Has the membership model become a role model for business?

DateMarch 2023

Whilst the membership management star has undoubtedly been rising for some time, it’s now so high that even organisations in the commercial world are beginning to follow it.

Membership management is no longer the exclusive domain of CRM experts, or membership managers working for not-for-profits, associations, and professional bodies.

In fact, the style, method, and mechanics of modern-day membership management are now being adopted by not just big membership-led organisations, but big businesses too.

Imitation is a form of flattery

The benefits of membership management are clear, and it now seems that some of the world’s biggest businesses are eager to explore them.

And why wouldn’t businesses emulate strategies mastered by the membership world? After all, membership management if used correctly, is adept at taking a new member, who might be interested initially but not quite fully invested, and placing them on a journey – often lifelong – which, by the end of it, will hopefully see them become part of an organisation’s fabric (or, in the case of private sector business, loyal customers).

An article on What’s New In Publishing provides some good examples of how membership strategies are being used by private sector companies and media titles to better engage with and grow their audience.

BBC Good Food, for example, offers its recipes for free. However, in order for users to build their own recipes and recipe collections, they are required to sign up to the platform, the result of which will trigger ongoing communication.

Waitrose has taken its ability to build an audience over food even further by offering its members access to a cookery school. Perhaps Waitrose’s staple engagement tool, though, is its personalised offers, which are periodically sent to the customer based on what they’ve previously purchased.

And how does it do this so successfully? By effectively collecting and utilising data, both of which are the foundations for any successful membership engagement strategy.

Members vs customers

Whereas customers might buy products, members are buying into a community that shares knowledge, experience, and insights.

Of course, there can be much more to being a member (certification, CPD, and events to name just a few aspects), but both groups need to be communicated to - and have the ability to communicate back – for the relationship to work.

On that basis, it’s no wonder that private sector companies are taking a page from the membership management playbook. Regardless of whether you’re a retail company looking to sell more products or a membership company aiming to build your membership, good engagement is good engagement.

Perhaps the real question is why has it taken so long?

Setting the new standard

In our view, the real reason why the membership management model has caught on with the private sector is twofold.

Firstly, data is now the currency of choice for the majority of organisations, most of which are now extremely proficient at harnessing and leveraging it. The more data you can access, the more targeted and relevant your communication will be.

Secondly, over the past few years in particular there has been a huge drive to have everything available online, and when you combine that with membership management technology which is now incredibly sophisticated – both in terms of what it can do and how it uses data as the cornerstone for engagement. The explosion in membership management functionality and capability means that from a customer or stakeholder engagement perspective, there is nothing quite like it.

The ability to personalise communication to the nth degree, leverage multiple communications channels depending on each user’s preference, and profile audiences in a forensic manner means that everyone can be catered for and nobody can slip through the cracks, all of which are incredibly important to businesses looking for that next sale.

So yes, membership management strategies have become a beacon for the commercial world. And, as the UK’s leading membership management specialist – and the only one to hold four Microsoft accreditations – we’re proud to have played a role in setting this new standard.

If you’re a membership organisation looking for best-in-class advice, guidance, and support on membership management projects built on Microsoft Dynamics 365, contact our team at 01483 409409 or email hello@silverbear.com.

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