New Member Momentum: Four Ways to Engage First-Year Members of Your Trade Association

You have a creative website. You have a fun annual conference. Your trade association has several benefits, yet your member companies seem to drop after the first year. What do you do?

The solution is more feasible than you may think.

Onboarding a new member is like welcoming a guest at a party. According to Higher Logic, “You welcome your guests at the door, show them where the snacks and drinks are, chat them up for a bit, and then draw them into conversation with someone else who has something in common with them. If they are looking a little lonely later, you draw them into an activity, like playing a game with you and a couple other friends. The more comfortable they feel, the longer they will stay, and the more connected they’ll become.”

You cannot expect new members to study every page on your website and jump on all your committees on day one – you must take the initiative to “show them around” and communicate the value of your trade association in bite-sized pieces in a way that is personal and welcoming to them. Here is how:


First, create an onboarding plan of personalized touchpoints with new members. Start from the first day of joining through the end of their first membership year. Send a welcome email immediately, follow up with a welcome phone call asking how you can help them get situated, and engage them with strategically spaced check-in calls and drip emails throughout the year. Consider wrapping up with a happy anniversary email on the member’s first-year mark reminding them of all that they did (education credits earned, events attended, etc.) to further validate their membership.


A thorough website is not enough for your new members. Highlight the most important things for them to know and do immediately via a cleverly designed welcome packet. This online packet may include pages such as staff member listings with emails and reasons to contact each, a how-to guide on navigating their online member profile and a “First Five Things to Do” activity list.

We recommend using a tool such as Flipsnack to convert your online packet into an interactive flipbook embedded on one of your web pages. This web page link can be included in new member communications.


Continue the engagement with a new member drip campaign series of biweekly, brief emails that each highlight a single member benefit or significant component of the association. Take information from the digital welcome packet and your website, breaking up into digestible pieces of content. The first email might instruct the member on how to update their company information on the member directory, the second email could inform them about your free online resource library, the third could encourage them to sign up for a committee and so on. Be sure to include links to relevant landing pages to your association website throughout the emails.


It is not just about the powerful decision-makers who write the company’s membership check. Consider creating a separate onboarding plan for the other employees as they get added to the company’s membership. Whenever a member company hires a new employee; welcome them with the digital packet and a shortened version of the personalized drip campaign to stimulate individual engagement. The more company employees that are attending events, volunteering on committees and using association resources, the stronger case there is for the company decision-maker to keep renewing with you.

The tips above will significantly increase your chances of keeping new members with you for years to come. But how will you find the time to continue the new member momentum? That is where we come in. Raybourn Group International is an accredited, award-winning association management company that can solve your staffing and membership needs. With us, you can hire a dedicated and experienced staff person to engage your members at a much lower cost than hiring a full-time staff.