A new member joins your association. What happens? Do you have a process for systematically welcoming them, engaging with them, and getting them more involved in association life?
If not, or you haven’t revisited your new member onboarding process in a while, use these strategies to form an effective welcome campaign for new members.
Why You Need a Welcome Campaign for New Association Members
If you’re asking yourself, “Why does this matter so much? I have bigger problems to focus on.”
It’s because a member’s initial experience with you, their first year of membership, is a key to member retention. The way you welcome a member into your association dictates how they feel about your association, how they engage with you over time, and ultimately, how long you’ll retain them.
When asked why members don’t renew, 43% of associations say the top reason is a lack of engagement with the organization, according to the 2020 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.
So if your association’s member onboarding experience is lackluster, was cobbled together over time, or lacks strategy, we’ll examine how you build an effective new process for welcoming members to your association and getting them involved.
Download this eBook for 3 mistakes you might be making when onboarding new members.
Why You Should Automate Your Association’s Welcome Email Campaign
If you want to onboard new members in a way that leads to retention, here’s the approach we suggest: Members receive a series of personalized emails, timed over few weeks to a month-long period, that walks them through bite-sized benefits and opportunities to get involved in.
Why does this work?
You can engage members early on.
Members become invested and engaged. If you roll out the red carpet – strategically – at the start, you’ll help members take advantage of their investment in association membership, and make a great impression from the very beginning, and you reap the rewards of retention.
Those first few weeks and the first year of membership have a big influence on whether that member will renew with you.
You save time on new member onboarding.
Your staff saves time. In the ideal world, your onboarding process is completely automated. When a new member signs up, they’ll automatically receive a series of emails to get them onboarded. Depending on how they interact with these messages, they’ll receive different ones.
The Florida Association of Insurance Agents (FAIA) launched four automated campaigns to cover new members, membership renewal, re-engagement, and past member recruitment.
Former Communications Director at FAIA, Sue Ray, described the change to their process: “We used to send out one big email with tons of details when a member joined. Now, we split it up by topic over three emails spaced evenly apart; this has increased the number of opens and clicks significantly.” Automating these tasks has saved FAIA staff 2-3 hours every day. Once you get past the initial work of planning and setting up your automated email campaign, you’ll have a much more efficient process.
You create a consistent member experience.
Not only does automation improve efficiency, but it also ensures that the onboarding experience is consistently excellent for every new member.
The goal of automating a series of welcome emails is to set up a strategy that purposefully communicates information in bite-sized, snackable portions. This information welcomes, informs, educates, and gives members access to resources, while also:
- Cutting out clunky processes + reducing extra effort during onboarding
- Drawing new members into conversations with seasoned members in their online community
- Introducing members to the wealth of resources available as part of their membership, especially on topics relevant to them
Automating the onboarding process sounds great, but how do you build an automated campaign for new members?
You’ll need to structure your campaign, get data for it, and write great emails that encourage engagement.
Higher Logic has starter kits you can use to set up your automated welcome campaign (and other campaigns for key association needs, like renewal campaigns, promotion campaigns, and more). Add your message content, add your list from your Association Management System (AMS), and send it out. Learn more about our Communications platform.
How to Structure Your Automated Welcome Email Campaign Series
Like any new software, automation can take some effort to set up and implement, but once you have a system going, the hardest part is over. Not only will automation save time for your team, but it will also ensure that the onboarding process goes smoothly for your members. As time goes on, you can adjust your automation strategy to increase engagement.
3 Tips for Welcome Email Campaign Timing: Knowing How Many Emails to Send
How often you send out the next emails is up to you. But keep in mind that this is a great opportunity to set expectations around email frequency going forward.
- If you send regular members an email twice a week, send new members an email twice a week. This helps members have the right expectations for how much they should expect to hear from you moving forward.
- A good rule of thumb is to schedule campaign emails four to seven days apart for the first month.
- The average number of emails in an welcome drip campaign series is three to five.
Use These Templates to Create Your Welcome Email Series
Try modeling your automated campaign sequence after these four welcome email series templates.
Email #1: The Welcome Email
What do your members need to know on Day 1? Provide them with basic introductory information, like the username and password for their member account. Members receive a message that welcomes them to the organization.
