First impressions: How to welcome new members
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.