experiment_in_progressHow about a little experiment?

No science beakers or shock therapy required. This one really just requires you to think critically about your business and how you treat your customers.

Here it is:

Change out the word “customers” and replace it with “members.”

Sure, most of you reading this don’t have “members.” Maybe you don’t have regular dues or subscription fees as part of your business model.

Even if your business is built around infrequent transactions, like washing machines or mansions, pause for a minute and think about your “members.”

Would having members instead of customers change how your brand operates? It should.

Think about the nature of having customers who pay for your services on a recurring basis. They can’t be treated the same as transactional customers because that isn’t enough to keep them paying over and over again.

Yet, simple transactions are how most brands operate. The customer buys, and away they go.

The entire brand experience is based on the performance of the product/service. In some cases, the post-purchase customer service experience plays a significant role.

Organizations with members have to invest in the total experience. That’s onboarding, billing, community creation, and so on.

They don’t just have to win the customer every once in a while – it’s an every day, every interaction effort.

After all, every interaction with a brand, whether we want to admit it or not, is a potential pivot point.

Emails, billboards, customer service calls, Tweets. Each one can reinforce a customer’s decision to be a part of a brand or sow doubt in their minds.

Companies that treat their customers as members, that focus on building the relationship, have the best shot at winning the next transaction. And the one after that.


Here’s another way of thinking about it that should connect with a few of you: what does Netflix do to keep you paying each month? Your initial reaction may be something as simple as “good movies and shows.”

That close curation of their core product is a major part of it. They’re motivated to select the most intriguing content for the community, not to mention creating their own content.

But it goes deeper than just content. It’s the data they collect from your viewing habits that’s used to serve up content you might be interested in. The emails with new releases. The clear communication about price increases. The free trial that first brought you in the door, and on and on.

All those things add up to the member experience, and play a role in why a large portion of us continue to pay each month. Remove any of those elements and we’re less likely to continue paying.

That’s the difference between customers and members.


What would you change if you had members instead of customers? We’re not talking about changing your business model, but instead your approach to the people that pay for your product or service.

It could be investing in a better onboarding experience, or having more frequent, non-transactional messages sent to customers. Maybe it’s building a better customer feedback program, or implementing a loyalty program.

It’s ironic. Most brands aren’t interested in customers until it’s time for a transaction. Meanwhile, brands that serve customer relationships have a far easier time earning each transaction.

Think about members over customers. People over transactions. Value over revenue.

Let me know how your experiment goes.

(image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson)