Design: The Extra Step in Member Benefits

By / Aug 14, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

A salary calculator is a simple tool, but it’s a perfect example of an association product designed with the member experience in mind.

How often do you hear one of your association colleagues say, “We have so many great benefits, but we can’t seem to get our members to use them”?

Most association membership pros know that feeling. You’ve heard it, thought it, or even said it yourself. The solution could lie in a few places. Better marketing, perhaps, but that’s the easiest way out. Better benefits is another, certainly, though that requires some genuine innovation. But what if better design is the answer? Maybe you have good benefits but they’re just not very accessible or easy to use.

Better design could help you avoid the fates of hopelessly overmarketing or going all the way back to the drawing board.

Here’s a simple example: A lot of associations collect and publish compensation data for their industries. The purpose, of course, is for professionals to compare their own salaries to market averages or for employers to develop attractive compensation packages when hiring. So what’s easier to use, a 150-page set of data tables, or a one-page calculator?

I hope the answer is obvious. In the August issue of Associations Now, we highlighted a members-only salary calculator at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It’s behind the Academy’s member login, so I can’t link directly to it, but it’s not hard to imagine: “With 11 drop-down choices and four checkboxes, the form takes barely a minute to complete. Click ‘Calculate’ and—presto!—the page displays an expected hourly wage and annual salary, based on the Academy’s biannual compensation research.”

Fortunately, examples of calculators abound in associations. Here are a few others I found in about 30 seconds of Googling:

So, this calculator idea is some low-hanging fruit. But it’s a common tool and an ideal example of benefit design because it’s easy to see how it puts the member needs and experience first. It translates a trove of data into quick, actionable information. It goes an extra step instead of simply saying, “Here, you do the math.”

In a blog post on Monday, consultant Anna Caraveli explained that an association’s value proposition is nothing without execution, exactly the kind that translates to the user experience:

“Delivering value requires the conversion of a company’s products into an experience of value by the customer. Unless you identify the key to this conversion—how assets in your organization can be experienced and perceived as beneficial by the customer—no amount of marketing or investment will make you resonate with what most matters to your customers.”

Building better benefits through better design requires a couple of mindsets that go hand in hand: One, as Caraveli calls it, is the “demand perspective;” the other is design thinking. Both are about deeply understanding the user experience and purposefully prioritizing it during product design (read: member-benefit design).

Are these mindsets missing at your association? If so, developing them could help you avoid the fates of hopelessly overmarketing or going all the way back to the drawing board. You might just be able to take the benefits you already have and design them anew.

Has your association redesigned a key member benefit? If so, please share in the comments.

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki is a contributing editor at Associations Now, a lifelong Phillies fan, and a proud alum of Ohio University. More »


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