Should You Allow Competitors to Join Your Membership?
Should you allow competitors to join your membership?
When many people answer this question in their minds, it’s a resounding NO.
And usually, fear is at the heart of it.
- Fear they will steal your content
- Fear they will steal your secret sauce
- Fear they will poach your members
And, yes, these are all valid reasons. These situations do happen to people and it has happened to us many times.
But, hang on… that's not a reason to hit the panic button if you spot a competitor sniffing around your membership!
Not every competitor out there that joins your site has malicious intentions and will misuse the content.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
We have had a few very interesting experiences in our time at The Membership Guys in relation to competitors in the industry and content theft.
Grab some tea and settle in.
First, the good.
Back in January 2018, we onboarded a new member who was quite open with us in saying that she was a coach and was hoping to use our material to teach others how to create membership sites.
This open and overt response caused us to respond quickly with a notice of cancellation and promptly refunded her money. To us, this sounded like our content and intellectual property was at risk.
But the story took a twist.
It turned out that it was a complete miscommunication due to a language barrier!
We looked into this coach who in fact has a business specifically helping therapists and after some back and forth, it turned out she simply wanted to create her own membership site to share her material with her clients.
Always see the best in people! Don’t assume that people are joining with negative intentions.
We took that lesson onboard, ate a big ol' plate of humble pie, and moved on.
Now, the bad.
It’s one thing for someone to rip off your free content, but it’s a whole other kettle of fish if someone steals your paid content for their own professional gain.
We follow a blog published by a well-known membership website WordPress plug-in company.
Just recently, there was one particular article written by a guest contributor that looked awfully similar to our content.
A little TOO similar!
After some investigation, this writer was, in fact, a member on our site and we found the specific content that she had copied and pasted into this blog post. She even took screenshots of our course content without acknowledgement or letting us know.
As a membership site owner and content creator, it is important to understand your rights and the law as it relates to intellectual property and copyright.
When people steal content, it can sometimes be from a place of naivety or ignorance, rather than from an unscrupulous, deliberately thieving mentality.
And then, the ugly.
The plot thickened. Turns out that the guest post was just the tip of the iceberg.
With further investigation into this person’s website, we found another article that had 90% of the words taken directly from our cheat sheets from inside our Academy!
Alarm bells were ringing like crazy! And I went into high gear, Liam Neeson mode.
I tracked every last bit of content this individual got her hands on – social media posts, graphics, videos, calculators, lead magnets and other valuable course material. You name it, she stole it and slapped her logo on it.
And guess what?
The person who committed this theft was the same person I originally cancelled back in January 2018.
The therapist coach!
Big. Humungous. Ouch.
Change your mind-set: your competitors can be collaborators
Despite this crazy story, there are some major positives that can come from competitors joining your site.
The presence of fellow experts in your niche inside your membership can be a big value-add for your members and will only boost the reputation of your community.
And it can open up opportunities for working with other experts or well-known industry figures to add to your own personal brand and position in the industry.
Here are some ways you can collaborate with your competitors:
- Come together and create joint training material, or a specialized workshop or seminar for your members.
- Ask them to become a part of your faculty.
- Use it as an opportunity to share knowledge and best practices.
- Come up with ways to team up, for example to deliver a joint Facebook live.
Also, your perception of who this competitor is and where they stand can be misunderstood.
You may think someone is a direct competitor, but they are actually joining your site as a student, not as a peer.
Or they may be joining your membership because they don’t want to run a site themselves and they have no intention of competing with you. They may even consider you a mentor or an expert in your industry and don’t consider themselves in the same league at all.
If that’s the case, you may consider creating an affiliate program for your competitors so they get rewarded for sending new members your way.
If you close yourself off from the possibility of benefits out of fear, then you may be missing out on lost opportunities.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
It’s a simple answer.
True, you are not the only voice in the industry.
But you are the voice that matters to your members.
They trust and buy your program because of your approach, your messaging, your attitude and your way of doing things.
Hands down – there is no competition with the person that is you!
Don’t kid yourself that your members haven’t educated themselves on who else is out there producing content in your area of expertise. They most likely follow many different people in your industry and consume the content of your competitors as well.
Bottom line is they picked you and they won’t just suddenly leave your site for your competitor.
Your competitors should not be feared.
What if you know a competitor is lurking?
Maybe, right at this moment, there is someone lurking around your site gathering intelligence.
If you find out there is a competitor in your community, then acknowledge their presence and message them with a friendly “Hello!”
This type of proactive gesture will demonstrate that you don’t have an issue with them being on your site.
You never know. They may have positive intentions and a beautiful, fruitful partnership for both of you can arise and become an unexpected bonus!
But, if their intentions are insincere, they may already be paranoid about being caught. A simple message saying “Hey there!” will show you know they are in the community, and it may be enough for them to retreat back into the hole they crawled out of.
The red flags to look for when a competitor is sneaking around
The gut is an amazing communicator.
If you have a gut feeling that a competitor is hiding among your members, then I suggest you reach our and say “Hi.”
This will either spook the people with nefarious intentions; or it'll open a dialogue with the ones who are here for totally legit reasons.
Also keep an eye on what they are consuming and how much.
The site tracking and user behaviour features in CRMs like ActiveCampaign or Intercom are fantastic for letting you see which content members are viewing. This will give you real insight into what your competitors are up to inside your site.
Here are some red flag scenarios to look for:
- Monitor the language in your discussion forums. Look for sales or marketing type messages. Similar to what someone would do in a Facebook group when they say “I’ll send you a PM.” Any attempt to move the conversation off the site should be on your radar.
- Use forum software to see if this person is sending a lot of private messages. You won’t be able to read them, but your 6th sense will tingle with suspicion.
- Perhaps the competitor is sitting quietly and hasn’t contributed one word to your community but they have an Inbox full of private messages. Something could be up.
- Do their downloads look suspicious in some way?
In general, learn to listen to your gut instinct.
So… Should you allow competitors to join your membership?
Despite the messy story I shared, my answer is still a warm yes.
There are great people who are doing good things and are raising the positive energy in the world.
Just like you and I, we have to maintain trust that our competitors are good people too.
We know our true, worthy, competitors won’t steal our content. They don’t need to because they’ve got their own experience, knowledge and expertise to draw on!
We may be directly competitive, but there’s always a level of respect and professionalism where you would never dream of ripping each other off.
Of course, there will always be others that do not live up to the same level of integrity.
But these lazy individuals who rip off other people’s content rather than come up with their own ideas have behaviours which are not conducive to long term success.
You don’t need to be worried about these people, they won’t last for long and they are not true competitors.
Lazy never lasts!
Ultimately, if you have others in your industry doing good work, and if you can collaborate to do great things by having them join your community, then everyone wins.
And this is the way I choose to learn from our experience.