Does your association offer its members the right benefits to ensure their loyalty? Optimizing the benefit mix is a critical but challenging decision area. Unique and valuable benefits ensure a high renewal rate and continued growth, as members and prospective members expect tangible value in exchange for the dues they pay. However, offering too many benefits can result in higher operating costs (from subsidizing unimportant or redundant products and programs) and a need for higher dues to support niche offerings.
A for-profit company may efficiently update and streamline its product offerings to adapt to a changing marketplace. Unfortunately, associations often face resistance to cutting benefits from volunteer leaders and staff members who have become emotionally vested in them. Every benefit may have a champion who believes the association would be comprising its mission if it discontinued that obscure publication, poorly attended conference, or underutilized insurance program. These marginal benefits cost money and consumer staff time when associations are under pressure to manage costs and keep dues low.
An obvious solution is to gather objective data in the form of a member/prospective member survey on the value of individual benefits. When we conduct these surveys for association clients, we recommend gathering basic information on: awareness, usage, and perceived value. These surveys may also include prospective and lapsed members. Every benefit included in the survey should be accompanied by a description to ensure those with low awareness can rate its value.
Armed with this feedback, an association needs to make objective decisions on benefit priorities. This is where a methodology called TURF analysis plays a role. The acronym stands for “Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency,” and identifies the shortest list possible that adds maximum value. A TURF analysis accounts for the fact that the same members may tend to like the same benefits. Thus, a secondary benefit may be worth including if it expands the “reach” of members who receive significant value for their dues; however, the benefit may not be worth supporting if it satisfies only a small faction that already receives significant added value from other benefits that have broader appeal. Too much of a good thing is not so good when it comes time to paying the dues invoice.
The figure here illustrates the output of a TURF Analysis. In this example, the three most valuable member benefits offer a high level of value to 45% of members. The TURF Analysis then identifies a fourth benefit that has the maximum impact on expanding the reach of members receiving substantial value (in this case, broadening reach by 10% to a total of 55%). As new benefits are added to the benefits portfolio based on their impact on delivering value, the total reach (defined as the percentage of members receiving at least 3 valuable benefits) shows a diminishing returns, to a point where any new benefits results only in using up resources.
A case study shows the value of TURF Analysis, as well as how each study is customized to suit a particular decision framework. Rockbridge has an association client that represents small businesses and places a strong emphasis on offering value-added services as part of its value proposition (e.g., insurance package, discounts on services, educational offerings). This client needed to examine not only existing benefits, but new benefits that were under consideration to ensure relevancy in the future. The client also wanted to examine its portfolio with prospective members as well as existing ones. In this study, we not only asked about value, but also about the “impact of the benefit on continuing membership” or “becoming a member.” In the end, the study identified a “shortlist” of half a dozen benefits that needed to be a core focus, including several new offerings that warranted investment to ensure the organization could retain current members and attract new ones.
The lesson here is that there are objective and scientific methods for optimizing the benefits mix. An approach like TURF guides resource investments and provides support for paring or shifting resources when it is needed.
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