Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Seven Biggest Mistakes Business Owners Make With A Membership Site

Build Your Membership SiteFor experienced and established businesses, a paid membership site can be an obvious next step. In fact, over the last 18 months, I've noticed a renewed interest in clients wanting to create paid membership sites. But I've also noticed a number of common mistakes that people make when planning and building their membership site. If you can understand - and avoid - these mistakes, it greatly increases your chances of building a powerful asset for your business.

The most common questions I hear about membership sites are about tactics, such as what software to use, what payment system to use, how to integrate it with your main Web site, and so on. But the most common mistakes are about strategy, as you will see from this list.

1. Starting Too Soon

Membership sites are hot at the moment, but they take a lot of work to create, sell, and maintain. Before you decide to commit, be sure you have these three things in place:

  1. Value: A track record of providing real value (that people are willing to pay for) to customers and clients
  2. Resources: The ability to deliver ongoing products and services for your members
  3. Network: A database of potential customers, access to other experts, and enough staff to manage the site

2. Overestimating the Value

When you stack up the value of everything in your membership site, it's easy to convince yourself that it offers huge value. After all, you're offering 100 e-books, 3 webinars a month, and unlimited access to you for just $47 per month! And yes, that is good value compared to paying for everything separately. But nobody else is thinking that way. They are weighing up what else they could do with that money - and that's your real competition.

Even those who understand the value are wondering how they will put it into action. They already know they don't get full value from their gym membership or Foxtel subscription. Why should your membership site be any different? The fact is, it's not - unless you can give them a clear path to getting results.

3. Selling to Strangers

If you've ever tried to sell anything online, you'll know just how difficult it is to convince people to buy. It's not that people are scared to buy online anymore - it's that you just don't know how to market to strangers who stumble across your Web site. Now multiply that difficulty by 100 when you think about asking them to buy an ongoing subscription. "You want permission to charge my credit card every month for the rest of my life??? No way, Jose!"

If you're already really good at Internet marketing, this doesn't apply to you. But if you're not, the easiest way to solve this problem is not to target strangers in the first place. Offer your membership site to past clients, or bundled in with other offerings, or to everybody who buys your book, or whatever. It's far easier to sell it first to people who know, like and trust you.

4. Running On Empty

This leads to the next issue: It's difficult to run a membership site with only a few members. You only have a few people attending webinars, hardly anybody contributes to the forum, you never get any positive feedback, and so on. And, of course, you have to keep doing a lot of work in exchange for very little income.

The solution is to do whatever it takes to build the membership fast. Offer it at a discount to "foundation members", give it away to your 10 best clients, offer it free with every workshop, give 3 months' access to people who buy your book, ..., whatever. It's better to have some members, even if they aren't all full-paying members. These first members will participate in your webinars, road-test the site, give you feedback, and give the site momentum.

5. Expecting a Lot of Interaction

That said, don't expect your members to interact a lot on the site - especially with each other. If they do interact, that's a bonus, but don't expect it. It takes a lot of work to get people involved in an online community unless they are really passionate about it (and most of your members are not passionate about your community).

Rather than spending a lot of time trying to build interaction and participation, focus on giving them high-quality resources and access to you. That's probably why they joined anyway.

6. Underestimating the Administration

You can get membership site software to do most of the heavy lifting for you (taking money, creating usernames, resetting forgotten passwords, scheduling release of modules, etc.). But you might be surprised (and frustrated!) at just how much you still need to do. Members will ask about time zones for webinars, special payment terms, forgotten passwords, tech support problems outside your control, and so on. That's just human nature. They're not dumb; they're just busy.

The best solution is to just allow time to handle these administrivia. Eventually you'll be able to delegate this to somebody else, but it's a good idea to start by handling it yourself, so you get a good feel for what your members need.

7. Waiting Too Long!

Wait ...... Doesn't this contradict #1 above???

No! It's true that many people jump in too soon, but many wait too long as well. A membership site can be a very profitable - and enjoyable - part of your business. It provides steady cash flow, loyal clients, a growing asset, and a powerful way to keep in touch with your market's needs. So understand - and avoid - the mistakes I've described above. But if you're confident you can make a membership site work, don't wait forever!

Workshop: Build Your Membership Site In Two Days: Sydney, 7th and 8th April 2014

Build Your Membership SiteMembership sites have become hot Internet properties in the last few years, and can be a highly profitable source of recurring income for speakers, trainers and other infopreneurs. For an established and experienced business, a paid membership site can be the obvious next step. But you have to know what you're doing, so you can make the site operate smoothly and efficiently, while still providing ongoing value for your and your members.

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