Chris Vaughan, Ph.D.
Chris Vaughan, Ph.D., is chief strategy officer at Sequence Consulting in Chicago.
Brands like Apple and Amazon have created so much value that consumers can’t get enough of their products and services. Your association needs to offer that same type of value to its members. A look at four ways to do just that.
When we talk about member value in associations, we don’t want members to feel like we just gave them a bargain. We want them to love us. We want them to keep coming back. We want to be irresistible. We all have had that experience with brands. Apple products come to mind. (In fact, chances are that you’re using one to read this right now.) For another example, a client once told me: “If Amazon doesn’t sell it, I don’t need it!” That’s irresistible value.
The question is, how do you create that for your members?
The famous brand evangelist Guy Kawasaki said, “If you provide enough value, then you earn the right to recruit new customers.” Think about that in terms of membership---you have to earn the right to recruit new members by delivering enough value to deserve their membership. You must have the right to win.
Imagine a coach watching a player on the field and saying, “That kid has a right to win out there!” They’re saying that they are the right player, playing in the right game with the right skills for that moment. They’re saying she has the right “way to play.” If your association is the player, there are four steps to finding your “way to play” and creating irresistible member value.
If you want to be irresistible, you first need to ask yourself, “Who do I want to be irresistible to?” You don’t have the right to win every game, and you won’t have the right to win every member. The more narrowly you define your target, the more value you will deliver. That may sound wrong to you. You want as many members as you can get, right? But the way to get (and keep) them is by segmenting them as clearly as possible.
One prominent medical association earned the right to win by segmenting their audience based on their interests. Their research and data analysis revealed that doctors care the most about four things: advocacy, education, practice improvement, and patient outcomes. No matter their age or where they worked, at least one of those things mattered a lot to every doctor they spoke to. By defining their way to play for each segment, they transformed their membership—and tripled their growth rate—in two years.
Your audience has many needs, as any member needs analysis will tell you. But one way or another, most of their needs already get met. You will find your right to win in the gaps—the unmet or under-met needs for which there is no other solution. Filling those gaps may be more challenging than it sounds. You must briefly forget your current offerings, have honest conversations with actual members, and listen openly to what they say. Their unmet needs may not end up being what you expected.
The way to get (and keep) members is by segmenting them as clearly as possible.An international engineering society did just this. When they listened to their members, they heard that industry leaders needed space to collaborate in precompetitive ways on emerging technologies. In their current state, the society could not legally do this. Stepping up to serve their members' needs led to the launch of a multimillion-dollar new business.
Every organization has unique assets and capabilities, things they have or do that no one else could easily imitate. It could be your reputation. It could be data or information. It could be your ability to bring people together. Your unique assets are the ingredients of your right to win—your best chance of winning is in places where no one else can play.
One global professional society, struggling with growth, was convinced they needed a new business model. But an inventory of their capabilities revealed that what they alone could do was bring people across their entire industry from around the world together to get things done. Their content and training was excellent but not unique. However, their events couldn’t be matched. By doubling down on their power to convene, they more than doubled their business.
The intersection of unmet member needs and your unique capabilities is the key to your way to play. If you meet the unmet needs of the right members, in the right way, when no one else can do it, you will have the right to win their membership. Your member value will be irresistible.
The examples here are real-world stories of associations going beyond giving members a bargain. They provide their members with something they need and cannot get elsewhere. They made themselves irresistible and transformed their businesses in the process.