Why Membership Sites Work to Make you Money – Part 4: Your Presence Becomes Elevated

Become elevated with a membership siteYou might think that if you start a membership site, you will become just an anonymous person who provides regular content.

What happened to me is just the opposite!

As a coach doing individual and group coaching for academics, I found that it was difficult to get known.

Once I started my membership site, all of that changed. Every month brought more members. Over the years, 1000’s of people have belonged to my membership site, the Academic Writing Club.

I don’t have a picture of myself on the membership site, I don’t give classes, and I don’t do any of the online coaching. The site is not named after me.

And yet, I’ve become surprisingly elevated in the eyes of many academics.

Gina Teaching

This is me after a presentation to the UCLA Postdoctoral Society, another invited address. And yes, my hair is inexplicably brown in this picture.

Here are some examples of what has happened because I run this membership site.

1. Here’s the most recent result of running my membership site: A professor in charge of one of the PhD programs at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, contacted me about bringing our membership site to their students. I had a Skype call with the professor just this morning. What a thrill!

2. The Assistant Provost of Academic Affairs at the University of California, Berkeley wrote and asked me to give a series of talks to the professors and graduate students.

Two different faculty members had told her that Berkeley should bring me to the campus. These professors had never met me, heard me speak, or experienced coaching with me. But as members of the Academic Writing Club, they felt they knew me and just knew I would be a good speaker. I ended up giving 4 talks and we collaborated on bringing special programs to the professors. Since then, one of my associate coaches has also given a talk at UC Berkeley.

3. My trip to Northern California was made even more worth it when a graduate student at Stanford applied for a grant to have me speak to the engineering graduate students. Again, I had never met her. But she WAS a participant in my membership site.

Note that, during these years, I did very little PR or outreach. I was going through a difficult period involving back problems, spinal surgery and divorce. The only way I brought new people into my list was through a small pay-per-click ad. I even stopped writing my newsletter for a year.

Despite all this, my membership site grew and grew and so did my “renown.”

Having this online presence and being elevated in the eyes of my followers was due to the excellent results they were getting.

And you can bet that it results in continuing new word of mouth referrals.

Now that I’m busy running Finish Agent, so that I can bring the same membership site software to you, I still put little time into “selling” the Academic Writing Club. Yet it grows despite this, and brings me regular, predictable, leveraged income.

You may have never thought of a membership site as a way to get an elevated presence in the eyes of your followers. Well, think again!

Why Membership Sites Work to Make You Money – Part 3: Charge Less, Earn More

The high-end model:  charge more; serve fewer
Many coaches, trainers and other change agents are looking for ways to find clients who will buy high-price services.  This technique seems obvious – you don’t need as many clients if you charge more per client.  And that is true!  Selling a high-price service to high-end clients does work to earn you money, and is a perfectly fine business model.

Piggy BankThe membership site model: charge less; serve more
But, there is another way.  If you have a lot of people paying you a smaller amount for a lower-fee, high-value service, you can earn just as much money, if not more, than you can with the high-end client business model.  Just ask the owners of Target or Wal-Mart.  I’m sure they are just as rich as the owners of Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdale’s.

The sales process
It’s a whole lot easier to get a lot of people to pay a small amount than to get a small number of people to pay a huge amount.  It takes a lot of work and sales expertise to sign on a high-end client.  First, these prospects need to know enough about you to sign up to talk to you or your sales team.  Then you must spend many hours a week talking to many prospects in order to have enough clients.  Not everyone enjoys that kind of sales process.

When you have a service that carries a smaller fee, you can use easier and less hands-on sales methods.  You can send prospects directly from ads, free seminars, social media, emails or blog posts straight to your sales page and on to your shopping cart.

Providing the service
When it comes to actually providing the service, the high-end client who has paid a high fee will be expecting more direct exposure to you.  They want you to be there at the VIP day, at the individual sessions, or running the class.  With this business model, high value = YOU.

On the other hand, when people sign up for a membership site, they don’t expect any direct contact from you. Because you don’t have to provide clients with individual or even group time with you, having lots more clients doesn’t mean lots more work.  As a matter of fact it means less work, because others can do a lot of the work for you.

