Why do we keep talking about a Membership Mindset?

TL;DR: A Membership Mindset means everyone in the organization is thinking about creating two-way relationships with members. To make sure this is happening, we frequently ask these four key questions: Are we starting with member-centricity? How valuable is this benefit or experience to the member? Are we being a pain in the ass? Are we seemlessly connecting supply and demand through personalization? Membership requires ongoing effort to create meaningful relationships that get better over time, so these questions should be asked as often as possible.

What is a Membership Mindset?

One thing that differentiates membership from traditional loyalty initiatives is that it requires that an organization operate differently.

Loyalty programs are often just a marketing initiative. But real loyalty requires a real relationship, and it’s only possible with an organization-wide shift in thinking: it should be everyone’s job to be thinking of consumers not as, well, consumers, but as members, as people with real needs that a brand can serve. Membership is the ongoing act of creating a relationship. And it’s the job of everyone in an organization to be thinking about creating two-way relationships with members.

So, with that in mind, here are four questions we use to gauge whether or not we’re operating with a membership mindset on a daily basis.

Are we answering for a significant member need?

What needs are we solving for? How well do we know our members and what is it that they would really want from a relationship with us? This is the most important question we can ask, and it’s one that’s too often treated like just a box-to-be-checked rather than a reason-for-being.

How valuable is this to the member?

A membership mindset requires you to ask how you are showing loyalty to your member — rather than how they are just showing loyalty to the brand. As we’re designing experiences and interactions, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of designing for business value. But company-centricity doesn’t drive attachment or action — it just makes it obvious who you really care about in the relationship. It’s good to check in often about how much value you are actually creating for your member.

Are we being a pain in the ass? Or does it feel like we get you?

Personalization is certainly a buzzword that can often feel lacking in meaning these days, but if you think about what’s essential to creating relationships, how well someone knows you is absolutely key to creating a sense of psychological safety and ownership. It also helps you make their life easier. If we know you, we’re less likely to be a pain in the ass. How often do you receive superfluous brand emails that have nothing to do with your interests or life? Now think about how much of the journey and relationship you’re creating with members often doesn’t reflect things that we already know about them.

Are we seamlessly connecting demand and supply?

The best member-centric brands are amazing at connecting the dots for members. Once we know what members need, we should be able to get smarter and smarter about how we connect them to real value. This might mean better shoe suggestions, vacation apartment listings; it might mean giving them new information that broadens their horizons. Membership is a tool for understanding people, and if you’re whole organization isn’t operating with a membership mindset it’s going to be very hard to serve the right product or service to the right member need, at the right time.

We know that membership is a not an end-state, but a state of being. Achieving perfect relationships is impossible — there is no finish line, and no end game. And that’s why it’s essential that every organization ask at least these four questions as often as possible, to make sure they’re bringing as much value to the member as possible.

Hellen Contributors: Adrian Ho, Pierre-Laurent Baudey, Elsa Perushek, Peter Petrulo, Jason Zabel



Jason Zabel
Hellen—Membership for the World’s Most Loved Brands

partner and creative director @zeusjones and @hellenmembership. writing about culture, brands, belonging and the future.