January 16, 2024   |   Vol. 23   |   Issue 1
By Tony Rossell, Senior Vice President

How to Strengthen Your Association’s Value Proposition

Let’s start with the discouraging news. Only 13 percent of associations said they had a very compelling value proposition in our most recent Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.

MMBR Value Proposition Infographic

Now to the good news. While only a tiny proportion of associations reported a powerful value proposition, we also see that the median association membership renewal rate reported in our 2023 research came in at 85 percent. Members do not spend their hard-earned dollars to continue with an association if they don’t see a commensurate return. So, how do we explain this seemingly contradictory information?

The answer is that high renewal rates indicate that most associations provide terrific value to their members. The challenge is that they do not understand or know how to identify and communicate the value they provide.

This inability to fully understand their value proposition impedes growing a membership base. While existing members renew because they have received their desired value–perhaps by discovering it through their own efforts–non-members have yet to receive value. Instead, they join because of the perceived value they believe they will obtain by joining. And how they perceive value comes from the association’s ability to communicate that value.

Not understanding and communicating the value you deliver may not hinder the retention of members, but it seriously hampers membership recruitment efforts. Defining and communicating your association’s value proposition removes a significant barrier to growth.

So, how do we recommend an association best define its value proposition?

The best method is market research. This approach can come from executive interviews, focus groups, and quantitative surveys. Research can highlight multiple elements that play into your value proposition, including:

  • Gaining insights into the processes of the decision to join and renew.
  • Gathering feedback about competitors and how your organization can differentiate its services.
  • Providing insights into how members and prospects perceive your current brand and value offerings and where you need to improve.
  • Evaluating what products and services are most important to members and how well your association delivers on them.

With your value proposition in hand, you now need to provide proof that you can deliver on your promise. You establish this value with facts, stories, and testimonials supporting the value proposition you develop.

With a research-based understanding of your value and the content to back it up, the final step to validate your value proposition is to perform A/B testing, where you present versions of your value statements to prospects to identify what is most compelling. One organization that we work with brainstormed seven variations of their value propositions for why someone might want to join, and through a series of digital ads and email tests, one value proposition proved most convincing. In value proposition messaging tests we have conducted, we see that explaining the value of membership can impact response rates by 200 percent or more!

A clear, compelling, and exclusive value proposition is foundational to effective membership marketing.

I am reminded of an aviation association that sharpened its value proposition through survey research. In the survey, they listed all the benefits they provided. The long list included the association’s aviation-focused magazines, insurance, and training. However, the item respondents identified as most valuable to them was a simple daily email highlighting the FAA’s flight restrictions for that day. Members needed this essential flight information to avoid violating restricted air space and potentially losing their pilots’ licenses. By carefully performing relevant research, the association learned that the members’ most-valued benefit was the one that removed risks and allowed them to continue enjoying what they were most passionate about–flying.

Let’s talk if you need help conducting research to identify and present a more compelling value proposition. Contact Tony Rossell, Senior Vice President, at tony@marketinggeneral.com or 703-706-0360.

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