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Customer Club

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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 1:38 am    Post subject: Customer Club Reply with quote

I feel I'm somehow way behind the times on this one,
but I've only just started thinking about this topic from
the point of view of the business, and not as a potential
"member" of such a club.

Still, there *is* a freshness of this idea, at least for me.
Consider: there are certainly clubs that are organized
online, but most commerce websites, as well as blogs, et al
refer to us as "users" or even "id's". Pretty impersonal,
and that frames the way we see our relationship with the

Even where terminology consistent with the "club" metaphor
is used (I'm a member of a CD/record "club"), it is rare that
the club metaphor is fleshed out in the website. "MemberID"
is just as cold as "UserId", and is hardly more evocative.
In these cases, being a member is a dead metaphor,
suggesting none of the memes associated with being a member
of a club. Where's the secret handshake? Initiation rituals?

I was attracted to check out a new Thai restaurant in my
neighborhood by an online coupon, but, oddly, the link to
their website failed. While I was ordering we got to talking
about the website, and I agreed to help them get something
up -- they hadn't done this yet.

The economy isn't good, and I could tell they needed a lot more
business than they were getting. A website would help.
In my view, a website for most small businesses shouldn't
require a big investment. Really, in a lot of cases, a website
is nothing but a glorified "pamphlet". And rightly so. You
could spend a million dollars developing a website for Joes
Bar and Grill around the corner, but you'd get hardly more
results than if you spent $100, and a few hours typing in copy
and changing fonts and colors.

Still, my mindset is of thinking of ways that these guys can
improve business. I had a couple of ideas - I haven't even
mentioned them to these fellows yet -- and I don't really know
if they are good or not. Hook up with other Thai restaurants
in town and doing some joint marketing-- how about
"Thai Tuesdays" having special deals. Anyway that was
admittedly a digression, except that when I saw the flash
of a digital camera from the big table by the window, I thought
of those eateries that pin up pictures of customers. Ultimately
unsightly there on the wall, the web, in this case, offers an
improvement over what came before: those pictures become
greasy clutter on the restaurant wall, but look just fine in an
online gallery.

In the age of twitter, that flash told me that those people
were only a few steps away from posting their own picture
on the restaurant's website and adding a caption.

They might if they were members of a club.
Do you think that they'd be coming back again? So do I.

Jabailo wrote something more than obliquely related in his post
Sell the Store...Not the Coffee

Being a member of the club might mean a discount on Tuesdays,
free wifi, a special goblet, an email newsletter, your picture on
"the wall". Club membership turns out to be a multi-media
experience, even for the smallest truck stop, or for Joes
Bar and Grill around the corner. And it doesn't really take
much effort these days to handle the online aspect of this.
Many "one-click" installations support customer involvement
in creating content, signing up for newsletters, etc.

The key, it seems to me, is to punch up the elements of the
"club" metaphor throughout the website. It actually means
something to be a "member in good standing", or at
least it might. Of course, it all has to be dead easy, too.

I hadn't thought of charging for membership, as Jabailo mentions
in his post, under somewhat different circumstances, but
there are plenty of examples of "premium" or "gold" memberships,
so these two notions of "club" can be easily reconciled and
seen as being of a piece. (I would find a different terminology,
though - "gold" and "premium" both knock the liveliness out
of the "club" metaphor. I'm trying to remember clubhouse
terminology from my pre-teen years - "super special member"?).
I expect customers would like it for just the same reasons that
I do, because stuff that happens in clubhouses is fun!
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