Pricing is always a delicate balance for associations. You want to get the most for membership, products and programs without overcharging members. The goal is to provide a strong value for each member, regardless of what they pay.
Members, however, are not all the same. Some need just the basics from their membership; others want access and information at a higher level – and are willing to pay for it. So the questions are: Can your association benefit from creating premium memberships? Can premium memberships contribute positively to your bottom line?
What is a premium membership?
As the name implies, a premium membership provides more products, experiences, and programs than a basic membership package does. The challenge comes with how you adjust your existing benefits to accommodate a new premium membership level.
1. Are you starting with an already fully loaded benefits package?
Some associations already include most of their offerings in their benefits package. If that’s the case for your association, you either must add some amazing extras to create a premium package or your regular package will become the “premium” package. To create a “standard” package, you’ll have to remove some of the extras in the premium package. You’ll also need to make decisions about adjusting the pricing to reflect two different levels of membership.
Your members, however, are savvy, and they can do the math. They will realize they’ve just been handed a price increase for the same membership package.
You can respond in one of two ways. First, if there is a need for a simple membership, you can market the standard package as a no-frills, economical way to be a member. Second, you can emphasize the newly added features that make the premium membership a good value and a desirable option.
2. Does your association currently offer a lean membership package?
If your association currently offers a lighter membership package, that package will become the standard benefits package when you reconfigure membership. You will create a new premium package above it by adding experiences, programs, and products to what you’re currently offering.
When you’re creating a more valuable benefits package, communicating the pricing change is easier because you’re offering more. Your members can opt into the higher-priced membership or they have the option to choose the less-expensive package. If your messaging is on target, your members will recognize the advantage of having the extra benefits.
How to Determine Pricing
There is an abundance of books, webinars, and podcasts about pricing models for associations, including fees for memberships, conferences, webinars, books, reports, and products. The bottom line in all of them is that you sell your products and services for as much as you can without overpricing. And you need to balance anticipated revenue against the cost to deliver the product or service.
For example, if you add unwanted products and services to your premium package, too many members may choose a lower membership level – dramatically reducing your income. Likewise, if you create a package that is too expensive to deliver, you might see the extra revenue you’ve created get swallowed up in extra expenses.
Fortunately, you don’t have to make all these decisions on your own. The association industry supports a strong group of pricing experts who can run different pricing models to forecast how your pricing model will work. They work at all association sizes and can help your staff make optimal pricing decisions.
What Experiences, Products, and Programs Can You Offer?
No matter where you start, creating a premium membership package involves offering additional value and exclusive perks to entice members to upgrade. The specific benefits can vary depending on the nature of the association and its members’ needs, but here are some ideas to consider:
- Exclusive Content: Provide access to exclusive articles, reports, or research that is not available to regular members. Or offer early access to industry insights, whitepapers, or case studies.
- Networking Opportunities: Arrange exclusive networking events, webinars, or forums where premium members can connect with industry leaders, experts, and like-minded peers. Peer-to-peer discussion groups can be highly effective in helping association execs solve problems and strategize.
- Training and Development: Provide premium members with discounted or complimentary access to workshops, seminars, or training programs. If you are a trade association, you can extend a discount offer to employees of your corporate members. You can also provide access to specialized courses, certifications, or educational resources.
- Discounts and Deals: Negotiate exclusive discounts with industry partners or relevant businesses for premium members. You can also offer special deals on association merchandise, event tickets, or affiliated products and services.
- Personalized Services: Provide personalized consultation sessions or mentorship opportunities with industry experts. You can offer personalized assistance or guidance related to professional development or business needs. Trade associations can bundle or discount resources for their corporate members’ employees.
- Enhanced Communication: Provide a concierge service for customer support. Your members always know whom to contact with questions or concerns. Train these association team members to gather suggestions and opinions during these contacts. You can also provide access to a members-only communication channel or forum for direct interaction with association leadership.
- Technology and Tools: Provide access to premium software tools, resources, or apps that are beneficial for members in their professional endeavors. Offer early access or beta testing opportunities for new association initiatives or technologies.
- Custom Events: Organize exclusive events such as VIP dinners, retreats, or roundtable discussions for premium members. Offer the chance to host or lead specific sessions during association events.
As with any effort to engage your membership, it's crucial to understand the needs and preferences of your association members before changing your membership structure and benefits package. Consider conducting surveys or focus groups to gather feedback and ensure that the premium membership package aligns with their expectations and adds significant value to their membership.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.