Reward Your VIP Attendees

Can a member loyalty program benefit your meetings and events?

On Monday, I found a pleasant surprise in my inbox: 9:30 Club—DC’s top live music venue and a place that feels like my second home some weeks—launched a customer loyalty program.

Called “Friends With Benefits,” the program works like many others. Members earn points by buying concert tickets, food, and drinks, which can then be redeemed later to buy more tickets, merchandise, and other items.  Even better is that just by signing up you are guaranteed a t-shirt, birthday cupcake, free shipping on online orders, and access to special events just for VIPs—oh, and special presales—and opportunities to buy tickets to sold-out shows.

By now, I bet you can all guess what I did when I got the email. That’s right, I stopped what I was doing and registered. Then I made sure some friends knew about it. And next, of course, I put it to good use: 10 points earned when I bought a pair of tickets earlier this week.

If members have attended your annual meeting for three years in a row or registered within the first week, invite them to a special event at your meeting.

Besides thinking this loyalty program is perfect for me (an engaged music fan and 9:30 Club regular), it also got me thinking about whether associations could benefit from member loyalty programs for their meetings and events.

One program already available to the association community is Achieve Links offered by Affinity Center International (ACI), one of ASAE’s Alliance Partners. Rolled out last fall, the program allows members to earn points, or “links,” by making purchases using either their own credit cards or one cobranded with their association. The links can be redeemed toward membership dues, conference registration, hotel stays, merchandise, or whatever else the association wants to offer.

In an article on late last year, David Carrithers, founder and president of ACI, said association meetings could benefit from the program in two ways: (1) members could use links already earned toward registration and travel and (2) meeting planners could use the program to drive attendee behavior. For example, attendees could earn points for visiting certain booths or attending particular sessions.

But what if associations aren’t ready to plunge into a full member loyalty program with an outside vendor? Here are two possible ways to get started:

1. Reward your frequent attendees. As part of enticing members to register for an event, scour your database and see who has attended five events in the past year. Offer this group a discount on registration or allow them to bring a guest who’s never attended in the past for free. Or if you have an event that sells out quick, offer this group a presale that guarantees they can attend.

2. Treat your VIP members to a special experience. If members have attended your annual meeting for three years in a row or registered within the first week, you could invite them to a special event at your meeting. The event could be anything from a closed-door Q&A with a speaker after a general session or a reception with your CEO, board members, and/or key industry leaders.

In my case, I’m confident I won’t be cashing in all my points to attend shows I would have gone to without a rewards program. Instead, I could see myself attending a concert I was on the fence about or buying one more record just because I easily can. In other words, this behavior will likely generate more revenue for the venue and make me an even more loyal customer. Too bad the same can’t be said for my bank account.

Does your association offer any type of rewards program for its meeting or events? Have you found it successful? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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