How Associations Can Demonstrate Membership ROI

Demonstrate ROI August 27, 2018 By: Anthony Clervi

Many associations struggle to communicate the value of membership to new and existing members. If you tell your membership ROI story successfully, it can boost dues revenue and strengthen member acquisition and retention.

It costs five times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one, and in many ways, the same can be true for your members.

Healthy retention hinges on making sure individuals understand the value of membership. And often a strong retention program is one of the most cost-effective strategies for keeping a membership-based organization going strong.

But many associations have difficulty sharing an overarching value proposition to keep members or recruit new ones. This year, more than a third of associations—35 percent—said they struggled to communicate member value and benefits to members, according to Marketing General’s 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report [PDF].

However, there are a few steps associations can take to demonstrate value to existing and prospective members.

How to Prove Membership ROI to Current Members

If you want to retain members, you need to make sure you’re providing what they find valuable. It’s easy to assume you know what your members want, but you can’t know until you ask them.

Your membership ROI is determined by how well you help members to achieve goals. Start by surveying members. Gather feedback on your website, through emails, quarterly newsletter, etc. What are they hoping to achieve? Why did they sign up in the first place? What would make their membership more of a success?

If you can, gather and store this information in a customer relationship management (CRM) database. Then it will be easier to track trends and make data-driven decisions. For those on a shoestring budget, try Google forms, which is free to use. The better you understand your members’ goals, the easier it will be to prove you’re giving them what they want.

Your membership ROI is determined by how well you help members to achieve goals.

Step two is to quantify your ROI, and one of the best ways to quantify value is by asking your members to put a price on membership. In one example of member ROI valuation, the association asks members to put a dollar amount on each benefit or service.

Once you have members’ value estimates, you can create a quantitative ROI that ties back to their goals. For example, if your customers’ primary goal is to save time, then ask: How much is an hour worth? If the rate is $30 per hour, and they say you save them 10 hours per month, then you are delivering a perceived value of $3,600 a year. If the cost of membership is $600 per year, then, using an ROI formula, you could calculate ROI at 500 percent. Keep in mind that ballpark estimates are perfectly fine.

Once you’ve identified and quantified value, it’s time to visualize and show members the value provided. Visuals are more persuasive than text alone. So, when you create your monthly newsletter, benefits program update, or annual summary, try incorporating at least one visual element. And consider using tools like Canva, Piktochart, or Facebook Live to create ROI summaries, infographics, and event videos. Seeing what you’ve provided will go a long way toward increasing perceived membership value.

How to Prove Membership ROI to Prospects

There’s a good chance you did the hard work already. The research you prepared for existing members can be used to understand prospects’ goals and value rankings too.

Let’s say your members like you because you save them 50 percent on vendor services, and based on this value, they estimate that you deliver 500 percent ROI. List the rate on your website, email, social media, and print collateral to nonmembers and include member testimonials too. Seeing and hearing proof of the value delivered can make prospects feel confident that you can do the same for them.  

Associations must convince prospects that they’re missing out. And since 81 percent of your audience is on a social media platform, it’s the ideal place to show prospects how much they’re missing.

Better yet, make members your recruiters. Ask them to share photos or videos. Offer a small prize like a gift card for posts that affirm why they love being members. Similarly, you can use loss framing to tell prospects what they’ll lose if they don’t join.

If your value proposition is to save members 50 percent on travel expenses and 20 hours in vacation planning, then you could say that if prospects don’t sign up, they’ll spend twice as much and waste 20 hours in planning. Both tactics can help convince prospects that they’re not complete without membership.

The best way to demonstrate membership ROI is to show how benefits and services help achieve goals. Ask members to put a dollar value on each benefit feature and base your ROI on those estimates. Then, remind them that you’re delivering value with compelling testimonies or visual summaries.

You can also prove your worth to prospects by showing them the ROI you’re currently delivering to members. Finally, use social media and loss framing to show nonmembers what they’re missing.

Anthony Clervi

Anthony Clervi is the president and CEO of UNA, a group purchasing organization that leverages billions in group buying power to help associations get the resources they need and the pricing they deserve.