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and have passion for our profession

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One of the most popular pieces in our inventory is a humble little pamphlet, inexpensive to produce, but containing some of the most sought after technical information in our industry. It’s a simple, tri-fold brochure that is given out to new members, tradeshow visitors and sold to our membership for less than a dollar. This pamphlet explains an industry standard with helpful tables and references. Technicians who use this information take it with them on the job, on the road and whip it out when trying to explain the principles to interested customers.

Every industry has information that would be helpful if available at the fingertips. Whether it’s technical renderings, graphs, standards, guidelines or principles, if you are able to put this information into a convenient and portable medium, your members will promote it.

Once we realized how popular this information was to our community, the Board requested that we post it on our website. We added the key words to our SEO metadata and published it’s availability in Facebook, Twitter, our magazine and e-notices. We are now considered “experts” in this standard. When searching the keywords, our organization shows up in searches. Our outreach to the public increases with each passing year.

What information does your membership consistently ask of you? What questions do you find yourself constantly fielding? Consider putting this information in a pamphlet, you can add your contact information, website and list of other publications. Tables, graphs, formulas, phone numbers all can go on a pocket sized guide for sale or as an additional giveaway. Do your members go on field work? What information would be handy to them on the job? Make it available online so it’s easy to download.

If your organization specializes in the food industry, make a cheat sheet of cooking terms, weights and measures or conversions. Are your members scientists? Add graphs or formulas they use daily. What do graphic designers find handy? A color wheel. Travelers will surely appreciate a quick reference guide featuring “hello,” “thank you,” and “good-bye” in a variety of languages. The ideas are limitless.

Add your organization logo, contact information and list of other publications, you now have a valuable tool to giveaway, post on your website or sell.

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I received the loveliest note from a dear friend yesterday. Handwritten on a humorous greeting card only she and I could truly appreciate, she thanked me for our friendship and for just being me. It was simple and unexpected and I’ll cherish it forever.

I have another friend who mails me postcards every few weeks — kitschy relics he picks up at antique stores and re-uses. My favorites are vintage photos of old supper clubs and motor inns. I save them all.

I have, in fact, a box full of special notes, letters and cards that go back to my childhood — precious messages written by hand from high school friends, my mother, my grandmother, my husband. They mean a lot to me and I wouldn't dream of throwing them away.

In a world of knocked out texts and emails, hand-written notes are an anomaly. Think about the last time you received a hand-written note by mail. I bet it got your attention and made you slow down so you could appreciate the message. Maybe it was nice enough that you tacked it to your office wall for everyone to see. It made you feel good didn’t it? Kind of special?

What if you extended that same feeling to your association members? Imagine the impact a sincere, hand-written note would have on member satisfaction and retention.

It starts with prospective members. What if you had a targeted list of pre-qualified prospects and your CEO hand-wrote a special note to each inviting them to join your association or attend one of your events as her guest. Wow! At the most, they’d join or attend. At the least, you’ve opened a door of communication that will likely be reciprocated, but most certainly remembered.

For new members, a hand-written welcome, along with your “new member kit,” is a great first step to building relationships and engagement.

Get yourself a set of branded notecards or stationary and start reaching out today. Consider these ideas:

Letters of congratulations for

  • Certifications
  • New jobs
  • Promotions
  • Births
  • Marriages
  • Retirements
  • Business growth
  • Industry awards

Letters of thanks to

  • Sponsors
  • Event volunteers
  • Authors or blog contributors
  • Speakers
  • Board and committee members

There are so many ways to connect personally with your members and make impressions that last. It requires extra time and thought, for sure, but that extra touch will be remembered and appreciated, and will likely translate to greater member satisfaction and increased retention.

Now, grab a pen and make someone feel special today!

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welcome mat

Members are the driving force behind any organization, and a new member’s first impression could be the deciding factor in their length of stay, participation and whether they, return should they ever decide to leave.

New members and prospects must be a high priority, focus should be on answering their questions, familiarizing them with the goals and mission of the organization and getting them involved with the various groups and committees as soon as possible.

Here are a few extra actions you can take to ensure an affirmative lasting impression:

  • From initial contact as a prospect, to the actual approval of membership, the organization’s staff is in a unique position to impress the new member with a positive (or negative) experience. It is a simple task; always be responsive and attentive to any new member or prospect.
  • A new member welcome packet, whether by direct mail or email is essential. You can include a welcome letter, membership certificate, informational brochures, by-laws of the organization, information on the next conference, your business card and anything else that may be useful.
  • Board members or elected officials should be assigned to contact the new member personally, either by phone or email. They can explain why they are members and what benefits they receive as members. They can also act as additional contacts for questions. The new member is hearing from someone who is in the same industry and can relate to issues unique to the industry they share.
  • Invite the new member to the next conference, webinar or tradeshow, at a discounted rate, if possible. The main reason most join an association or trade group is to network with peers in their industry. Don’t let the new attendee become adrift at sea. You need to take the reigns and guide their first experience at a major function, to make it as profitable and worthwhile as possible.

For your next conference:

  • Create an ambassador program designed to let those who care deeply about the mission of your organization guide new members through the first years of membership. The ambassador can also introduce them to peers within the organization to encourage networking.
  • When promoting an event, in social media posts and newsletters, include the names of new members who will be attending. Add their picture and a brief biographical sketch, so everyone can get to know them before meeting face-to-face. If you have an online directory, consider posting member photos next to their listing.
  • Host a new member reception to introduce them to the governing members of the organization.
  • Create new member ribbons, or provide a way for the new member to be identified at an event.
  • Don’t forget to follow up with all attendees of events, especially new members. Ask them to complete follow up event evaluations so you can improve upon the experience, find out what they want to see next and if they need any assistance in networking with members they met. Get them to invest their ideas into improving the association.

