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Member Journey 101: How to Improve Your Member Experience (+ Free Template)

Author: Nicole Chin
January 28, 2022
🕑 11 min read

When it comes to retaining and engaging your members, optimizing your member experience is everything. But when it comes to how to make it better, it can be difficult to know where to start!

You probably already have a wealth of data from member surveys or engagement stats. That’s where a member journey comes in. Tracking your member journey lets you:

  • Break down every step in the membership process, from recruitment to renewal
  • Identify what is or isn’t working, by tying data directly to each stage
  • Highlight what tactics or programs are really driving value against key performance indicators (KPIs)

Did that event really engage your members the way you wanted it to? Does your annual renewal messaging make a difference? Are you looking for new members in the right places? These are all important questions a member journey can help you answer.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about member journeys—AND well as how to create your own member journey map.

This guide will cover:

  • What is a member journey?
  • Why is understanding your member journey important?
  • What KPIs are important at each stage?
  • What is a member journey map?
  • 6 Benefits of mapping the journey of your members
  • Your first step: creating member personas
  • 5 Key member journey stages

To help you get started, download our FREE, editable member journey map template. Just fill in the form below to grab your copy!


Download Your FREE Member Journey Template

Click through to claim your 60-day trial of WildApricot to create effective QR codes that will speed up event check-in.

What is a Member Journey?

A member journey is your member’s experience with your organization.

It covers every interaction from the first touchpoint to membership renewal. They might be different depending on your organization or member type (like a new member journey or a tenured member journey).

The most common member journey stages are:

  1. Initial Interaction/Consideration – Members finding, evaluating and joining your organization.
  2. Onboarding – Integrating and introducing a new member into your organization.
  3. Engagement – The first 90 days for new members, and ongoing relationships with existing members.
  4. Help/Troubleshooting – Members hitting roadblocks and needing help.
  5. Review/Renewal – Members (new or old) review experience and decide if they want to stay or go.

Later in this guide, we’ll dig deeper into what those member journey stages mean. We’ll also cover what investigating them will look like for you—and key questions you can ask yourself.

Why is Understanding Your Member Journey Important?

A member journey can help you figure out your successes and shortcomings in your member experience so you can begin to make improvements. With this information, you can boost member retention and member engagement. Plus, you can start to focus on getting the most return on your investment (ROI) on your offerings. You can break down what you’re doing at each stage, and measure success against that stage’s key performance indicators (KPIs) like new members, engagement metrics, etc.

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When your member experience resonates with existing members, that means the potential to widen your membership to new audiences. When your members love your organization, they become evangelists and will tell others, bringing in like-minded people in.

What KPIs are Important at Each Stage?

Depending on the stage your member is in their journey, there will be different key performance indicators (KPIs), you may want to look out for.

Here’s our breakdown of some examples of what that might look like for you and your organization:

Initial Interaction/Consideration KPIs

  • Website traffic (for membership information page, about us, etc)

  • Click-through rate for “Join” CTA and other relevant CTAs

  • Open rate and click-through rate for emails after first interaction

  • Landing page conversions

  • New member campaign metrics

  • Social engagement

  • Prospect to new member conversion rate

Onboarding KPIs

  • Click through rate for welcome emails

  • Website traffic (for member-specific and tiered member pages)

  • Landing page conversions

  • New member satisfaction rate

  • Number of new member onboarding program participants

Engagement KPIs

  • Event registration

  • Event attendance

  • Member satisfaction rate

  • Newsletter open rate

  • Social engagement

  • Campaign engagement metrics

  • Number of program participants

  • Number of volunteers

  • Number of membership upgrades (to higher tier)

Help/Troubleshooting KPIs

  • Amount of time to answer help questions

  • Website traffic on FAQ or help pages

  • Drop off rate

  • Number of member downgrades

  • Opt-out rate for newsletters

Review/Renewal KPIs

  • Number of renewals
  • Per tier and per quarter/year
  • Number of member cancellations
  • Number of membership upgrades (to higher tier)
  • Average membership value

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but we hope that these give you an idea of where to start and what to look out for!

