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How To Scale Your Business Through An Online Membership Model

business strategy marketing Nov 26, 2020

Feeling the strain of being ‘it’ in your business? An over-worked hamster stuck on a mentally exhausting wheel?

If you’ve ever wished you could split yourself in two (or maybe four, five or ten), then it’s probably time to look for a non-surgical solution to your business challenges.

And an online membership might be just what you’re looking for!

I think memberships can be added to almost any business – if you have the vision and understanding of what makes a membership great (more on this below!).

 

Multiplying your revenue with an online membership

Before you give airtime to that old devil, imposter syndrome, remember that teaching and empowering isn’t about setting yourself up on a pedestal, it’s just a different way of using the same skills, the same experience and the same IP that you always do.

Here’s a simple sum for you… one hour of your time devoted to supporting one person still equals one hour; an hour supporting 12 people, however…. loads more value in the same 60-minute span.

But before you start mentally multiplying your income, let’s get the lowdown on what the ‘one to many’ model really means.

Moving from a 1:1 model to 1:many

There’s more than one way to have a 1:many model, but first let’s explore how memberships differ.

When you deliver a webinar or sell a download, it’s a neat little package of goodness with a clear, short, pre-determined trajectory from beginning to end. But a membership means consistently delivering value and providing wraparound support. A very different beast.

We’re now seeing service-based businesses of every imaginable shape and size sharing their expertise in new ways to reach entirely new customer segments, or to extend their customer life-cycle with a continuous revenue stream.

Everyone from architects and interior designers to naturopaths and stylists is finding a new way to access untapped markets. And it’s not about jumping on a faddy bandwagon, it’s genuinely about working smarter.

Is a membership model right for your business?

Ok, it might not be for everyone! But there’s no rule book about how your membership works – you can design your program to suit your preferences!

Before you take the plunge, you first have to get crystal clear on who your ideal customer is – why they need what you’re selling and what value you can bring. We all know about those people who tried to sell ice to eskimos… !

Take the time to survey and gather insights from your proposed market and also see what else is out there – what you can do better or differently.

If it looks like people want a service that you can deliver, use that information to create something targeted to meet their specific needs, in terms of content, delivery and price-point.

I can’t really say this enough – you need to design this with your customers’ needs front and centre to be successful. If they don’t want it, they won’t buy it!

And while that sounds completely obvious, it’s the rock on which so many businesses perish… starting with what they want to sell rather than what their customer wants to buy. You won’t be one of those!

What are the benefits of scaling your business?

If your business relies on you, and you alone, being present and continuously active to generate income, then it can feel as though you’re chained to your laptop and every minute spent away is a wasted chance to earn more.

Slow down for the sake of personal wellbeing, and watch your bank balance dip. 

Or, add in a scalable revenue stream like a membership!   

Done well, memberships can mean:

A lower cost of business

While it’s not ‘set and forget’, as you develop a content bank you’re creating an ongoing asset. The value you provide is totally scalable, ripe for automation and processes, and much easier to outsource. It’s the smart woman’s way of being in many places at once.

Lower marketing costs

The very nature of a membership means that you have an ongoing income stream. Think about the amount of effort it takes to attract new customers … and then imagine doing that once and keeping their custom for the long-haul. While you don’t have to spend more money marketing to them again, you do have to keep delivering value so they stay (more on that later).

Accumulating proprietary data

Memberships provide an incredible opportunity to tune into your customer and refine your offering. If the conversation is one-way, then both you and they are liable to miss out. Listen as much as you speak, so you truly understand their behaviour, needs and wants, and can respond accordingly.

Further diversification

With an engaged and satisfied membership, you’re not only likely to gain referral business, you’re also in a great position to cross and up-sell across your service menu.

How to create a membership program

Create a roadmap / structure for your program

The best memberships are systematic, and by that I don’t mean boring! If you dump your vast expanse of knowledge on them in one go, or without a clear pathway, your customers simply won’t experience your value, or reach the outcome you’ve promised.

The number one reason why people leave a membership is overwhelm! Less is more, quality over quantity. 

Consistent new content

Having new content you deliver consistently is what helps make your membership ‘sticky’. You can get creative here – so many options for the type of content, just make sure it’s what your members are wanting!

Provide support 

Pair that with access to an expert coach or mentor (you!) and a nurturing peer environment, like a Facebook or Zoom group, and you have a winning combination. That doesn’t mean being on-call 24/7 – it’s your job to set and manage reasonable expectations – but it does mean building genuine connection and making people feel supported and understood on their journey.

Just remember, people don’t join memberships to download bazillions of PDFs – they join them for the peer support, the expert eye, the accountability and the hand-holding.

Why is member retention important?

If you’re haemorrhaging members, you’re not delivering value. Simple as that.

The whole point of a membership model is to lock in recurring revenue, and to do that you need to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Memberships are not ‘passive income’ (passive income being a myth, by the way), because delivering real value takes time and it takes effort.

Keep your offering fresh and in tune with your customers, evolving to reflect their changing needs.

In reality, your retention strategy has to start the minute you gain a customer. That means delivering a great onboarding process which empowers them to get the most out of their membership.

Then – assuming your content and delivery are on point – it’s about being present and visible in your community. Otherwise, you’re basically just an e-book they keep getting charged for…

It’s a fine but important line – striking the right balance between value and volume. 

You need them to be engaged without being overwhelmed, to have the answers they need but access to the support they want. It’s the difference between high lifetime value and high churn.

My top 5 favourite membership platforms

Here’s my top picks for an online membership platform that you can also create online courses or sell digital products on. I use or have used most of these myself, currently I’m using AccessAlly.

(I’m not paid to tell you about any of these platforms (and there’s many others out there too), however if you choose to sign up to one, they may reward me with a small token of appreciation.) 

Access Ally

It’s an all-in-one course and membership plugin for WordPress, which means you can host your membership on your main website and keep the existing themes the same. It’s got checkout functionality included so you don’t need a separate cart plugin.

Kajabi

This market leading all-in-one website, course, membership, email marketing platform is great if you’re ready to simplify and streamline your tech. It’s fast loading, easy to use for non-techy people and there’s heaps of support. The integration of the whole business and marketing system together makes so much sense! It includes checkout functionality and video hosting – so say goodbye to your multiple tech platforms!  Learn more

Kartra

Another all-in-one website, course, membership and email solution, with a great focus on in-cart upsells that can help you maximise your revenue for your launches

New Zenler

This all-in-one solution is set to rival Kajabi with everything included for your website and membership, courses, email and payments. It’s currently in beta phase and you need an invite to join and use the beta for free. Here’s my invite to you!

Member Vault

A membership and course platform that’s got a free plan for starting out. Quick and easy to build with a templated layout so it’s great for those who aren’t as tech savvy. Active support in their Facebook group and it has checkout functionality too.

Podia

A really nicely designed platform for courses and memberships. Like Membervault, it’s templated design means it’s easy to set up quickly.

How to start a profitable membership program

Got you thinking, right?

All that knowledge underpinning your product or service is an asset you could be deploying in whole new ways.

And I can help you make it happen. There’s a lot that goes into planning and launching your membership (including making a good choice of tech platform!).

In my coaching group The Momentum Club I help you turn thought into action and explore options to scale your business. You’ll create an aligned service model that focuses on your customer journey and retention within your business.

TMC is designed for women ready to take their business to the next level and achieve consistent, profitable growth – without losing their precious family time.

Ready to get off the hamster wheel?

Find out more about The Momentum Club here.

OR, book a 15 minute obligation-free chat with me to explore your business goals and coaching options.