Attract more people
If you have a high-end model, then many people may have come to your website and left, because they can’t afford to work with you.  You have no idea how many people you have lost because they either saw your high fee, or knew when only strategy sessions were offered that you probably charged a lot.  

When you have a low-fee, high-value service like a membership site, many more people will be able to enter your kingdom, because they can afford to.  More people will get exposure to your message, your methods, your content and to your team.  And they can stay within your “realm” for a much longer time due to the reasonable price.

Proof?  Me!
For those of you who are new to the Finish Agent site, let me tell you that I am living proof of what I’ve written here.  I own a membership site (using the Finish Agent software and business system) that has over 400 members who pay on the average about $87 every 4 weeks.  My 4-week payment cycle actually provides me 13 months in my year!  If you do the math, you will see that this adds up to a nice sum.

I’ve grown my once-small list to over 20,000 by using a combination of Adwords ads on Google, a newsletter, blog posts and articles.  The rest was word of mouth.  

I sell by sending out monthly sales letters.  Most of my readers have heard of my membership site from other messages I’ve sent.  They are directed to the sales page and buy directly from there.

Sounds simple?  It is!
These are the reasons that a low-fee, high-value membership site can work so well to earn you money.  And as you can guess, I’m impassioned about this model because it’s worked so well for me!

Why Membership Sites Work to Make You Money – Part 2: It Takes a Village to Help People Change

Why membership sites work – it’s more than just teaching
Why membership sites work – it’s more than just teaching.

Before I left on my European odyssey, I started a blog post series called “Why Membership Sites Work to Make you Money.”  The theme last time was “increased client retention.”  

In this blog post, Part 2 in that series, we’ll explore WHY membership sites provide improved client retention.

To retain the clients you have, you must provide top value.  But how can online membership sites provide value with so many members and so few coaches?

Let me ask you something first.  When you learn something new, and you decide that you want to make a change and do that new thing (such as regular posting to social media or exercising for 45 minutes every day), do you just…do it?

The answer 99% of the time is “NO.”  I know I don’t!  

If we all changed as soon as we found out how to change, we would all be perfect.

If you’ve learned something complex (such as writing a book or learning how to build an online business), it takes much, much more than being taught the facts to help you change.

In addition to teaching, we need these “change factors:”

  • Repetition
  • Answers to our questions
  • Role models
  • Hand holding
  • Reminders
  • Encouragement
  • Support
  • Examples
  • Role playing
  • Instruction in how to change
  • Praise
  • Guidance in how to take each step toward change.
  • Praise for attempting the small steps needed in changing
  • Being picked up off the floor when we fail
  •  And much, much more.

Guess what?  It’s difficult for one coach to provide all of the above!

Enter, the membership site.  

More than one coach

As the owner of a membership site, you can hire other coaches and train them in your theories, content and techniques.  So you don’t have to do all of the work.  Or any of the work, if you’re like me.

The village

It takes a village to help you change.  Ideally, your membership site offers multiple ways for your members to interact with each other.  

Fellow member of a group can be more powerful as change agents than the coach.  When you relate strongly to someone, they become a powerful influence, role model and support system.

The group as a whole has a mystical magical power.  I’m not talking woo woo.  Many books have been written about the power of the group.  The first psychology book I ever read was Sigmund Freud’s, “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.”  (I loved it, and shortly after changed my major from Russian and French to Psychology.)

Continuous connection to your materials and practices

My good friend and a colleague that I admire greatly, Amethyst Wyldfyre, made a comment on my last membership site blog postShe wrote, “it’s…the continuous connection to the same potent and powerful material and practices” that makes membership sites powerful (as compared to, say, a one-off teleseminar series).

In order to change, you need continually deepening repetition of the material, and practice applying what you’ve learned to your particular situation.  

It’s very exciting to see how you, as a coach with a membership site, can schedule fewer individual coaching sessions, while helping more people make important changes in an environment where they can thrive.

Why Membership Sites Work to Make You Money – Part 1

People in circleEveryone is looking for a website that works.  And a membership site is considered by some to be the ultimate website that works.  

