Membership Memo: Money Talks

Remake your benefits brochure to show stronger ROI.

Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE, is frustrated with the way associations promote their benefits, and he doesn’t pull any punches. “Association executives are the crappiest salespeople in the world,” says the speaker and association membership consultant.

Too often, he says, they tout features—“Our association does advocacy”—instead of showing how membership is a good business decision. “Well, what’s the benefit? How does that make my life better? What buying motive does that solve?” he says.

Rigsbee’s preferred way to communicate benefits is in dollar values. He leads associations in exercises to glean the “real dollar value” of their benefits from member focus groups. The outcome: a revamped benefits brochure with a simple summation of a member’s return on dues dollars, ready to be integrated with member recruitment packages and renewal invoices. And he recommends keeping it simple and bold: if printed, a ­single-page trifold. “Create a document that dazzles them with brilliance rather than baffles them with bulk,” he says.

A plain dollar-value explanation can also be a useful tool, Rigsbee says, for an association’s member evangelists, the veteran members who want to grow the industry but could use a handy pass-along to help bring new recruits on board.

Helping associations assign values to their benefits has made Rigsbee a strong proponent of maintaining a robust members-only benefits package. Legislative updates, social networks, website content—if nonmembers can access them the same as members, then they count as a big fat zero on the benefits value sheet, he says.

“They’re giving the whole meal away for free too frequently, thinking that people will join,” he says. “Trying to say, ‘Here, come and buy this when I’m already giving it to you for free,’ those people are going to say, ‘Are you crazy? Why would I do that?’”

Sell Benefits, Not Features

Membership consultant Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE, says too many associations sell “features” of membership instead of their real-life benefits. Here are three examples, with their benefits and potential yearly dollar values based on valuations Rigsbee conducted with members of client associations.

Feature: Legislative Updates
Benefit: Avoid legal trouble and lessen tax burden by staying up to date on regulations
Value: $1,849

Feature: Career Development Opportunities
Benefit Improve career and earning prospects; keep job and income while seeking greater opportunities
Value $634

Feature: Access to Top Industry Suppliers
Benefit: Save time, money, and headaches in searching for best vendor
Value: $2,169

Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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