For 20 years we have focused on growing memberships, subscriptions and tribes by building better relationships and providing opportunities for engagement.

Getting someone to buy is the easy part; what happens next makes the difference between a quick cancellation and a relationship that lasts for decades. Design your member experience to make your services and benefits easy to adopt, addictive to have and exciting to experience.


Although the concept has been around for hundreds of years, recruiting and retaining members has become a “lost art.” Most associations are doing what they do only because that’s what they did last year. After more than 20 years of testing, trial, error, retesting and documentation, we have created a reliable system that works across dozens of industries to recruit, engage and retain members for nonprofit associations and for-profit companies.


Few membership marketers take the time to see their organization from a member’s perspective. It’s amazing what you can see when you take the time to look. Often it’s appalling. When they first join, members are new to your traditions, your codes and your stories. Their patience is thin for bureaucratic nonsense. Instead, they want solutions to their problems. Provide solutions in a way that’s easy to understand and implement, and you’ll build trust—trust that lasts a lifetime.


Getting a new member is the easy part; keeping that member for years and even decades is the trick. What happens immediately after your new member joins is the most important part of that member’s experience. THIS is more important than the first impression. How do you help your new member discover your solutions to his or her problems, connect with other members and become part of your community?


Too many marketers promote their library of resources as if it’s a benefit. You only have to look at your local public library to see how libraries have become less valued in our culture today. After all, people have libraries’ worth of information available to them on their phones. Your members don’t want another library; they want solutions to their problems. Become their problem solver, and you’ll become their lifelong trusted resource.


If I call you my fiancé (or fiancée), does that create a relationship? Would you feel any sense of connection because I labeled you that way? Of course not. In fact, it would probably be a bit creepy. It’s the same with membership. If you are going to call someone a member, you better treat that person differently than you would a mere customer. And when a member joins, that member needs to acknowledge and appreciate the mission you stand for. It takes two to create a membership relationship. Merely labeling your customers as members won’t make them loyal; if anything, it will make them feel awkward.


The world’s economy is moving toward subscriptions at an accelerated rate. Technology facilitates customer acquisition, billing and fulfillment like never before. Customers receive exactly the services they want and need. Businesses receive a dependable source of revenue they can rely upon and scale up. No more using money from today’s customers to market to find tomorrow’s. Get off the never-ending treadmill of new customer acquisition; instead, build a steady stream of revenue from your loyal subscribers.


The way you talk to subscribers is completely different from the way you talk to customers. Similar to members of an organization, your subscribers feel like they “own” their part of your business. You should treat them like shareholders, giving them a voice, a relationship and a role in the future of your company. Be transparent about your foibles as well as your successes. Subscribers are a lot more forgiving than customers are.


The first few minutes after someone becomes a subscriber are the most important. How do you welcome your new members, get them engaged in your services and make sure they receive a transformation in their lives? They must be treated with respect, compassion and patience. Deliver what you promised in a way that makes it easy for brand new subscribers to engage. Design a system that is literally foolproof for beginners to use. Once invested, your new members will take the time and have the patience to learn more.


Your subscription should solve a key problem in your members’ lives in a way that’s completely unique and transformative. Incremental improvements are not enough to scale your business. Your features and services must change your subscribers’ lives so much that they cannot imagine life without you. If after experiencing your subscription they can imagine life without you, they’ll move on without you.


How many subscription companies take the time to connect their subscribers to each other? This is something membership marketers do out of habit and tradition. And you know what? The connections your subscribers make with each other are better at reducing your churn than any new feature or service you can innovate. Become the connecter by helping your members meet each other and establish a relationship. You’ll profit from the connection for years.


For businesses that offer membership or subscription programs, tribes are the answer for ascending customers to higher lifetime values, increasing both purchase size and the frequency of purchases. Building a tribe turns random customers into regulars you can count on, transforms periodic customers into monthly buyers and moves your monthly customers into your weekly regulars.


Your mission is the first step to transforming a customer into a tribal member. You have to communicate a reason why you are in business (beyond making money). Change the world, improve the lives of your prospective customers and/or be about doing good in the world, and your tribal members will form a bond with you that transcends the standard customer relationship.


A fabulous product and great service aren’t the components of tribal marketing. Your customers are hungry for recognition. Give your customers recognition within your tribal media, newsletters, emails and websites. This makes your best performing customers feel great, and it helps your new customers learn about your features, understand what you deliver and get excited about your products and services.


Regular patrons of a restaurant or a bar visit the same place partially because of their experience with the place itself. But a large part of their loyalty to the establishment is their connection with the other patrons they see while they are there. Facilitate connections among your tribal members. They have no idea they are in a tribe until they meet other members who welcome them to the group and confirm their beliefs.


Tell the stories of tribal members that grow the tribe. Establish evangelism as a tribal value. Members of a tribe naturally want to recruit others to join their tribe, and a growing tribe confirms their smart decision to be part of the tribe themselves. Provide the tools, encouragement and social proof that this is a tribe that evangelizes.