a person jumping over sharks on risk mitigation bubbles

In behavioral psychology there's a concept called "loss aversion." Loss aversion is the tendency we have as humans to prefer avoiding losses over equivalent gains. Of course we all prefer avoiding losses, but loss aversion says that our response to potential losses is more dramatic than to gains. The potential of losing creates more avoidance than the potential of gain creates seeking.

If I offered you a deal where we'd flip a coin and if it was heads you'd pay me $50 and if it was tails, I'd pay you $50, most people would avoid that deal- despite the risk being equal. 

Loss aversion is one of the emotional responses to risk that sabotages offers. Regardless of how attractive your membership offer is to a potential member, if it doesn't address their risk, they're more likely to avoid signing up than joining your association. Risk is the final, critical, hurdle that your offer must overcome in order to gain new members.

What We Desire is Risky

Risk is a consequence of relevance. Whatever in your membership offer is most relevant to a potential member is where they'll experience the most risk.  In other words, what makes it attractive is what creates caution.

If a potential member is excited about your offer because it tells them that they'll form friendships with people who can support their career, they'll wonder, "What if people aren't friendly? Will I be an outsider?"

If they're excited because you're advocating for their industry on capital hill, they'll wonder, "But how effective are they? What have they actually accomplished?"

Prove, Mitigate, Reverse

To overcome risk, there are three strategies you can employ in your membership offer:

  1. Prove. Prove they'll get what they want. Using evidence like testimonials or statistics is an effective way to use proof to de-risk an offer.
  2. Mitigate. Mitigation is where you minimize the potential loss in an offer with certain gains. It's where you say, "Worst case scenario, you'll still benefit this way." Many associations offer a year membership packaged into their conference at a heavily discounted price. If someone is already paying to attend the conference, the risk of membership is minimized because the were already sold on the event. They see it as an only gain option.
  3. Reverse. Reversing risk is where you take on the risk rather than the person you're trying to convince. For example, if you offer a three month trial before someone has to commit to joining, you're taking on the risk that they may not get what they're looking for and not join after the trial expires.

A Compelling Reason to Join

Addressing risk is the final layer of our "Member Magnet Framework." Tackling risk along with offering relevant and unique benefits forms the three components of the framework. Without addressing each of these three needs, your membership offer won't be compelling. And it's critical to have a compelling offer because it stands at the precise point in a potential member's journey when they give membership their full consideration. It's the sign in the crossroads that either directs them in or turns them away.

John Hooley
President, Steward

John is a graduate of 10,000 Small Businesses, a certified Customer Acquisition Specialist, and a Zend Certified Engineer. He speaks and writes on connecting digital strategy to association goals. Outside of work he's an avid traveler, climber, diver, and a burgeoning sailor. He also volunteers with Rotary and Big Brothers Big Sisters.