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The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue (Business Books) Hardcover – 1 Apr 2015
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From the Back Cover
“From Netflix to Spotify, over the past few years, subscription models have become a powerful and profitable business model in the digital economy. Robbie has written a unique, well-researched and very smart book for anyone interested in building one.”
David Kirchhoff, former CEO, Weight Watchers International and WeightWatchers.com
“At American Express, we've always been committed to putting our members at the center of everything we do. Robbie Baxter's book provides practical techniques and insightful new examples to guide organizations in building powerful, ongoing relationships with their members.”
Josh Silverman, President, Consumer Products and Services, American Express
“The Membership Economy is an insightful, research based look at the strategies and tactics needed to develop, grow and maintain a membership-style program for customers. It is perhaps the best, most detailed source I’ve found on this subject to date, and it has very much changed the way I think about our own growing membership program. I can’t recommend it enough.”
Mark Kupferman, VP, Insights & Interactive Marketing, Six Flags Entertainment Corp.
“Some will read The Membership Economy as an entertaining collection of stories about some of the most innovative organizations out there, while, for others, it will serve as a practical guide. It’s a fun insider view that’s also pragmatic.”
Marc Bodnick, CEO, Quora
“In The Membership Economy, Baxter explains, illustrates, and advocates for this new way of doing business ― you won’t want to miss it.”
Bob Baxley, Head of Product Design and Research, Pinterest
“Salesforce.com has always focused on open, transparent, ongoing relationships with members of our community, from customers to vendors to partners. As a result, we've been named for four consecutive years by Forbes. Companies that don’t build this kind of community will fall behind, but Robbie’s book can help any kind of organization leverage these principles and thrive. The Membership Economy is a critical read, and one that should be added to your business bookshelf this year.”
Leyla Seka, SVP & GM Desk.com at Salesforce.com
“Having seen and experienced the challenges of building long-term sustainable relationships involving membership organizations, Robbie Kellman Baxter offers clear examples and straightforward advice how to achieve success in both the non-profit and corporate sectors.”
Howard L. Wollner, Chairman, NPR Foundation
“There's a big difference between subscribers and members. From The Times to The Sun and now at The Wall Street Journal, we are committed to building our relationship with our customers around the principles of membership. Members are more engaged, more connected and more profitable. Read The Membership Economy to learn how to take your organization from transactional to relational.”
Katie Vanneck-Smith, Chief Customer Officer and Global Managing Director, Dow Jones
“As the leader of a major alumni relations office, I understand the importance of building long term relationships with our members. Robbie Kellman Baxter's practical advice will drive immediate results. If your organization depends on having highly engaged members, you should read The Membership Economy.”
Raphe Beck, Director of Alumni Relations, Stanford Graduate School of Business
“I've run a successful membership business for a while now. So I'd like to tell you to move along and not read this book... because why is Robbie Kellman Baxter giving away all our hard-won secrets? But I won't tell you that. Because The Membership Economy is great perspective on an important topic.”
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Everybody Writes
“Robbie’s book is packed with innovative ideas for pricing, acquisition, and engagement of customer. I highly recommend this book for any CEO who seeks to disrupt their industry by putting their customers at the center of everything they do.”
Heidi Roizen, Operating Partner, Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson
Lisa Gansky, entrepreneur and bestselling author of The Mesh
About the Author
Robbie Kellman Baxter is a consultant and speaker who has been providing strategic business advice to Silicon Valley companies for over 20 years. She is the founder of the consulting firm Peninsula Strategies LLC, and regularly presents to professional associations, leading universities, and corporations.
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She defines membership "as the state of being formally engaged with a organization or group on an ongoing basis. Members are part of the whole -- although they don't always contribute to the experience of other members. An organization able to build relationships with [begin italics] members [end italics] -- as opposed to plain customers [end italics] -- has a powerful competitive edge. It's not just changing the words you use; it's about changing the way you think about the people you serve and how you treat them."
Companies that thrive in what Baxter characterizes as the Membership Economy are annually ranked among those that are the best to work for and held in highest regard. They are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable with the greatest cap value in their competitive marketplace.
These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me (through Chapter 16), also listed to suggest the scope of Baxter's coverage:
o What Is the Membership Economy? (Pages 2-3)
o The Membership Economy Matters to Its Members (21-22)
o Membership Organizations Come in a Variety of Flavors, and, The Darker Side of the Membership Economy (27-29)
o Promote a Culture of Marketing Innovation (34-38)
o Why Marketing Loves Membership (41-42)
o The Steps in a Typical Sales Acquisition Funnel (46-52)
o What Defines an Organization's Superusers, Increasing the Number of Your Organization's Superusers, and Why Superusers Are Important to an Organization (58-63)
Note: These three separate but related passages need to be re-read frequently as reminders of key points.
