By Matt Payne

Groucho Marx famously said he didn’t want to belong to any club that would have him as a member – but maybe if he had been given a better membership card he would’ve changed his mind? Here are 7 ways to make membership cards that customers are proud to own.

1. Make It Pretty

So many membership cards look boring, dull and uninspiring, fulfilling only a utilitarian function. The design for such cards is sometimes a product of laziness but often it’s motivated by fear – fear that an interesting, colourful, bold or artistic design might offend someone’s taste. The result is an unforgettable card that fails to elicit any kind of emotional reaction at all. So why not use a design that’ll get people talking? Even if the design isn’t to people’s taste, they will still appreciate the effort and quality of the card if they’re produced to a high standard.

2. Be Exclusive

If anyone and everyone is eligible for your membership card then trying to make it look ‘exclusive’ will seem tacky and send out confusing brand messages. On the other hand, if your cards are reserved for paying customers or those meeting specific criteria there’s no reason you shouldn’t make those customers feel privileged to be in possession of your card. Black and a sparing dash of gold traditionally works well for cards wanting to convey exclusivity, but other colours such as pastel blues and deep greys can also work well.

Since these colours might not match your regular brand colours you have two options. The first is to make sure that other aspects of your branding, such as your logo, are prominent so there’s no doubt about what the card is for. The second more daring option is to do away with your brand and make a card that looks as if it’s trying to fly under the radar. If executed correctly the card says ‘our club is so exclusive we don’t even want outsiders knowing it exists’ creating a real buzz around your card.

3. Make It Useful or Interesting

Does your membership card actually do anything or is it just a colourful piece of plastic that would do as much good in a landfill site as in your customer’s purse or wallet? Make your membership card more useful by arranging for local businesses to provide discounts to card holders for example, or make it interesting by providing trivia related to your business or industry on the back side. Let your creativity run wild.

4. Offer Choice

One way to make your customers feel more personally involved with your company is by giving them a choice of different designs. They’ll feel more attached to a membership card if it’s one they’ve requested.

An alternative is to ask your customer a seemingly innocuous question and then use that answer to choose which card to send them. A library could ask new members to choose their favourite author from a selection, for example, and then send them a card that was illustrated to show a scene from one of their novels or with a famous quotation. You shouldn’t underestimate how little touches like these are recognised and appreciated by your customers.

5. Commemorate an Event

Marking a national or historical event that’s relevant to your business with special limited edition membership cards is one way to instantly make them feel more special and show off your brand’s character. Transport for London’s Oyster card commemorating 150 years of the underground, is a perfect example of recognising heritage, but even if your business is only five or ten years old you might want to celebrate it with a special card. While you’re at it why not notify the local press or relevant blogs about your limited edition card for some added exposure?

6. Reward Loyalty

They say gaining new customers is harder than retaining existing ones, but this doesn’t mean you should be complacent about your most loyal customers. After all, these are also the ones more likely to sing your praises to their friends and family. So show them you appreciate their dedication to your brand by providing them with a special limited edition membership cards that recognises their continued custom.

7. Don’t Skimp on Quality

While the previous ideas have been suggestions that may or may not work depending on the type of business you have and what you want your card to do, this last tip is non-negotiable for any business that sells itself on the quality of its products or services.

Chipped plastic, poor print quality and cards that just feel cheap are some of the problems you can get with cards if you don’t have them made by a reputable, professional company. Your membership card acts as a representative of your business, so do your homework before having a stack of them made – read reviews, ask friends for recommendations and look for a printing company that can offer guaranteed satisfaction.