All these suggestions will ensure new members feel they are welcome and important components of the organization. The goal is to encourage new members to renew their memberships, increasing retention.

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CSIA Accessories Photo anon

Working in association management, it is important to find ways to connect with and recognize association members. The certification program offered by our client, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), provides a great example – the chance to recognize member companies that have achieved CSIA Certification or certification renewal.

Recognition of companies that successfully complete an audit is a good way to boost the visibility of the certification program. More importantly though, we understand the amount of hard work and dedication that members put into preparing for a certification audit and are eager to acknowledge this achievement!

These are some of the ways CSIA members’ certification success is recognized.

Social Media Recognition
One of the most immediate ways we acknowledge CSIA Certified and recertified companies is through social media. In a matter of minutes, a post announcing a company’s certification can reach so many people. In terms of simplicity and effectiveness, social media is certainly one of the most successful recognition tools we use.

Certified Membership
Upon successful completion of the certification audit, a company is classified as a Certified member. By providing this membership category CSIA Certified companies are easily recognizable. This membership category also provides unique benefits such as access to certification-specific materials and a larger discount off the purchase price of an online profile on CSIA’s online marketplace, the Exchange.

Certification Materials
Certified companies receive a packet of information from CSIA soon after their certification is processed. Materials sent include:

  • Certification plaque (sent to companies certifying for the first time). 
  • Date bar showing the current certification term that is attached to the company’s plaque. A new date bar is sent each time certification is renewed. The plaque is designed so that a company can attach each date bar in order. 
  • A certificate is sent via email (so that the company can share it electronically with clients and post it on their website) and in paper form for display.
  • Stickers – These have proven to be popular with members. We often receive requests for additional stickers and companies have enjoyed sharing photos of the creative ways they have found to display their stickers.

Annual Conference Recognition
The annual CSIA Executive Conference brings the industry together and we have found that it is an ideal time to recognize Certified members. Conference recognition methods have included:

  • Slides/signage listing CSIA Certified members
  • Name badge ribbons
  • Recognition of CSIA Certified members during a conference event (such as a dinner or awards ceremony).
  • Photo ops

We are always searching for new, creative recognition methods to try. No matter our approach, the primary intent of certification recognition is to connect with the member and to demonstrate that we take their accomplishment seriously. It is our experience that members who feel appreciated by and connected to their association add a great deal to its success!

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Welcoming new members into an association is exciting! Their new ideas, enthusiasm and fresh approaches add a lot to the vitality and dynamism of an organization. When it comes to welcoming new members, one of our first priorities as association professionals is to make sure they feel engaged and encouraged to participate in ways that are meaningful to them. To accomplish this, it is important to get to know new members and to take the time to understand their backgrounds, experiences and values and then use that knowledge to help them personalize a membership experience that works for them.

It is also important to develop a new-member onboarding process that is both dynamic and effective. To enhance our already robust new-member onboarding process, I have recently been developing a series of automated emails to send to new members during the first few months of membership. This project is still in the development stage – we have yet to implement the emails. But I wanted to share my approach.

My first step was to evaluate our entire process and how the new email sequence would fit into that process. After all, our new emails are intended to complement and enhance our existing welcome messaging. To evaluate whether the email sequence would accomplish this goal, I asked myself some basic questions: Would adding this component improve the effectiveness of our communications with new members? Would reaching out to new members in this way help them feel involved in the association and welcomed? Do the new communications reinforce our intended messages without being redundant?

Once I had determined that the new email sequence would provide value to our process, I turned my attention to the substance of our messages. When I began composing the emails I decided to work with content we already use in existing new member communication. This serves dual purposes – it saves time by not requiring us to draft messages from scratch and, more importantly, it reinforces the messaging we already have. Since we know the topics highlighted in our existing messages are of interest to new members, the emails provide an opportunity to present the information in a fresh way. We have added a bit of new content and tried to customize some of our messaging to specific membership categories. However, the bulk of our email content mirrors existing messaging. My hope is that by introducing members to certain topics in multiple formats (such as an email and then a mail piece) they’ll be more likely to take notice of and act on the information being shared.

With our messaging in place my current area of focus is implementation. I am very conscious that our members are busy working professionals with their own hectic schedules. Since we are establishing an automated sequence of emails, my primary consideration is setting up the system in a way that avoids potentially inundating members with too much too soon. We want the emails to be spaced so that they capitalize on a new member’s enthusiasm, while allowing them enough time to take in the information being presented. Emails sent too close together might overwhelm the member. However, spacing the emails too far apart runs the risk of the messages getting buried in a busy inbox.

I am thinking very carefully about the best approach to sending these emails. One idea I’ve had is setting up each email in the sequence to be sent based on action taken from the previous email. For example, our first email encourages new members to visit a certain online community and they receive the second email only after they have visited that community. Whatever the implementation approach ends up looking like, I will be paying close attention to member feedback and adjusting as needed over time.

What are your experiences with new member onboarding? Have you worked with automated email sequences or other automation tools? I would certainly welcome your thoughts or advice!

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