The following original article was first published online on September 13, 2016 by John Wiley & Sons and then appeared on page 6 of the October 2016 edition of The Membership Management Report, a monthly journal published by Wiley for the association industry.
Do you remember the last time you went to a shoe store? You liked the look of a shoe, decided it met your needs and tried it on for fit before you bought it. The try-before-you-buy mentality is sweeping the consumer market, and it is bringing with it a sea change in the way associations market to new members.
Melea Blaskovich, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Market Development at YourMembership, shares how “try before you buy” is causing associations to flip their membership model to attract new members by proving their value before members join.
According to Blaskovich, the expectations of today’s consumers have changed. Where before they were content to pay and then receive value, today “consumers expect instant value.” She attributes this change to “the Apple effect,” saying, “Apple fundamentally changed the way consumers shopped and solved needs. . . . value could be recognized quickly, and the barrier to try was low, often free or at low cost.”
The challenge this presents to associations, according to Blaskovich, is “most associations have membership models where value is recognized post-purchase. Associations need to flip that membership model in order to stay relevant, delivering value at the pre-purchase stage.”
To do this, Blaskovich recommends associations focus on creating value that meets the needs of potential members in a way that can be consumed based on member preferences rather than association preferences. The longer it takes for a member or potential member to recognize the value the organization is offering, the less likely the member will be to join or renew his or her membership.
How can associations offer value up front? Free trials and limited-time trial memberships are one option. Another is to create a program that is designed to be no-cost, like a hyper-local meetup or a TED-style series of talks.
For associations who want to offer up-front value to attract members, Blaskovich recommends they “focus on solving real needs and problems for members and include experiences that are designed to delight members.” She also advises they focus on offerings that highlight association-specific strengths and embrace a culture of innovation that is comfortable with risk and continually looks for new ways to provide value.