7 Biggest Mistakes that Growing Membership Site Owners Make
The path to membership success is paved with a litany of mistakes.
Along the way you’re going to screw up, especially in the early days. It’s all part of the learning curve and it happens to the best of us – yes, even your friendly neighbourhood Membership Guys!
However you will come to a point where it feel like you truly have your house in order, you’re now on the right track and those initial stumbles are far behind you.
But time and time again we see seasoned membership site owners falling into the same traps as they attempt to manage and grow their business.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common pitfalls for experienced membership owners and, more importantly, how you can avoid them.
Resenting your earliest members
Chances are that if your membership has been running for more than a year, you’ve gone through at least one price increase.
And if you’ve ran special offers or promotions, particularly when you first opened the doors to your site; you may still have members who are paying a significant amount less than you’re now charging.
I’ve lost track how many times I’ve heard membership owners grumble about this one.
That it’s not fair that some of their members are paying less but still receiving the same amount of content, support and access as someone who joined more recently and is paying a higher subscription fee.
How can I get more money out of those members?
How can I stop them getting as many benefits from the membership?
Listen up – those guys earned their cheaper membership.
They backed you in the early stages of your site when many wouldn’t have.
They helped you to build momentum, put money in your pocket as your membership was getting off the ground, and they’ve stuck with you since then.
You shouldn’t be looking for ways to screw those members out of the deal you gave them when they first joined.
That’s completely the wrong perspective to take.
Instead you should be looking for ways to acknowledge, thank or even reward those members for their continued loyalty.
While they may be paying you less month on month, without them your membership likely would never have gotten out of the blocks.
Messing with the formula
Once the buzz and excitement of launching a new membership site subsides, you quickly find yourself settling into a routine.
Creating content, answering questions in your community, dealing with customer support…
Day after day…
Month after month…
Year after year…
It’s easy to see why some membership site owners quickly get the itch to shake things up a bit and change what their site offers to its members.
And often this decision is more routed in curing the membership owners’ boredom or neurosis than it is responding to what members are actually enjoying.
Messing with the formula is one thing; messing with a winning formula is another entirely!
This typically leads to sweeping overhauls that end up confusing or alienating existing members, and in some cases completely changes the value proposition of the membership site and takes it a million miles away from what it is people joined for in the first place.
The key here is to continuously listen to your members, solicit feedback from them, find out what’s working best for them, what they enjoy most.
Often just knowing how much people love what you’re doing is enough to discourage you from making drastic changes.
And if changes are needed, try to chunk them down into smaller adjustments which you roll out over time. This will allow you to adjust course if things don’t go too well.
Not dancing with the one that brought you
This is one we see a lot.
Where membership owners achieve a level of success, and then immediately ditch the strategies, principles and sometimes even the people that got them there.
They assume that now they’ve hit their target, have a certain number of members and are hitting a particular financial goal that the hard work is done.
And while it is true that not everything which “gets you there” is the same as what will “keep you there”; the tendency to completely abandon things that have been crucial to their success can often be damaging.
The biggest problem is that the effects of doing this aren’t immediately felt.
The momentum generated by having a popular podcast or running a highly active Facebook group can last months beyond the decision to close those down, which will initially make that decision feel validated; but more often than not, a year or so down the line those people are left scratching their heads, wondering why things have slowed down.
If you’re thinking of ditching marketing tactics that have been serving you well up til now, try to phase them out gradually and allow yourself the time to judge the effect this has on your membership growth.
Confusing inertia for loyalty
How many times have you heard of someone joining their local gym, signing up for a monthly or yearly contract, going there once or twice and then never going back again despite the fact that they continue paying.
We all know that person…
Okay let’s be honest… most of us have been that person!
The same thing happens with membership sites. People join with a particular goal or purpose in mind, log in a few times, and then never come back even as their monthly payments keep going.
Some people keep that subscription going because they fully intend on diving into the membership “eventually” but keep putting it off.
Others either forget that they’re paying, or keep forgetting that they need to cancel.
Many membership site owners would simply look at the length of time member has been active and assume they were happy and loyal since they’re still paying; however often that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
Eventually those paying out of ‘inertia’ rather than loyalty will cancel, and if they had forgotten about their subscription could even end up resenting you for it; so it’s important that you’re regularly communicating with members, monitoring and responding to their level of engagement so it never gets to this point.
Taking advantage of your members
A membership site works very well as the ‘core’ offering of a business that has several products, services and revenue channels.
Exploring opportunities to add a few different complementary offerings to your business should be a big part of your growth strategy once your membership is on solid ground.
However we see a lot of people doing this wrong; and rather than trying to find new ways to serve their audience they focus on simply trying to squeeze more money out of them.
Watering down the current membership offering in order to add a new, higher priced tier…
Bombarding your members with constant affiliate promotions and abusing their trust so that you can make huge commissions…
Flooding your site with ads, selling your members’ data, allowing people to pay for the ability to spam your audience…
Questionable at best, downright unethical at worst; yet we’ve seen countless memberships resort to this sort of thing as they try to milk every penny out of their paying members.
Instead you should be looking for ways in which you can genuinely add value to your audience.
This may involve creating new products, some of which will be higher priced – however if it’s all done in the name of best serving your members and giving them more options outside of your membership then it’s all good.
Rushing to reduce your involvement in your membership
The most common type of membership site we see our community creating are ones based around their authority and expertise in a particular topic.
And when it comes to authority-based membership sites, a large part of why people will join is in order to get access to you.
The appeal of interacting with you, learning from your specific experience and getting your input and feedback is a big draw.
For this type of membership, the most important thing is that you actually show up.
However far too often you’ll see membership founders rushing to minimise their presence and overall involvement as their site grows.
Your membership needs to be able to scale without you permanently at the wheel, there’s no question about that.
However usually the motivation lies more in wanting to do as little work as possible rather than wanting to make sure your business is finely tuned enough to allow you to focus on the right areas – such as serving your members.
In the early days of running a membership site, you tend to celebrate every new signup.
And while the buzz of new members joining never fully goes away, you do soon become accustomed to people joining on a regular basis.
Momentum builds, you fall into a routine and everything becomes “business as usual.”
And that’s when you start getting complacent.
You take for granted the idea that members will just keep coming; and that once they’ve joined, there’s enough value to keep them subscribed; and so you take your foot off the gas a little… then a little more… and a little more…
Before you know it your membership growth has stalled, people are flocking to other solutions and you’re left scrambling for ideas on how to turn things around.
The most successful memberships are always evolving, continuously looking for ways to better serve their members and deliver value.
You need to make sure you always have your finger on the pulse, engaging with and listening to your members and continuing to innovate and adapt to their needs.
Complacency is the enemy of progress, so if you want your membership to continue growing then you need to keep your eye on the ball.