Tag Archive for: member value

Member Growth through Value

Improve Your Member Value Proposition for Total Organizational Growth (788 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Improve Your Member Value Proposition

Member value proposition is what most new and current members want. Your member value proposition is determined by the beliefs, perspectives and emotional connection of members to the organization, its staff and volunteer leaders. The other side of that coin is how the industry, in general, perceives your organization. If operatives in your industry thought membership in your organization was a great deal, then they would already be members.


Member Communication: inform or influence

This is an area where every organization can improve. The vast majority of stories in your Member Communication fall short of influencing members as the stories mostly inform. The difference is in how a story is written, most of the stories are not written through the window of “what’s in it for the member” and therein we find the rub—this angle is what can cause a member’s perception of value to change for the positive—or the negative.


How to Write Benefit Copy

Just offering a superior member value proposition is not enough. Your organization must clearly communicate your member value proposition in order to attract new members.

  1. First determine what is being sold. It should be one of 4 things for your Communication: product, event, member recruitment or member retention
  2. Then determine which feature of membership (from your member benefits web page) the thing being sold is.
  3. Next determine which buying motive is at play: profit/gain, fear of loss, avoidance of pain, love/affection, comfort/pleasure or pride/prestige. Many times there can be more than one buying motive but pick one for simplicity.
  4. Now write copy explaining the “what’s in it for the reader,” why they should care and include a call to action statement.
  5. Last, write the title of the story or promotional copy using one of the following perspectives: shocking, ask a question, offer data, create a value statement or reveal a secret.


Qualitative Focus Group Research

To find out what your current members believe is the member value proposition that they receive in actual dollar numbers you will want to conduct a series of Member ROI Valuation focus group sessions utilizing qualitative research methodology. This is an excellent starting point for boosting your value proposition.


Strategy Mapping Exercise

The strategy mapping exercise is your next step of discovery as you want to compare your organization’s member value proposition to that of competing organizations. This exercise allows leaders to compare with the various competing organizations—those that also compete for membership dollars, mindshare and value perception of people in your industry. Ideally, in contrast to the below example, the lines would not track but rather demonstrate vast differences.

Non-Profit Strategy Mapping Visual Example

Non-Profit Strategy Mapping Visual Example

Features Framework Exercise

The third step is to conduct the features of membership framework exercise—first with staff—then with volunteer leaders and overlay the three pieces. This will create visual impact for staff and volunteer leaders as to what is helping and hurting your organization’s member value proposition. The step-by-step “how to” can be found starting on page 88 of The ROI of Membership.


Getting all the Departments in Alignment

Every department at your organization must use new decision filters. The important filter to add is the “decision filter” of how the actions considered will affect positively or negatively the organization’s member value proposition, return on investment, member retention and recruitment. Each department has to align toward making your organization more member-ROI-centric.


The Hard Truth

Accepting change and shifting your organization’s culture is something that will be difficult. Sure, the volunteer leaders and paid staff give the member value proposition idea lip-service and “embrace” the new but when push comes to shove, they fall back into their “non-productive” comfort zones and eschew the necessary change. This is the fulcrum point where you might be currently failing. This is where all the above work becomes mute, meaningless, and a waste of time as the players in your organization thinks they are changing but in reality is only getting ready to get ready. What most people in this situation are really saying is that they agree that others should change but they themselves want to hold on to control because they know better than the others.


Embrace Change Management

If you truly desire to push past the current “failure point” and move into a new era of high-level member value proposition, everyone from the executive director and president to the newest section leader needs to be on-board because membership is everyone’s business. Now here’s the difficult part of the equation, if there are volunteer leaders and or staff pushing back—there is no longer a place for them in the organizational chart. Yes, a staff member that is not willing to play the new game must leave the organization and for the volunteer leaders—they must give up their positions. Are you willing to go to these lengths to grow? Think hard before you answer as you will be held accountable—not by Ed Rigsbee—but by your conscience, integrity and morality.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Can You? Will You? An Association’s Journey (908 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Association Success through Member ROI

It’s hard to watch something die a slow agonizing death, including an association. Over the last decade I have presented at the meetings of scores of associations. Because I highly customize my presentations, I have had the opportunity to interview hundreds of association board members as well as rank-and-file members. My observations—as in any industry, some do well some plow along and some disappear.

One association, for which I presented three years in a row, I also found myself working with four different executive directors in that same time period. Consistent leadership is one of the critical success factors in any business, and an association—while perhaps a non-profit—an association is still a business.

This same association found its conference attendance dropping to the point that there were almost two associate (vendor) members for every (buying) member in attendance. The suppliers had been threatening for several years to discontinue their support if the trend did not turn around. The regular members didn’t listen. They just continued to see their conference as a subsidized vacation and social gathering. The vendors finally pulled the plug—early last year, this association planned not to hold a meeting this year.

What’s the lesson we can take from this example? I believe there are several.

Lesson Number 1: Free lunch…where?

Lunch is not free forever. Sure, your industry vendors will support and subsidize meetings for their customers, but only if there is something in it for them. Exposure does not put meat on the table. When the associate members of an association no longer believe they are receiving a reasonable return for their investment of time and money, they will discontinue their support.

Lesson Number 2: Do you know what’s really going on?

