Originally created 09/05/97

Discounts can help area business



A health-insurance cooperative that gives members baseball tickets and a horse-racing club that offers discounts on western wear are two of the many types of extra benefits that come with joining some associations.

Offering the discounts can be good for business.

"You can get more customers because of the discounts," said Mark Benson, store manager at the Goodyear Tire and Service Center in Augusta. "It helps with the business relationships in the community."

Goodyear's corporate office set up discounts with several state associations that have members in Augusta.

Gauging the effectiveness of member discounts can be difficult for some businesses. John Watson, co-owner of Speed Car Wash on Wrightsboro Road who gives $1 discounts to Realtors, said: "It's an intangible-type thing because you can't pinpoint it. I wouldn't offer the discounts if I didn't think it was good for the company."

Executives at many associations seem to agree that side benefits may not be the reason members join, but they can be one reason members renew.

"I don't think these freebies are what people join for," said Jim Fuzy, executive director of the Greater Augusta Aiken Area Healthcare Coalition. His members can get Augusta GreenJackets baseball tickets and a 10-percent discount at La Maison restaurant. He speculated that member seminars on health-care issues were more valuable.

"These are the types of things that might help keep people in the coalition," he said.

James Lyle, president of Health Consultants of America, said doctors join the five medical societies his company manages to also attend seminars where they can earn credit needed to renew their licenses to practice. On the other hand, members of the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors get discounts on their continuing education seminars through contributions from their affiliate members.

"A lot of the stuff we couldn't do if it weren't for the affiliates and the things they do for us," said Beverly Pardue, executive director of the Realtors association.

Sponsor fees, like those from a member credit card, help the National Barrel Horse Association keep dues low, according to Ty Hoff, special projects manager.

"Members perceive that as an extra benefit. They think it's neat to have the association logo on their credit card," he said. "NBHA members buy what has been `endorsed' by the association."

Such endorsements help members narrow product choices to companies worthy of their colleagues' approval, said Diane James, executive director of the Georgia Society of Association Executives in Atlanta. "That certainly beats the Yellow Pages."