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When members think of their association is the value of membership instantly understood? Is there a positive emotion associated with the organization? What does a loyal member look like? A casual supporter or an association advocate? All associations grappled with bringing value and building loyal members. This long-term concern has become a tipping point in the industry, one between relevance and diminishing relationships. It’s time to turn the traditional member engagement model on its head and go from asking members to support the association through dues or time, to rewarding them for their daily business activities.
Creating a unique way to thank loyal and engaged members starts with asking a few questions:
1. Are we bringing value to members beyond the expected? In the digital age with tight financial resources it is no longer enough to touch members once or twice a year. Associations must have answers to “What is unique about our membership benefits?” “What do members get from us that is essential to their careers or lives?” and “What do we provide that they can’t get elsewhere?”
2. Is the value obvious or is it hard to experience and see? Members have to get it immediately. Just as we only spend a few seconds on a website to determine its relevance, members won’t take the time to seek out the benefits of their membership.
3. Are we determining what members value or are we getting input from them? Associations must evaluate from where their benefits come. Are they what the members have asked for to accomplish their work and personal goals today, or are they what has always been done?
4. What we are asking from members? Look at the association’s programs from the outside perspective. What exactly do members need to do to be engaged and involved, and does it make sense for them? Is it easy to become an engaged (and then loyal) member?
5. Are we being truly creative or are we just restating what has been done? It’s important to focus energy on creative ideas that deliver new solutions to members. Is the association leading the industry or cause, and doing what has never been done?
6. Do we truly understand our members? Associations must take the time to listen, and not assume, what members need out of their membership. Members have intense business, family and personal pressures. This multidimensional person must be examined and understood.
7. Are we creating positive memories for our members? Loyalty and member engagement programs are successful when they arouse positive emotions in members and cause them to find the relationship to be rewarding. Those positive emotions help transition memories from temporary to long-term memory storage. The goal is to attain members’ long-term storage of positive interactions with the association so that renewal becomes automatic.
The answers to these questions will lead each association in the direction of creating powerful engagement opportunities that cater to their members. The more challenging the question, the stronger an association’s bond with its members will become when it discovers the right answers. Regular, rewarding experiences with the association will keep members coming back.
Carrithers is founder, president and managing director of Affinity Center International, creator of AchieveLinks, an association-focused loyalty program. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.