The Membership Guys

Switching Membership Enrolment Models: Closed to Open

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Are you thinking of switching your membership enrolment model from closed to open? 

Making the decision to open your doors permanently isn't as simple as flipping a switch…

It can change a lot about your business…

And you need to make sure you're fully prepared to manage these changes effectively…

For the good of both you and your members! 

Those who have followed us for a while will know that we're HUGE advocates of the open door model…

That's why the doors to Membership Academy have always been open!

But we fully appreciate this isn't for everyone….

And there are definitely some situations where a closed-door membership makes sense.

I'm not here to sway you one way or another.

I'm here to give you the facts…

So you can make the decision that's best for you.

We've previously talked about moving from the open door model to closed…

And now we're doing the reverse!

Here's what you should take into consideration before switching your membership from a closed-door model to an open one:

Be clear on your reasoning…

And communicate that reason clearly to your existing members…

After all this will have a direct impact on them…

Because the way you run your membership will change…

Not only in terms of the dynamic of your community, but also things like when you release new content….

And how you market your membership.

If you don't explain to them why this change is happening and how it's better for them…

Then you could end up with some unhappy members…

And that's the last thing you want! 

So getting clear on why you're making the change from a closed membership to an open one…

And getting your existing members on board with this change is absolutely crucial in making the transition a success.

Remember that nothing is permanent

Let’s say you’ve had a closed-door membership for years…

And you're convinced that opening the doors is the right move.

But then you open them and a few months in, you realize that it was a big mistake…

Don’t worry…

Nothing is permanent.

You can always change your mind and roll things back…

That's the beauty of the membership model!

There's always breathing room to experiment with new things…

And the ability to change course if they don't work out for you and your members.

You getting ready to open those doors as an experiment…

If you’re not 100% sure about the switch yet, you could even frame the change as a temporary thing or an experiment if you want.

Your marketing approach will have to change

If you do go ahead with the switch, you should be mindful that there's one big thing that will change alongside your enrolment model…

Your approach to marketing your membership.

With closed-door memberships, the sales you make generally come from those big, exciting promotions directed at people who have been sitting on your waitlist for weeks or months….

You heavily lean on scarcity and play to the fact that it's a launch with a deadline…

With an open-door model, it's very different.

You can’t quite generate the same amount of buzz when there’s no artificial incentive to join quickly.

It doesn't make sense to keep doing what you’re doing if a big part of your current marketing is based on scarcity.

Instead, your marketing needs to become evergreen.

It needs to work all year round, and a big part of that is managing an effective membership sales funnel.

This will do the heavy lifting for you…

Driving sign ups week to week, month to month.

Affiliate referrals may decrease

Another thing to bear in mind is that if you market your membership with an affiliate program

An always open membership is usually less attractive prospect to big name affiliates…

This is for a variety of reasons…

One being that the open door model referral numbers will generally be smaller…

With a closed membership, affiliates will benefit from bulk referral income when your doors open…

And that will happen at every launch.

With an always open model, those referrals are going to be more like a steady trickle.

Which can be off-putting to potential affiliates…

Especially the big names who prefer that quick hit of income.

The timing of when you ask for the sale will change

Another big difference in the marketing phase to consider is when you ask for the sale…

With a closed-door membership, you collect people on your list and keep them engaged until you finally open your doors and ask for the sale.

With an open membership, you don’t have to keep them waiting….

You ask for the sale pretty much straight away…

Or within a couple of days or weeks of them joining your email list.

Asking for the sale..

As you need to ask for the sale much sooner, it’s best to put that front and center of everything you do…

When you're posting on social media, writing blogs, recording videos or podcasts…

This will create a number of different touch points for your audience where you use a call to action that encourages people to join your membership.

I'm not saying that you can't still do big promotions

But you'll need to do things a little differently to drive urgency…

Things like bonuses and offers…

They're not as effective as a closed-door launch, but they'll still give your membership that little boost.

Make a lot of noise about switching your enrolment model

One of the downsides to open memberships is that you don’t really have many opportunities to make a big noise for a new launch.

As your membership is always open, it’s harder to inject scarcity and deadlines into your marketing messaging.

So, if you do choose to change your membership model, guess what?

That’s a great opportunity for a big noisy promotion!

Don’t make the same mistake that other people do when they switch membership models and do it quietly…

Instead, you want to make a lot of noise and make sure everyone knows that your doors are opening.

Adjust your expectation of sales numbers

When you switch to an open membership, you might think it’ll mean more members…

And it might overall…

But you to prepare for how your sales figures will change.

With closed-door memberships, you’re probably used to getting a big chunk of business all at once when the doors open…

So you could get a year's worth of members in one launch…

And it’s a pretty satisfying feeling seeing a big swarm of members signing up all at once.

That big number looks incredible!

But with an open membership you won't get that level of sign ups in one sitting…

Instead you'll see a smaller but consistent trickle throughout the year.

So they're more spread out, which on the surface isn't anywhere near as exciting as seeing those massive spikes!

You could end up with the exact same number of members…

But it will feel a lot different if you’re used to seeing a massive influx of new members and revenue all at once.

You need a greater emphasis on member onboarding

When you switch from a closed to an open membership, the experience in your community is usually completely different..

You go from big groups joining at once at set times of the year…

Which brings a certain level of camaraderie and a shared experience that fills in the gaps of your onboarding…

To a much more ‘individual' experience instead with the open-door model…

Where there isn’t a group or ‘cohort' of peers to help each other out when they first join.

So you need to bridge that gap…

And the best way to do that is to make their onboarding experience seamless….

In other words, you need to go that extra mile to make new members feel welcome

You can do this by sending them emails with instructions, tips and navigation details to guide them through your site…

Or you could even create personalized welcome videos through a service like Bonjoro to act as a guide.

You’ll also realize that without a big group signing up together, that any type of cohort-based content is a bit more difficult to organize…

There’s not as much of a group dynamic when everyone joins at different times…

Because everyone’s working through the content in your site at a different pace.

This is something you should keep in mind when you make the decision to switch your enrolment window.

Make sure your customer support set up is robust

Finally, an open membership model means that your customer support setup needs to be on the ball…

If there’s less of an emphasis on group support or forums…

You may need to go further to help people solve issues or answer questions….

That's because you'll be managing responses on more of an individual basis rather than in a group.

Managing your customer queries…

Tools like help desk systems, chat bots and those sort of things will help you pre-empt and manage any common questions or objections…

But you'll need to be present and seen to handle your member support effectively.

People don't need to think about this is as much with a closed-door membership due to the group element…

So it may be more of a hands-on adjustment to make by switching to an open membership.

One last thing… 

As you can see, switching membership models isn’t a simple one-and-done job to transform your business….

It really needs to be something you think through carefully…

Something you plan for…

And manage properly so you keep your existing members happy…

All while attracting new ones!

Hopefully all the points made in this blog will help you do that…

We may have even pointed out some things you didn't think would have an impact on the switch of your enrolment window.

If there's one thing I'd like you to takeaway from this blog, it's this…

Your enrolment model is just one piece of the puzzle…

But it's one that has an impact of your wider business…

From sales and marketing to member experience…

It will likely change more about your business than you think.

So you need to prepare for these changes…

Both mentally and business-wise!

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