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HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT MEMBERSHIP PROGRAMS? Here, how-to develop and sustain them!

Have you ever thought about how powerful it is to belong to something? This is one of the most crucial points in establishing new customers or simply in building up a loyal audience. This “belonging to something” has a clear marketing translation that is “membership program”. Let’s find out together the basic how-to!

It’s all about benefits, it’s all about the ‘what’

By establishing a membership program, you basically ask your current customers and potential ones to contribute to something for your company or association. In return, they will generally receive a reward, advantage or privilege. What are these contributions and rewards all about?

- What to ask to your customers to become members Asking for money is maybe the very first thing that comes up in your mind. However, there is an entire world beyond just money! Their contributions could be in various forms, such as time (e.g. asking them to participate to some events or dedicate some of their time in a set of activities), actions (e.g. asking them to promote you or make their properties available for special events) or simply their names!

- What to offer to your customers to become a member Offering could take different forms as well. You can opt for one simple premium offer, or different membership levels with different services, not only in terms of discounts, but also in the speed of the services providing and the accessibility to specific information.

The initial member contribution is able to lead to long term benefits for you: customer loyalty increasing, predictable revenue streams creation, brand awareness, referrals improvements and a solid community development.

Virgin knows how to make its members be sky-high loyal! The Virgin company is a really good example in quality as a for-profit program. Let’s go into details! Virgin Atlantics has created a great membership program, the “Flying Club”, allowing members to earn miles and tier points.

They have a clear Benefits Table helping the members and potential ones to understand their status and the benefits they are getting. As you can see, it is a multiple level membership program, and with a number of different high quality benefits and privileges, sometimes not really connected with the business (e.g. massage before flight). They got a clear name and a very direct way of communicating benefits!

Community and cause – the Associations’ secret weapons

Let’s say that you are representing an association, the dynamics of such for-profit memberships are generally applicable also to institutions and non-profit associations. Despite the fact that you might have a smaller budget, you have two secret weapons: community and mission. For-profit organisations membership programs the aim is to create a community and a cause around it. This is what they have to build. An association usually has already a clear cause: building a community around it is much easier. If people get access to a community with common goals, experiences and beliefs, they are already attracted by the feeling of belonging! Therefore, the benefits offer should be really tailored and relevant.

We have a great example in terms of quality of the offer: The World Steel Association (worldsteel). This international association represents the most of international carbon and stainless steel outputs, including over 150 steel producers, national and regional steel industry associations and steel-research institutes.

worldsteel has a very strong mission and is representing the interest and needs of a very specific industry. Its Members are already caught by the worldsteel cause. It is clear that worldsteel has created a perfect members-tailored program, offering useful benefits built around a clear mission and creating a very strong community.

You need a strategy and you need to be careful!

In every organisation, from business enterprises to startups and associations, the products and services can be dressed-up as ‘premium’ or ‘only-for-members’ – it just takes a little bit of creativity and strategic thinking! That’s why sometimes it is good to rely on a strategic advisor to build up the right program.

Keep also in mind that there are some mistakes which can make your membership program fail. We’ve analysed the 6 most common mistakes for you!

1. It’s not the right time – You need the perfect time to start a membership program. This will allow you to make the most of your investment and ensure the best result. 2. There are no clear benefits – You need to give people a good reason to join your membership program. A lack of clarity will be fatal! Be simple and clear in building your strategy and in communicating it. 3. You don’t have enough followers – To make it work properly, you need people who are ready to join … let’s say around 50. This will create the buzz and the community! 4. You didn’t prepare it – In order to launch a membership program, you must prepare it and create a bit of expectations: people should know about the ‘coming soon’ membership program, in order to be more attracted. That also increases the potential followers for starting it. 5. It’s not the right name – You need to make sure that your membership program name clearly states what it is about. Pick a self-evident name! 6. Your communication is wrong – You need to know the limit between reminding your customers about their members’ status and spamming them with too many information. Set a balanced communication calendar.

Renewals are the real success of your membership program

Sustaining your membership program is one of the most important things to care about – in other words, how do you get customers to renew their membership status? Here, we give you 3 basic rules:

1. Provide added-values and keep your promises – let’s say it, if you don’t provide any added-value and you don’t keep your promises during the membership, it is going to be very difficult to get you customers to renew. 2. Go beyond – this is a very little secret, “promise less and give more”. This will create unexpected surprises and your members will be pleased and incentivised to renew. 3. Audit – this is a very good practice to put in place. Just ask! Ask your customers how they find your members status, what they would like to get, what they don’t like. Get them involved and let them feel that you value their presence as members.

Now tell us, does your company or association need to establish a Membership Program? Do you have experiences with that? Share it!

by Chiara Lamacchia



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