Mapping the 1st Year Member Journey


Are you tired of recruiting the “one and done” members?

As we saw in my recent video blog, “It’s Not About You — It’s About The Members!“, these may be the ones that seemed so excited about joining and seemed to be the perfect prospects for getting value from what you offer.

Or they could be those who were a little hesitant about becoming members, but you or someone else convinced them to join. Either way, the excitement or anticipation of value fizzled out, and these same members are on the “drop list” and probably won’t renew.

Don’t they know about what you do to help drive a strong economy? Why haven’t they experienced the same outcomes as other members who engaged and developed new relationships, gained insights from a program, or have been able to contribute in a meaningful way?

There’s Your “Why” and Their “Why”
Yes, your organization has a vision and a mission—those are all about you. These statements are organization-centric and communicate why you exist. But it’s also important to realize that members have their own initiatives and expectations. Being member-centric requires you to recognize the “why” of joining and renewing, and delivering consistent experiences that develop long-term relationships.

Aside from supporting your vision and mission, it’s important that members feel a sense of belonging. That can come from recognition, interacting with like-minded individuals, or contributing to common causes. Engagement is not about quantity and having members come to everything you offer, it’s much more about the quality of engagement and developing emotional connections with your organization.

Interested in saving time and money?
Subscribe to Cathi Hight’s Deep Dive Member Retention Webinars
and be automatically pre-registered

Deep Dive Member Retention Webinars Subscriptions | Hight Performance Group

1st Year Experiences Are the Start of a Journey
This sense of belonging should develop during the first-year of membership. In the book, Managing the Member Experience, Levine and Froggatt describe the phases that new members go through, possible expectations they may experience, and how this defines their first year experience.
First Year Membership Journey | Hight Performance Group

Every new member embarks on a 1st year “journey” that either delivers on your “why” or theirs. Those who experience a satisfying journey that delivers or exceeds their expectations will renew, while those that don’t may decide not to continue and will not develop a long-term relationship with your organization.

Developing a 1st Year Member Journey Map
So, how do ensure that every new member has the best experience possible? I’d recommend that you use the phases outlined by Levine and Froggatt to develop a 1st Year Member Journey Map and onboarding activities to ensure that all new members experience success during the first year. If you read my earlier blog “It’s Not About You—It’s About the Members!” you will recall that Customer Journey Maps are developed from customers or prospects’ perspectives, and not yours. It requires you to use empathy to understand what it feels like to be in their “shoes” and then plan to develop successful interactions.

You can develop a 1st Year Member Journey Map by considering different reasons why prospects join and asking the questions below to get a sense of their expectations.
1.    Who is on the journey?
2.    What prompted the journey?
3.    What are the expectations of the first year of this journey?
4.    What do you want this member to experience?
5.    Who should be involved to support this experience?

A new business that just opened, someone who is acting upon a recommendation from a peer, or an executive who is frustrated with regulations that are impeding progress on an initiative may have different expectations for a first year journey with your organization. How will you know what those expectations are and which resources to leverage to ensure that groups of members have successful experiences? Your onboarding process should anticipate common questions or needs and how you should interact with new members throughout the first year.

Chart of First Year Membership Journey| Hight Performance Group


Member Empathy Helps You Be Member-Centric
Journey Maps help you to anticipate needs and see experiences through your members’ perspectives. You can validate first-year member expectations through interviews and focus groups. By practicing empathy, you will deliver consistent experiences that make renewals a no-brainer for your new members.

Member Retention Kit | April 2017 Onboard New Members Live Webinar | Hight Performance Group

Cathi Hight helps organizations manage constant change, deliver benefits that members value and effectively communicate the value of membership. She serves as the SVP of Growth Strategy and Investor Relations for the Greater Austin Chamber and is the President of Hight Performance Group. Cathi is the developer of The Member Retention Kit and A New Approach to Tiered Membership. Learn more at