The Role of the Emotional Value Proposition in Cultivating Member Loyalty and Activism

May 7, 2009 at 7:30 pm Leave a comment

Paris Balcony_b&w photograph by Stuart MeyerIf there was one thing an association marketing team must do is put the general principles of behavioral economics into practice at all levels of strategy, tactics and relationships.
Behavioral economics reveals the power of emotion in decision-making even in the presence of rational facts. Think of it as what I termed a couple of years ago as Association EQ or the Emotional Value Proposition (EVP).  Decision-making behavior of any kind is as much comprised of our impulsive emotional psychology as it is our ability to rationalize or think logically.
Allot of associations do a good job of skimming the surface of logical behavior through research in constructing their practical value proposition, but many miss the significant opportunity to venture deeper into the layers of emotional psychology which drives motivation and behavior beyond the bounds of practical value.

Satisfy a member’s intellectual need and they may hang on for a little longer. Cultivate a humanizing emotional connection between the member and your association and you might have them as a loyal member and promoter for life… or as long as they still like what they do for a living. 

To me, great marketing is about making a human connection at a personal level which results in a sense of belonging. Doing so can be achieved through direct interactions or by indirect emotive multi-sensory storytelling.  An example of the first would include traditional one-to-one networking or the considerable opportunities presented by online networking-based social media.  An example of the second would be a powerful story told via a fusion of messaging, sight and/or sound, such as a documentary video.

At a primitive level, member loyalty is rooted in a two-way sense of caring, I care about the association because I perceive through my experiences that the association cares about me, not just as a professional but most importantly as a human being. 

As human beings, when we care about something we also tend to become protective of its interest. For associations, this translates into voluntary activist behavior which serves to either promote the association or defend it against detractors.  Keep thinking the value and potential of making personalized human connections via social media and suddenly Twitter will start to make allot of sense.

Don’t think any of this is true? Try the following questions during your next focus group or one-on-one interview, sit forward and listen carefully to the responses:

– How does it “feel” to be a member of this profession?

– How does it “feel” when you are practicing this profession on any given day?

– How does it “feel” to be a member of this association?

– How does it “feel” to be at this conference?

– When you interact with members, how does it make you “feel”?

– When you interact with association staff, how does it make you “feel”?

– When you interact with leaders of this association, how does it make you “feel”?

– How does it “feel”… you get the idea.

One additional bonus note, behavioral economics not only applies to the role of emotional psychology in the decision-making process of members but also the actions of board leaders, senior management, internal departments, colleagues, direct reports, indirect reports, external stakeholders, media, the general public, neighbors, relatives, husbands, wives, children and even the DMV. In other words, any member of the human race.

In closing, here are two of my favorite guiding quotes when it comes to the emotional complexity of human decision making as it relates to marketing or any endeavor:

I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”  Unknown 

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou


Entry filed under: Human Imperfection, participation, people, Social Media, Volunteer Strategy, Web 2.0 and Beyond.

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