The following blog post was originally published on 4/16/18, but updated on 12/23/19 for added value. 

We live in a highly customizable world. It’s now fairly standard to be able to tweak products and services to fit your particular wants and needs.

And when people can’t customize whatever it is they’re paying for, well, they’re likely to seek alternatives. Take TV, for example. Many people have cut traditional cable and opted for some type of streaming service, such as Netflix or Hulu, simply because they don’t want to pay for a bunch of channels they never watch. (And I can’t say I blame them!)

But think about how that type of behavior (the desire to customize) can have an impact on your association or chamber’s membership. If you’re only giving people one or two membership options, but they only want a few key benefits, could that potentially push people away?

Unfortunately, yes. But there IS a solution! Enter membership levels. By giving people a few different options (different benefits at different price points), you’re allowing them to engage in a way that makes sense and works best for them.

So how exactly do you create membership levels at your association or chamber? Here are a few tips:

1. Set parameters and determine the basics

Before creating your membership levels, you’ll need to think about your members’ needs, as well as your organization’s needs for sustainability. That means answering the following:

  • How many levels will you have? It’s recommended to have at least two or three membership levels, but depending on your staff size and the makeup of your organization’s membership, you may need more in order to sufficiently meet the needs of your varying membership segments.
  • How will you price your membership levels? Know what your market can bear and what the cost per membership is for your association or chamber. From there, carefully evaluate the benefits included in each package – and don’t undervalue your services! Do your research and see how similar organizations have implemented their membership models.
  • How will you prevent everyone from choosing the lowest level? This is a common concern, but it all boils down to value. If you can put together packages that truly deliver membership value, you will have members within each level. It’s just a matter of marketing and communications.

2. Categorize benefits

Next, it’s time to determine what benefits should go in what packages. You’ll have to do a little cost analysis here (based on the value you think each benefit is worth), but tip: Items costing you little or no resources should, for the most part, be available to everyone.

3. Put it together

Once you’ve decided on what goes in your packages, you’ll then need to sell them in ways that will resonate with your audience. Many organizations rely on charts, where it’s easy to see how the value goes up as the price goes up.

Below is an example of a chart we particularly like (from the Columbus Chamber of Commerce), especially since below each membership level, there’s a corresponding testimonial from a member within that level. Genius!

Columbus Chamber Membership Levels 2019

Remember, creating different membership levels at your organization is all about giving your members options and allowing them to pay for the products and services they actually anticipate using. (High usage = high retention.)

Want more tips for creating membership levels at your association or chamber? Check out our free guide for implementing a tiered dues structure at your organization below!