Tackling the 6 Biggest Challenges Every New Membership Owner Faces
Let's be honest… running a membership business is not easy.
It's not all success stories and seven figure launches…
Turning your membership idea into a reality involves a lot of time, effort and hard work…
And that doesn't stop once you open the doors…
In fact, that's just the beginning!
While being a membership site owner is the best job in the world…
(We might be being slightly biased, but it's true…)
Like with all good things, it does have its challenges.
There's a lot of stuff going on under the surface for us all…
And when you're at the beginning of your membership journey these challenges can seem all the more overwhelming.
If this sounds familiar, don't worry, we're here to prepare you for what's ahead!
So let's dive in…
Here's how to tackle the six biggest challenges every new membership site owner faces.
1. Keeping your start-up costs under control
Building, launching, and promoting a membership site involves quite a few moving parts…
And that means a lot of potential costs.
The list of tools, plug-ins, and software you can incorporate into your site is endless and it can very tempting to feel like you should invest in them all from the outset…
But doing this will result in your wallet taking a big hit.
And when you're a new membership site owner, you may not have enough members to cover these costs.
So here's our advice…
When it comes to start-up costs, be realistic about what you actually need.
It's important not to fall into the trap of paying for every new shiny object that's out there.
Before making a decision on investment, ask yourself if it's really essential.
- Is this expensive CRM or email marketing platform an absolute necessity when I only have few members?
- Do I need to spend hundreds of dollars a month on shopping cart software when my membership platform has this functionality already built in?
- Is a Customer Service Agent or Community Manager necessary when I have less than 100 members and I only get a couple of emails a day?
- Should I really sign up to a $2,000 course to learn the latest tactic to attract new members because my favourite blogger or podcaster has recommended it?
If your business is not yet earning enough to cover the cost of these things, it most likely won't be worth it.
The same applies to things like Facebook ads.
It's best not to spend a fortune on Facebook ads in the early days of your membership.
We see this happen all of the time…
But the truth is, ads are most effective when they're used to amplify and accelerate your platform once it’s already converting and your sales funnel is working well on its own.
So be patient, save your money, and wait before you jump into Facebook ads.
Our personal rule of thumb is if you can't afford to lose 100% of your ad-spend, then you shouldn't be running ads.
So, what should you be spending your money on?
Things that really matter…
Like investing in high-quality website hosting.
This provides you with reassurance and confidence that your site will stay up and running, with decent upload times.
Invest money in getting help with the tech aspect of your site, so you can free up your time to focus on other things that will help you build your business.
Don't get us wrong, we're by no means encouraging you to make cheap choices…
We're simply helping you keep your costs under control by investing in tools that will genuinely benefit your business.
2. Dealing with technology
Unless you’re a developer or you have one in-house, you'll definitely have moments of utter frustration trying to solve technology issues with your site.
Launching a brand-new membership site requires plenty of tech problem solving skills.
But it won’t end there!
Tech issues are a reality that all membership site owners face at every stage of their journey.
So if you know you’re not tech-savvy, then we highly recommend getting support.
If you worked with someone in the build stage of your site, ask them to stick around for a few more months.
Hire them on retainer for a few hours a week or a month while you get your site up and running.
It will provide you with peace of mind that someone with the right skill set will be handling all of the bugs and finicky, technical issues.
If you're using WordPress, there are plenty of resources and services that provide on-demand support like WP Fix It.
If you're using a hosted platform, try to get to know the tech support staff.
This will give you the reassurance to know that, when things go awry, they've got your back.
And of course there are places like Membership Academy that offers support.
We have a ‘Tech Talk' section for members to post questions and we often find that the biggest frustrations can have the simplest answers.
We can't stress enough how important it is to have a plan in place to assist you when dealing with your tech challenges.
A support system will free up your time and capacity to focus on what matters to your site.
3. Getting momentum in your new membership community
You probably hear this of all the time:
“Members join for the content, but they stay for the community”.
