Members and prospective members, like all of us, are spoiled by options. As consumers, they’re used to choosing from a menu of subscription features. They only pay for what they need or want. They question why they should have to pay for benefits they’ll never use. Because of this value-conscious perspective, an increasing number of associations are offering a tiered membership model.
In a tiered membership model, dues are based on a tiered structure of increasing member benefits. We’re not talking about the model used by trade associations where members pay different levels of membership dues depending on their number of employees, annual revenue, or building permits pulled. We’re talking about tiers that reflect different levels of member benefits.
However, many associations use a tiered membership model in combination with a traditional structure, where dues are based on certain member attributes, for example, student, recent graduate/new professional, retired, fellows, etc. In this case, associations offer different tiered pricing for these member types within a membership tier.
The marketing sweet spot for subscriptions and memberships seems to be three tiers. In associations, these tiers are labeled as Basic, Plus, and Premium, or something similar. Also growing in popularity are specialized tiers that focus on a set of related benefits, such as education or advocacy.
Membership tiers give prospects and members a choice. Instead of a one-size-fits-all membership, they can pick the tier that fits their interests, needs, and budget.
We looked at many websites to find out what type of membership tiers are commonly offered by associations.
The target audience for a lower tier Basic membership includes:
A Basic membership is often a digital membership with online benefits only, for example, website resources, newsletters, online community, career center resources, and online town halls.
As part of a Basic membership, many global associations, like RAPS, offer discounted dues for individuals in emerging markets as defined by The World Bank.
In the Plus tier, a member receives all the benefits of Basic membership plus:
At this level, depending on bylaws, members may also have voting rights. Check your state laws to find out if you can withhold these rights from members at the Basic level.
The premium tier includes all Basic and Plus membership benefits as well as access to more exclusive (expensive) benefits, such as:
You like what you’re reading about membership tiers, but before deciding to move forward, take into consideration these two factors.
Make sure your AMS can manage membership tiers, because not all can. You shouldn’t have to customize your AMS to handle a different membership structure. In fact, don’t. Customization takes you off the upgrade path and can make integration a lot messier too. That’s why you hear friends at other associations complaining about their customized “legacy” AMS that’s stuck in the past and preventing them from moving into the future.
Configuration is the way to go. It allows you to make changes that don’t affect the base code of your AMS. You can stay on the upgrade path, but tailor the AMS to your needs. With configuration, you can easily offer membership tiers to different segments, set the pricing, and turn permissions on and off according to the member’s role and tier.
Your AMS should also allow you to pull reports that include data related to membership tiers. You want to see how different member segments are engaging (or not) in different tiers. This information will help you figure out where you have to tweak offerings or pricing for each membership type.
Associations that have successfully adopted a tiered membership model spent a lot of time up front on research. Start by looking at current engagement data by membership segment. What kind of members use which benefits the most?
Conduct a member value study. Survey and interview current, lapsed, and prospective members of all segments—including industry partners—to learn:
As you put together a new membership model, continue to gather feedback. Ask current, lapsed, and prospective members about their likelihood of joining or renewing different membership tiers at different price points.
This is a complex research project with multiple variables to consider. It’s best to hire a membership consultant who can guide you through the process. Find one who has experience developing new membership models for associations. They can help you with competitive analysis, conducting a member value study, data analysis, and coming up with financial models to address revenue concerns.
People want a membership that fits their interests and their budget. They want and expect options, not a one-size-fits-all (because it never does), but a membership tailored to their needs.
Find out how Impexium’s simple, smarter membership management helps you create an unlimited number of membership types and member statuses, giving you the flexibility to offer the membership tiers that work best for your members and your association.
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