Onboarding new members like a pro

If you want to maximize your membership site profit, it’s essential that you onboard new members properly.

Onboarding is your chance to make a solid first impression on new members and ensure that they’re set up to succeed and stick around for the long haul. Sites without good onboarding sequences are the ones where initial churn is really high – members join, don’t find the success they were hoping for, and cancel a few months later.

Lucky for you, for the most part setting up a good onboarding process is a one-time project that pays off with every new member who signs up. Let’s get started.

The onboarding email sequence

Email #1

New members should immediately receive a confirmation email when they sign up. This should let them know their payment went through, provide links to their account settings page, member dashboard page, discussion forums, etc. Basically, this should be the “quick start” email that gives them access to everything they need.

Email #2

Members should also receive a welcome email, written in your personal voice, which thanks them for joining the community and suggests a starting point for them. If there’s a crucial first piece of content they should read or watch, point them to that. Additionally, if you have a video overview of your membership offering, link them to that. If you don’t have one, consider recording it, as this can be a great way to help introduce new members to your offering and help them get oriented. Lastly, this email should ask them to reply if they have any questions, with a promise that you’ll personally assist them. I like “If you ever have any questions, just hit reply – I respond to every email I get.”

Email #3

Two to four days later, members should receive another email from you. This time, point them to another part of what you’re offering – if you have discussion forums, point them to the “introduce yourself” thread if there is one (if not, start one!). Again, ask for feedback and offer them help.

Email #4

In another 3-5 days, send an email highlighting a popular area of your membership site. Rinse and repeat this until you’ve provided a thorough walk through of your site’s key areas. This helps build a habit around coming to your site and ensures new members are aware of all they can accomplish through your membership business.

Email #5

Somewhere around the 25 day mark (assuming you sell monthly subscriptions), members should get another email. This one is a little different, and will require some manual work on your part – but the payoff can be huge. In this email, you should tell members what new content you have planned for the next few months. The idea here is to give them a taste of what they’d be missing if they decided to cancel their membership (thus the 25 day mark) before the next billing cycle. This does mean that you or someone on your team will need to keep the contents of this email updated regularly, but it’s worth it in the long term. And if you’re adding new content, you should be planning ahead for that anyway, so updating the email is a pretty small additional task.

Email #6

If you have both monthly and annual memberships, send monthly members another email a few days prior to the end of their second month, offering them a one-time special on upgrading to an annual plan. This should be nice and short: just lay out any additional benefits they get by being an annual member (more content, special forums access, etc.), as well as the financial benefit (e.g. 12 months for the price of 10, 20% off the price of monthly, etc.).

Email #7 and beyond

Send a couple more emails in the 3-5 month range. These are just general check in emails to remind them that you’re a human behind the screen, but you can also keep them updated with new things you’ve added to the site, as well as ask for feedback, complaints, suggestions, etc.

Bonus tips

Do what doesn’t scale

If you’re just starting out, or if your membership offering is high price and low volume, send new members a personalized video welcoming them by name and thanking them for joining. Most members will be thrilled to hear directly from you, and their level of emotional engagement with what you’re offering will be far higher.

If you can’t keep up with the volume of new members (great problem to have!), you can still send out videos to some members. Consider sending them out to people who sign up for your highest priced offering, or just sending one or two a week to randon new members. These videos are far more likely to get a response than automated emails, which can be invaluable in helping you learn about why people join your site, what they want to learn or experience, and how you can improve both your marketing and the membership experience.

Add and tweak over time

The above list of emails might seem overwhelming, especially if you’re starting from scratch. That’s understandable! It’s important to remember that you can start with just one email, and add to your onboarding sequence over time. Just make sure you actually do it – I suggest you set a recurring calendar event every month to add another email to your sequence and/or adjust what’s already there. Don’t avoid starting with something just because it won’t be perfect right from the start.

Ask for testimonials

If members have stuck around for a while and are highly engaged, you should email them personally and ask for a testimonial. This is best done on a one-on-one basis: every month or two, look at which of your members are most highly engaged, and send them a short testimonial request. This can be a link to a survey, or just a few specific questions in the email.

Segmentation

For some membership sites, members have varying motivations for joining. For instance, you might have people joining to learn what you teach as a hobby, or for professional growth. In cases like this, segmenting your onboarding based on that motivation is a great way to take things to the next level and help your new members succeed. To do this, in your welcome email, just ask why they joined! If your email service provider supports “trigger links”, ask why they joined, include a trigger link for each reason (and an “other” link). Then, you can add a corresponding tag in your email provider, and segment based on those tags. Of course, you’ll also need a default/other email at each step, as well.

Useful resources for onboarding

If you have any questions about onboarding, ask away in the comments, and I’ll do my best to help you out!

Travis Northcutt

About the author: Travis Northcutt is a consultant and the founder of Member Up, where he helps membership site owners become more profitable with advice, articles & his free guide. When he's not working on all things membership related, he enjoys time with his wife & son, and mountain biking.

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