Consider the brands you are most loyal to and what they have in common. Attributes that often come to mind are quality products or services, consistency, and customer service. Beyond these attributes, there is a loyalty driver that is embedded in our sub-conscious that influences whether we are loyal to a brand or not. It’s how a brand makes us feel—about ourselves, our lives, and our passions.
Today’s most popular brands are Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks. Yes, they deliver quality, consistency, and service. They also create and manage experiences that make their customers feel good. These companies, along with Nordstrom, Disney, and others, have discovered how to compete in the “Experience Economy.”
Joseph Pine and James Gilmore first explored the concept in their book The Experience Economy and shared how companies develop a competitive advantage by planning and providing memorable experiences. Customer service alone is no longer good enough to develop a brand—customers and prospective ones consider their cumulative experiences with companies to determine whether they will buy, return, or refer others.
So what does the Experience Economy have to do with membership organizations? Everything. The same customers who value Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks are your members or are considering whether to join. How you manage their experiences on your website, when they join, and during their time as a member will determine your relevance and whether they become lifetime members.
Mark Levin and Sue Froggatt share how member-based organizations can provide memorable experiences in their new book Managing the Membership Experience. Levin and Froggatt introduce and demonstrate how journey maps helps us to understand and deliver on expectations. Journey maps are templates that walk us through what prospects and members are thinking and experiencing along the way from their first awareness of our organization, to the decision to join, and through their critical first year of membership. Each chapter walks through the different phases of various journey maps, including:
- The Journey into Membership—which describes what the prospect experiences along the decision-making process of discovering, considering, evaluating and joining/or not joining.
- The Journey through the First Year of Membership—which describes what the member experiences along the areas of welcoming, connecting, engaging, and reviewing.
- The Journey into Volunteer Leadership—which describes the process members take when considering whether to volunteer, applying to do so, familiarizing themselves to the roles, and participating in the experiences.
Levin and Froggatt introduce a resource for leaders who are interested in transitioning their membership organizations into the Experience Economy. I highly recommend their book to all of my colleagues who want to rethink how they recruit and engage members and focus on developing a brand strategy that makes people feel good about themselves and their decisions to be part of our organizations.