Having some form of online community gives your membership a ‘stickiness' factor that encourages members to stay beyond the courses they complete.
But when you're a new site owner, and have very few members, it's hard to get the ball rolling and build momentum in the community because people aren't posting.
And no one wants to be part of a ghost town!
The problem is, when members aren't posting, there's a mysterious hesitancy that just stalls the engagement.
That's where YOU come in.
There are things that you will personally need to do to get the those conversations flowing.
One thing you should do is reply to each and every comment your members post.
You should also send regular roundups of the discussions taking place in your community…
Even if they're all posts that you initiated.
Send it to your members on a weekly basis to give them the encouragement they need to jump in with their thoughts and opinions.
If you're running webinars and bringing in guest experts, build engagement by asking your members to submit their questions in advance in your forum or your Facebook group.
And make sure your team members, if you have them, are getting involved regularly in the conversations, even if it's outside of the scope of their role.
You can also ask your business network, close friends and contacts in the initial stages to get conversations going.
Once discussions and conversations start happening, you'll find that the momentum will naturally build, and over time, you'll be less hands-on…
Meaning not every conversation will start with you.
It's important to be realistic about your own expectations around community engagement.
With that in mind, another rule of thumb to remember is the ‘90-9-1 Rule’.
It basically means that:
1% of your community will be the most active.
These are known as the power users and are conversation starters.
They will visit your site multiple times a day.
9% are generally active and visit a few times a week.
These members are more likely to reply to posts, but are less likely to start them.
90% are also known as the “lurkers”.
They won't participate, will never visit your community or they'll read and consume but not contribute.
Don't brush these members off, as they get a lot of value from observing the discussions and prefer just to remain in the shadows.
Don't get discouraged when you feel there is not as much activity as you would have hoped.
Remember this rule, crunch the numbers, and you may find that there's actually more engagement than you think.
4. Making the time for your new membership around an existing business or job
We often find that new site owners are running their membership as an extension of their existing business (as another product or revenue stream), or as a side hustle while they are fully employed.
Quite often the end goal is to make the membership their full-time focus.
So when you're trying to balance everything, it can be hard to make it work.
In the early days of your membership site, your revenue might not be at the level to completely abandon your full-time job…
And yet, the time needed to dedicate to the membership site to take it to the next level is just not available to you.
It’s a Catch-22 scenario.
But there are ways to break this cycle and help your membership site grow while keeping your full-time job.
Remember to keep things simple.
Don't overcomplicate how your membership is set up.
Consider less as more, for example:
- Less technology.
- Less moving parts.
- Less tech headaches.
This will lighten your workload and give you more time to invest in providing valuable content.
Also set boundaries with your members regarding your availability for things like customer service and interacting in the community so their expectations are aligned with how available you are.
When it comes to content you should aim to lighten the burden as much as possible…
Rather than creating an epic course that will require a ton of your personal time, focus on creating smaller chunks of content that take less time, but still add value.
Do a Facebook Live or webinar with outside guest experts.
You can also create evergreen content like check lists and cheat sheets that will provide value to your members again and again.
The key thing to do to maximize the use of your time is to treat your membership site like you would a client project or a job.
Set up specific times in your calendar to dedicate to working exclusively on your membership site and stay committed to this time.
If your membership site is a priority, you should make the time, stick to the schedule and not work on anything else.
5. Staying motivated
The early days of building your site can be a slog and a drain on your motivation levels.
This is the nature of membership sites.
They move at such a slow pace initially that it allows your brain too much time to overthink and worry about the fluctuations in your subscriber list.
It's also a time when you may be experiencing a lot of ‘firsts'…
And you always feel the impact of those negative firsts the worst…
Like that very first cancellation…
That stings, doesn't it?
And it's a happy day when you reach your first 50 members …
But then you lose five in the first month.
That's feels like it's huge at the time.
