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One Secret To Retaining First Year Members

Are your chamber’s recruiting efforts offset by the number of members that drop throughout each year?  You are not alone.

Some member attrition is beyond your control.  Maybe your resources aren’t a fit.  Sometimes member companies move out of the area or go out of business. But too often, members leave because they never learned how to take advantage of the resources your chamber has to offer.  

In the end, the most common reason for leaving is that the member didn’t get enough value. Their reason for joining was left unfulfilled, and they simply could not justify renewing their investment.

The First Year Is Vital

If you've been in the chamber business for any amount of time, you probably know that first year members are the most vulnerable to drop. And that's not just anectdotal knowledge. Studies done by the American Society of Association Executives and the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives back it up. 

Engagement seems to make a difference. When new members don’t become meaningfully engaged in at least one resource, their chances of dropping increase dramatically. If more than six months lapse between the join date and involvement, the member will likely never get engaged and merely let their membership expire.  

Your goal should be to get new members off to the best possible start, which always increases the chances they’ll stick around for the long-term.  

Onboarding Mitigates First-Year Churn

When members join, they are generally excited and want to experience the value they were promised.  Without guidance and assistance, most members won’t be successful, which quickly leads to frustration, disappointment, and maybe even a bit of buyer's remorse.  

Personalized member onboarding is a proactive approach that goes above and beyond merely sending a membership packet or hosting a new member orientation.  It calls for your team to go out of their way to personally call new members.  

Focus On Why They Joined

If you don’t already know why a new member joined, ask what they want to accomplish.  Their answers are your secret sauce to help them succeed. Listen to what they have to say, then take a moment to explain which resources fit their needs. Help them develop a customized strategy to accomplish their membership goals.

Members must see clear value within the onboarding period. When they don’t, they are far less likely to ever get involved.  They quickly become dissatisfied and ultimately leave your chamber.  

Members Want Onboarding

Put yourself in your new member's shoes. They have just made a cash investment in something that they believe will provide them value, but they don't really know how it works. Just as a company that sells high-tech equipment would provide training for its customers on how to use its products, you should be providing training for your members on how to get value out of their memberships.

You can provide personalized onboarding, even if you don’t have designated member relations staff.  Many chambers include onboarding as part of their member rep’s job description. If this doesn’t work, consider making new member onboarding a team goal; and assign new members to the staff you have.  This divides the responsibility fairly and typically results in only 2 – 5 calls per staff member, per month.  

Today’s members expect you to anticipate and meet their needs. To stay ahead, you must foster individual relationships. You need to know why each member joined, how your chamber can help, and take action to deliver on your promise.

As always, we encourage you to practice these techniques, make them your own, and let us know how it goes.

Remember, we’re easy to talk to. Feel free to reach out with questions about these techniques or other issues.

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