The 3 Primary Benefits of Onboarding Outreach to New Members

The Credit Union world sometimes seems split on the benefits of onboarding. Only about 40% of credit unions actually execute an onboarding strategy. So, what is onboarding and what are the key benefits?


By Marquis


The Credit Union world sometimes seems split on the benefits of onboarding. Maybe a better way to put it is that only about 40% of credit unions actually execute an onboarding strategy, according to our industry research.

So, why don't more credit unions use this highly effective marketing outreach to new members? Our research has revealed two impediments. A lack of time for "one more thing to do" is the first roadblock. The second reason, coming back in several forms, is a lack of understanding of the benefits.

Credit unions have proven that they know better than banks how important it is to mine their existing membership for business. Onboarding is quite simply one of the most effective ways to accomplish just that. What are the key benefits? There are three:

  1. improved member retention,
  2. increased cross-selling success, and
  3. having new members feel more closely connected to their new credit union (and maybe the whole credit union movement).

What is Onboarding?

Simply put, onboarding is a systematic way of reaching out to new members during the initial 90 days or so after they join your credit union, using a combination of phone calls, e-mails, and direct mail. This "first 90 days" time frame compliments research that says your best chance of cross-selling an additional product or service to a new member is highest in the first 90 days. And, research also indicates that satisfying an additional two to three financial needs for new members during this time means they are dramatically less likely to leave, improving your overall retention rate.

Increasing Cross-selling Effectiveness

It is eight to ten times easier, and much more cost effective, to cross-sell an existing member than it is to attract a new one. This knowledge is a fundamental member-retention marketing gem. Couple this gem with another, that cross-selling is more effective during the first 90 days of membership, and you have a marketing imperative that cannot be ignored.

Effective onboarding requires that you reach out at least 3-4 times to your new members during this 90-day honeymoon. There are a variety of techniques to do this…but any of them, effectively executed, will deliver double digit new sales response rates. Are you getting a 10-12% response rate on your other direct mail/cross-selling efforts?

So, what does this process look like? Many credit unions start with a personal phone call to thank the new member for their business. This call also provides the opportunity to set the stage for upcoming offers sent via email and direct mail. Email and direct mail offers should target members likely to make that purchase and focus on sales of core credit union products.

Every credit union wants and needs more business. The best way to get it is to mine the target rich environment of new members, through a thoughtful onboarding program.

Improving Member Retention

Research by Celent Communications a few years ago revealed that, on average, about 15% of members overall will leave their credit union each year. This is a big number. Do you know what your retention rate is? It is an invaluable number to know and track, especially if you discover your most profitable members are leaving at the same rate.

Our own internal research supports that a typical credit union derives the majority of their profit from 5% of their members. In real numbers, this means that only a few hundred members deliver all of your profit. Annually, these top members provide approximately $10,000 in profit each. Losing 30-40 of these members each year seriously damages your bottom-line, and lessens your ability to provide even better value to all members.

Building a formal retention strategy alone is a valuable endeavor. And in the context of onboarding, retention is a key benefit. In fact, without an effort to "reach out" to new members quickly with an onboarding initiative, about one fourth of your new members will leave within their first 12-15 months. Said another way, in marketing we spend great deal of energy and dollars attracting new members, only to risk losing them a few short months later. Add five new members, lose four. Some have likened this to running in the sand.

A well-executed retention plan always includes onboarding. The better cross-selling a member receives, the firmer your grasp on their loyalty. Next to building a wall around your entire membership, this marketing technique will help you stem the flow of members leaving.

A Love Connection

Every credit union desires for their membership to fall in love with them and embrace the movement itself. The third benefit of onboarding helps firmly connect your members to you. The consistent early contact you establish through onboarding will make your new members feel a part of something that matters to them. Done right, these new members will sense a connection to something unique and special.

In the old TV game show "Love Connection", the host Chuck Woolery always hoped for couples to make a connection. It didn’t always happen. You won't be successful every time either. But onboarding provides your best chance to systematically reach out to new members and make that long-term connection happen. And even if you don't sell another product or service to every new member, at least many of them will feel connected to you in a larger sense. This intangible concept can provide some very tangible benefits. When you're in love, you stick around and are less likely to be swayed by others.

3 Keys and a Bucketful of Understanding

The benefits of onboarding are undeniable. Hopefully, you can now see why 40% of credit unions consistently engage in this marketing practice. If you seek increased cross-sale results, improved member retention, and a sweet way to get your new members to feel like part of the family, then onboarding is for you

With that in mind, do you now buy in to the onboarding scene? If so, how will you move from desire to execution? How can you carve out more time to get it all done? If you can’t do it yourself, you can hire an outside firm to do it for you. Or maybe explore technology to ease your burden. Either way, get expert counsel on how the best way to execute onboarding to compliment your brand, maximize the sales impact, and assure your ROI.

The time has come for more than 40% of the credit union movement to enjoy the benefits of onboarding.

Carla can be reached at Visit our website at



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