MGI Tipster – Volume 12, Issue 2

February 14, 2013   |   Vol. 12   |   Issue 2
To Recruit and Keep Members, Speak to What They Value

It’s benefits—not features—that members really want. They generally don’t care what an organization has. It’s what members get from an organization that’s important. If what they get suits their needs then they have found something of value. If valued, benefits then meet people’s aspirations and inspire their emotions.

There is a four-step progression that elevates an association from listing the features it offers to something far more valuable— providing emotional need. Each step along the way adds impact and brings a deeper and more lasting connection between members and what their association offers.

When marketers promote their organization, the Value Identification Grid (outlined below) is a great tool for refining features from items on a list to drivers of emotional needs.


Let’s step back a moment to review what it is that people want. Many studies have described the core human drivers, and here is a convenient way to look at them:

  • People want to be: up to date, efficient, good at what they do, promoted
  • People want to gain: time, comfort, respect
  • People want to avoid: discomfort, worry, embarrassment
  • People want to become: satisfied, wanted, the best

Our job as marketers is to convince prospects how the “things” an organization offers can be redefined to reflect people’s aspirations to “be, gain, avoid, and become.”

The Value Progression

There is a logical four-step sequence that moves us from everyday features to higher aspirations. It progresses from feature to benefit, benefit to value, and value to emotion.

Here are definitions and examples of each of the four steps:

  1. Feature: what an organization offers, tangible and intangible—a newsletter or an education course.
  2. Benefit: what a member receives from the features and how it helps fulfill needs—knowledge from a newsletter or education from a course of study.
  3. Value: what a member interprets as the return on investment—was the cost worth the price?—knowledge from a newsletter or education from a study course may give the member something concrete … a promotion, a better job, a higher salary.
  4. Emotional Drivers: how the value gained satisfies one or more basic human needs—a promotion or new job with a higher salary, for example, may fulfill an inner need for increased self-worth and respect of others.

Here is how these four steps are connected to use them as a marketing tool.

The Value Identification Grid

The Value Identification Grid is a way to structure the value progression. The grid shows the four steps, and this example uses three rows, but list as many as you need.

Value Identification Grid


Complete this column first because the others build upon it. Make a listing of all the goods and services your organization offers. Continuing education is our example of a feature, but you may want to add certification programs, advocacy, conferences and meetings, magazines, discounts, and so on.


This column takes the features to the next level by personalizing them and speaking to what people want rather than what the organization gives. Benefits are far more robust, more personal, and more powerful motivators than features.

The two benefits in our example speak to what continuing education does for people: it keeps them up-to-date and satisfies licensing requirements. You may have additional benefits to add to the list.


Value is part of the mental equation most of us use to judge the utility of a purchase, such as membership. If a feature turns out to be a benefit so worthwhile that it’s valuable, then promoting the value of an organization’s benefit is more effective than just the benefit.

In our example, benefits do more than keep people up to date: they may enable us to do our jobs better, perhaps leading to a job promotion.

Emotional Drivers

The final step links the original feature to an emotional response. Beyond value, the benefit affects how we feel about ourselves and life, such as feelings of increased confidence and self-worth.

And so we have effectively repositioned the feature—continuing education—to a valuable benefit that can satisfy human aspirations, such as the desire for success and prestige.


Compare these two sentences and how much more compelling is the appeal to an emotional driver rather than a simple feature.

When you join the association, as a member you’ll be eligible for continuing education courses for just $59 per credit.

OR …

Our continuing education programs will increase your understanding and elevate your skills, building on your experience and perhaps taking your career to the next level—all for just $59 per credit.

The Takeaway

Use the Value Identification Grid to move what your organization offers through the four-step process from everyday descriptions of features to copy that is more engaging, informative, and persuasive because it focuses on emotion and need.

Want to Know More?

If you would like additional information about the Value Identification Grid and elevating features to emotional drivers, contact one of MGI’s editorial directors, Bill Schaffner at 703.706.0306 or Page Stull at 703.706.0354, or send us an email at

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