Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Success Of Your Membership Site Depends On Trust

Paid membership sites can be very profitable, but it's not easy to succeed with them. Many business owners have big plans for their membership site, but are soon disappointed and frustrated with the lack of subscribers and engagement among members. That's because they don't understand the key component of a successful membership site: trust.

This is what usually happens...

Let's say you're already an established expert, with clients who pay for your expertise. You might have even created information products to share your expertise in other ways - for example, in books, blog posts, audio programs and videos.

So you get excited about the idea of creating your own paid membership site, where you provide some of your expertise and resources to subscribers (members). They don't get access to everything you do, but they get a substantial amount of it, for a low monthly fee.

This is easy to create, especially with tools like Ning, a low-cost service that handles all the technical stuff for you.

So you create it, start promoting it, and wait.
And wait...
And wait...

You might give away some free trial subscriptions to your top clients, your close colleagues and some friends. And you might get the occasional subscription from somebody you don't know.

But overall the result is pretty disappointing. You're not getting anywhere near the amount of members you expected, and even people who said they would be interested in your membership site don't sign up when they're asked to make a commitment.

And you don't understand why they are not joining. After all, you know you're offering incredible value. You couldn't offer any more unless you were giving it away!

But you didn't understand the missing piece...

Creating a membership site needs more than providing your expertise, creating information products and site hosting. All of those things are important, but they aren't enough.

This is the missing piece of the puzzle: Trust.

That might sound odd, and probably isn't what you expected. But it's true - most paid membership sites fail because of a lack of trust. For example:

  • Members don't know they can trust you to deliver great value every month.
  • Members don't trust themselves to get value from their membership.
  • If prospective members don't know you, they don't know whether to choose you or somebody else.
  • You worry about somebody joining the site, downloading everything immediately and then cancelling their membership.
  • You worry about people taking advantage of the increased access to you (wasting your time with too many phone calls and e-mails).
  • You worry about members giving out the password to their friends.

These are all issues of trust, which you need to overcome if you want to build a successful membership site. Don't get me wrong - these are genuine concerns, not just figments of your imagination. But they can all get in the way of your success.

Here's how to solve all these trust issues...

You don't need to spend months in therapy tackling your trust issues! Instead, there's one simple way to address all of these issues: Work with people you already trust (and who already trust you).

In other words, don't base your membership site strategy on having to attract lots of strangers. Plan your membership site based on the majority of your members being people who know, like and trust you already.

For example, they might be:

  • Your top clients and their team members
  • Past customers who want on-going support
  • Clients who are already paying for other services (so you can sell them a subscription as well)

This is a boring strategy!

Let's be clear: This is not a sexy strategy. It's more fun to post on Twitter, build a Facebook page, set up an affiliate program, and so on. But that's not an easy path to success. If you do get the occasional person who stumbles over your site and signs up as a member, that's a bonus. But make sure you're willing to proceed even if you get none of those people.


  1. Gihan, as a member of your membership site for a number of years this is so true. Belonging to it is like an insurance policy for me. I know that if I get stuck or I have a query you will pay me out with great information and support in the member's vault of resources. I trust that you will consistently present me with top level expertise.