barrier to entry, you’ll have an engaged member at the palm of your hand.

To automate your remaining communications, tie the information stored in your member online community into your marketing automation system, so you’re continuously reaching out with the people info during the correct time.

Another interesting idea: customize your online community home page. Show onboarding widget that only new members will see, so that they can track where they currently are in the onboarding process. This creates a more personal, customized experience for each member, vastly improving engagement.

The main goal for any association out there is to ensure members become more engaged because there is often a strong correlation among engagement, satisfaction and lastly, retention.

Ensure your engagement goals are more measurable by implementing these concrete CTAs into the first-year member experience. This will allow you to gradually nurture them up to your association’s engagement ladder, resulting in increased engagement, more satisfied members, and significantly improved the first-year retention.

Use engagement to further propagate engagement. For instance, one type of nurturing is through action- triggered automation, which is designed to leverage a single piece of engagement to encourage another.

If one of your members makes a post about a question related to their industry on your online community and receives four responses rapidly, then you could automate a message congratulating them on the responses and invite them to choose one of the responses as the “Best Answer”

When they do finally choose the best possible answer, another email is triggered to the writer of that best answer congratulating them and thanking them for their contribution.

Utilize these tips to develop an onboarding program that helps members locate the connections and resources they’re desperately searching for while making the process seamless and more efficient for staff. Your main goal should be to develop an onboarding process that is organized, measurable, and focused on gaining new members so that your onboarding process and results in the most desired effect.

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Taryn Hefner

Taryn Hefner

Marketing Manager at Big fan of snacks. Like, in general.

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