Want to increase your membership levels? Before you put together your next membership marketing campaign, evaluate your member benefits to make sure you’re offering what your prospects want.
When a company joins an association, they are taking profit from their business and investing it in their membership dues with the expectation that the return on that investment is worth the cost. Any organization focused on attracting new members and retaining current members must ensure the benefits provided live up to that expectation.
These are several key areas you should evaluate on an ongoing basis:
Review Current Programs
It is easy to get caught up in the “set it and forget it” mode and just let member benefit programs continue to be offered regardless of how valuable your members find them to be. At least once a year conduct a deep analysis of which benefits your members are using and which ones have little activity. To do this analysis, consider reviewing registration numbers from the past year’s events, retention numbers for specific programs, or volunteer leader involvement.
Armed with this data, begin to evaluate what your members are receiving from the programs they use. Is there a financial benefit? Does the program provide a solution to a challenge they have? The most utilized member benefits contain clues to what they want out of their membership. Even though you may think you know what is best for your members, the numbers tell a story. If they aren’t using a benefit, there is a reason. Knowing what is valued and what is not wanted will help you with the next step.
The Drill Theory: Developing New Programs
Are there other programs you can create that will offer similar benefits as your most popular offerings? Are there key themes your members are looking for? Discounts on products and services? Continuing education? Networking opportunities? Ways to grow their business? Remember, there are both tangible (increased business revenue) and intangible (increased networking and social opportunities) aspects to what your members are responding to.
Take the time in your daily interactions to ask what programs they like and which they would like to see offered. Make it a habit to ask these questions in every conversation you have. Long time members may bring up programs that were offered years ago and dropped. Is it time to revive these offerings once you’ve made a few updated tweaks? Is there a need they have that your association can fulfill? If you hear the same comments from different members, it is time to pay attention.
There is a saying that goes, “You don’t buy a drill because you need a drill, you buy a drill because you need a hole.” What “hole” can you fill with new programs and benefits?
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery…Not in This Case
One of the reasons people leave an association is because they are receiving the same benefits elsewhere. Compare your offerings to similar associations to determine how much overlap exists. When creating new programs keep in mind that the best ones are proprietary programs offered exclusively to your members.
These may be something you have seen offered in other industries that can be adapted to yours. Perhaps a staff member has a special skill that can be developed into a program. Look over your membership roster and see if anyone has a unique viewpoint or experience that they are willing to share with their colleagues. This is one case where being different is the goal.
It’s All About the Money
More and more businesses assess their budgetary expenditures based on ROI (return on investment). If it helps their bottom line, they continue to pay their dues. If membership is viewed as a luxury item, something they enjoy having but is not necessary to their company, then each year sending out dues statements is a roll of the dice whether they remain.
When the economy is strong and business is good, it is easy to pay dues. However, each association must plan for when the downturn arrives (and it always does) to ensure that the benefits offered are worth the money out of a member’s tightened budget.
Every association must offer benefits in exchange for dues. The content and quality of what is being offered may be the difference between rising membership numbers versus shrinking enrollment. They can also create reasons for member engagement rather than those who pay their dues and “ghost” you the rest of the year. There is no more important task to focus on than member benefits. Without them, you are just a social club.