When you think about running a successful membership program, what excites you the most?
Is it the prospect of sharing your ideas with a large audience? Making a difference in the lives of others? Or do you like the idea of only working a couple of hours a week?
Maybe it’s all of the above….
Regardless of your overarching goals (and luxurious fantasies thrown in for good measure) you probably don’t want to spend time and effort always searching for new audiences nor constantly creating unique content.
After all, every minute you spend experimenting with ways to get new members is time away from delivering the best possible experience for your existing members …
… as well as enjoying the benefits of running a membership, which means getting your life back or continuing to grow your authority.
When you don’t have to focus all your time and energy on growing your membership program – you can spend that time doing what you love, building a bigger brand, developing your niche, or interacting with your peers and colleagues.
As well as taking time off to live a balanced life.
Starting a membership program that’s a success isn’t a solo journey
When I started my membership, I needed help finding advice that fit my area of expertise and personality style.
I struggled to grow my membership because, in the past, I had always been found through organic SEO that I built up over years, and when I changed my business focus, it was no longer bringing in enough of the right traffic steadily.
This resulted in not being able to grow my membership business at a quick enough pace to keep my small group thriving in the way I wanted.
I looked all over for answers, but I couldn’t find anything that applied to MY specific situation, niche, and goals. For example, many experts suggest growing your audience through daily social media interaction, but sharing my everyday life online doesn’t really jive with my personality.
My experience of launching my membership was tumultuous, to say the least. I flip-flopped all over the place throughout my journey to a successful membership site. I opened the doors to the membership, closed the doors, and tried all kinds of price points and sales systems.
It was very challenging and confusing because, again, there was no one to validate my ideas and answer my specific questions: All the suggestions I came across were either very general or didn’t seem to apply to me. This made it difficult to proceed confidently on my chosen path.
It was mentally and emotionally very challenging, and I honestly considered throwing in the towel a couple of times.
Fortunately, I eventually realized that the path to starting a membership was to create a VIP membership for people I had already worked with. Once I started developing this idea, I could channel my existing clients into this program. This is what I now call a Follow-up Membership.
The experience of delivering that program gave me the confidence to launch my Flagship program – Scaling Deep Society.
I finally figured the most important things out. And I’m gonna share them with you here:
1. Positioning: make your membership program irresistible
Growing your membership program starts with sharing your unique point-of-view. You’re probably not the first or only person to create some kind of education and/or community on your very favourite topic.
But success in the subscription/membership world doesn’t require either of these.
It requires these three things:
- An enticing outcome that your audience wants to achieve
- A price-point or commitment level that reflects the value of that outcome
- Some evidence that you’re capable of delivering on this result (i.e. social proof, an outline of the steps to success, your success story, features etc.)
Once you have these figured out, you’ve got to make sure you can communicate the value of your program through compelling relatable copy, testimonials and a professional online presence and checkout process.
Your positioning tells the story of why jumping into your membership will be a very good way for them to get the support they need.
One of the best ways to do this is by explaining your unique approach or point of view. Start by answering these questions:
- What problem do you solve for your members?
- What makes your way of solving it better/more efficient/more fun/easier/less work than how others do it?
- What do you dislike about the way things are done in your industry?
- How do you do it better?
This type of brainstorming will lead to a memorable message that will help you to stand out and attract the right kinds of people to your membership program. The ones who will learn, stay and get results and be your best ambassadors.
2. Cornerstone content – delivering value inside your membership program
The next big consideration is how are you going to deliver on your big promise to your members at a sustainable pace. Because sustainability is why you chose this path in the first place, right?
Following the tactics below will help your site to grow organically with less ongoing effort on your part:
- Work from your zone of genius. People who are doing what they love always attract attention: your energy and enthusiasm for the subject matter will make your membership all the more appealing, and you will be able to produce your best work if you are passionate about it.
- Consider what you are already doing. Do you have existing clients that you could direct towards a continued VIP coaching membership, or a class that you are teaching online or in person, that could adapt to a membership-style format? Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
- Conduct interviews with clients and potential clients. Reach out to people and discover the barriers to joining your membership. The answers might surprise you! If you remove those barriers and make the customer journey easier, growth will increase, and you can also use that feedback to improve your membership overall.
Once you’ve dialled what you’re going to deliver to your members regularly, you can play with the extras peppering in value, tools and events when you feel inspired to share, which will keep it fun and energizing!
3. Consistent smooth sailing (I mean selling)
Growing your membership program requires an effective sales system. After you’ve figured out the basic content, you’ll deliver consistently, this is the next most important factor in your
Now, before I elaborate, I want to address something that turns many people off sales in general. I like to call this the “Narcissistic Sales Pitch”.
