Should People Pay for the Privilege of Buying From You?

I saw an ad in our local paper about a year ago for a medical practice that would charge a fee in order to get access to their services. The benefit, according to the ad, is that the patient would get more time with and more personal service from the physician.

If you have been to a large family practice lately you can see why they might go to a “fee for access.” They are all extremely busy and even my physician who years ago would give me all the time I needed now pushes firmly to keep her schedule in line with what the insurance companies are willing to reimburse. If you thought the doctors were running medicine you are so very wrong. Here in the US it is the 3rd party providers – insurance companies call all the shots often including who lives and who dies.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about physicians attempting to charge a fee for access in three different states. However, this isn’t the space to debate the ethical or legal standing of paying a “fee for access” to your physician. But, I want you to think of how to apply the concept to your business.

I have been a firm believer for many years of having a way to treat your best clients in a way that acknowledges their importance to you. If you are in retail, you can have sales that are only available to your club members. You can give away a membership by letting customers earn it through purchases. Or, you can charge a fee. Let’s say you charge $100 a year but it gives your members a 10% discount off the full retail price. It wouldn’t take long for the customer to recoup the membership fee and your store gets increased sales while building affinity with the customer.

If owned a restaurant, I’d have a frequent diners program. If it was a sports bar I’d turn a room into members only with free food (you only pay for alcohol) for the weekly football games or Monday nights. I’d have prizes for the football pools and everyone would have a great time.

I’d charge a membership fee and I’d make sure people got tremendous value for it. You could charge a lot more than $100 a year for this. It would be for members only but they could bring guests turning it into a real club for those members.

Service companies can do the same thing. Why shouldn’t a plumber, electrician, painter, or attorney offer a premium service for people who are willing to pay for it?

Start thinking “out of the box.” Maybe people should be paying you just for the privilege of being your customer.

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