The adrenaline rush of the launch, buzz, and curiosity around this new product creates a fantastic high.
But when the hype dissipates and a few people leave after their first month, it can feel discouraging and demoralizing…
Especially when you're not making enough money to cover costs or to move away from client work…
You start to wonder if it's actually worth it.
Staying motivated while surfing the emotional ups and downs of life as a membership site owner can be very hard.
If motivation is lacking, stay the course and remember why you set up your membership site in the first place.
Successful membership owners worry about the members they have far more than the members they don't have.
It's your job to show up and serve those members you do have.
Go above and beyond by providing them with amazing content.
And with the positive feedback you get will bring you a sense of fulfilment and purpose.
It will be a mental game.
But take the steps you need to silence your negative self-talk and do things that will remind you of your purpose to serve the community you helped create.
Also, have a good support network around you to help you stay on track through these times when you are lacking motivation.
6. Attracting new members after launch
You've done the research, validated your ideas, identified your target audience…
Basically everything you needed to do launch your site…
And it's given you a nice influx of members to get things started.
In many ways the launch of your membership is the easiest piece of the marketing puzzle you'll ever do because you can leverage scarcity and generate buzz around the product.
But, when the initial start-up phase dies down, you're faced with the challenge of bringing in new members on a consistent basis.
There is no one size fits all approach for bringing in new members.
Different things work for different people.
This is why we suggest that you review your launch, see what worked well and adapt that into your marketing activity on an evergreen basis.
If you built your audience and grew your email list through blogging or connecting with people on social media, through publishing videos or doing facebook Lives…
Then don't let these activities slide, just because you've launched your membership.
Consistency is key.
Continue to create interesting content based on the social proof, feedback, and the questions your members are providing on your site.
This allows you to not only add to your content ideas list, but is also an opportunity to plug your membership in non-sleazy way.
Incorporate your membership into the marketing activities you were doing that helped to build your list and audience in the first place.
For example, if someone shares a big win on your membership site, take a screenshot and share it on social.
If you're in the middle of recording courses, do a ‘behind-the-scenes' Instagram Story series that shows how you've been planning and delivering your course material.
Working on a new feature for your membership?
Post about it on Twitter.
Take a question that a member posted on the site that received a lot of engagement and turn it into a blog post.
These are all organic ways of mentioning and integrating the value of your membership site into your content strategy.
Keep sharing, keep making noise and gather as much feedback as you can.
You can also gain deeper knowledge into the different types of members at various stages of the sales funnel through surveys or questions.
- Talk to the people who joined your membership and ask them what specifically made them decide to join
- Talk to those people who joined and then left. Find out why they joined in the first place and, more importantly, why they decided to leave.
- Talk to people who haven't joined who may be on your list. With the mindset of curiosity, try to find out what’s holding them back from joining.
All of this will give you fuel to perfect and refine your marketing message and the strategies you put in place to get more members.
There are a lot of new things you can try out…
You'll see people online encouraging you to follow the latest trend…
They'll be saying things like:
“You must use Messenger Bots”
“You should go live on Instagram”
“You need to try Facebook remarketing”
…And so on.
Try your hardest not to buy into the hype of the next big marketing trend.
Instead choose one new tactic to try at any one time with realistic expectations on the impact it will have on your business.
In other words, don't expect it it to transform your membership overnight.
For successful membership sites, the best results are seen via use of a combination of tactics that are tried and tested out over a period of time.
Try new tactics until you find what works for you.
Owning a new membership is an exciting time…
But it can also be stressful trying to navigate your way through the challenges ahead.
But if you follow our suggestions, you'll minimize your financial outlay, surround yourself with a solid support network and maximize the time you have available to focus on growing your membership…
And most importantly, you'll be free to serve your members.
And that's what it's all about… right?
If you've just launched your membership site or are about to launch very soon, hopefully you now feel better equipped to handle any challenges you may face.