o Seven Potential Revenue Streams (68-73)
o Common Pricing Mistakes (76-78)
o When Free Isn't Really Free: The Napster's Story (87-77)
o Technology Matters -- Especially in the Membership Economy (92-94)
o Key Technologies of the Membership Economy (94-95)
o Increase Engagement Over Time (102-104)
o SurveyMonkey: Going Upmarket While Staying True ton Early Customers (118-123)
o LinkedIn: Using Freemium to Avoid the Chicken-and-Egg Problem (130-132)
o Pinterest: Driving a New Way to Search by the Power of Community (132-135)
o Starbucks: Build Something Uniquely Tied to the Brand (139-141)
o American Express: Give Membership Its Privileges (148-151)
o How Mom and Pop Can Embrace the Membership Economy (158-159)
o What You Can Learn from Small Businesses and Consultancies (163-164)
As I worked my way through Baxter's eloquent as well as lively narrative, it seemed to me that her concept of a community within a membership economy bears stunning resemblance to Seth Godin's concept of a tribe. The members are devoted to each other, of course, but especially to the cause, mission, values, and indeed vision they share. Residents of what I call the Apple Orchard have no desire to be elsewhere. (I am now wearing out my sixth and seventh Apple computers. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, "I will give up my Apple when they peel my cold dead fingers from around it.") Harley owners have the same strong sense of ownership pride. More relevant to the Experience Economy is the community that my friends Bo Burlington and Paul Spiegelman co-founded, Inc. Small Giants Community, dedicated to "inspiring the next generation of business changemakers and values-driven entrepreneurs from across the land." Presumably Baxter agrees with Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Baxter makes skill use of several reader-friendly devices that include dozens of "Tables" (e.g. 6.1 "The Onboarding Process" and 10.1 "Secrets to Increase Loyalty: What the Pros Know") as well as a "Remember" section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-21 and her Conclusion. These devices facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.
Before concluding her book, Robbie Kellman Baxter expresses her desire to "be there" for all of her readers, if she can. Here's her offer: "If after reading this book, you want to incorporate the Membership Economy into your organization, let me know. I'm building an online community to support the Membership Economy, but in the meanwhile, just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your specific question, and I'll do my best to answer it. Best of luck, and keep in touch!"
I presume to stress the importance of collaboration because it really is essential to what "a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens" can accomplish in the Experience Economy. In this context, I am again reminded of my favorite passage in Lao-tse's Tao Te Ching:
"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."
Maybe you’re a member and haven’t realised it? The distinction can be lost, especially in the digital world. You can be a customer of Amazon (and member of its online service) but you are a member of Amazon Prime. Yet the concept can be more than just a subscription. Maybe it depends on what you are a member of and how you utilise your membership? A book such as this promises to explain the mystery which is, the author contends, the inevitable result of technological advancements, social trends, and a generation in transition.
The author argues that we are willingly moving away from the concept of ownership yet we still want the benefits of access, a feeling of ownership or community. There is pushback too and even a renaissance in owning physical things. Who knows what will win. Human nature shows we are prone to collecting things… Yet to a company, if you have the right product and service the concept of transitioning your customers to being members, a source of regular income and ever-closer relationships is an attractive concept. It can require more work than you might imagine and the customer can be fickle, loyal for a time and then quick to switch their affections to another suitor as required.
All the buzzwords can be brought under one roof. It is up to you to make something out of it all! There is more to building a “sticky relationship” than just acting as a glorified shop selling dubious member benefits and posting an questionably engaging, one-sided stream of curated content via social media. Customers, or members, are not necessarily as dumb as many assume.
The author presents an interesting, pragmatic and provoking look at what is undoubtedly a topic that is gathering traction. Are we as a society as connected as we want to be? We arguably are cutting other ties, becoming often more insular and yet we crave social acceptance and connection through social media. It can seem curious that we shun one form of connectivity in favour of a less concrete, more virtual form.
Yet is there a difference? Is membership and subscription so interchangeable? According to the author: “Membership is an attitude, an emotion. A subscription is a financial arrangement. It’s quite possible to be both a subscription and a membership organization. In fact, the membership economy is the logical extension of subscriptions. Many membership economy organizations don’t see themselves as membership. They say, “We have a subscription business.” Or “We’re a sharing business.” Or “We’re a transactional company with an affinity programme.” Or “We’re a social network.” Sometimes they say that membership organizations must be mission-driven non-profits or about connections among members.”
The author disagrees, noting that this is not true. Of course simple subscription benefits can exist but a lot of the value of membership can come through shared data and community feedback, such as how Netflix analyses its members’ behaviour to provide recommendations of other films. Some members enthusiastically use and embrace the membership benefits. Others just consume the product.
There is a lot more of this straightforward thinking and analysis. The book manages to provide a fresh perspective on a developing subject. It might be a good strategic read for you and for your company!
Thank you Robbie for honestly changing the entire direction of our company as we begin our journey.
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