One association’s early success with a “Super Member” category shows how a premium, all-access offer can lock in high-volume members.
Comic-book buffs could debate at length, as I’m sure they have, the reasons why Superman is the most iconic of our pop culture’s superhero characters, but, if you ask me, all the reason you need is right there in the name: He’s a super man. Batman needs a little explaining (he’s not actually a bat, see) but Superman is unambiguous. He’s just super.
It’s for the same reason that Associations Now‘s April story by Katie Bascuas on the new “Super Member” category at the Association of Title IX Administrators was hard to miss and easy to grasp: a top-level membership category “to offer access to all of ATIXA’s resources and materials along with special event and bonus content at a premium annual fee.” It’s just super.
It’s one thing to be a big spender but another to be formally recognized as one among your peers.
And, so far, the results have been super as well, says Brett Sokolow, ATIXA executive director. Seven months in, ATIXA has enlisted 54 Super Member organizations. “We hoped to have about 35 by now,” Sokolow wrote in an email.
About 85 percent of the Super Members are existing members who have upgraded, while the rest are new. Interestingly, standard membership categories have grown as well in the same time, Sokolow says—perhaps a halo effect from the Super Member buzz.
As an entirely new offer, the Super Member category was a working experiment, and ATIXA has adjusted a couple aspects of the offer already. Originally, the association created both organizational and individual Super Member categories, at $5,599 and $7,499 respectively. Feedback soon showed, however, that interested Super Members preferred the organizational option, so the individual option has been dropped, Sokolow says. Meanwhile, survey responses also indicated that $5,000 would be an optimal price point for the targeted portion of ATIXA’s members, so the organizational Super Member option is now offered at $5,000.
“This [change] just took effect, so we can’t be sure that it will be successful yet, but the goal is to achieve greater volume to offset the price decrease,” Sokolow says. “Of course, this makes Super Membership a much better value, as well, considering that we’re still providing over $10,000 worth of value to each ATIXA Super Member.”
Though Super Members are small in number within the scope of ATIXA’s full membership of 2,500 member institutions and 5,000 individuals, their value as high-spend customers led ATIXA to restructure its membership staff ahead of the launch, to provide each Super Member with a dedicated staff contact.
“The value of the concierge seems to be a real attractor for Super Members, and it’s a great gateway to make sure they are utilizing all that Super Membership has to offer,” Sokolow says. “Each member has a dedicated staff concierge, who provides them with an orientation, overview of the website, and a way to enhance the institutional participation by making sure that all representatives from the member institution receive welcome packets, are signed up for the right Listserv based on their community of practice, and are steered toward the resources most likely to meet their needs.”
If you’re a regular follower of this blog or discussions in ASAE’s Collaborate forum, you’ve seen plenty of talk about “unbundling” membership packages and breaking them down into tiers or a la carte menus—ideas rooted in the understanding that most members join for one or two particular key benefits, and those vary from member to member. But it’s still true that, in most cases, at least some portion of an association’s members will be voracious consumers of nearly everything the association does, resources both packaged as member benefits and sold separately.
That’s where the opportunity exists for a premium package of benefits, and these members who are already inclined to spend with you are likely to be the most responsive to a pitch that says “look at all this value you can get for this one nice round dollar number.” ATIXA’s Super Membership is just one example of premium in action in associations; others are not hard to find. And of course “super” is a practice you can see everywhere in consumer business, as well, in various forms such as group memberships, volume discounts, VIP status, and premium services.
The advantage to the member in a premium bundle is convenience, bulk-pricing value, and prestige—it’s one thing to be a big spender but another to be formally recognized as one among your peers. The advantage to the association is in earning loyalty by rewarding high-volume members and in locking in revenue upfront, rather than counting on it to come in gradually throughout the year. Priced strategically, you can offer premium members more bang for their buck while maintaning or boosting revenue among your high-value segment as a whole, and perhaps even expanding it. A good way to start is by analyzing exactly what combinations of benefits and additional purchases those members have made in the past and tailoring a package accordingly.
ATIXA hopes to grow its list of Super Members to between 100 and 120, Sokolow says. Pleased with the results so far, he says he’d recommend a similar approach to other associations that currently offer a lot beyond the basic membership package.
“If the association produces materials, resources, trainings, videos, and other expert content, then I think a vehicle like Super Membership is a great delivery mechanism for those [members] who don’t want to choose their resources piecemeal but want one-stop shopping for all the resources offered by the association each year,” he says.
How does your association serve its high-volume members? Would a premium membership level work for your association, or do you offer one already? Share your experience in the comments.