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You've got new members! Now what? (a guest post from Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE)

By Dave Gambino

YAY! You just got a new member! Hopefully, she’ll acclimate and find her place and stay with you forever.

Wait: “hopefully”? We can do better than that.

Here’s the question you need to ask yourself: does your new member know how to be a member of your organization?

Of course not, right? She’s new. She knows enough about you to have been willing to invest her money in joining. Now you need to help her learn how to make the most of that investment. You have to welcome her, make her feel at home, and show her how to be a member.

  1. Make it personal. Someone who’s not on staff (i.e. another member, aka one of her peers) needs to call her or drop her an email welcoming her and sharing some insight from a member perspective on what membership means and offers. 
  2. Get her started right. What’s the first, most important thing she needs to know right away? That should be the SOLE focus of the first communication from staff (well, other than the confirmation of her membership, of course). Related to that…
  3. Don’t drop everything on her all at once. What does your “welcome to Association XYZ” communication look like? Is it a long list of “member benefits” (too often presented as features and from the association’s perspective) that she’s supposed to plow through? Try introducing one thing at a time with concrete examples of how other members use it, explaining why they like it in their words (testimonials, examples, case studies).
  4. Benefits, not features. “Association XYZ produces the leading annual conference in our field…”? No. “Earn free continuing education credits when you come to our annual conference. We’re excited to feature speakers and topics like:…” Yes!
  5. Don’t ask her for more money (at least not right away). She just joined – the first thing she hears from you shouldn’t be “now spend MORE with us on our book/ webinar/ conference/ whatever.” She’s still figuring out if her initial investment is going to be worthwhile. Don’t try to get her to sink more money in before she’s even sussed that out. It’s just rude.
  6. Ask about her. What’s the main reason she joined? You need to know that so you can focus on delivering it to her, and then remind her that you did deliver it when it comes time to renew. What are her most important professional goals for the year? What are the biggest challenges she’s facing? What do you offer that can help her achieve those goals and resolve those challenges?
  7. Pay attention. As you’re doing your drip campaign introducing benefits, what does she respond to? Did she ignore your email about your new book but click immediately on a link to a webinar? That gives you some valuable information about what she might be interested in. Oh: and don’t just assume “she likes webinars and hates books.” Maybe it was the topic of the book versus the topic of the webinar. That’s something else you can try to find out.
  8. Stay in touch. You’re trying to develop a relationship here, one that you want to last over the long term. You don’t do that by ignoring the other party for a year (or, worse, bombarding her with tone-deaf marketing messages about things she’s not interested in), and then asking her for more money. You need to stay in touch on a personal and non-financial basis throughout the year. Ask her how things are going. Check in to see if she has questions. Remind her of what’s included in her membership. Get volunteers to reach out. You know, actually develop an actual relationship as if you’re an actual person and so is she. Then, when that renewal invoice does arrive, her decision will be an easy one, and you’ll have a successful renewal.

Ed note: I was delighted to have stumbled across this post from Elizabeth, which originally appeared on Spark Consulting's website in 2016. The content of the post is still very much timely and relevant today. As we all know, first impressions matter. Members join with a level of enthusiasm that can be quickly lost if they are not engaged, so engage them right out of the gate. Leveraging automation can improve your efficiency at staying in touch with these new members. If you aren't yet familiar with marketing automation, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at jstone@engagesoftware.com. I'm happy to provide some free education on the subject.

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