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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.

In this day and age, when consumers have more choices on where to spend their money, and more economic incentive to be overly selective about those choices, having a throw-away benefit is risky. It leads customers to question where their dollars are going, and gives them no reason to continue engaging beyond an initial perusal.

Here's why member benefits are so important: unless an organization makes great smartphones, computers, televisions or automobiles, chances are their customers aren't interacting with the brand every day. There's a good chance they've totally forgotten the organization entirely. This makes for an awkward conversation when bills come due or the customer is asked to make another purchase.

An Example of How Not to Benefit Your Customers

A mid-sized company looking for a discount program benefit contacted us about a year ago. After a few meetings and demos, they were totally seeing the positives of a quality program. Then when the time to make the decision came, they went with a freebie solution - a compilation of affiliate deals that drive small amounts of transactional revenue back to the organization.

It didn't matter if people wouldn't actually use or benefit from the program, they explained, because the company just needed to check the "discount program" box so their benefits could match what their competitors offered.


I joined a professional association once. Over the course of several years and thousands of dollars, this is what I had received for joining: a useful Powerpoint on writing press releases.

That’s all. Obviously, that relationship didn’t last too long. The press releases I’ve constructed since are better, I suppose. Worth my investment into the organization? Eh, nope.

Ask someone why they join a professional association and they’ll offer up networking, educational opportunities, certifications, or representation. All important and vital functions of any association.

Then, ask someone why they won’t renew a membership, or why they’re not interested in joining at all, and they’ll tell you it’s because they didn’t see the personal value in it. There’s just not enough in it for them to justify the expenditure.

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 crazy.

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.

Posted by Brandon Carter on Dec 27, 2016 9:34:00 AM

It's hard to believe that another year is already at an end, but the cold weather and snow outside our office are constant reminders that 2017 is just around the corner.

Looking back, 2016 was probably our best year ever. We know, it seems like we say that every year!

But it's true - Access Development experienced more growth and success than ever before. 2016 was just the latest in a steady upward trend for several years in a row now.

So what happened this year that's been so great? Here are just a few highlights from Access' 2016: