In member recruitment, member value is the primary driver that you must completely understand is “member-only” value. Trying to convince a person to pay money to join your organization to get what they are already getting is just nonsense.
Not to Get Lost in the Weeds
For over a decade, I have been talking to association executives about the idea of Member Value through the window of “member-only” value and I must say that it frequently seems like I’m talking to a brick wall. Here is the rub…most associations and societies are pretty darn good at their advocacy work. These organizations work hard to affect legislation in a way that delivers a positive result to their members. And, that positive result is also enjoyed by non-members operating in the industry as well. Unfortunately, most current membership surveys reveal that at most, 20% join for advocacy and legislative influence reasons. What about the other 80%?
Is this advocacy work important? You bet it is. Does it deliver perceived value to members? It sure does. The problem is that everyone, regardless of membership receives the benefits. Since everyone in the industry receives the benefits; is this advocacy result a “member-only” benefit? Absolutely not, and that’s the challenge facing today’s associations and societies.
Every activity your membership organization does that delivers value to all the stakeholders in your industry is simply put—industry value. This might include advocacy, Web Site content access, Social Media Group access, and weekly/monthly publications…just to name a few. Generally these value propositions are not sell-able; meaning that these value items will be a no-go in convincing non-members to join your organization. They are already enjoying these value benefits without holding membership in your organization. The tired and ineffective “support your industry” argument will most likely not work with these groups or individuals.
Member value just for the members and not the industry. The products, services, benefits, and discounts that your members receive by virtue of paying for their membership are the true “member-only” benefits that your organization delivers. These “member-only” benefits are going to be your organization’s unique selling proposition tools. While non-members do enjoy the industry value that your organization delivers, it is the “member-only” benefit package that will potentially motivate the non-member in your industry to cut a check to your organization. Sell the “member-only” benefits.
What Member Value Story Does Your Website Tell?
In developing your Website strategy, you must determine if your “member benefits” page is positioned primarily for member retention or for member recruitment. If it is primarily for member retention, then simply listing the features of membership and leading with your advocacy work…might be enough. However, if you want your “member benefits” page to help you in selling membership you must list the “industry benefit” last and lead with the “member-only” benefits your organization offers. To make your page more dynamic, learn the difference between features and benefits. Features are built into a product or service and the benefit is how a feature makes a person’s life better.
Promote the Member-Only Benefits
In order to help your members and staff to do a better job of member recruitment, help them to understand the differentiation of the above elements. Their efforts will be far more successful if they focus on what is available only through membership and de-emphasize the industry value. If you really want the see their efforts successful, also give them the most powerful tool of all—knowing what the member-only, member-determined, yearly-sustainable, real-dollar return on investment (ROI) number is. That magic number will be their number one member recruitment tool.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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