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Why It’s Time To Treat Your Customers Like Members, Not ‘I Work, You Pay’

Customers Like Members

When you create a sense of belonging, it becomes difficult for people to drift elsewhere.

Having members sounds better than just having customers.

This article is all about when you make others part of the entire process and they have a sense of affiliation. It is about making people feel more like members and not just customers.

By talking about members, this article is not how you generate a membership service with recurring payments, but creating a sense of community that indirectly leads to building your business.

According to consultancy Epsilon, from a population of 1,000 people, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers something personalised. Making people feel part of something provides a connection. When people feel part of something, why not lean into it even more?

People become members when they receive something from you that they have a sense of association with. It is time to make the most of this.


Let’s Give It Some Context

The textbook way of thinking has always been to find a space within a marketplace in order to sell something to. The more units you sell, the more profitable you become. When your entire goal is to solely make things and then sell them to people, then all you become is a commodity.

This is what my company once was. It fitted into the ‘branding box’ where everything was driven by the one-off ie. the ad campaign, the website, the printed collateral. Nothing joined up, it was we do the work, you pay for the work.

This is the thinking today. You can make others feel rewarded by treating them as members of something you create, rather just than a faceless transaction for something you have done.

Rather than the ‘we’ve done the work, now pay our invoice,’ when you add another dimension and invite them as an active participant can help create an ongoing relationship.

Making others feel as though they are members, rather than customers, can help create a much longer life cycle of interaction.

Rather than putting people in a box and call them a client/a customer, make them feel part of something more fulfilling.


CUSTOMER/CLIENT = do work assigned

MEMBER = participant in the whole process



This is how you get people to stay with you. It sounds far healthier to build something that is continuous and people have an attachment to, rather than think you have to perform acts of spirited promotion to let others know that you are still around.

Customers Like MembersIn my old world, I too was guilty of thinking that the one-off acts of self-promotion would help generate leads and lead to work from lapsed clients. I once delivered boxes of cupcakes with the company logo to clients and prospects.

It meant nothing to anyone, apart from someone having it with a cup of tea and for me to wallow in my own self indulgence with the logo printed onto rice paper. It was a complete waste of time. It was this that became the trigger for something more meaningful, that changed everything.

How can you make people feel less like customers/clients and more like members?


How It Works

The You Are The Media project has grown significantly in the past year.

By growth, I mean more subscribers and a substantial increase in interaction with others. It has also generated revenue. One of the intentions was to make the people I called ‘clients’ feel like participants.

After the episode with the cupcakes back in 2013, I recognised there had to be a more worthwhile way to remain present in the minds of others, that did not resort in pointless one off activity (if it wasn’t cupcakes could it have been mugs, frisbees, USBs or Facebook ads). There had to be a way to provide value and not self promotion, that has been drummed into us all since we started our commercial paths.

So, back in autumn 2013, I started the weekly email with the objective to find a way to be present in the week of a client or a prospect. For the record, the business is now built on retained clients where there is a much deeper interaction and connection, rather than a client meaning someone you do sporadic work with over the course of a year.

By sending the weekly email, it became easier to see who were the more engaged clients (clicking to read articles or just following up on the email), to who were more passive bystanders (people who received the email, but didn’t really follow up with much).

Making people feel part of something encourages a sense of loyalty. It feels better to ask someone to be a part of the You Are The Media community than a pop-up saying, ‘join our database’ or ‘sign up to our company updates.’

The moment I want someone to feel like a member is when they receive an email from me when they have sent their email. It is not automated, it is always me who will send the email and let the other person know it’s me ie. the sign-off, asking about the company they work for.

It is this interaction that has to be kept alive so you build your own party, where people come in and out and perhaps chat with someone where there is some form of association.

With the You Are The Media project it was the idea that interaction being a part of a larger experience was the only way it can grow. The connection is continuous, rather than sporadic moments to let people know I was still here. The weekly email, the monthly You Are The Media Lunch Club, the podcast, the conference all become ways for people to feel part of something much wider.

Everyone with whom I work with, or subscribes on the other side of the world, are all members. There are just different levels of participation, rather than thinking people have to be a paying member.

This is a framework that you can adopt where clients and customers become something on a completely different level.


RECIPIENT LEVEL – the person who subscribes and receives something from you on a regular basis, but involvement is minimal. Still a member but more a recipient.


PARTICIPATION LEVEL – the people who participate and interact within different channels and also have a voice. These are the people who will stand next to you. Whilst they may not be clients, their interaction and involvement is valued. They become the membership glue.


COMMITMENT LEVEL – this is where there is enough proof for someone to want to work with you on an ongoing retained basis (they see your work on a regular basis). This allows a more commercial working relationship to grow.


Those who are part of the You Are The Media community receive the weekly email, have a preferable rate for the You Are The Media Conference, can have a voice on the You Are The Media podcast, but they are also investing in a much larger experience, which is being a part of a community with other people.

On a personal level this is a far more enriching experience for people to feel like members, rather than think everyone has to be converted to a customer. With a media fragmented world and Google and Facebook holding the lions share, it’s ok to hold onto a piece of wood in the ocean and then you find your own island with a fridge and Spotify.


What Can You Do?

Switching from making people feel more like members and not customers is when you take a view that you can create an ongoing relationship that benefits you and them.

Here are some pointers for you to take on board:


Share a narrative with others that they can’t get anywhere else. People feel more obliged to join when they get something that isn’t on tap everywhere else. For instance, how about a curated newsletter? Have a read of this article from Epic Presence that explains more. It is about how curated content newsletters work, why they succeed (or fail), and how any organisation can create and scale a curated content newsletter that builds an audience.


You can’t look at the world as a means of making money from everyone. By thinking that you can monetise immediately if you started using email as a platform to distribute your narrative, then you might as well give up now. Whilst a medium can link indirectly to your business, you can’t jump in by treating everyone as a lead. People will find out and leave quickly. For instance, if you started with a good intention to provide something of use, but to then coerce someone into something else that just makes you look false.


Always think about how you can create a lifecycle. A lifecycle is when someone starts a journey and there are ongoing milestones, it just keeps going. From my point of view, whilst I know that people who are part of the You Are The Media community from outside the UK, the capacity for an ongoing commercial relationship may be limited, there are times when we create connection points. For instance, a trip to the UK for the You Are The Media Conference, or in an ongoing conversation at the moment to talk overseas for an event organised by a community member.


Give people something to sign up to and make it apparent for what they are joining. In the first couple of sentences on your subscribe page, explain what your message is all about and how it will help. The days of ‘subscribe to our newsletter’ are from a bygone age and highlights that what you irregularly produce is only an afterthought. Your goal is to encourage a direct ongoing relationship with someone else.


Make all this meaningful to someone else. Pressing the subscribe button is a huge commitment, who knows what those early interactions will be? By making yourself present makes everything believable. From the email that comes directly from you, to when someone meets you face to face, people want to feel part of something and you want to have access to them.


Lets Round-Up

By creating something for others to belong to, increases your chances of having a direct relationship with them. That is a privileged place to be.

Thinking more member, than customer means a wider sense of engagement. It is about encouraging interaction from a member to you and also with other people within the community. Everyone can take a sense of value and depending on what level someone wants to engage or interact determines how you can generate revenue.

When the relationship benefits more than a handful of people, it can ensure your own relevance and longevity within your marketplace. 

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