To open 2016, we put forth a bold suggestion that would help every company create better customer engagement and loyalty.
We doubt any of you took the new business budget and dumped it all into retention. But hopefully the idea of engagement and loyalty having a big voice at the table resonated.
This year, we have another big idea.
Kinda paradigm shifty, if jargon is your thing.
Here it is: get rid of all your customers.
Beginning today, you have no customers. Zero.
"Why would I do something that stupid?" you may be asking.
Well, hear us out for a minute.Because here's why: you're replacing all of your customers with "members."
We're not suggesting you actually stop working with your customers. Don't start over from scratch.
We're not suggesting you shift your business model to a subscription or membership model. (Though plenty of companies are finding success doing so.)
We're merely suggesting a shift from focusing on transactions to relationships.
The easiest way to do this is stop thinking of the people who buy from you as customers and more as long-term members. Like friends, or even family.
What's the Difference Between a Customer and a Member?
When someone becomes a customer, they've made a purchase. You convinced them to select your product. They buy, and maybe the experience is enough to merit another purchase when the time comes.
Membership takes a different approach. This model seeks to create value outside of the simple transaction in order to ensure more business.
The relationship, and the value the member receives from it on an ongoing basis, becomes the product.
When a member signs up, the organization has a set period of time to earn a renewal - the next transaction. It could be a month. It could be a year. But there's a finite amount of time available to earn that next transaction.
More than a Mindset
Just shifting your mindset from "customers" to "members" can have a nice impact on how you do business. But we recommend actually putting the shift into action by altering your customer experience.
Treating someone like a member comes with specific actions that comprise a membership process.
For example, there must be some sort of onboarding process that introduces a member to the company, and sets them on the best path for success.
There must be ongoing communication - and not just sales. The member must be guided to get the most out of their membership. Encourage them to use member benefits and all the other perks of being in business with you.
By the time the next renewal or purchase comes up, the member should clearly know they got the better end of the bargain.
What’s the Benefit of Having Members Instead of Customers?
Why all the fuss over members instead of customers? What's really going to be in it for your organization?
To start, this approach gives you the best shot to retain customers for years to come. Retained customers deliver higher returns and cost less than acquiring new ones. Because you're treating them like members and focusing on delivering value, you'll have steady, predictable revenue on an ongoing basis.
The best part is that revenue will grow as you prove your value to members over and over again. As we learned in our Membership Economy webinar, satisfied members will become your biggest advocates and referral engines. Nothing influences purchasing decisions and brand perception like word of mouth - but it must be earned.
This active base of superusers can help you set a clear path for your organization. Your most active members take a personal stake in your company because they see a return on their investment. They'll help protect the brand, provide lots of feedback (which you want to encourage), and help peers get the most out of whatever it is you offer.
You'll know what makes them tick, which makes new member acquisition much simpler.
Go Take Care of Your Members
That’s you, plumbers, authors, roofers, gas stations, insurance agents, retailers, financial institutions, and so on.
Membership is all about filling in the blanks between purchases and ensuring that next transaction comes to your door. That's considered loyalty by a lot of folks, but this is something even different than that.
It's more like equal footing, being in a family or being around your tribe. There's trust, open dialog, comfort.
Those are things not typically associated with brands, and companies with something to sell. But it's how people make decisions. Therefore, brands have to change their approach.
The best way for any company to get on the favorable side of those decisions is to stop thinking of customers as customers, and start treating them like members.
(fantastic members only ad from)