Membership is a cherished association model. But often, the market for your association’s products and services extends far beyond member boundaries, leaving an untapped market. Thus, the members vs. customers conversation. Matt Braun, Vice President, Client Services, Loyalty Research Center, notes the difference:

Customers tend to think of you as a transaction. They want what they want, when they want it, and how they want to consume it. You can still be a go-to organization for them, but it is just a transaction. They don’t have that hook or that reason for belonging that members do. Members have multiple reasons for engaging with you. They view you as a community or a professional home. But they also view their dues payment in a couple of different ways. They see that their dues are an investment in themselves and they view it as an investment in the future of the profession, and in promoting and protecting that profession. So it’s a more holistic relationship. For customers it is really more of a transaction, or a series of transactions.

Who cares about the difference between members and customers? You should. Taking the time to develop a member journey and a customer path (different for each), using sales funnels and technology that automates messages, offers a potential increase in revenue and participation. For-profit companies regularly target their customers and potential customers. You should be doing the same.

Mary Byers, CAE, CSP, shares additional strategy starters for busy association professionals in her new online learning series titled, Momentum: Strategy Starters for Today’s Association Professional (powered by Elevate in partnership with CommPartners) at leadwiselearning.com. She is also the author of Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations.