In this summer’s edition of REA Magazine (a publication for association executives in the real estate industry), I wrote an article that any association executive, association ceo, or executive director should consider reading. Any executive who juggles members, staff, and a changing market likely has faced this same conversation in a board meeting.
The article compiled a list of seven ideas to keep members motivated in a downturn. AEs surveyed talked about how their offerings change in times of economic distress. As expected, conventional wisdom was split right down the middle: offering education and other member services for free is a real draw. To balance this out, other AEs believe that associations actually create more value for their offerings when they charge a small fee for a class or an event. (Read the article here — Marketing in a Downturn)
Since publishing, two convincing arguments have surfaced to add to the list! One AE has acquired a fax-to-email service that he gives away as an incentive for joining – generating nearly 200 new members this year!
Another board of directors made the decision to raise dues – by 30%! At the same time they laid out several payment options in advance to help ease the transition. “It was a necessary step to keep the association healthy” says the executive director. The jury is out, but he believes transparency in communicating the association’s finances helps to build member loyalty.
Executives and marketing types have mixed feelings about which direction to take when the goal is delivering more value to the member. Corporate giants have experienced the same dilemma, with related consequences. It is a great article that we in not-for-profit marketing should learn from. Why Charging Just a Little Can Be Smarter Than Charging Nothing at All. (Link to Fast Company).
Free is tempting, but is it a legitimate business strategy?