Membership 101: Should You Reward Novelty or Loyalty?

It’s a trick question! You should reward both.

Associations generally do a good job rewarding novelty. The new member gets the special rate. The first time attendee gets the unique badge ribbon and the exclusive reception with the board of directors and committee chairs. The first-time book buyer gets the coupon for a discount off her next purchase.

And that’s all fine. Definitely keep doing that.

But what do you do for your long-term, loyal members?

Growth is a result of two complimentary actions: recruitment and retention.

All that rewarding of novelty helps with recruitment.

But the members who stick with you over the long term deserve some love, too.

This past week, I was interviewing chapter leaders for a client, and one shared a loyalty program that caught her eye. She’d been with her cable company five years (which she was not tracking herself), and to thank her, the cable company sent her a card with a code she could redeem for five free on-demand movies.

Simple and effective.

And you know WAY more about your members than the cable company knows about its customers. What could you do to recognize loyalty?

Maybe the long-term member who always attends your conference would appreciate a free – or deeply discounted – registration. Or priority access to the main hotel. Or VIP seating at the general sessions. Or a special badge ribbon noting her “conference veteran” status.

Maybe you could *also* have a special reception for long-term members at your conference.

Maybe the long-term member who buys a lot of books would appreciate some free ones, particularly if you have something high-value or exciting coming out. Pro tip? Just mail it to her with a “thank you for your loyalty” card. Don’t make her jump through hoops to get it.

Maybe you could feature members who achieve significant anniversaries on your website, or in your enewletter, or in your magazine.

Maybe you could send a hand-written thank you card.

Maybe your board chair could make a call.

Maybe for a really significant anniversary (50 years?), you could make the person an honorary life member – you’re a member until you die and you don’t owe us another cent.

What is your association doing to creatively and personally recognize and thank not just new members, but also those who are dedicated for the long haul?