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July 25, 2005

The folly of a la carte membership dues

Sometimes I think associations that choose to transition to an a la carte membership dues structure are losing the battle to convey value to their members and prospects, and have simply given up.

Go to a country club and say, "I'd like to join your club, but I don't play tennis. I'd like a golf-only membership at a discounted rate." Watch them turn up their collective nose. Go to Sam's Club and say, "I would like to join, but I don't drive and so I don't need your roadside assistance benefit. Please reduce my membership fee to reflect this fact." Fat chance, buster.

Paying membership dues gives one preferential access to a wide range of products and services. The corporate world has recognized the tremendous value of membership, but some associations seem resigned to disregard it.


Chris Bailey said...

Ben, I'm not sure I follow your argument here. Are you saying that offering a personalized membership plan with flexible dues structure is not the way to go? That it's better to insist that everyone pay a flat fee for things they may have no use for? Not every member comes to an association with the same value-based needs.

The two examples you offer are status-quo type thinking. Actually, if I had a choice between country clubs, I'd go with the one that gave me value for what I want, not what they want. Same thing in nearly everything else. I only wish my cable company would charge me just for the channels I want.

Again, you assume that everyone wants the same thing (in this case, that wide array of products and services). Your members may not see it the same way.

On the other hand, you can go overboard with the a la carte thing. No matter what, you still have to offer value. And the transition has to make financial sense. Perhaps there's something special in the middle ground.

Ben said...

Instead of exploding products and services into myriad bits from which consumers can choose, buffet style, I would simply suggest that the wiser choice is to concentrate on increasing and communicating the value of the whole membership.