I plan to take you through the ways that membership sites work, and examine each aspect in depth.  Today I’m going to delve into client retention.

When you have a service-oriented website (in other words, if you are a coach or change agent of some kind), one of the most difficult aspects of your business is finding clients.

Once you obtain clients, the most important thing to accomplish (besides, of course, helping them get the results they desire), is to assure that they stay long enough to get all the benefits that you have to offer.

This is client retention.  It’s much easier to keep a client than to get that client in the beginning.  So truly, a tremendous amount of your focus should be on following-through on techniques for client retention.

Membership sites are a fantastic way to retain clients.  The main reason is that people register for membership on your site knowing that their credit card will be charged monthly.  In order to stop being a member, they must take some action.

It’s so much better to require an action for leaving than to require an action for staying.  

Automatic recurring income is the rocket fuel that propels client retention.

I’m not talking about those tricky sites that give you a month free and then start charging you, hoping that you won’t notice and you’ll forget that you signed up (then you can’t figure out how to unsubscribe).

Your membership site should be the kind in which people are happy to have the monthly decision to re-enroll taken off of their shoulders.  They enjoy the site, get value from it, and want to stay.  And on your site, it will be clear and easy to stop being a member.

Let me tell you a story.  

My membership site (which is how I originally figured out how to create my Finish Agent membership site software) was not on recurring billing.  Each month, I’d come up with another idea for a monthly membership, rename it, and invite people.

I was scared to make it recurring billing.  Afraid that people would be mad at me.  Don’t ask me why.  I never said I make sense all the time.

Luckily, my brilliant coach, Andrea J. Lee, gently nudged me until I finally did a re-launch, raised my prices (gulp!) and let my members know that we were moving to recurring billing.  Then I waited for the avalanche of complaints and the deafening quiet of nobody signing up.

And waited..  And waited…

Wait, what? More people signed up than ever!  And (sigh of relief), old members signed up and continued to stay!  

I earned about 30% more that month than I had the previous month!  Just think of all that unearned income while I futzed around and worried.

To sum up: membership sites can be a good way to leverage your time because they increase your client retention through automatic recurring income.  And if there’s one thing that’s easy to love, it’s automatic, recurring income.

Stay tuned for more about membership sites.

Have you ever belonged to a membership site?  How did you feel about the recurring billing? What did you like and not like about being a member?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences —  Enter your comments below!

Are You a Content-Creating Machine or a Coach? How I Survived My Year from Hell!

Do you love creating content for your programs?

Do you enjoy constantly inventing new, innovative products and formulating creative ways to package your offers – week after week and month after month?

I’m sure that, in the beginning, you felt an absolute high from building your business and sharing your work and passion with the world. When you launch a new product and get great results, the experience is incredibly satisfying!

But do you think that you will continue to love this process of creating content and innovative products year after year? What happens if you become burned out?

Or, what if (heaven forbid!) something goes wrong in your life and you suddenly aren’t able to create a new product launch or write content every week?

For five years, I regularly wrote a newsletter. And for nearly two of those years, I was writing those newsletters once a week. But somewhere along the way, I grew tired of the process of creating that content, so I began slowing down my output to biweekly… and then to monthly.

And then, life happened.

My back started hurting, and the pain became worse and worse. Sitting down was incredibly painful – so my options were to either stand up or lie flat.   As you can imagine, my physical limitations affected my ability to work all. (Try typing on your laptop while lying down!)

I endured a year of pain and frustration while the insurance company postponed my much-needed surgery for what doctors later discovered was a bone spur sticking into my spine. When the time finally came to undergo the procedure, I was hopeful that my hard times were about to pass.

However, during this same time, my father faced his own health challenges and had triple bypass surgery.

And then, to top it all off, I had to go through a divorce.  I recovered from the back surgery alone.

It was a rough year.

It wasn’t quite the optimal situation for creating content, or new innovative products to inspire the masses, and keep my revenue flowing in.

Thank goodness I had a system in place that literally saved my business throughout that year from Hell! It made money for me while I was unable to work… and without it, I just don’t know what I would have done.