This approach seems to be particularly prevalent in the online coaching sphere, and it can give the concept of “sales” an overall bad reputation.
If you have ever attended a free webinar, you have probably come across someone using this approach: the coach or guru selling the course shares lots of pictures of themselves in front of fancy vehicles, expensive locales, or designer clothes.
Sometimes these photos help your audience imagine the potential benefits of purchasing your product. However, we have to wonder whether coaches who use this tactic are doing it to sell their products or show off their accomplishments for their own sake.
The prevalence of this sales approach is a problem because it can give us the idea that this is what sales HAS to look like – flashy, ostentatious, and a little egotistical. And if that doesn’t align with your values, it might cause you to completely reject any sales strategy because it makes you feel icky.
But it doesn’t mean we don’t have to master our sales! It’s critical when scaling to a one-to-many model.
It’s vital to growing your membership and profit margins, especially if you want to grow without constantly hustling for new members and constantly posting on social media.
Recently, I learnt a robust sales system that dramatically changed my ability to bring in ideal members to my Scaling Deep Society.
Here’s what I learned that helped me accelerate the growth of my membership program:
- People need to hear from you over and over again. Demonstrating the value of your program with your messaging and persistence will help them see that you can move them toward the transformation they desire. You need to get that message across to your prospects often. Which means you’ll have to be prepared to send out a series of emails, posts and points and do it often.
- Consider using a Limited Evergreen membership model. This model combines the best of both the Launch and Evergreen membership styles. The membership is always open; however, each experiences a launch-style series of emails and limited offers that begins when they enter the automation. This model takes a lot of initial setups. Still, it creates a predictable system that combines the ongoing availability of an evergreen system with the built-in sales psychology of a launch model.
- Evaluate and test your sales funnel. It is much easier to grow your membership site if you regularly assess the effectiveness of your sales funnel. You need to consider your value, offer, positioning, and visibility. Evaluating these thoroughly will ensure that there are no gaps in your funnel that might somehow discourage potential leads.
4. Cultivating a culture & community to build a movement
One of the biggest factors in creating long-term membership success stems from the LTV lifetime value of each member (aka how long they stay). Once your members have achieved their original goal (like in my case, launched their membership), they are going to decide how vital the membership is to them going forward.
In my case, inside the Scaling Deep Society, we work on sales and marketing continuously so that after my members launch their program, we can still work on their next goals together.
Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? But it’s not quite as simple as that …
In order to remain in your membership, your more experienced or longer-term members will need to feel like they are consistently receiving an ROI from their continued investment (ie. some benefit, shortcut, improved result) or simply feel a part of something meaningful in order to stay.
While the former is a great goal for your membership, and I teach strategies on how to keep your membership relevant for long periods of time inside the Scaling Deep Society, don’t underestimate the value of the latter.
When people find a good group, connection or support system, they are not going to give that up easily.
Their emotional needs (and yes, we all have emotions) could be getting met simply by being around others who are working towards similar goals or grappling with the same types of challenges.
Consider the engagement levels (with you or others), culture and connection points inside your membership as assets and vital components of the value of your membership program.
It’s more intangible than content delivery and takes a lot less effort to deliver over time.
5. Becoming a Leading Learner
How you show up as a leader is a major factor in cultivating a loyal following. Because people have not only signed up to get the outcome they want, they’ve put their trust in you to guide them. That means you have to show up and lead them.
Now, if that feels overwhelming, I have a little secret for you.
One of my past clients and peers, Natalie Sisson introduced me to the term “leading learner” to describe an involved approach to training and teaching.
It’s the perfect technique for a membership. As the guide of the community, we can’t have all the answers to every single question or problem our members will experience.
As leaders, we can source from the community itself for subject matter experts as well as pursue our own continuous learning to share with the group. It’s a holistic vs. top-down model that can nurture everyone.
Now what? Let’s get this membership program into the world
Growing your membership site will always take a lot of work, experimentation, and occasional failure. But, if you are intentional and start off with a good foundation, you will find that growth comes more effortlessly with time.
What you might need is a community of people to support and guide you through it.
To learn more about my approach to helping you launch and maintain continuous growth, get into my free training How To Grow A Wildly Successful Membership That Provides Financial Freedom & Fulfillment (Without Burning Out From Big Launches & Over-Delivery)
Lisa Princic is a Business Strategist & Membership Expert who helps thought leaders & niche experts build wildly successful memberships while making a positive impact. She helps entrepreneurs scale with powerful positioning & profitable programs designed around their zone of genius. A staunch believer in simplicity, Lisa helps her clients accomplish their goals by focusing on what to do AND what to ignore.