Joining a gym can be an exciting or frustrating experience, depending on the gym’s orientation or onboarding program. If a new member is left to figure things out on her own, she could quickly become confused and even intimidated by the variety of equipment. Everyone else looks so comfortable, but she doesn’t know what to do or where to start. She’s the one you see on the same machine day after day. God forbid if someone else is using it.
Or, the new member is assigned to a trainer who shows her around and helps her develop a workout program. She’ll even get a monthly discount if she attends a free introductory class. As the weeks progress, she becomes familiar with what the gym has to offer and how it can help her.
Guess who’s still there a year later?
Associations have the same challenge. Lowell Aplebaum, CAE, Senior Director of Membership and Professional Development at the Society for Neuroscience, recently wrote about welcoming new members. He provides several suggestions for what to include (and not include) in the welcome stream.
Right after a member joins, you have their attention. It’s a critical time but, Lowell says, many associations make a huge mistake: “After the member joins they are automatically added into the marketing stream and receive email after email with further upsell, treating them as a customer first and a member second.” At his association, they put a “marketing freeze” on new members for four to eight weeks. They treat them as members first and customers second.
The key to effective onboarding is, first, identifying each new member’s motivation for joining, needs, interests and communication preference. Then you can send them targeted communication based on that information and move them into the appropriate engagement cycle.
Finding a way to gather this information from members is a resource challenge. Ideally, staff or volunteers would talk to each new member – a perfect micro-volunteering opportunity – but that’s not always feasible. Instead, you could ask new members to complete an online form that will automatically populate their record in your AMS and trigger a series of educational emails or other onboarding action.
An even better idea: create a personalized webpage for each member that displays a selection of news, articles, classes, events and products based on keywords selected by the member, a la Netflix. Take new members on a virtual journey that will introduce them to valuable experiences, what web usability expert Samuel Hulick calls “early wins” so they realize “they’re getting real-world value out of” their membership.
Onboarding the online user
New member or user onboarding is a hot topic for Web platforms. Like associations, they can’t assume that new users will intuitively figure out how to get the most out of their experience. If you’re a Twitter user, think about how many times you’ve heard people say, “I tried but I don’t get Twitter.” Twitter is finally doing something about it. CEO Dick Costolo recently said, “There’s a lot we can do to significantly improve the user experience.”
To attract and retain users beyond its traditional developer niche, GitHub bought Easel, an intuitive Web-based editor. Pundits say Easel should help make the GitHub user experience more accessible to those who aren’t experienced code designers. GitHub is also creating guides and tutorials to help users understand workflow and other issues.
Conrad Wadowski at GrowthHack says, “Good onboarding involves a mix of selling, educating and using your product with minimal friction along the way.” Or, we could say, reminding new members about the impact of specific benefits or experiences, showing them how to get started, and identifying and removing any obstacles that stand in their way.
Some Web platforms, like Buffer and Hootsuite, are very responsive to users who need help. Others, like Facebook, are infamous for their lack of caring. Let new members know you are there for them. Have support available for them by phone, email and, if you can manage it, live Web chat. Think Mayday, the Amazon Kindle Fire’s support rep who pops up on the screen when you need help.
Some members will want to go down the typical engagement path and some won’t. You can give them a taste, but many members will be content with just receiving information. To keep them happy, figure out what they want and show them how to get it.
Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who will be attending ASAE’s Great Ideas conference later this week and would love to talk shop with Avectra blog readers.