To Recruit and Keep Members, Speak to What They Value

January 30, 2018   |   Vol. 17   |   Issue 1
By Rick Whelan, MGI’s President

Sometimes reconnecting with one of the more timeless concepts of membership marketing is a rewarding way to start a new year of best practices.

What is the value of our organization? What kind of benefits do our features offer, and are they sufficient to drive prospects to join and members to renew?

This Tipster has appeared once before but the perceptual exercise it encourages is still most relevant.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Rick Whelan

PS: If you would like additional information about elevating features to value, give me a call at 703.706.0350 or send me an email at

To Recruit and Keep Members, Speak to What They Value

It’s benefits—not features—that members really want. They usually don’t care what an organization has. It’s what members get from an organization that’s important. If what they get fits their needs then they have found something of value. If valued, benefits then contribute to people’s aspirations.

Each step from features to aspirations has added importance and creates a deeper and more lasting connection between members and their association.

The Value Grid

MGI has developed a helpful tool that tracks this progression, called the Value Grid. The grid is divided into four sections, and while this example shows three rows, there can be as many as needed.


We complete this column first because the other columns build on it. Make a listing of all the goods and services your organization offers. Our example is continuing education, but then add, say, certification programs, advocacy, conference, magazines, discounts, and so on.

The box at the bottom of the column, “People Want to Be …”, lists characteristic descriptors to prompt your thinking and help define what motivates people to desire the features you have listed.


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

Just two of a number of possible benefits are listed in our example: continuing education keeps people up to date as well as satisfying licensing requirements.

Again, the box at the bottom of this column describes benefits that can be derived from the features—saved time, increased comfort, greater praise, or good health. In our example they retain the ability to practice their profession. That is truly a benefit.


This is the next step in the progression of adding value and importance to organizational features. Value is the equation that most of us use to judge the utility of a purchase, such as membership. If a feature becomes a benefit that is so substantial that it’s considered valuable, then what began as a simple idea has become something that is greatly needed.

The box at the bottom of the Value column, “People Want to Save …”, describes negative features that can require rescue. Features can work to advance a benefit as well as act as valued protection against other features.


This final stage in elevating mere features into a desire and a need moves us even deeper into what we are, into curiosity, the need for affection, and self-improvement. If a feature can come this far, it is likely something that people cannot live without. It has moved from an object, to a want, to a desire, to a need.

Thus, the same item, continuing education, has been repositioned to the point where a member purchase is almost a fait accompli.

A final word

The Value Grid is a methodology that offers real advantages for membership organizations that use it. The decision whether to become a member or remain one is a choice based on the value each individual finds in belonging. If features are what an organization promotes, the chances for success are less than leading with benefits and value.

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