My mindless maze of memberships

I have recently become cognizant of how many memberships I have. Suddenly, without paying much attention, I’m paying monthly memberships for all manner of systems, products and services of all types.

The economy has shifted to a focus on memberships over one-time purchases

Quietly and slowly, the American economy has shifted.  We pay monthly or annually (if you want a discount) for the opportunity to have access to the products and services we enjoy.  I, for one, have apparently bought into this shift wholeheartedly.  While I noticed it as I was gradually buying in, I’m now in way over my head and had not realized until recently how deep into memberships I really am.

clubs memberships herd crowd

When I was younger, I would buy a software package at the store, install it on my computer, and use it until I needed something new. Now, these same software purveyors sell me a membership.  The monthly membership fee I pay gives me access to the software as well as all necessary upgrades so long as I’m paying them.  If I stop paying them, I lose access to their software.

Two software companies that come to mind quickly are Adobe and Intuit, both of which have switched their core software packages to monthly pay online services.  But even the traditional boxed-software behemoths like Microsoft have jumped on board.  Newer companies launch under fee-based monthly setup from the start and never even use the box-in-a-store model.  I use several web applications and software systems that have never been packaged in a box but have instead been served up on a monthly fee basis from day one.

Everyone wants access to my credit card for a monthly membership charge

Retailers and service providers are offering me wonderful conveniences and benefits for monthly fee.  If I just give them my credit card information, they will open up a world of wonder for me.  I have memberships to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Pandora, Spotify, Sam’s Club, Quickbooks, Consumer Reports and many, many more. The reality is that these services are all just ongoing fee-based services.  By creating a membership feeling, they are going the extra emotionally connecting step to try to make me feel special, a part of their “exclusive” customer family.

hbo-go-netflix-hulu-amazon memberships

I can remember when I thought people were crazy to pay Netflix monthly fees for DVD access.  Somehow Netflix eventually won me over when they began offering streaming media access. Now I’ve apparently drunk the Kool-Aid and bought into many more services.  When I think back, I realize the biggest shift came when I turned off my DISH Network, cut the cable and started using streaming services for my family’s television viewing.  The list of memberships and monthly services grew exponentially in that moment.

Recently I’ve been listening to Stu McLaren, who consults and trains in the arena of creating membership-based websites. Stu does a good job of explaining the shifts in the US economy away from single event purchases and more toward membership based revenue.  It’s incredible how my brain steps backs and notices how everyone out there is trying to sell me a membership to their service, product or software application.

Are the memberships and monthly fee services I use actually worth my money?

It boggles my mind when I stop and think through the number of memberships I hold right now that keep everything flowing in my personal, entertainment and business life.  Any service or product I want can be available at my fingertips if I’m just willing to commit to a monthly relationship between the provider and my bank account.

As I’ve started realizing how much money I spend towards memberships, it’s made me wonder how much practical benefit I actually get out of these memberships. They’re everywhere! I’m surrounded by them, and they’re swarming me and I realize that I’m giving into their sales pitch, but do I ever actually take a solid look at the benefits they offer?

I’d noticed this shift to monthly memberships overall, but I hadn’t stopped to really look at their impact on my own life. Which memberships are actually worth my money? In an uncertain economy that keeps me double-checking my family’s budget and bottom line, it’s worth taking a moment to decide which memberships are worth my time.

Can I learn from the memberships I enjoy to build a better business?

It’s worth slowing down and analyzing which memberships are working and which are not. As a consumer, I have all these memberships stacking up.   From a business owner’s and entrepreneur’s perspective, I can learn from this. If I switch on my analyst mind, I can sort through the incentives and emotions to see which memberships keep my consumer mind coming back and why. I can learn from these companies and build my own business models around them.

In coming posts, I’m going to start analyzing my membership experiences in detail and figure out what’s working, what’s not and share what I’m processing

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