The Membership Guys

Switching Membership Enrolment Models: Open to Closed

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

If you've been following us for a while, you'll know that I'm not usually the biggest fan of the closed-door model…

In my experience, the memberships that do best are the ones that are always open…

However, there are definitely some situations where a closed-door membership makes sense…

And I'm not here to convince you otherwise.

What I am here for is to help you prepare to make this switch…

To consider all the implications…

And prepare you for what's next once your doors are closed.

Because managing a closed-door membership is very different in a lot of ways from an open-door one

And many people who make the switch aren't fully aware of what lies ahead for them…

And find the process difficult to manage…

Or regret their decision to make the change…

Let's make sure you're not one of them! 

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

Get clear on your reasoning

You really need to think about your reasons behind wanting a closed-door membership…

And why you're making this change…

Are you introducing something to your membership that makes more sense to have an influx of members at one set time?

For example, you might have a course or a program where you want everyone to begin at the same time and work at the same pace as part of a “cohort”…

Or maybe you have lots of other things going on in your business…

And your membership is just one part of that…

You could be hosting live events or conferences or maybe running a coaching program…

And switching to a closed-door membership model is your way of compartmentalizing the different elements of your business.

It could be as simple as the fact that you know you're amazing at launching products and get the best results using scarcity marketing…

Whatever the reason, it's important that you have that clarity as to why this model is the best option for you…

You thinking about your reasons behind wanting a closed-door membership…

If you can’t pinpoint a coherent reason for closing the doors…

Or you’re just doing it because some business guru has suggested it…

Please think again! 

Give the decision a lot of thought before you take action…

As it could be a big change for you and your members…

And could have wider implications on your business.

Your reasoning behind switching your membership model is key to nailing the process…

So it's important to get clear on this from the outset.

Think about returning members

If a large proportion of members who leave your site currently tend to return a few months later…

You’re going to have to let them know that this won’t be possible going forward.

Returning members are pretty common in the membership world….

In Membership Academy, around 25% of those who leave come back to us within six months….

But if our membership only opened for enrolment once a year, those members probably wouldn’t return…

Because the ease and the flexibility of joining again would no longer be there for them.

So, look closely at your current member behavior, at how often people cancel and return before you make a decision.

You'll also need to consider what to do if you currently allow your members to pause their subscription…

This negates the point of a closed-door model if people are able to come and go as they please…

So this will need a rethink.  

If you take these things into consideration…

And decide that switching to a closed-door membership is right for you…

Then you’ll need to think about how you communicate that to both potential and existing members.

Plan a promotion around the change to your enrolment model

Switching to a closed-door membership isn’t as simple as picking a date and flipping a switch….

You should build a big, noisy promotion around the fact that your doors will be closing for the first time.

Not only does this let people know what you're doing…

But it also gives you an opportunity to leverage that idea of scarcity and urgency for joining now there’s a deadline for potential members to think about.

All those people sitting on your email list who haven’t joined yet for whatever reason…

Or those members who have left your site and haven't yet returned…

This is your chance to reignite their interest.

Don’t close the doors without promoting it because you’ll end up with disappointed people trying to join after the deadline.

Understand how this will affect the member experience

A common mistake people make when changing their enrolment model is to assume it’s just a sales and marketing decision…

It's not…

The truth is this will affect the entire member experience…

And change the dynamic of your community.

Because existing members will need to get used to a big jump in new people entering the community every six or twelve months…

Rather than a consistent flow of new blood.

That means you'll need to find new ways to increase member engagement in between launches to compensate for that lack of fresh new members coming in every week….

This doesn't have to be a bad thing…

The influx of new members once or twice a year can actually open up new opportunities that an open-door membership doesn’t offer…

Like hosting launch welcome parties online for new members to meet each other. 

Rethink your forum sections

If you have a forum on your website, then the chances are you already have a section for new members to introduce themselves…

If you close your doors, you might want to consider removing it, hiding it…

Or de-emphasizing it.

Because you’ll have a spike in activity for a couple of weeks during launch…

And then nothing for months.

The section will naturally dry up and stick out like a sore thumb when no one introduces themselves in months.

Be prepared for your member numbers to drop

Your member numbers are going to drop…

It's inevitable. 

When you have an open membership, there’s usually a steady line of new signups coming in…

With a closed-door membership, your signups will look more like peaks and troughs.

You’ll have a spike when you open your doors, but then there’s also the churn to think about as well.

People will cancel their memberships in-between launches…

And because the doors are closed, you can’t immediately replace them with new members.

This means you’ll see your member numbers drop down and down…

Until the next time the doors open.

When your member numbers drop…

This is something you need to mentally prepare yourself for…

Especially after running an open-door membership, as you won't be accustomed to this drop in numbers. 

This doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong…

It's just that you've turned off the tap for replacing outgoing members.

Don't get too bummed out with this…

It's part and parcel of the closed-door model.

You may have higher refund rates

This is pretty much par for the course when using any type of marketing that relies on scarcity and deadlines to push people into a buying decision.

Unfortunately, with this tactic, you’ll have people buying before they’re 100% ready.

Some of them will thank you for it….

Others will realize they weren’t ready, the timing was bad, or they don’t have the time…

They'll  suffer from buyer's remorse…

And ask for a refund.

It’s going to happen…

Again, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong…

Or you've made a bad decision switching to the closed-door model…

It’s just what happens when you use the scarcity marketing method.

Remember, you still need to market!

Please don’t buy into this myth about closed-door memberships that you can just forget about marketing.

People assume that they don’t need to worry about sales…

They can just focus all their time and attention on their members.

Sorry, but this is nonsense.

It doesn’t matter whether your doors are open all the time or not….

You need to market yourself all year round….

You need to show up in between your launches….

You need to generate new leads, build, and expand your audience, so you stay top of mind…

It's a universal truth of membership marketing!

If you don’t, the next time you launch, you’ll have zero momentum backing you up.

It’ll be like starting from scratch.

Don't make this fatal mistake. 

Keep people engaged in the run-up

If you’re not going to ask for someone to join until months after they subscribe to your email list…

You need to think about how to keep your waitlist engaged during that time…

And dissuade them from finding a competitor who might be able to offer them a solution to their problem right now.

Do you have other products or services you can sell to them?

Think about how you can keep them hooked…

Become Yoda to keep your waitlist engaged in between launches…

And what you have that will keep them learning in the run up to your next launch…

Maybe you have a free course they can complete…

A challenge they can take part in…

A podcast to listen too…

Or a Facebook group they can join.

Whatever it is, you need to use it to keep them engaged…

And help them build momentum so they're primed and ready to join your membership as soon as the doors open.

If there's one thing to remember, it's this…

Nothing is set in stone.

That’s the beauty of memberships.

They’re an ever-evolving, living product.

You can always change and adapt them as needed.

So, if you try the closed-door model for a while and decide it isn’t for you, you can just switch back.

It’ll be a bit of a disruption…

And you'll need to handle it carefully…

After all, you don't want your audience to think you’re flipping too much between enrolment models…

That will just confuse them…

But my point is that when it comes to memberships, nothing is permanent.

You can try new things and learn from what works…

Or doesn't, as may be the case…

If in doubt, you can frame this switch to the closed-door model as an experiment…

And be totally transparent with people that you’re just trying it out…

Then switching back, if it's not for you, won't be perceived as a bad thing as you sewed the seeds for that eventuality.

Hopefully, this blog has helped you better understand some of the things to consider before planning your switch to a closed-door membership…

It's not a decision that should be taken lightly…

But if there's a good reason behind it, it will most likely be one you won't regret.

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