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Lessons on Membership Value… From Hash Browns

March 25, 2012

On my way to ASAE’s Great Ideas conference, this morning, I stopped to grab a quick breakfast. I’m not generally a big fan of fast food, but when it’s 4am, choices are somewhat limited and there is a bit of road trip nostalgia that is evoked. I decided on grabbing a breakfast sandwich and a coffee (I mentioned it was 4am, caffeine was a necessity!)

When I went to pay, I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to a meal with more coffee and hash browns. “No thank you!” I replied, only to hear “But you’ll save money.” Hmm, more for less – without really thinking about it, I agreed, saving myself a few pennies. It was a decision I would soon regret.

I sat down and ate my sandwich, and then, of course, felt compelled to try the potatoes. Sure enough, they were tasty, but not really what I wanted, and in the end they made me feel overly full and pretty sluggish. More importantly, I enjoyed my sandwich less because of the over-indulgence.

So what does this have to do with association membership? I guess it reminded me that we shouldn’t try to push unwanted membership benefits out. Ultimately, it has the potential to make people value things less. While I’m often in favor of bundling to encourage typical non-consumers to use services or buy products, my breakfast taught me a few things:

Key Takeaways

  • More isn’t always better – it might even be worse: Bundled products influence perceptions of quality. If you offer things that people don’t want as part of a bundle, you run the risk that it will taint their view of all the elements in the bundle, even those that they would have really liked on their own.
  • Bundling should increase profit margins: In my breakfast case, the restaurant lost money on two fronts: lost revenue, and increased cost. From an association perspective, things are different in that profit is only one measure of success. Reach and mission are also vital, so there may be some possible trade-offs between reduced margins and increased advancement. Ultimately though, the lesson is the same: bundling of services should be designed to increase success metrics, whether they be financial or other.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2012 7:53 am

    This is especially true at conferences where dinners, lunches, etc., are often bundled with the cost of registration.

    • April 5, 2012 12:42 pm

      Thanks, Scott. You’re right – we need to be very careful about how we use bundling. Bundling can be positive when it results in groups with different preferences for aspects of conferences interact, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of changing the perceived value of the conference. I think meeting planners should carefully examine everything in the budget to see if it aligns with organizational strategy. Too often, we tend to copy budgets and formats from year to year without asking ourselves if things are really needed. I really like starting with a fresh budget before looking at a previous one as a way of helping to challenge the status quo. Then using the past budgets to make adjustments, carefully examining if any additions really add value.

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