Services Trump Membership

Whether games, apps, or memberships, current culture values the experience more than the delivery system.    Paid membership in an association is no longer required to experience interactions with like minds or explore common interests.  Think of the variety of LinkedIn groups or Twitter hashtags.    Several in the association community have been ringing the death knell for the membership model.  Two recent writers sounding the clarion call include Sarah Sladek who has written an entire book on the subject:   The Death of Membership as We Know It . Jeff DeCagna in Associations Unorthodox identifies shift #1 as “de-emphasize membership.”    Associations have held membership as a core value for a long time.    Seismic change is in the air.

In the technology world, hardware continues to give way to the higher priority of user service, individual experience, or product access.  In a post entitled  Amazon’s gadget as a service theme: Hardware becomes irrelevant soon by Larry Dignan (Editor-in-Chief of ZD Net)  reinforces the over-riding idea in today’s world, that hardware basically is  a conduit for users to access services or products.     Dignan highlighted Amazon’s   Jeff Bezos presentation of the new Kindle products, including the Kindle FireHD, and reinforced Bezos’s own statement that the company was focused not so much on the exciting hardware but more importantly on the easy access to products and services.  It’s no longer the tool, event, or meeting;  it’s access to people, information, knowledge when the user needs and wants it.

Users including association members  seek services, solutions, education, networking and meetings wherever they most easily and economically can be found.   Association members do not wait for the major announcement at the annual conference or the latest magazine; they search any engine for the desired information or contact source.  The search may or may not take the user to the association website.

Regardless of platform, associations must create, promote, push services and products of high value.   Such value will include regular, ongoing opportunities for member to member interaction.    The seamless nature of these interactions will flow day in and day out.  With just a few key taps,  association members can access information, have questions answered, and connect with other like-minded individuals often not via  the association site.  In a digital world, services and experiences will trump membership.   Associations, are you listening?