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Open Communication, Mentors and Video Can Lift First-Year Retention

In a recent survey of organizations by GrowthZone, only 11% of respondents said their first-year member renewal rate increased in the past year, whereas 26% said it went down; 61% said it remained about the same.

To hold onto new members after that first year, organizations need to demonstrate value as quickly as possible, says Amy Gitchell, senior marketing communications specialist at GrowthZone, in an article on Associations Now. “It’s extremely important that new members understand the value you bring to their lives. In the survey, organizations whose members recognized their value proposition reported higher renewal rates overall.”

The International Coach Federation puts on a live webinar for onboarding to introduce new members/subscribers to key benefits and services. The ICF has found that this type of early engagement boosts first-year retention. “Videoconferencing helps our large organization feel smaller and more personal,” says Don Whittle, director of member experience. “Our members value that personal touch, and it helps make our global community feel much more tangible.”

For new members who can’t view the webinar live, ICF posts a video recording of the conversation to their website. ICF also uses the webinars as an opportunity to explain their credential to new members. That has led to a 39% increase in first-year members applying for the credential.

Here are retention ideas, some from MemberClicks, and more examples:

Keep the communications flowing. I’ve seen many organizations that talk about the importance of that initial welcome kit and outreach, but then they skip to a six-month check-in, nine-month update and then renewals. That’s probably too big a gap. “[Organizations] kind of drop off the radar and leave it up to their new members to get involved (which often, doesn’t actually happen).” Preferred is to see an automated email marketing campaign targeting your new members exclusively with event and benefit reminders, committees or groups they can join, audience surveys and special discount codes just for them.

Send a series of welcome emails. HCPro’s Credentialing Resource Center ran a 10-email welcome series in support of a new website. The emails were triggered when someone purchased membership. The focus of the emails varied each week from “Need help navigating?” and “Visit our FAQ page” to “Access the CRC member forums” and “Take $100 off the upcoming CRC Symposium.”

Organize new-member-only events, live or virtual. Another group here allows new members to come free to Pre-Conference workshops if they’ve signed up for the conference. The idea is to make them feel comfortable and engaged.

Remind users of their password. When Pro Farmer asked their audience if they would recommend the company to others, the answer included an open text opportunity so Pro Farmer got more information—specifically what might be most valuable and what might be lacking. “Our survey resulted in multiple concerns from text responses about user log-ins and passwords to the websites,” said Joe May, marketing director. “So what we did was proactively remind our users the basics—how to reset their password; how to set their browser to remember their credentials so they don’t have to enter it every single time.” And that email could then include other reminders.

Pair them with a mentor. If you can craft an experienced member/new member mentoring program where meetings/calls are scheduled but don’t become overwhelming, then that can be very successful. “If you have an online social community (or some kind of members-only forum), consider setting up a channel where interested parties (both on the mentor and mentee side) can go. That way, you’re helping to facilitate the process, but you’re not solely responsible for it.)”

Organize short-term mentoring opportunities. We’ve definitely done this at SIPA before—pair “newbies” with veterans at the SIPA Annual Conference. “By reducing the time commitment needed to fulfill this role, you’ll likely see interest in participation rise.”

Ask for feedback. “It’s imperative that you ask your new members for feedback, ideally around the six-month mark of their membership.” I would say even before that—maybe four months. By then you should get a good idea if they are engaged and what needs to be done.