Magnetic Membership: How to Create a
To effectively answer your prospect’s question, "Why join?”
you must understand the fundamental difference between benefits and the
real-world value of the information you publish.
By Sheri Jacobs, CAE
real estate, it’s about location, location, location. For associations, the
mantra is value, value, value. If you want to attract and retain members, you
need to understand your organization’s relevant value and deliver it for the
this isn’t breaking news, the approach some associations are taking to create
and deliver value today is indeed new. It begins with understanding the
different reasons different members join.
example, if the value offered through membership is the combination of
networking, volunteerism, and access to information — and a member is only
interested in obtaining information — the price of admission may simply be too
high. It may make more sense to be a customer than a member.
key factor affecting member loyalty and retention, then, is synchronizing cost
and value. If an association creates a membership package that provides the
most value to members who volunteer, participate, and engage, it may not
provide enough value at the lower levels of engagement. And these levels are
critical to keeping the organization relevant.
So, Why Join?
Why should a member join your
organization? Regardless of size, geographic scope, or industry, the answer is
almost always the same: "Our association offers exclusive, members-only
benefits including advocacy, a journal or magazine, discounts on publications
and education, resources to keep you up to date, leadership opportunities,
networking, and career assistance.”
how many of these benefits are truly unique, exclusive, and — most important — relevant
and valuable? Members join for different reasons. Some join to obtain relevant
and timely information. Some join for career advancement. Some join for purely
transactional reasons. What benefits do you offer to these different varieties
of members — the information seekers, networkers, rising stars, social members,
mission members, transactional members, and lifelong learners? The issue for
most organizations is answering the question why. Why join? Why renew?
of the answer lies in understanding the fundamental difference between benefits
that are important and benefits that are the primary drivers of membership. To
get started, review your member benefits and label each one based on the
The benefit is available to members and nonmembers.
The benefit is available to members only.
The benefit is free to members; nonmembers can purchase or access the benefit
for a fee.
The benefit is offered to members at a discounted price; nonmembers must pay
the full price.
use a simple rating system for each benefit based on its impact as a driver of
membership. I recommend 1 for low drivers of membership, 2 for medium drivers,
and 3 for high drivers.
truly understand value and complete this exercise, you need to look beyond
demographics and begin to look at need, interest, motivation, and attitude.
Scharan Johnson, CAE, director of membership development at the American
Physical Therapy Association, undertook this exercise after conducting a member
we completed the process of evaluating the low, medium, and high drivers of
membership, APTA could begin to craft statements that truly captured the
benefits of joining the organization, not just the ‘stuff’ that new members would
receive once they joined,” Johnson says.
What benefits do you offer to different varieties of members
— the information seekers, networkers, rising stars, social members, mission
members, transactional members, and lifelong learners?
in the face of these change, I believe membership is alive and well. Like
storytelling, membership is an art. You’ve got to skillfully recruit members
who will remain members throughout their careers. And during those careers,
you’ve got to successfully provide for them exactly what they need, when they
need it. When you accomplish this, they will tell your organization’s story to
their colleagues and peers.
Sheri Jacobs, CAE is
president and CEO of Avenue M Group LLC and the author of "The Art of
Membership,” Copyright ASAE: The Center
for Association Leadership, August 2014, Washington, DC. This article
was excerpted with permission.