correct diverse diversity 1282270

30 elements of value matter to your members: Do you know what they are?

At Research by Design, we work with membership organisations to dig deeper into member wants and needs to understand what they truly value. To do so, we draw on our wealth of experience in the membership sector – plus the richest and most robust insights from the value proposition literature. Here we look at Bain Company’s Elements of Value and what it means for membership organisations.

Bain Company is no stranger to developing ideas that reshape the business landscape. In 2003, Frederick Reichheld, now a fellow at the company, introduced Net Promoter Score (NPS), now widely used across organisations to understand customer loyalty. In 2015, partner Eric Almquist and colleagues developed the Elements of Value pyramid, the fruit of many years research into what customers value and why they buy into a brand or product again and again.

Introducing the Elements of Value

The pyramid takes as its foundation Abraham Maslow’s seminal work on human motivation, originally published in 1943. Maslow depicted a hierarchy of human needs, which was later visualised as a pyramid, that starts at its base with the most fundamental needs (e.g. food, safety) and rises up through love and belonging, esteem and, finally, self-actualisation.

Inspired by Maslow’s model, Almquist and colleagues investigated the fundamental building blocks of customers’ value perceptions, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative studies. They identified thirty “elements of value”, as they describe them, that contribute to these perceptions. While individual notions of value vary, according to their research they are always made up of some combination of these discrete elements.

The elements are arranged in a pyramid (pictured below) with the functional or basic needs (e.g. saves time, makes money) at the base, then rising up through emotional (e.g. reduces anxiety), life changing (e.g. provides hope), through to social impact. While it is important to meet some of a customer’s functional needs as a consumer, it’s the three higher levels that deliver real “punch” in terms of value.


30 Elements of value graphic


In a collaboration with online sampling and data collection company, ResearchNow, Almquist tested out the model using a sample of more than 10,000 US consumers and 50 well known products. They found that the more elements of value delivered, the higher the organisation’s NPS score and the greater its revenue growth. While it’s not realistic to deliver on all thirty elements, the research found that high performers were delivering on eight or more. The exact combination of elements needed depends, of course, on the industry.

Almquist concluded that the most successful companies understand the value elements that matter most to their customers, how their organisation measures up, and which elements to add to foster growth.

Applying the model to the membership sector

For membership organisations, Bain Company’s approach offers an opportunity to help organisations grow membership and foster engagement through gaining a deeper understanding of what members truly value. It’s an opportunity we bring to light in our Member Value Proposition workshops, by helping our membership clients develop a rich picture of what their members value most highly.

Let’s look at how this works at each level of Almquist’s pyramid:

At this level, a membership offering might focus on the elements of value: quality, informs, connects and organises. These are fundamental elements that can manifest in delivering a top professional journal, providing updates on the latest developments in the profession, connecting members with peers and providing tools to more easily track CPD requirements.

Moving up the pyramid, membership might offer value by reducing anxiety, providing “badge value” (i.e. something that represents achieved status or aspirations), and providing access. Here the organisation delivers value by, for instance, providing support and representation in difficult circumstances, acknowledging expertise and experience through post-nominal letters and providing access to the leading experts or latest technologies available in the profession.

Life Changing and Social Impact
Reaching up to the highest two levels of the pyramid means delivering elements of value that members hold in high regard and which engender a real depth of feeling. At the life changing level, this may mean delivering a sense of affiliation and belonging as well as helping to motivate them in their careers. At the pinnacle of the pyramid, known as self-transcendence, membership organisations can connect into members’ desire to be a part of something that matters, to do social good in society through their professional life.

Taking the next step

At RbD we’re seeing the membership sector collectively shifting towards a greater understanding of value as it seeks to get beyond needs and wants, and features and benefits, to deliver value that really matters.

To help you take the next step in designing your organisation’s value proposition, we’ve developed an 8-step checklist to help you evaluate whether your current approach is fit-for-purpose. We’ve also written posts on how the value proposition can drive success and have real impact for membership organisations.

To further tap into the expertise of the RbD team as you develop your value proposition, get in touch for an informal chat about your needs and to learn how our Member Value Proposition Design workshop can help fast track your progress.

This entry was posted in Membership, Member Value Proposition, tagged Membership, Market Research, Member Behaviour and posted on September 3, 2018

<< Back