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Last week we made a strong suggestion that companies get rid of all their customers - and replace them with members.

A customer is someone who buys something. A member is someone who belongs to something.

We should all aim to have members, even if we don't have a formal membership structure. Members, in this sense, are customers who have developed a deeper, ongoing relationship with your product or brand.

These relationships don’t happen by accident. Some brands can develop deep cult followings, but not all of us can be Apple or Starbucks.

We can however, borrow specific tactics from membership groups designed to build engagement and long-term loyalty.

Start small. Try any of these 17 engagement tactics used by some of the largest membership organizations in the world.

In a perfect world new members join your organization with an understanding of your purpose and your value to them.

They renew forever and ever and refer their friends who become loyal members themselves. Everyone's happy and dancing and singing and sharing candy and life is just awesome.

The real world obviously works a bit differently.

In the real world there are dozens of reasons why someone might join your organization. Once they've joined, each member has dozens of reasons why they might or might not retain their membership.

In the real world they often whine, complain, bicker and most definitely do not share their candy.

This is reality, where membership organizations fight a constant battle to keep members engaged and focused amidst a million other priorities and distractions.

Member engagement is how you're going to earn the loyalty you need to thrive and grow.

What you're looking to do is build avenues for engagement that any member can connect with.

Not all of them will attend live events. 

Not all of them will network with fellow members.

Not all of them will ever visit your website even once.

None of those mean they're not engaged and active. None of those mean they won't renew their membership or tell their peers to join.

You can still build excitement and action with every member.

It just takes energy, a lot of effort, and some creativity. 

We're here to help.

Stated simply, customer engagement is the depth of the relationship a customer has with a brand.

It’s a fair question that’s being asked with more frequency, as businesses are realizing that customer loyalty is largely a result of frequent positive engagement. As the typical consumer wields power with more information and choices, engagement has become the primary channel to ensure that a brand is “top of mind” when a purchase needs to occur.

Customer engagement is built and rebuilt (or destroyed) with every brand interaction, whether that’s making a purchase, reading a Tweet, joining a loyalty program, receiving an email, passing by a billboard, stumbling onto an online review, having a conversation with a friend, or any other exposure to a brand.

Each of those interactions hopefully connects the brand with the customer’s needs and preferences. Create those relevant messages with frequency, and that’s how customer engagement is built.

There’s a longtime adage in business that says it costs five times more (or even more) to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. It’s cited all over the place, but no one is quite clear on its origins. Don Peppers attributed it to a Harvard Business Review article “from a couple decades ago.” Ipsos Loyalty says it’s outright untrue.

The truth is, there are a number of cost variables every company has in play that muddy the waters between retention and acquisition. There are complicating factors on each side of the equation, but in general, it’s going to cost more to bring a customer in than to keep one in the fold.

That makes it sound so easy. Combine it with the Pareto Principle (80% of sales will come from 20% of customers) and you’ve got yourself a simple game plan for untold fortunes.

What those adages don’t mention is that customer retention is harder than acquisition.

2018 is the year you're going to make a ton of money. Even more than you're already making.

Some of it will come from new customers. 

But the majority of it will come from those already in your fold.

Hey, you're already here, on a customer engagement blog, so you've already taken the first step: getting serious about retention.

What happens from here? If they haven't already, 2018 is going to be the year when your executive team wakes up to the money they're losing out on by pursuing new business at the expense of current customers.

If they don't see it, you're going to be the one to pull that sword out of the stone and change the way your company does business.

Here's the good news.

It seems like we're several years into  "personalization" as the hot topic in marketing and sales. 

You can easily lump it in with other buzzwords like cryptocurrency and bots

For good reason, too. Personalization, when done correctly, is like using a cheat code to customer's hearts. It shows you know them and are paying attention.

Unfortunately so many brands aren't quite grasping the idea to build better relationships.

They're great at using personalization to make more sales; not so good at using it to engage customers and build loyalty.

While we're far from the idea of Big Data turning into "Big Delivery," customer data can be used for engagement and loyalty today.

Start with these few basic rules and concepts.