What is a Member Journey Map?

A member journey map is a visual representation of your member journey. It allows you to map out strategies and tactics, and measure your successes. With a member journey map, you’ll be able to see if one stage is strong and another is weak. You’ll also be able to see growth or decline in any given area, and shift your tactics accordingly.

Your organization is made up of a lot of different kinds of members (such as a new member or tenured one). So it’s a good idea to create more than one member journey map so you can have a full view of your entire member experience.

6 Benefits of Mapping the Journey of Your Members

Mapping your member journey comes with a lot of perks that can help your organization with some important wins. Here are the 6 core benefits of creating a member journey map:

1. Improving Member Experience

Your member journey map can show here you’re falling short in your experience, and what’s already working. Use these learnings to make improvements like changing your membership model or switching up member benefits.

For example, say your last event attracted a lot of new member interest. You’re going to want to make a note of that, and find out why. Then you can replicate that event (and the experience!) to keep up those member acquisition stats.

2. Making Interactions More Personal

Personalization makes members feel like they matter. It can make a difference in converting a new member to a lifetime one. Identify where you’re falling short and introduce elements like:

  • Personalized emails
  • Welcome swag packages
  • Content exclusive to certain member tiers.

For example, over email, marketers see a 20% increase in sales revenue when they personalize their emails plus a 26% increase in email open rate. As you can see, personalization is definitely something worth investing in!

3. Figuring Out How Often to Contact Members

This is all about making sure there’s never a point of radio silence, so your members feel like they’re a part of your organization. When your members feel like they’re part of a community, they’re more likely to engage with your events or contribute (like telling other people about your organization). Your member journey can show you if you’re contacting members too often or not enough! Look at interaction points like member events, email newsletters, mentorship programs, and more. You want to make sure that you’re keeping in touch at a good cadence, but also at the right moment. In other words, are you contacting them at the right time (too early/too late)? Are you contacting them in the best way (email vs phone)?

4. Giving Your Members What They Want

Your members will want different things from your organization at different points in time depending on their member type. Evaluate your points of interaction and how they can attract, nurture, and retain your members. At every stage of their experience, make sure you understand the needs of every member type at your organization. This way you can know how you are truly fulfilling those needs and leading members to the next step of their journey. For example, a new member’s needs may be feeling welcomed and connecting with other new members.

5. Making Sure Your Journey Makes Sense

As we’ve covered earlier, you want to make sure your member needs match what your member is actually getting at every stage of their journey. Look at your member journey and points of communication for areas of mismatch. Does it make sense? Is it natural? For example, are you telling potential new members about membership tiers too early or too late? Examine where you’ve seen members drop off and see if it’s because of a member journey logic mismatch.

6. Helping You Figure Out Your Priorities

Work smart, not hard! You’ve got enough on your plate, and you’re going to want quality over quantity.

After building our your member journey map and sorting through everything you know about your members, you’re going to be able to prioritize! Focus in on on what you think will give you the most return for your investment.

For example, you may find out that your members think your website is a nightmare to navigate—and they can’t find any of the great programming you’re offering! That’s a roadblock to providing value to your members, and could signal that it’s time to invest in a platform that prioritizes user experience (UX). For businesses, making a website design more user-friendly can boost website conversion rates up to 400%.

Your First Step: Creating Member Personas

Before you start your member journey mapping, you’ll need to know how many member maps to make. That’s where member personas come in.

With member personas, you’ll also be able to look at your member journey from their point of view and approach your decision making and solutions from a more empathetic perspective.

What is a Member Persona?

A member persona is a semi-fictional representation of the different types of members in your organization. It’s based on research and data about your current members and who you see as your ideal member.

Making Your Member Personas

Getting started is easier than you think. You can pull data from your member satisfaction survey or your member management software to help you create clear member personas.

You can look at data like:

  • Reasons for joining
  • First interaction points
  • What events have been popular
  • Membership tier
  • Date of renewal
  • Status of membership (active or inactive and why)
  • Volunteer involvement

Your member persona can include information such as:

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Member Tier/Join Date
  • Member Goals
  • Obstacles or Barriers

Ultimately, don’t get bogged down by creating a lot of member personas. You just need to create enough so that you can get a good understanding of your members and how to serve them better.

