- Do we need something?
- Can we afford something?
- Do we feel comfortable about buying it from this outlet or person?
Do we have the funds available) but the majority of the criteria are, generally, emotional:
- Do we "like" what we are purchasing
- Do we "feel" comfortable about purchasing it
- Do we "feel" valued by the person offering it to us, etc
In the majority of case, our "feeling good about it" state has nothing at all to do with the product or service itself but more to do with our overall emotional state.
This emotional side of things plays a key part in becoming and remaining a member of just about an membership organisation.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow published his theory on the human hierarchy of needs in a paper called "A theory of human motivation".
His basic premise was that as humans we have a hierarchy of needs that need to be satisfied before we will move to the next stage of need.
At the bottom of Maslow's pyramid of needs are the "physiological needs".
These are the basics - the need to survive and everything else is secondary to these.
Next we have the "security needs", these are important for survival but are not as demanding as the physiological needs.
Above the security needs, we have the "social needs".
These are the needs relating to belonging, love and affection and relate to our need for companionship and acceptance.
Above social needs, we have our "Esteem Needs".
Once we have achieved the first three levels of need, our sense of value and worth becomes increasingly important, and leads to the fifth level.
This being "self actualising" needs where we are concerned with personal growth and fulfilling our overall potential.
This very brief outline of Maslow's hierarchy of needs provides an outline for analysing why people become members and why they remain members, and gain emotional value from such membership, going forward.
It also gives us a mechanism for reviewing, from an emotional standpoint, why people cease being members and gives us a way of reviewing how our membership offering needs to change to meet members emotional needs.
At the basic - physiological needs - level, a member may need to be a member of an organisation in order to play a part in his or her career, or to pursue their selected leisure activity.
Beyond the basic need to be a member, our security needs are typically met by membership organisations informational services - advice lines, guidance, etc.
The social needs are met by the membership engagement and community aspects of a membership organisation.
Being an engaged member meets these social needs.
As we engage with fellow members and the membership organisation, and get asked to take part in committees, submit whitepapers, speak at conferences, contribute to forums, etc so we meet our "esteem" needs and are recognised by our peers.
At the highest level - the "self -actualising" level - members are actively working with the membership organisation and typically fulfilling roles within that organisation such as board member, committee chairperson, regional co-ordinator, etc.
For any membership organisation, it is generally possible to map different membership grades and years of membership to the hierarchy "pyramid" and to plot a member's progress up the pyramid.
It is equally possible, and indeed essential, to identify those aspects of membership that go to address each of the levels of the pyramid.
Where there is no alignment between a membership organisations overall offering and the lowest level of the pyramid, there is unlikely to be much of a membership base.
There is no compelling reason and to join, and certainly no long term reason to remain a member, in terms of meeting basic emotional needs.
At the other end of the extreme, where members are heavily engaged and involved with a membership organisation and with each other, and where the value can be clearly seen, there is little likelihood of members leaving an organisation and more likelihood of them recommending it to their peers.
Producing an "emotions" map, and aligning it to their current and future membership journeys and experiences, is increasingly being used by enlightened membership organisations to ensure that not only do their meet the "procedural" needs of their membership base but also their "emotional" needs.
It is certainly clear that addressing the emotional side of membership management is as important, and arguably is much more important, as any other aspect of membership management - such as procedural renewal or financial management - in attracting and retaining members on a long term basis.
The more a membership organisation can address an individual's emotional needs the more likely they are to retain that member, get more value from that member, and have that member recommend that his peers join the organisation - all of the essential ingredients for building a successful membership organisation.