The Complete Guide to Scaling Your Business with a Membership Site (Part II)

The Online Business World is Changing

Memberships aren't the only way ... but are taking the lead over course & high ticket programs

When business owners start to look seriously at scaling, it can be overwhelming at looking at all the one-to-many business models that exist - courses, high-ticket coaching programs, productized services, done-for-you agency style services and memberships, oh my!

With so many options, how does anyone choose the right one?

One of the decisions I've helped my clients make, more than anything else, is how to structure & position their offers.

I always suggest they choose the one-to-many model that will get their clients better results. That is the starting point.

The more your business delivers on its promise, the easier it will be to make the next sale.

The right model is the one that helps the business grow steadily while reducing the amount of cost required to generate a sale over time.

Which type of program will give people the absolutely best chance of crossing the finish line in their own time? Or best prepare them to commit to the next level program you offer, to take them to their goals?

Why, I dare say, I think that's a membership program!

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"But I'm not a community builder ..."

I used to think memberships were impossible pipe dreams.

You mean recurring revenue every single month, limitless numbers of clients and all I have to do is create an online space for them? 

And when I began to dive into that rabbit hole, all I saw were the problems - bringing community together, getting people to sign on in the first place (a lot of work for such a small fee) and then the churn ...

Oh, the churn!!

I became skeptical that everyone was attracted to membership sites because they thought of them as cash cows. In other words "too good to be true". For those who they were working for, it was immensely profitable and for the rest... they were hard, if not impossible, to get going.

What I was missing (like many others) was the fact that these models are nuanced. There are so many variations that they (when set up right) can work for a wide range of niches, personalities and clients ...  and be wildly successful.

It wasn't until I began to work with a number of clients with memberships that I realized how different they actually were. I used to think that the entire outcome was focused on the community. And like many others I've spoken to recently, I was not alone.

A 2021 Mighty Networks study of 1,674 online creators reported 57% of creators see direct revenue (subscriptions, tips, memberships) as more crucial to their future than social platform revenue. And 21% of creators earn revenue from an online community where followers pay to interact with each other, not just with the creator.

Adding a membership component to a successful course business can strengthen a brand's value and outcomes even more.

Many business owners assume that the main skill set required is community building and it's simply not the case.

If access to a community of support isn't the primary benefit your clients receive from working with you, then you don't have to focus on that in a membership program. That's one of the biggest objections I've come across when speaking to established business owners.

Membership business models provide a lot of flexibility in how to deliver, charge & engage with people. They often extend the relationship longer than in other programs.

Some memberships look more like courses, others more like coaching support.

Like with any other signature offer, as the business owner, you get to decide how to set it up and provide a solution that meets the needs of your clients and your own.

The best membership programs adapt from the strengths of the business owner and build on previous success.

Case Study - Mindful Mama Mentor

My client Hunter Clarke-Fields, founder of the Mindful Mama Mentor, has a mindful parenting program that used to be a course and is now a membership. Because she delivers a lot of value in the form of training to her members, there's a minimum commitment period of three months for a higher monthly fee of $99 as well as a lifetime option payable for 12 months for $69.

She's elevated the value of her program by providing long-term access. This isn't adding to her workload as she's committed to showing up in her community monthly and launches three times per year.

And there's a big incentive to take the lifetime option for parents who can't commit to completing all the material in 3 months. She's effectively removed a barrier for buyers who'd be unsure they could take advantage of a limited-time live program. That's important for parents of very young children.

A membership is a risk-free option for cautious buyers

Many of us have felt overwhelmed after buying courses and realizing the timing wasn't right or the content couldn't be easily adapted for our actual needs.

Those experiences have left us more fearful of investing in our ideas and dreams. I've always felt that validation and "eyes on my brand" are two of the most important benefits of any program. And that requires access to the coach or mentor we're investing in.

What if we need that validation months down the road and we no longer have that access? Or there's a premium price to getting it and we've already spent so much?

A membership program can take those risks away. Especially for clients who're investing in long-term results. If they're learning a complex skillset, changing a behaviour or transforming the way they see themselves, it can take time. 

There's a lot of integrity in a program and business owner who recognizes that change takes time and is open about that reality.

Case Study - Fitness Protection Program

Another one of my clients, Coach MK, runs an online running program called Fitness Protection. Her community consists of women and men who run but don't consider themselves "runners". The majority of them are at the back 1/3 of the marathon. Her job is to remind them that they "ran the freakin marathon!" and didn't hurt themselves doing it.

She has a unique way of helping them maintain their fitness year-round so they're always race ready. She also sees her job as keeping them "tethered" to their coach so they don't lose their motivation and commitment, even when they are injured. They can move back and forth between three different training programs depending on what they need.

All this for the price of six fancy coffees (over-priced & too sugary) per month. Her $29 membership program not only gives them a monthly training program, a supportive community but access to leadership from several coaches who're always rooting for them.

With her membership program there's no reason for people to leave the program (and they rarely do). Because it's affordable and focused on building and maintaining a life-long healthy habit, it's worth the investment. In this case there is no limit to the number of people who could be supported at the same time.

The online world is craving community, inclusiveness & belonging

So it's easy, right? 

Just throw up a sales page and invite everyone you know to it... and it will flourish. Not exactly.