What was this system? A unique membership site that I had created and that didn’t require continual formation of content. Instead, this site focuses on the process of getting things done.  It is completely focused on helping people to move into (and remain in) action.

And why is it so effective? Because based on my work with thousands of professionals, I know that once you come to terms with exactly what it is that you want to do in the world, you’ve only taken the very first step.

What comes next is the arduous task of taking that official first step, and then the next, and the next, and the next, and continuing to progress forward even as you face external and internal barriers along the way.

If you can find a way, like I did, to pair your teaching with a method that guides your clients to take those consistent steps toward achieving their goals, I suggest jumping on it. Not only for their success – but for your own!

You just never know when life is going to throw you for a loop… but with a program in place like the one I’m talking about here, you don’t have to stress about the bills along with everything else that’s going on!

Check out this screenshot of a Progress Page for one of the 40 groups that are a part of my membership site, the Academic Writing Club. (http://academicwritingclub.com). I offer this program through my first business, Academic Ladder, Inc., which serves professors and grad students wrestling with writer’s block.

See all those little green checkmarks? Each one represents an actual day that members logged in and worked toward their goals, allowing them to effectively monitor their progress toward successful goal achievement.

(And, did I mention that I don’t even have to run the site? The entire program is run by two managers and 13 coaches!)

And here’s where it gets good:

I have created an opportunity like this just for you.

You can do the same thing I did! You can “weatherproof” your business against the storms of life, by creating a get-it-done, process-oriented membership site, customized to your niche, your clients, and your teaching!

Below is a screenshot of the same Progress Page as above, but this one is from my new site (Finish Agent), which licenses membership site software to you, the business owner. (This example is customized for Zoom Crew, an up-and-coming business.)

I will be offering more information about this spectacular opportunity for you in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, start celebrating this: you can earn a living without having to create content! How would you spend your time if you had a membership site making passive income for you? What would it be worth to you to weatherproof your business against the storms of life? Please leave a comment below!

If you have questions about how I run my membership site or about how to license the software from Finish Agent, please enter them below or email me at info@finishagent.com.

And by the way, my back is much better now, and so is my life!

Membership Websites Based on Group Accountability, Not Content? YES!

It’s so hard for me to listen to experienced coaches, trainers and mastermind leaders say that membership websites are too difficult to maintain, and ultimately end in failure.

Of course, they believe that the only way to have a membership system that can give you any kind of online income is to base it on creating and providing great content, month after month, forever.

First of all, let me define “content.”  That word is used to mean articles, PDFs, recordings of classes, and videos that teach you something.  Content is wonderful; it’s how we learn.  I’m a big fan of content.Membership website all content

The problem is that the person running the membership system has to come up with content.  For many, that is fun.  They love to teach and train.  BUT, and this is really a big but, what if you get tired of providing content?  What if you get tired of people signing on, downloading your content, and leaving?  What if you have not stockpiled a lot of content and you happen to get sick, or a family member needs you, or you want to take a long vacation?

The fact is that the person in charge of the membership website often just burns out.

That’s why I developed member software and a system that does not rely on content.  Of course, it does allow you to put content in it.  But it relies more on the process of getting things done, by providing an online accountability system that creates a support network with deep bonds, and a community that keeps your clients on track.

When the process of getting things done is front and center, the dynamic of a membership site undergoes a huge shift.  People will then rely on their small group and their online coach for support, encouragement, and reminders of what they should be doing on a daily basis (I’ll save my “daily accountability” secret for another post).

 

And as you see on my home page, I have already used this system to grow a membership site that has well over 400 members paying $70 a month (or less with long-term plans).  Many people have stayed with my site over four years.  The reason they stay is that the site is amazingly effective.  They have had incredible breakthroughs that they never would have had alone.  and have been able to make more progress in their lives and careers than ever before.  See the testimonials page for just some of the thousands (yes, thousands) of comments from the incredibly grateful and excited members of my Academic Writing Club have written.

And right now, I do none of the hands-on online coaching.  I have 10 coaches who do that for me.  How’s that for a source of passive online income?

 

Please post below what comes to mind when you think about running a membership site — does it seem worth it to you?