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How Much Do You Pay for…

writing-a-check“How much is your membership in ASAE and The Center for Association Leadership?” This is the question I asked to a group of senior staff from the American Urological Association (AUA). Staff from every department within the organization was sitting around the table, waiting for our meeting to begin. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss a potential increase in membership fees as well as a change in how benefits would be bundled with dues. Before we began our discussion, I went around the room and asked everyone who was a member of ASAE to tell me how they paid to belong to the organization. Only one person in the room could accurately tell me how much she paid last year. What was even more interesting was the range of fees suggested by the individuals in the room. One individual could have sworn she paid about $275 while another one thought it was closer to $600.

We went through this exercise because I wanted to demonstrate that, for many of the items we buy, we do not have an actual sense of what we pay or even how much the product, program or even membership within a professional organization should cost. There may be a gut feeling that something is too expensive or priced too low and, therefore, we may question the quality and value of the item. However, studies have shown that very few people can accurately quote the price of many of the items they buy. The exercise I conducted with the AUA staff in the conference room on that day served to reinforce that finding.

Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule, specifically when it comes to frequency or loyalty to a brand. For example, you probably know exactly how much you pay for items bought on a regular basis, such as your morning cup of Starbucks coffee, a song downloaded from iTunes or a can of Diet Coke purchased from the vending machine in your office building. Yet, even if you know exactly what you pay for these items, you may be willing to pay more for them than the next best alternative because of a perception of unique value and quality.

The following is an excerpt from The Art of Membership: How to Attract, Retain and Cement Member Loyalty (ASAE Series) published by ASAE and Jossey-Bass (January 2014).