Why It’s Important to Have Membership Levels

As consumers, we have all been conditioned to expect variation within the products we purchase. No matter what we buy, the model of the item we’re interested in never comes in just one specification. It is packaged in a variety of ways, each with its own unique customization that sets it apart from the others. No better, no worse – just configured differently, to serve a particular purpose.

Because of this phenomenon, our desire for choice has transferred over into what we expect to be offered in terms of membership options. Once you’ve convinced a prospect to register to your association, it’s time to offer them the menu of membership level options. This is a key step in sustaining their momentum toward joining. Even if your website content has done its job of founding the idea that your association is the right fit, you can still trip the prospect up prior to their pledging allegiance.

For this reason, the member levels you offer (and their respective details) must be well-established prior to a prospect arriving at this late stage of the pipeline. Below, we have outlined some of the aspects your association will need to consider when formulating the structure of your membership levels / classes.

Prospective Member Needs
In order to decide what membership levels your association should institute to match the needs of your target audience, you must know a little bit about the organizations of the prospects you intend to attract. You need to know what kind of roles they tend to have within their organizational structure and the language they would be familiar with to reference and group personnel. You also need to comprehensively understand your association’s value propositions so you can meaningfully discern who can actually derive good from claiming membership to your community. Once you know, specifically, what your prospects are looking for and what you can offer them, it will be much easier for you to understand what options should be established.
With a grasp of your prospective members’ needs, your association must now decide how many membership level options it will offer. You need to make sure you cover all your bases and provide an adequate selection of levels. You certainly don’t want to provide too few – making some prospects feel as if there is no level suited for them. However, offering too many options can cause choice overload, and result in so much confusion that people dropout prior to registering because they can’t understand which level would apply to them most. The key is to establish member levels that are very unique from one another, but are representative of your prospects. With ample knowledge of your target audience, you should be able to create distinctive and adequate membership levels in just four or five options.
Level Details (benefits)
After you’ve established your membership level options, it’s time to give each a description of what kind of access and benefit they provide to the member. The amount of access, authority and benefit should escalate respective to the level of member class. However, just because there may more features provided as the member levels get higher, doesn’t mean there is more value from one to the next. A “Basic” membership may only offer two features and limited access, where an “Advanced” membership may offer ten features and near unrestricted access. However, value is derived by the satisfying of needs. A prospect looking for a “Basic” membership may not see value in the added functionality of an “Advanced” account. So, be careful with how you market the different membership levels. It’s not so much about providing greater value from one type of member account to the next. It’s simply about providing the various types of prospects with an account level that will match their needs. So, make it clear, at each level, what the registrant will be provided with so they can make an informed decision on the level that best suits what they are looking to achieve.
Marketing the Options
Speaking of marketing, the language you choose to label and describe your membership levels should not be an afterthought. Going back to knowing your target audience and their respective organizations, you need to market the account options in a way they will immediately understand, so they are not left wondering what something means. Also, as stated above, it’s never about more or less value. You’re not looking to setup a “better or worse” interpretation. After all, you want every one of your membership levels to be well-populated, and you certainly won’t accomplish that by downplaying one to the benefit of another. The marketing language you use to describe and promote each membership level should suggest there is great value to be had by joining your association, and that you offer membership classes that suit prospects hailing from a variety of professional backgrounds.
There is no universal fixed price that will work in all association environments. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – you need to be familiar with the industry you serve, the organizations that occupy the market and the prospects you intend to convert to members. When it comes to how each membership level is priced, it’s all about strongly positioning the cost so registrants will interpret a solid return on investment. Deciding what that figure should be depends on your association’s understanding of what prospects within your market will find equitable, as well as the proper valuation of what you offer to members. At times, if can be a fine line to walk. However, as long as you are mindful that your association exists to benefit members and you price the membership levels to that end, you should land on a figure that prospects don’t scoff at.
Once you’ve got all the levels setup and the details of what each option has to offer, it’s time to make them live within your registration process. This mechanism that allows registrants to select what member level they prefer has to work flawlessly. It can’t be confusing or clunky or you’ll discourage and frustrate the potential new member. Choosing a membership level should be intuitive and easy. Also, once the prospect has been successfully converted to a full-fledged member, the overall experience of your association within that member level must be flawless. That means, the AMS your association uses must properly interpret the level each member is assigned to and grant them (no more and no less) the benefits and access they are intended to be provided. This is why it’s so important to have an association management system that is comprehensive, top-of-the-line and directly supported by the provider. Guild prides itself on providing a clean, easy to use, intuitive and world-class supported solution that will empower your association to meaningfully manage its various membership levels. If you’d like to learn more about how Guild functions, or if you’d like to schedule a live demo, please click here.

Whether your prospects are young professionals or chief executive officers, they’re all joining the same community. However, by properly establishing and positioning strategically formulated membership levels, you are offering a slightly unique experience for each member level respectively. People love customization – offering a variety of member levels satisfies that demand.