The Membership Economy – Book ReviewThe Membership Economy by Robbie Kellman Baxter
Published by McGraw-Hill Education on March 17th 2015
Pages: 272
Source: NetGalley
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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.


With all the success occurring with subscription boxes, Car share programs and being a member of the Hootsuite Ambassador team, I was expecting more from The Membership Economy by Robbie Kellman Baxter.

Maybe my definition of membership is too community-driven and interactive? Robbie does have extensive experience: more than 20 years consulting to NetFlix, Oracle, and Yahoo!, with an MBA from Stanford. It’s an impressive resume.

Let’s look at the book. The Membership Economy is in three sections. What you need to know about the membership economy, membership economy strategies and tactics, and membership organizations come in all shapes and sizes. The first is a multi-chapter introduction to what a membership economy is (a very broad definition, that I agree with). The second looks at what works and doesn’t work for building and managing membership organizations. The end gets to my favorite section and describes the features of membership organizations.

I suppose I feel disappointed in the details. The book has a lot of information, but not that much is that useful. We hear a lot about NetFlix, but it’s all very surface-level anecdotes. Most of the research for this book comes from Robbie’s personal conversations with her clients at these companies. I am fine with that as a base if it supplemented with deeper, detailed research. Perhaps she was trying not to offend, or breach privacy, but it just makes the book miss. There are a few statistics. I make a note of one. It stood out because there are so few. Am I just too demanding? There was one very detailed case study of Survey Monkey in the third section. Unfortunately, it was reminiscent of Rita Skeeter’s reporting. I’m not sure we need to know the exact location of their office. It could have included stronger company cases than just what’s easy.

Another concern is the age of the information. It feels rather out-of-date. There’s minimal mention of online or individual connections with members, so missing the whole community element. The statement, “Advertising as a business model, has called out of favor”, was also a little concerning. It’s not out of favor. Mass advertising is out of favor. Updating the terminology could also help. I’m not sure the last time I heard the term superuser, for ambassadors or members.

What I liked in The Membership Economy

Eek, that makes it sound all bad. There is an audience for this book, but more on that later. What did I like? There was a great example of the Caesars Entertainment discretionary fund for their team to make their members’ stays amazing.

I also should acknowledge that I was reading a Kindle copy from NetGalley, courtesy of McGraw-Hill and the formatting was horrible. I’ve tried to not let that influence me, but line breaks in the middle of nearly every line made it difficult to read. I’m sure Robbie did not submit the manuscript with that in it.

Who is The Membership Economy For?

As promised, there is an audience for this. The Hospice Set. It’s a term I use for marketers nearing the end of their careers. They like to think they’re still learning, but they only want light and fluffy to make them feel better. The same as with a hospice patient and you’re making them comfortable while waiting. There’s very little you can take away from this and apply, but if you’re fine with that, go ahead.