Note: This article was previously published in January 2020; we’ve updated it since then! Enjoy!
As providers of membership management software, we're often asked what our thoughts are on membership cards. For a new club or organization going through a change, introducing or revamping membership can make a big impact on your business.
In this article, we'll explore what membership cards are, their benefits for organizations, and how you can make the most of your membership card program.
Most people have a membership card or two tucked away inside their wallets. Membership cards are given to those who have signed up to be part of your club or organization. They're similar to loyalty cards you might get from big-name retailers in that they often come with a list of benefits exclusive to cardholders.
Most membership cards are plastic cards and are a similar size to credit cards and gift cards, so they're easy for members to carry around at all times. You can also opt for a smaller design that attaches to key tags — perfect for gyms, health clubs, and grocery stores. Most membership cards feature the same details like member name, organization name, membership type, and membership ID.
As consumers, we are often aware of the benefits of membership or loyalty cards. We gain access to discounts, promotions, and exclusive members-only events. But how do they help businesses?
Here are some of the strongest ways that a membership card scheme can positively influence a club or organization.
There's something about receiving a personalized membership card that reminds you you're more than just a number. You realize you're part of something — a club, organization, or group that has meaning and purpose.
When your members see their card in their wallet, on their car keys, they think of your organization. If your club or organization is mostly digital or infrequently meets, having something tangible like a membership card is a good added reminder for your members. This sense of belonging gives your members a reason to stay up to date with what you’re doing, check for relevant offers and discounts, and get involved in events or activities.
If you run a health club, spa, or other members-only space, you'll want a good level of control over who can access it. After all, once people learn that a VIP area isn't monitored, it loses some prestige.
Personalized membership cards can act like an ID card that grants your members access to exclusive areas while helping you keep them secure and free of unwanted visitors. It's easy to add a photograph to your cards to let your staff know they're giving access to the right people.
The sight of your membership card doesn't just create a sense of belonging; it can prompt an extra visit or improved attendance. Combined with special offers and members-only discounts, your card can encourage repeat business from people who may have previously only visited or purchased from you a few times.
An industry that does this well is grocery stores. Their membership or loyalty cards are often free to opt in to, with benefits that include exclusive discounts, money off your shopping, and more. With a loyalty scheme like this, people are more likely to keep coming back as, over time, they see greater benefits from being a member.
When used, your membership cards are highly visible to members and the people around them. This makes them a great opportunity to promote your club or organization to new people who may not have otherwise found your business.
Take annual memberships, for example. If your member uses their card to access a location, the people who accompany them may be curious and ask about the membership. They'll want to figure out whether it's worth buying or not, especially if they're regular visitors or could see themselves coming several times over the year.
Your membership card becomes a talking point and an opportunity to convert someone into a high-quality lead. Another way to increase visibility is to provide lanyards at events and transform your member cards into ID badges for event attendees.
If you run events and activities, you know how tough it is to manage the sign-in desk — especially for a large training event or conference. Plastic membership cards make this process much easier, as you can simply ask members to swipe or scan their card on entering.
Not only do membership cards help with registering people on the way in, but they can also be a useful tool to evaluate how popular an event or workshop is. Thanks to a barcode or magnetic stripe, the card can be linked to a member's account, and you can see which events they've attended or promotions they've activated.
You'll get a feel for the popularity of activities and discounts so you can eliminate those that aren't effective and focus on those that bring in attendance and revenue.
If you're creating a membership card program, why not take it to the next level? Here are some creative ways to make the most of your cards — with benefits for both you and your members.
While you may be thinking of keeping your membership simple for both you and your users' sake, tiered memberships can introduce some interesting benefits. They allow you to convert more people into members — especially if you offer an attractive free or low-cost membership tier. You'll also find that loyal supporters of yours will feel proud to opt for your highest tier membership as a way to give back or invest in a group they believe in.
With a slightly different membership card for each tier, you can maximize the benefits. People love to feel like VIPs, so your higher tier members will feel a sense of exclusivity every time they see your card in their wallet.
It's easier to restrict access to areas based on different colored cards, making it easier for staff to know who should have access to what — without the need for photos. You could create additional or more enticing benefits for your highest tiers of membership, which can encourage more people to take advantage of these offers. You could even offer card personalization as an exclusive option for your top membership level.
There's something attractive about an exclusive, unusual, or limited edition version of an item. There’s an incentive for highly competitive people or collectors to take the extra steps to add limited edition items to their collection.
You can use this sense of competition to create a buzz around your limited or special edition membership cards. Whether you use them to reward membership milestones or members taking part in more activities, limited edition cards can become a real talking point.
One way to take this idea further and see greater benefits for your loyalty and revenue is to introduce requirements to unlock a particular card, like activating and using a promotion or attending a certain number of events over the year. This encourages members to be active, which is excellent news for your club or organization, and members see an extra reward in the form of a card that offers an exclusive card design or additional benefit.
As people become more used to digital wallets for payment and store card apps, digital membership cards are becoming popular.
With Join It, you can opt to send your members a digital membership card that’ll appear in their Apple Wallet or Android Passbook. This is an excellent option for members who don’t always carry a wallet with them and otherwise miss out on membership benefits.
Join It's digital cards store all the same details as physical ones, including organization name and membership ID, in a convenient new way for the digital generation.
We think there's a lot of value you can find in creating or upgrading your membership card offer. It's an opportunity to connect with your members, give them a physical token of their loyalty, and create a program of incentives that works for both you and them.
Combined with a strong membership database, membership cards can be an effective way to increase loyalty, affinity, repeat visits, and increased revenue for your club or business. If that's on your radar, it may be worth looking into whether membership cards are the next step for your organization.
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