Alexandria, VA 22314 + 703-472-4327
Where would your members place along this value and engagement continuum?

Nominal members are at the lowest end of the continuum. They may be members because their employer pays for their membership, but they use many of the association’s benefits.
 
Interested members may attend events out of interest but don’t really have much practical use for what they learn in them. Hence, they are less likely to remain members than those in the next level.
 
Active members participate in more events that fulfill an actual need for an individual or organization, for example, to meet a company’s training needs, obtain certification, or upgrade skills. However, the relationship is limited to a product or defined course of action. Members still buy on a commodity level and could buy comparable products from another provider. Hence, they are less sustainable than the solution seekers at the next level.
 
Solution seekers are buying into a larger package of programs, services, unique experiences, emotional connections, value-added elements, or any combination of components that, together, comprise a unique solution. Buying a pair of shoes from Zappos is not a matter of buying shoes online, for example, but a matter of buying speedy delivery, exceptional customer service, and no-hassle returns. It translates into the ability to order at the last minute and even have a little freer time with your family.
 
Strategic solution seekers buy larger-scope and more strategic solutions of great significance to their companies’ success. These solutions likely include strategic advice and higher degrees of customization. The more strategic and unique a solution, the higher the value it delivers and, hence, the higher the chances of retention.
 
Strategic customer partners go beyond purchasing products and solutions and actively contribute to your growth by partnering and co-developing, engaging members and external allies, and advocating or influencing on your behalf.

Continuous Member Development

What does it take for customers to move from one level of engagement to the next one? According to author Peter Burris, the answer is simple: outcomes. Burris sees a significant transition to outcome-oriented engagement and uses the technology sector as an example:
 

Ah, the good ol’ days, when technology customers just wanted smaller, faster, and cheaper. Well, they still want that, but that’s not all they want. They want business outcomes: the differentiated business capabilities that technology makes possible realized with minimized risk. But most vendors are still set up primarily to sell products. Product portfolios, marketing activities, and sales behaviors still presume that customers largely are passive in the value-creation process, as though the act of buying and achieving outcomes was one and the same.
 

They are not. What turns us from casual shoppers to brand advocates, from reluctant gym visitors to fitness fanatics or from analysts of a political party to donors? The transition from one to the other is at the heart of what effective engagement and retention strategy are all about. And they do not simply come about by accident. They require, as Burris notes in the same blog post, that engagement be sustained across a customer’s entire lifecycle—something that most of the vendors who are set up to sell products fail to do.
 
Instead of laboring to create events, launch marketing campaigns, and re-engineer processes, leaders should focus the entire organization on crafting the solutions that customers need and producing outcomes that make a difference in their lives.
 
In order for customers to want to take their relationship with you up a notch in the continuum, they must experience (rather than be told about) something different—more value, better outcomes, a change in an experience, an “aha” moment that makes a difference somewhere. Identifying and fueling such motivations for constantly increasing engagement is what retention strategies should be about.
 
Partnership relationships between provider and customer that create value for both parties are strong motivators for engagement. Members are motivated to climb to increasingly higher levels of connection with you if, by doing so, they will increase the benefit they get from the association. Veterinaries who are members of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) are motivated to contribute to a collective pool of knowledge that is made easily accessible to them in any configuration and at any level of detail they wish. The larger and more updated that collective capital, the more they benefit from it personally.