Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, membership value is not determined by us but by our members.
What value would they say they receive and why do they renew their membership each year? Sometimes the answers you receive are vague, like “It’s the right thing to do” or “for networking”, which doesn’t necessarily tell you what they value.
After years of designing member feedback tools like surveys, focus groups and interviews, I have determined that members renew for 10 distinctive reasons:
1. Civic Responsibility — Members who join and renew because “it’s the right thing to do” feel it’s important to be good corporate citizens in the communities they are based or serve. Whether they attend events or take advantage of what we offer, they continue to support the work of your organization and renew each year. Wish we had more of them!
2. Sense of Community — You facilitate opportunities to bring people together and celebrate the diversity of shared assets. Members enjoy and reap the benefits of being part of the community. There is a sense of inclusion that offers collaboration, support, and like-minded values and members feel a strong bond with other members. They are like Musketeers and believe in the “one for all” and “all for one” virtues.
3. Affiliation and Credibility — Members see you as the sphere of influence and feel that by being affiliated with you, they earn the “Good Housekeeping seal of approval.” They want to leverage their membership to promote their brand, be included on invitations and opportunities, and to increase their image in the community or market.
4. Bridges and Connections — Members aren’t really seeking ‘networking’ as much as they want to gain access to those who can help them achieve their goals. They benefit from the “6 degrees of separation” that can connect them to mentors, vendors, prospective customers, and key stakeholders they might not otherwise meet or interact with in their own circles. We are the “LinkedIn” both virtually and in-person and help members build “social capital”.
5. Common Vision — Members follow leaders who have a great vision, purpose and significant goals. They believe in your strategic direction and initiatives and want to do whatever they can to ensure that you are successful. It’s not just for altruistic reasons to be members since they believe that by ensuring your success, they ensure their own. Members want to be part of the “big picture” and invest in resources for long -term sustainability.
6. Visibility — Members know that in a competitive arena, it’s important to have consistent visibility. Visibility promotes member brands, lets people gain awareness of members or know they’re still around, and keeps them “top of mind” with those they want to influence. In a world where people are bombarded with marketing, opinions and junk mail, it’s easy to be forgotten or passed by. Through membership, they have hundreds of opportunities to be visible and be seen often in a fast-paced, instant gratification environment.
7. Representation — Members acknowledge that their individual voices can’t always be heard by policymakers, the media or community influencers. Individuals and small businesses are perceived as “small fish” and most people don’t have access to these decision makers, lack an understanding of how things work or get done, or are too busy running their own operations. You have the contact, clout and can demonstrate collective impact to represent members’ concerns that allows them to focus on their businesses. You are your members’ advocate.
8. Just-in-Time-Solutions — Members count on you for educational opportunities, problem-solving and access to best practices. Since most of your members are small businesses, they appreciate that you “have people” who can offer wisdom, know-how, and help with the constant hurdles of running a profitable business. You’re like a huge Wikipedia of resources to help members find exactly what they need.
9. Cost-and-Time-Effective Benefits — Members are always trying to find ways to save money and time on operational needs. Whether it’s savings for buying office supplies, insurance, shipping, utilities, advertising or job postings, they know they can save money and time by accessing these benefits through your vetted affinity programs. You’ve already compared the vendors, done the negotiating, and set up the system to plug-and-use. Where else can members go to access so much in one place? You’re a one-stop shop for all of these benefits and members only need to pay one membership fee for access!
10. Leads Generation — Members expect that you’ll refer others to them and help promote their businesses. Although you can’t guarantee leads or higher conversion rates, you do provide countless opportunities for members to generate leads. From directory listings, sponsorships, leads groups, and networking and volunteer opportunities, you provide face-to-face and virtual interactions with hundreds or even thousands of people every year. If prospects and customers are like cars, you give members access to the busiest highways and parking lots available!
All of these reasons for renewal help to create loyal members and build a sustainable organization. Provide members with opportunities to share why they joined and renewed and allow them to communicate the Value of Membership using their own stories. Sometimes they say it so much better than we ever could!
Cathi Hight helps organizations manage constant change, develop customer-centricity and “work smarter, not harder”. She is President of Hight Performance Group and the developer of The Member Retention Kit, A New Approach to Tiered Membership and Work Smarter, Not Harder. Learn more at www.hightperformance.com.