In days gone by, organisations had mission statements to communicate what they stood for. Whilst mission statements inform about the intention of the organisation, they are one-dimensional and too distant in relation to membership organisations.
A more recent approach is to have a ‘Member Value Proposition’. Rather than reflect what the organisation delivers on behalf of its members, an MVP is about what members need / want, i.e. what they value.
What a member values is likely to change depending on where they are in terms of their career or company size. For example, if you are a trade body, smaller companies may highly value the access you provide to the bigger players with the view of winning contracts. Your larger company members may highly value the opportunities you provide in terms of access to politicians and civil servants. If you are a professional body, a member who is new to the profession may highly value the CPD opportunities you provide to help them learn new skills. Someone who has been in the profession for many years may value the ability to network with other senior professionals at your events.
The groundwork for your Member Value Proposition
Before you can get to the point of writing your MVP you need to realise that the process to go through will make you and the rest of the staff challenge how and what you think. You need to start from the premise of what the member needs, not what you do for members – an ‘outward looking in’ view.
- Learn the difference between value and Return on Investment – what a member values may not be tangible and measured in monetary terms
- Do a competitor analysis – look at what other member organisations are doing and saying. Don’t subscribe to the hype they are spouting, look beneath this and what ‘value’ their members get. Map the intel you generate against your organisation.
- Do you need more than one MVP? – one umbrella MVP may be all you need, but will your members be best served by different MVPs according to where they are in your member lifecycle? Split your membership into key groups and determine if one MVP will satisfy them.
- Have you asked your members why they join / stay with you? – you could be surprised! Answers are likely to include: credibility, access to CPD, networking, industry knowledge, access to government, and/or profile-raising. Don’t assume … ask!
Creating your Member Value Proposition
A value proposition is not a quick exercise. The most relevant and successful include a member survey to uncover the issues members are most concerned about, what they value and how satisfied they are with how you handle these. To tackle this project well requires investment in time, energy and perhaps money, whether you do it your self or outsource the work. However, the payback is likely to be immense in terms of serving your membership.
How will a Member Value Proposition benefit you?
An MVP will push you to make decisions from a member point of view. A clear and concise MVP could change the way your organisation functions.
Member Value Propositions are a signpost to building and sustaining membership. Recognising members’ needs, then feeding them into your organisation’s strategic activity can be radical in terms of corporate thinking but you need to be relevant to your membership in order to survive.
Your MVP in action
Once you have created your Member Value Proposition/s you need to make it/them work.
- Internal Communications – all staff need to live and breathe your MVP in order to truly serve your membership. All staff need to know the MVP, understand it, and apply it in their day-to-day activities.
- Business Development – the MVP needs to be mapped onto your products and services. This will identify whether what you do is fit-for-purpose and indicate what you should do less of or stop, and what you need to do more of or introduce. Measure the effects and report back to your Board to inform future decision-making.
- External / Member Engagement Communications – the MVP needs to be at the heart of your member communications to ensure current and potential members are confident that you exist to serve them. By creating an MVP and applying it across the organisation you are giving a powerful message that you are acting on behalf of your members.
Tough decisions are ahead
By mapping your products and services to your MVP/s, you may have some tough decisions to make, especially if long-run products or services, entrenched with the organisation, are deemed no longer relevant. There is no scope for ‘we have always done that’ thinking. Times change and so do the needs of members.
My advice is to embrace what you need to do and overcome any challenges faced when you make these hard decisions. Your MVP will make you more relevant to your members, create member satisfaction and lead to more members parting with their hard-earned readies to join or remain in membership. Sure, you may lose some members, but look at the bigger picture and determine whether these are members you wish to retain at the expense of new blood.
What are you waiting for? Ditch that mission statement and start thinking about what you need to do to create a Member Value Proposition instead.
If you have created an MVP for your organisation, I would love to hear from you – use the comments box below. What made you decide to go for an MVP? Were members broadly supportive, or not? Has having an MVP made a difference to your organisation? How? Did member satisfaction increase as a result?