If you make like an ostrich and always keep your head in the sand, you will surely lose your rear end. Both the governing board and regular members are equally responsible for the success of an association. If you are a regular member, you cannot maintain the attitude of, the board will handle it. The governing board cannot perform magic; make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. They can only offer leadership and direction. If the membership at large is too lazy, comfortable or complacent, the board can only do so much.

Lesson Number 3: Fish or cut bait.

Associate, or supplier, members must either fish or cut bait. If a supplier member company is not receiving value from participation, they must first ask about their own responsibility. Ask, “How can we better work the show?” How can we better capitalize on the opportunities?” and “How can we help this association to improve?” After this has been done and the results are still unacceptable, shut up or cut bait. Too often suppliers will complain year after year about the quality of a conference but do nothing. It is like crying wolf, after enough complaining, nobody listens. Actions speak more loudly than words.

Lesson Number 4: Create value for members.

An organization must create enough value for those involved in it for the organization to sustain itself, let alone thrive. Everyone’s afraid to ask, “Does this association still serve?” If not, fix it or kill it. Penetrating deeper into the idea, the realization that an association is nothing more than its members must be brought to the surface. As such, how often does the governing board query its individual members as to the value they are currently receiving from their membership?

Lesson Number 5: Old Farts R Us is not the formula for success.

Every association must accept that there is a turnstile of membership. Some become disenchanted and leave, some go out of business and some die. This is the reality of any association. Additionally, industry players that have reached their golden years generally have already made it, become successful, want to spend time with their grandchildren or perhaps sipping a margarita in Cancun rather than building an industry. What are you doing each year, month, week and day to persuade non-member industry players to come and play in your sandbox?

Lesson Number 6: It’s all about the people.

Association members can do wonderful things in building their association if given the proper tools. Build outrageously successful relationships wherever you can. For governing board members: First, find the best executive director and staff possible, pay them well and develop incentives that will motivate them to stay put. Then develop tools to help your members at large to share with their industry colleagues the value in belonging to your association and keep asking questions in the form of member surveys. More association value articles. For the members at large, if you catch yourself whining—quit it! You have the power and opportunity to ask, “What can I do to help grow my association, and industry?” You also have the power and opportunity to ask yourself, “What will I do to help my association and industry grow?”

Trade and professional associations in America, when run well, deliver to its membership huge synergies. This is done through economies of scale and other mechanisms. At an association conference roundtable session that I recently facilitated, we discovered that the association asked approximately $1,600 in cash and two semi-annual trips in time of its members. In return, that association delivered just under $5,000 in documented value for the member’s investment. What’s your association’s value proposition?

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Project Association Member Value (581 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

The ROI of Membership

Does a professional or trade association exist to serve its members? How about to serve the profession or industry? Or, perhaps the association exists to perpetuate itself?

Sure, your answer is based on your personal experiences. Unfortunately though, I have come to believe that there are simply too many people involved in association leadership today that believe in self-survival. Many of these leaders do not consciously realize they believe that the reason for an association is to perpetuate itself. Yet, their actions in this area speak so loudly that few listen to their words.

I recently visited the web site of ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership and searched “member value” but what I found was more directed to the organizational side. My lack of finding information specific to “member value” strengthens my assertion. Sure I found great information on subjects like: Identifying program goals and setting realistic expectations, identifying and defining the needs of the target audience, developing program structure, building a budget and cross-selling and up-selling additional programs and services.

While these topics are all great tactics, what about the overarching strategy for an association? What about quantifying the real dollar value a member receives from holding membership in an association? This is an area that I have discovered many association leaders are missing the point. There are a few people left that join their trade or professional association because it is the right thing to do in supporting their industry. But, at corporate belt tightening continues, many are re-evaluating the value of such memberships.

Call me crazy, but I believe that a professional or trade association exists exclusively for the betterment of its members. Associations like these are really industry-wide strategic alliances. And, for strategic alliances to succeed, all involved must receive reasonable value for resource (time and money) commitment to the alliance. In associations, staff members receive value—it’s called a paycheck. Volunteer leaders receive value through exposure and having the ability to forward their particular agendas. But, what about the “rank and file” members—where’s their value?

If you are interested in this topic of member value, you’re in luck.

I have conducted my Association Member Value Process for a number of trade associations and societies of association executives over the years. The results might be helpful to you in benchmarking the value your association delivers to its members.

In visiting seven societies of association executives from October 2003 through May 2004 and conducting the process: On the average, association executives received 19X return on investment dollar from their membership. Average yearly membership and meeting participation cost—$914. The average yearly real-dollar value received—$17,390.

In visiting the national conventions of four trade associations from February through May 2004 and conducting the member value process, the average yearly member return on investment was 12 X. The average yearly membership and meeting participation cost—$2,250. The average yearly real-dollar value received—$27,800.

A huge study I conducted for the American Society for Quality (finished in 2007) revealed that their members get $50 dollars in value for every dollar they invest in their membership.

Association paid staff and volunteer leaders must continually question the yearly sustainable real-dollar value their members are receiving rather than just see members as an ATM (automatic teller machine). Without the members, there is no association.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Member Value Verses Industry Value—What You Need to Know (562 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Deliver High-Level Member Value-All They Hear is, “What’s in it for me?”

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.

Industry Value

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-Only Value

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.