About a month ago, Meridian One held its inaugural association panel, “Beyond Savings Association Panel”. The lively panel discussion focused on association trends, challenges, opportunities and successes our association partners encounter as member benefit (affinity) professionals.
Moderated by Robb Lee, Chief Marketing Officer for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), who led a diverse five member panel in open dialogue where they shared their knowledge with fellow association colleagues in attendance. They also provided the Meridian One team with insights on how to better serve members and grow their association benefit programs.
Here are the top 4 takeaways on how to build and enhance a great member benefit (affinity) program:
Build Membership Value
When it comes to how associations think about building membership value, [member] behavior, feedback, and revenue are most influential. Panelist Liesa Ross of the National Association of Enrolled Agents said, “Behavior says more than what they’ll tell you, member feedback is honest and they’ll give it to you when they feel most passionate, and revenue will let you know if they’re taking advantage of something we put out there.”
Many on the panel and around the room could be seen nodding their heads in agreement with this powerful statement because if you are not measuring or analyzing these specific elements, then you cannot build and maintain a sustainable member benefit program.
Prioritize Member Needs: Segments vs. Personas
Developing personas and segments is critical in prioritizing member needs and creating an effective personalized strategy to keep them engaged. Although the words may sometimes be used interchangeably to define the characteristics and/or profiles of members, they mean two different things. Segments help to forecast market (or industry) interest for a specific product or service, while personas help to understand the emotional and behavioral triggers behind individual customers (members) within that market.
The distinction is an important one to make because, “there are different wants and needs members have during a given time so we still need products and services for ‘segments’ but generations are melding more and more on various issues. Building ‘personas’ considers those different representations,” said panelist, Mat Kremke of the American Osteopathic Association.
Moderator Robb Lee added that from the ASAE’s standpoint, “a hybrid membership model had to be created so that access to member benefits could not only be efficient, but serve their membership’s different generations, segments and demographics.”
The Importance of Leadership Buy-in
You have a great idea based on a member survey, or think a certain product or service would be perfect for your association’s membership, everyone on staff is in agreement BUT FIRST you have to get it approved by your board. Dun. Dun. Dun.
As association professionals we all know that getting leadership buy-in can sometimes be a delicate balancing act when juggling all of the different priorities and personalities of the board or committee members that govern your association.
When introducing new initiatives it may not always be easy to get your board, well…‘on board’. It’s important to listen and don’t be afraid to have frank conversations. Ask questions like, what don’t you like? Where or how do you think [it’s] going to backfire? Talk through the issue so that you can strategize together on how to create a mutual win.
Change can be scary, however having open dialogue and developing strong leadership to back new initiatives can steer the needed change and help board members see opportunities in what they may consider challenges.
Customer Service Continues to Reign
Lastly, when it comes to building a successful member benefits program, customer service is still king, queen and the entire royal court.
The panel agreed that members are constantly being bombarded with solicitations, so it’s crucial to have exceptional customer service, and that’s what they get with Meridian One’s member care center. Members are constantly facing so many choices with who to do business with and sometimes the association’s endorsement is just not enough. “Sometimes you have to throw traditional marketing out the door and personalize the experience”, said Anthony Simone of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), from the audience.
“Don’t be afraid to write personal letters, make phone calls, or have strategic one-on-one visits to gain the business”, he added. Once a member has been exposed to the benefit or multiple benefits, it’s imperative to have a seamless customer experience across the board, whether they are calling the association or member care center directly. Everyone should be on the same page and staff should be educated about the products and services so that you can build program awareness and capitalize on opportunities when they arise.
Do you have any additional thoughts or ideas on what it takes to build and enhance a great member benefit (affinity) program? Leave a comment below.
Thank you to our moderator Robb Lee and panelists:
Nancy Burke, CAE, Direct Selling Association, Seth Ewing, Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, Mat Kremke, American Osteopathic Association, Liesa Ross, National Association of Enrolled Agents and Morgan Maravich, CTIS, CSTP, CTA, National Tour Association, for participating in the first installment of our Beyond Savings Association Panel, it was an insightful discussion. We look forward to continued collaboration!
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