Onboarding is an incredibly important part of the member life cycle. You want to be sure to welcome new members to start the relationship off with the right tone.
At the beginning point of your relationship, a new member is likely very enamored with the chamber and the investment they have just made. You are benefiting from these positive feelings. However, if the reality of the onboarding experience doesn’t fit their expectations they may become disenchanted. Once you start off in the negative it is difficult to make up for it.
That’s why the onboarding time is so vital for creating that connection that will make them loyal members for years to come.
But how do you welcome new members and provide an amazing onboarding experience?
Here are several ideas that we’ve taken from member onboarding best practice research and examples of what other Chambers are currently doing. This list contains activities and actions for members and behind the scenes to improve your program and communication.
While every item on this list may not fit your community or chamber, feel free to choose the ideas that sound interesting for your member base and resources.
- Create a “welcome new members” committee or buddy system. New members have questions and you may not always be available to answer them. You can’t be in all places at all times. Using an ambassador, welcome committee, or buddy system will ensure new members are paired with another member business person who can show them the ropes.
- Use drip marketing. Handing new members a giant packet of information on all chamber benefits is overwhelming. Instead, spoon feed them little bits of information through an email drip marketing campaign. This way they get bite-size tips they can read quickly and start using immediately.
- Call them. Call them about two weeks into their membership term. Ask them if they have any questions or if they’ve been able to start using the member benefits. If you’re fortunate to have a lot of new members start at the same time, enlist the help of your welcome committee to get the phone calls made. Make sure you log what they share with you.
- Host a breakfast to welcome new members. This breakfast can provide a benefits overview and help them get to know some of the people in the community. If you call it a VIP breakfast instead of a new member breakfast, you can also invite people who just need a refresher on the benefits available to them.
- Welcome new members on social media, your newsletter, and/or email. Write something specific about their business such as a specialty or interesting tidbit that will make others want to check them out.
- Get your board members to sign a card welcoming the new member. Attach a small treat to it, a flower, or their window cling.
- Find out who they want to meet or the type of connections they want to make. Introduce them to one of them as soon as possible.
- Ask about anniversaries and special celebrations. Find out if your new member has any anniversaries or special celebrations coming up that you could help them with by bringing them more attention.
- Check-in with them. Do a quarterly check-in with new members. Use your notes as to why they joined as a guide for the conversation. Find out if they’re on track to meet the goals they had for chamber membership.
- Add them to your social media monitoring list. You should be scanning your members’ social media posts so you can find out if there’s anything exciting going on in their business. If so, make sure you share it.
- Find out if they want to offer chamber members hot deals. If you have a member-to-member deals benefit, find out if the new business wants to participate. If not, ask them if they need help reaching a larger audience for any major initiative they’re doing in the next 6 months.
- Send a card at the 11-month mark. Send a card, note, or email 11 months after they joined. In this communication, include what activities and events you know they’ve participated in. That first year goes by pretty fast. They may not even realize their year is up and they might have forgotten some of what they participated in. Make it clear by congratulating them on their investment in their business with the chamber and mention the different things they have been a part of or received. This will remind them of the value they received over nearly a year’s worth of membership.
- Create a welcome bag or new member swag. Make them feel the love with a few gifts. This can even be a sponsorship opportunity are some of your existing members.
- Create a benefits infographic. Design a “Next Step” benefits infographic based on the type of business your new member is. For instance, if the new business is a solopreneur, an infographic that details chamber benefits of interest to a one-person shop helps them quickly see the most pertinent benefits to their type of business.
- Put together a welcome packet. Create a personalized, visually-appealing new member welcome packet. A packet with a lot to read will get placed in a desk drawer somewhere. Instead, create a welcome packet with punchy graphics, eye-catching materials, graphs and statistics, image quotes, and other things that can be reviewed quickly.
- Change the name. If you have a member onboarding seminar, change the name to something more exciting. Use pop culture references or some other fun title so more members will be tempted to attend.
- Create a wow video. Create a 1-2 minute, high-energy introduction to the chamber. This introduction should be centered around fun and exciting components of the chamber. You can use music and images without any words or humor. The point is to command attention in a light-hearted, fun way. This video is separate from a serious introduction video. Get your new members excited about the investment they just made.
- Look into member matchmaking. In addition to a buddy system you could create a member matchmaking program that would pair the new member up with someone whose business is either similar–but not a direct competitor–or is the type of business the new member wanted to meet.
- Use a nurture campaign. If you’re doing a drip marketing onboarding campaign make sure you record click-throughs for each new member. In your email campaign you want to include hyperlinks for information they might be curious about. Note what they click on and then tailor future deliveries based on their interests. This provides a much more targeted approach to giving them the information they want.
- Find a way to identify new members. If your chamber is on the larger side or just large enough that the current members might not recognize new members, then look for ways to designate a new member on their name badge without the embarrassing term “new member.” For instance, you could use a different font or a different color or place a fun sticker on the name badge. Whatever you decide to use to indicate a new member it should be visible from across the room. That way established members can see the person standing alone is a new member who may want to be introduced to other people.
- Create welcome new member videos. Record several welcome videos that share in detail specific things new members may want to know. For instance, create a video on “How to get more business with chamber membership.” The simple, one-topic videos should be designed around solving a problem. They should showcase actionable steps. While you may create these for new members, they’ll be valuable for all of your constituents and potential new members. The National Association of Realtors has an excellent member orientation video which can be watched in even shorter segments.
- Map the new member welcome touchpoints in your current onboarding program. In order to build a better onboarding program, you need to know where you’re starting. Map each of your current touchpoints on a calendar so you can see exactly how many times you reach out to the members and how much time goes by between touchpoints if the member initiates nothing on their own. Mapping it can help you see and understand where you have weaknesses and need to reach out more often.
- Use calls-to-action. Each time you reach out to a new member whether in-person, online, or via email, it should have a very obvious next step or call to action. When you are interacting with your new member you never want it to end with simply an “if you need anything let us know” comment. You want to give them the next step or something to follow up with on their own even if they’ve asked something of you. For instance, if you were going to introduce them to a member they’re interested in knowing more about, give them something to do while you set up that meeting. It should be related to their interests. In this example, it could be something like convincing them to watch the “taking advantage of chamber networking opportunities” video.
These onboarding activities will welcome new members and get you started but they shouldn’t end with sending the annual invoice. The chamber member onboarding process is just the beginning. You want to stay connected with all of your members at all points in the member life cycle, not just the beginning. You never want your members to feel like the only time they hear from you is in email blasts and invoices. That’s not a good basis for a relationship. Instead, stay in touch throughout the year on as personal a basis as you can afford with the resources you have.