Subject Line: Can we just say that we’re so glad you’re here?
Dear <First Name>,
Welcome to <association name>! We’re so excited you decided to join this vibrant community of your peers. We can’t wait to introduce you to everything your membership entails. You can expect to hear from us over the next few weeks with ways to get involved, our top resources, and upcoming events in the online community.
But don’t wait for us to dive in – login to our member portal and online community with your new username and password.
Password <temporary password>
Email #2: The Participation Email
One week later, send new members an email about a core pillar of your association – maybe you’re the one-stop shop for certifications, and the message focuses on that.
Subject line: Level up your career with our industry-leading certification program
Dear <First Name>,
Did you know our certification program provides vital skills for your field? As a member, you have exclusive access to this program.
One member who participated in the program said, <Insert compelling testimonial about your program from a member>.
Learn more and register for the certification program here.
Email #3: The Membership Highlights Email
After another week, give new members an overview of the top benefits they have access to as a member. For example, that could be your resources, your online community, a mentoring program, etc. Use member feedback to evaluate which benefits to showcase.
Subject Line: Dive into membership at <association name> with these benefits
Dear <First Name>,
Membership opens the door to access exclusive resources, tools and networking opportunities to help you thrive in your profession.
You work hard at being your best and we work hard at giving you the tools and resources you need.
Professional Development: <link to education>
Industry Trends: <link to news>
Tools and Resources <link to content>
Email #4: The Get Involved Email
For your final welcome campaign email, you could suggest popular pages on your website or popular online community threads (if this, provide instructions for how to log into your online member community for the first time).
Subject Line: Have you seen our most popular resource of 2020?
Dear <First Name>,
Have you checked out our most popular resource of 2020? Our annual member survey show that 85% of members use our online community, [community name], over three times a week and view it as the top member benefit.
If you haven’t logged in yet, here’s how to access the members-only community for the first time.
Don’t miss out on professional development opportunities, networking with your peers, and all the resources available in the online community.
Tip: These emails will work best if you personalize them to your association and your core benefits. Check out our guide to new member onboarding for tips on uncovering your core value proposition and communicating it clearly to members.
If you’ve got writer’s block for writing your own emails, take a look at these seven email copywriting tips.
7 Tips to Help You Write Great Emails for Your Automated Onboarding Campaign:
1. Focus on one subject. Although you might want to focus on multiple benefits in your emails, members will be able to digest and remember your content more easily if you keep it short and succinct.
2. Set expectations. Give members a heads up that they’ll be hearing from you about the member benefits that they came for. This sets expectations so that they’ll be more likely to engage with the emails when they arrive.
3. Read up on email best practices. Do some research on email subject lines, copy, and design. Great copywriting that matches your association’s brand voice will engage members and introduce them to the way you speak.
4. To get noticed in today’s visual society, use creative tactics. Try video — that could be a recording of your association president, welcoming new members to the association. Make sure you include captions, synchronized with the audio portion of the video, so members can still see the message if the volume is turned down.
5. Measure the success (opens and click rates) of your various emails to see which subject lines are driving opens and which calls-to-action are driving clicks. Then, improve on what’s working and stop doing what’s not working.
6. Highlight key sections of your association website. This introduces new members to all the areas you work in and helps them discover different ways they can get involved.
7. Have each email come from a different person on the membership team. Sending your emails with a “friendly from,” like “Keisha at XYZ” instead of “XYZ,” can help increase opens in members’ inboxes.
Automate a Welcome Email Campaign for a Successful New Member Onboarding Process
As an association leader, you want your members to be active participants. You want them to take advantage of what you have to offer, participate in discussions, and ultimately renew their memberships year after year.
In order to do this, you need to make a great first impression when they sign up. This means introducing them to your organization in a digestible, thoughtful way and getting them engaged in all you have to offer. Welcome them with open arms through your automated welcome email campaign.
Online Community Manager
Kaila is a former community manager at Higher Logic, working with the IBM Community. She specializes in helping local software user groups and their leaders and enjoys bringing the benefits of online collaboration to thousands of IBM Community users around the world. When not supercharging community member engagement, Kaila enjoys a mango White Claw and spending time with her fish, Steven.
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