Successfully On Boarding and Engaging New Members

How can you increase the retention rate of your first year members by 12 percent?

Darryl Walter, formerly with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and now with The Wildlife Society shared how he did it in the November issue of DMAW Marketing Advents.

As you may have read in this blog before, the most likely members to leave an association are first year members. In marketing terms, these members are in their conversion year and need special care in order

The successful solution highlighted in the article featured a monthly ‘welcome’ telemarketing program. The new members were called and thanked for joining and asked if they had received their magazine and new member kit.

“In analyzing the effectiveness of the telemarketing call”, Walter writes, “we averaged a 12 percent increase in conversion rate for those who received the telemarketing call versus those we were unable to contact.”[1]

Why might this tactic have been so effective? Research shows that a key predictor of renewal for new members is generating a second interaction between the member and association after joining. So the goal of an engagement or on-boarding program needs to be to get additional interaction. The tactic used is not as important as the interaction that you need to achieve.

What are you doing to engage the new members in your organization?

[1] Darryl Walter, Show Your New Members Some Love, DMAW Marketing Advents, November 2008, page 5.

The Importance of Membership Marketing Expertise

Marketing smart is more important than ever during these challenging times. And it does take time and practice to become a smart marketing or to become accomplished in any profession.

Malcolm Gladwell makes this point in his new book, Outliers: The Story of Success (Little Brown).

He noted in a recent interview, “The 10,000-hours rule says that if you look at any kind of cognitively complex field, from playing chess to being a neurosurgeon, we see this incredibly consistent pattern that you cannot be good at that unless you practice for 10,000 hours, which is roughly ten years, if you think about four hours a day.”[1]

What are the lessons for us in Gladwell’s premise? First, it may be ask for help from those with experience. Be careful not to conclude that sufficient knowledge and insight reside exclusively in your organization. Secondly, pick what you want to be good at and keep learning. Put in the time and effort to become “good” at what you do.

[1] FORTUNE MAGAZINE Leadership 2008

It is the Best of Times!


Eighty percent of marketing is very logical. However, twenty percent of it is counter intuitive. Understanding the counter intuitive aspects of marketing is what often determines success.

Here is an example of a non-logical truth. The best time to acquire new members can be during an economic downturn.

Yes, you read that correctly.

As I scan reports for membership acquisition efforts, I am seeing some very strong returns. One organization that I spoke with today is seeing a turn around this year after many years of declining membership. Another long term client is experiencing their best new member year ever.

Why is this?

First of all, any change prompts people to look at new opportunities and solutions. We are clearly in the midst of great change as a society.

Secondly, during times of economic uncertainly, people look for an anchor. Professionally associations can be that anchor. Think for a second, if you knew your job was in jeopardy, isn’t one of the first places you would go for help your professional association or network. That is the place to make contacts, go to job boards, attend meetings, and interact on a list serv.

Here is the bottom line. Don’t base your marketing on what you hear in the news or what seems logical. Stay in the membership acquisition market – emphasizing the unique services you alone can provide -- and read the marketing results. You might be surprised by the number of loyal members you will add when you become their knight in shining armor.

Building Your Constituency in order to Build Your Membership

You can call it branding, you can call it building awareness, you can even call it feeding your database, but it is an important new way to ultimately grow your paid membership.

Let me explain this by relating the recent membership success of my friend Howard Wahlberg.

Howard is the Assistant Executive Director at the National Science Teachers Association. He has seen his membership grow from 55,000 to over 60,000 during the past two years.

He is doing the right things: sending out marketing campaigns, testing messaging and packaging, segmenting his market, etc.

But he has another very powerful tool. The team at NSTA has established a electronic newsletter over the past few years that now includes over 280,000 subscribers – including his 60,000 members. The newsletter – NSTA Express – is automatically provided to members and is also offered free of charge to non-members. Subscribers come from visiting the NSTA home page or the “forward to a friend” button in the newsletter.

Obviously, it is a helpful resource to members. But what is really exciting about NSTA Express is how it exchanges some free information from the association in order to build the constituency or market mindshare for NSTA.

With the opt-in email relationship, NSTA gains some important opportunities.

1. Express builds awareness and allegiance to NSTA by informing and orienting prospective members to the services, activities, and resources available from NSTA.
2. Express allows NSTA build a database of those who are interested in Science education and since subscribers can self select the content from three versions; it helps NSTA to know people’s interest areas.
3. Express allows NSTA to take the pulse of what topics and issues are most important by reading click through reports.
4. Express provides a platform for NSTA to promote products and upcoming events, and yes, sell membership.

And since the newsletter was already created as a service to members, it costs very little to share it with the larger audience.

Sometimes we can become overly focused on making the membership sales instead of helping prospective members dip their toe into the water and more gradually become involved. But almost always building your network will translate into paid members.