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ISAE Blog

You Don't Know What You Don't Know: Member Onboarding for Associations

Posted by Amanda Cook, CAE on May 28, 2014 12:30:00 PM

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently developing a new member onboarding process for my association. I’ll be the first to admit that the Corporate Housing Providers Association’s model could be updated and enhanced to provide the best new member experience and improve member retention. I’ve found that all too frequently members comment that they didn’t know about a specific benefit or program, so it’s the job of the organization to give them the information they need to make sure they find value in their investment.

As I’ve been doing research, I found a lot of the literature related to human resources and onboarding new staff. Combined with a recent experience with a new hire, I realized that the onboarding experience is important in all facets of the organization – from association execs to new members to newly elected board of directors. After all, they don’t know what they don’t know.

One of the ways associations can effectively onboard an individual or company is to use a multi-faceted approach, meaning they need to be engaged in a variety of ways. It is no secret that people learn through different means, whether that is through conversation and dialogue, reading or electronically. It is important to engage them through these different means as well. Here are a few ways you can reach a new member:

  • Letters, pamphlets, brochures, etc: This allows you to communicate a wide variety of information. Many people still really enjoy getting something tangible in the mail. The struggle with mailing information is that you don’t know if the individual will read it.
  • Webinars, video/telephone conferencing, online demonstrations: Technology today allows you to interact with people from all over the world. Distance is no longer a factor. This kind of technology allows you to showcase online features, highlight benefits and have two way communication with an individual.
  • Live events: In-person association events are always the best way to engage an individual. This is not always possible given the nature of national and international organizations. Being immediately accessible and approachable will help members feel welcome.
  • Emails: This is frequently the norm when communicating to members. Emails can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Email can be frequently overlooked and there is no guarantee it is getting read. It’s still an important tool to frequently communicate with members, however, it should be used in combination with other approaches. Always try to track open rates and click through rates for new members in order to see if they are reading the information or taking action.

Whatever you decide your onboarding process requires, you have to look at it from the perspective of an individual who knows nothing. Using a combination of communication methods helps get the information to the individual in a variety of ways and increases the chance of sharing the valuable benefits and services with a new member and engage them sooner in the process.

Topics: Communication, Members, Associations

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