In order for your organization to prove membership is a good business decision, you first have to survey your members. This can be tricky of you are not familiar with qualitative research. Qualitative (focus group) gives you richer and more accurate information than quantitative (online survey) because in a live situation…everyone is sequestered. Unfortunately today, most people zone-out after the first five questions or sooner if they cannot accurately respond based on the formatted answer capability.
Get Membership ROI in Real Numbers
In your effort to effectively prove membership is a good business decision, you will have to demonstrate to members and non-members alike the “what’s in it for them” in dollar numbers. The days of “join because you should” disappeared with the iPod. Your members and prospective members want you to be able to tell them in definitive terms…what’s my return on membership?
Steps to Proving Membership is a Good Business Decision:
- Gather a focus group at your annual meeting or do a “traveling show” and organize a few sessions across the country. About 35 is a great number to have in attendance. Less or more is perfectly acceptable…however approximately 35 is a great number. Include:
- Newer, mid-term and longer-term member diversity
- Company size member diversity
- Generational member diversity
- Geographical member diversity
- Gender member diversity
- Ethnic member diversity
- For international organizations, also include county member diversity
- Have a list of all the “member-only” features of membership pre-loaded onto a PowerPoint slide. This would EXCLUDE benefits that are extended to non-members. Things like advocacy and publications distributed to everyone in the industry. Also, your meeting is not a feature of membership but rather the discount on registration is. Or perhaps, member-only events at the meeting.
- Go through each feature with the attendees explaining how this feature might save them money, save them time, save them from a regulatory fine, save them from a bad business deal, help them to gain an economic opportunity/new customer. Ask them to determine what those savings have been worth in real dollars.
- Now it is time for the crowd-negotiation. The facilitator must help guide the group to navigate the tumultuous waters of some people saying a feature is worth $10,000 and some saying it is worth $10. That is a skill in itself. You are basically looking for a number in the “middle” that “most” in the room can live with. I like to ask, “Can you sell/explain this number to a prospect? If most say yes…add that number next to the feature in your PowerPoint slide. (Audiences love watching this process reveal itself by watching the numbers added.)
- Do this exercise for all the “member-only” features of membership. Generally there will be 20-30 features to be measured.
- If your organization offers company membership then the above gets a little trickier as you will need to determine which of the features are available to multiple employees. You will also need to determine an “average number” of employees across the group. Then take the dollar number determined for a particular feature and multiply it times the average numbers of employees. It is common for not all features to be available to all employees.
- After you have valuated each feature, add them up. For a “total value” number.
- Now divide the cost of membership into the “total value” number for ROI multiplier.
- You can now state to the member ROI to your industry
Communicate that membership is a good business decision by proving in actual dollar numbers by stating, “Our members have told us that, on average, for every dollar they invest in membership they get X (insert your ROI number here) dollars back in usable products and services.” This clearly proves that membership is a good business decision.
Turn your engaged members into member recruitment evangelists by developing marketing materials that prove membership is a good business decision. Make it easy for your members to recruit their friends and colleagues.
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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