Still not sure where to go from here? Start with a new member (charting their first year) and a seasoned member!

5 Key Member Journey Stage

Understanding the path your members go on involves understanding essential stages that apply to most organizations. Your member journey may look different, so treat this as a guideline. Feel free to add or change stages accordingly.

Itching to start mapping out your member journey now? We’ve got your free copy of the member journey map template here. Just fill in the form at the top of this blog post!

1. Initial interaction/Consideration

How do people find you? What makes them join?

This stage is all about members evaluating your organization and deciding whether it’s a fit. It directly impacts your member acquisition numbers.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What resources are at their disposal (pamphlets, information package, “How to Join” page on website, etc)?
  • How does your organization benefit a prospective member?
  • What do your first and follow up interactions look like?
  • How easy does your website make it for them to join? (mobile-friendly, clear JOIN button, etc)
  • What benefits are you offering?
  • Are your membership tiers competitively priced?

2. Onboarding

How good does your organization’s proverbial welcome mat look like? Here, you’ll want to review how you welcome new members, and if it’s really doing its job well. During this stage, members should feel like they’re being integrated into your organization and should have opportunities to meet other members. All in all, they should feel like they belong!

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How quickly does member onboarding begin?
  • What does member onboarding look like? Is it planned against a calendar?
  • How many emails do you send new members?
  • Do you have a welcome package?
  • How do you introduce and integrate new members to the community?
  • Are you improving your member onboarding year over year?

3. Engagement (1st 90 days)

When it comes to new members specifically, the first 90 days are key. Figure out what opportunities are at their disposal during this time and how easy it is for them to find them and get the most out of them.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a buddy system or mentorship programs?
  • How do you nurture and develop member relationships?
  • What perks and resources do you provide?
  • What makes new members loyal to your organization?
  • Is it easy for a new member to find the programs/benefits/perks you offer?
  • Is there a sense of community built into your organization?
  • Do you have a job board or membership directory that helps members find opportunities?

4. Help/Troubleshooting

Inevitably, at some point, your members are going to hit a roadblock. This stage covers how they get over that hump and what resources you have at their disposal to help them.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How do they get help?
  • Are there resources at their disposal?
  • How do you address their questions? How quickly?

5. Review/Renewal

At this point, your member (whether they’re new or old), decides if they want to stay or if they want to go. The major focus for you here is: how your journey makes it a no-brainer for them to stay.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What makes your member renew?
  • Are you explaining your renewal benefits to your members?
  • Where are you seeing drop off?
  • Are your members feeling engaged on a regular basis?
  • Are you sending out renewal reminders?
  • What channels are you using for your renewal campaigns?
    • Are you using a multi-channel approach? If not, are you focusing on a channel that works best for your members? (ie phone vs email).
  • What do your members want to see more of?
  • Are you running regular member surveys to identify their needs?
  • Are you sending a thank you email to members who renew?
  • Do you have renewal incentives or discounts?

Regularly Evaluating and Improving Your Member Journey

That’s it! We hope this guide has left you feeling prepared to take on your own member journey map.

The process of member journey mapping is an ongoing one. As the world changes, your member needs and pains will too (take the effects of COVID-19 for example). So it’s a good idea to put aside time on a regular basis to evaluate and iterate on your member journeys. Surveys and data from your member management software and be great sources of information on where to start.

Looking for more information and tips on how to retain members? Check out our blog on 9 Proven Ways to Increase Member Retention Right Now.

Wild Apricot: Your Quick and Easy Solution for a Better Member Experience

Make improving your member experience easy by consolidating it all in one place with a robust membership management software like Wild Apricot. Not only will you be able to get useful data, you’ll also be able to boost member experience in easy ways.

Make the most of your existing time with features like:

  • A user-friendly member card creator
  • A drag and drop website builder
  • Automated membership renewals and reminders
  • Payment management and more

Sounds good? Sign up for your free trial of Wild Apricot here.

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