THE MEMBERSHIP ECONOMY by Robbie Kellman Baxter
March 23, 2015
Robbie Kellman Baxter helps us understand the psychology and strengths of The Membership Economy, and teaches us how to thrive in it.
But she is no doom and gloomer on all this. She believes the new connectivity that technology allows that is helping reverse the trend (if there really was one), and is doing so in a way that breaks down barriers and limitations.
Technology enables us to be connected in ways never before possible. I skype with clients in South Africa, Greece, and Asia, and I can instantly poll hundreds of other consultants for advice through my online professional network. Without boarding a plane or even changing out of my pajama bottoms, I can strengthen my social network virtually any time I have a few minutes.
Humans yearn to be connected and to gain energy, knowledge, and comfort from others. The communities that are most meaningful and impactful may not be the same as those in the past—neighborhood mothers, religious organizations, and professional associations—but people are still finding ways to stay connected. We're not limited today by physical proximity in our associations.
This is a powerful trend and transformation. Kellman Baxter tells us it is the beginning of a new membership economy—one in which customers are more concerned with access than ownership—access to products and services, yes, but also to others, to a community of like minds, and even (through those connections) a deeper connection to our very selves. And so, in The Membership Economy, she mixes in an explanation of the psychology (mostly from Maslow's hierarchy of needs) of these shifts to explain how they will transform everything we do in business. As Kellman Baxter says, it puts "the customer at the center of the business model rather than the product or the transaction."
An organization able to build relationships with members—as opposed to plain customers—has, as we'll see, 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.
Whether in a open air market or on a main street, there has always been a commercial aspect to our membership in communities, and some of the ways technology now enables us to connect actually reconnect us with an older way of doing business, but on a scale that was unknown before the industrial revolution. But it has always been true that businesses that build relationships, loyalty, participation, and communities around and within themselves have thrived. The businesses in which people congregate most, that not only provide community, but that define communities, are going to be successful. That is true of a great small town diner just as much as Netflix or Facebook. But business and community is increasingly migrating online, and the scale is seemingly infinite. Some celebrate this, some may bemoan it (and the book does detail some of this transition's thornier issues, like privacy issues and payment models), but businesses don't have much choice as to whether they accept it.
Robbie Kellman Baxter's Membership Economy is here to help you explore the new frontier and expand into it.