Is there a rewards credit card in your wallet? What about a mileage plus pass for your favorite airline? A points system with your neighborhood grocery store? The marketplace is full of rewards programs, and chances are, you're part of at least one of them.
You join rewards programs for the same reason that members join your association—the benefits. What can that program do for you? Your association's value proposition is built around what membership in the organization can do for your members.
Your member benefits are the foundation of your organization, they're the reason why members join. So to consistently entice new members and motivate current members to remain members, your benefits need to be relevant and valuable.
Creating top member benefits is no easy task, especially as information, tools, and networking become increasingly ubiquitous online. How do you know what's relevant and valuable to your members? How do you encourage busy members to take advantage of the benefits they do find valuable? How will relevancy and value change over time?
To be effective, you can't just create any benefit you think will work. Instead, follow a process that ensures your benefits are backed up by data and fit an ideal benefit profile that ensures relevancy now and into the future. With proper planning, you can create benefits that your members can't live without.
The most valuable benefits will fit a custom profile that matches your members and your industry. Follow these three steps to build the best benefits possible.
What a new nursing professional finds valuable is not the same as what an established businessperson needs, so before you even start brainstorming benefit ideas, find out what your members want. You can use your association management software for easy access to information on your members' preferences, priorities, and interests.
Activity Data - Use your AMS system to collect and analyze member activity data from your online community, dues renewals, and online store transactions to find out what members are engaging with. Anything members do provides you data on their challenges, interests, or priorities. The content and engagement opportunities they interact with can be a good indicator of what they value. If everyone is reading a blog post about upcoming changes in healthcare laws, for example, then that's a subject that's important to them and could drive your next benefit.
Surveys and Polls - For more direct feedback on what your members want, use surveys and polls. These tools are often included in your AMS software and help you directly ask your members what types of content and benefits they enjoy most.
Crowdsourcing - The best AMS software won't stop at surveys and polls, it will also include crowdsourcing tools. With crowdsourcing, your members will be able to share new ideas, interests, and suggestions for new association initiatives directly with you and their peers. Since you're not asking pointed questions with crowdsourcing, and are instead allowing members to contribute their thoughts freely, you may end up with a few new benefit ideas that would never have occurred to you.
Once you know what subjects, content types, and benefit types your members want, you can start building out your benefit profile. A benefit profile is a careful plan that will help you format information, discounts, and other types of benefits so that benefits are effective for both your association and your members.
Here are a few things to consider including in your association's benefit profile:
Immediate Action Items—The best benefits and the most engaging content are often interactive. This means members don't want to wait to take advantage of the benefit. Build action items, or ways that your members can take action before, during, or after using a member benefit, into the benefit itself.
For example, if your benefit is an ebook, start a discussion in your online community, so that members can discuss the ebook as they read it, as well as what they learned from the ebook when they're finished. Discussions are also a great place for members to ask any questions that they have, making the benefit more engaging and encouraging collaboration to increase value.
Ongoing Value—Member benefits should provide engagement and relevancy that doesn't end after a single use. Ask yourself this: How can I make benefits that members get value from frequently?
Turning your website into a member benefit is one example. A website with an online community and personalized newsletter that's frequently updated with industry news and best practices is something members can come back to every day for years and still receive value.
Control of Value—All your benefits need to be valuable, but it is members who should ultimately decide how much value they get. In other words, the more members participate, the more value they should receive.
If you release a new educational course with five lessons, for instance, then members get more value if they participate and complete all five lessons, instead of just the first two.
While not all your benefits need to focus on the future, preparing your members for the future is what will truly put your benefits on the path to being indispensable. You should consistently strive to give your members an edge up on the competition, and prepare them for the next day, month, year, or industry development.
Be proactive and create benefits that prepare your members for the future before they even ask for them. Begin by using past trends and current events to anticipate industry changes and shifting member needs.
The oil industry, for example, has a boom and bust cycle. Associations in that field can review what's happened in the past, as well as the current market, to predict when the cycle will change. Giving members notice of that kind of shift is invaluable.
Your ultimate goal is to warn your members of industry changes in advance, creating programs and content that will help them succeed.
Imagine if your members walk into work with a plan already in place for that legislative change. How impressed will their bosses be? Consistently give your members that extra edge up on the competition and they'll never leave you.
Your members, AMS software, and your own industry expertise are all valuable sources of information that can help you create benefits your members can't live without. Get to know your members first, and build benefits with ongoing engagement and value opportunities, then take things to the next level by preparing your members for the future.
The resulting benefits will help your members succeed today, tomorrow, and five years down the road. Your members' success is your association's success.