Your members are not all the same. And their needs are not the same, either, even though they may practice in the same industry or profession.

We know that some may value the magazine, conference, networking opportunities, or other services you offer, while others may not.

But your members' situations may differ, and that's where you'll face your greatest challenges.

So, try your best to provide each of them with what they want - not what you think they should want and not what you want them to want. And recognize that their needs may change over time.

Here are just a few of the variables that may dictate your members' needs:

AGE: Older members may be most interested in educational offerings and continuing education credits. They are often established in their professions and secure in their jobs. Younger members may prioritize lifestyle issues, paying off student loans, and finding jobs. For many, concerns about professional growth will come later.

WORK SETTING: Members employed by large organizations may enjoy more resources, have better access to mentors, and are accustomed to bureaucracy. Those working in small shops are likely to suffer from far more limitations and routinely make decisions "on the fly."

MARKETING REACH: Businesses seeking local customers will execute very different marketing strategies than will those with a regional, state, national, or international focus. And chain stores will approach administration, promotion, and facilities planning differently than will single-site boutiques.

FUNDING: Members with deep pockets will exercise much more flexibility in decision-making than will undercapitalized businesses. That will impact dues payments, employee travel, marketing, investment, and just about every other aspect of operations.

AUTHORITY: Owners and executives will usually possess decision-making power and may allocate resources that benefit their activities, even if it doesn't help other employees. Those who do not make their own decisions may have to ask permission to travel or to purchase association products, and their requests may be denied.

JOB DUTIES: Members who perform multiple duties on the job may display less loyalty to the association and feel less inclined to renew their membership if the area you represent becomes less significant to them.

So, pay attention to these differences and don't simply pitch to the "ideal" member - unless that's the only kind of member you want.