Taking Your Membership Offline for Increased Success
You don’t usually create a membership site with the idea of running in person events. In fact many people will create an online membership to actually cut down the amount of in person events that they run!
So, writing a post about taking your membership offline may seem counter-intuitive. However there is a lot of benefit to be had in connecting with your members offline, and you’ll often find that there comes a point in your membership when your members are actually crying out for more in-person connection, either with yourself or with others in your membership.
Whilst you can certainly leave members to arrange their own events and meetings, you may find that actually facilitating offline events yourself adds an additional value and ‘next level’ to your existing membership.
And of course, many offline events can be opened up to non-members too, providing a no pressure way of introducing people to your larger membership.
So, if you’re thinking about taking your membership offline, what could this actually look like?
The simplest way to take your membership offline is to actually just to meet your members! No agenda, no pressure, just a simple chat over a coffee/beer/cocktail.
Your members will often jump at the chance to actually spend time with you in real life, because it fulfills that desire for a deeper connection that most of us have.
Now, you may be thinking ‘but I live in the middle of nowhere and my members are all over the world, so how can I meetup with them?’
And that’s a fair point. But many of us will be travelling to events, or going away at some point throughout the year, and if you have members where you’re headed to, this is the perfect opportunity for a meetup.
This is something Mike and I actually did in both San Diego and Chicago last year (and plan to do this year too as we have a number of events lined up!). Having that chance to actually meet and speak to our members face to face was an awesome experience, and it definitely helped to deepen the relationship with those members.
An alternative if you’re not able to actually meet up with members yourself, is to encourage members to meetup with each other. Afterall, the members of your site all have a common interest in your topic, so relationships and connections can form and when members are located near to each other, meeting up becomes the next natural step.
Everybody likes to feel connected to others who share their experiences, challenges, or interests. And meetups are a great, easy way to tap into that and encourage connection with not just yourself but other members too.
Training or Workshop Events
Running your own live events, such as workshops or training sessions, can not only allow you to meet your members out in the wild, but can also enable you to provide more direct, hands on training and support than is possible via a membership site alone.
Your events could be small, higher ticket affairs limited to maybe 6-15 people, and providing an element of exclusivity. Or they could be larger, lower ticket events where there is less exclusivity and less hands on direction from you, but the price and content is more inclusive.
Whilst running a live event may seem counter intuitive to the reasons you began your membership site in the first place, they can be a great way of both raising your profile and providing extra value to your members.
We’ll soon be running our first live event in San Diego – the Membership Marketing Intensive. For us this was the next natural evolution from a meetup (although we’ll still be doing those too!), and provides us with an additional way of packaging up our knowledge and providing even more indepth insight on a particular topic.
Live events can also be useful to bring people into your membership site, by opening your events up to non-members as well as members.
Whilst you don’t want your event to be ‘salesy’ and I wouldn’t actually recommend making a pitch for your membership, the fact that non-members can get to know you and your expertise, as well as mix with existing members, makes joining your membership the next natural step for them.
There’s also value in having member-only events however, so if making live events a part of your strategy consider having a mix of member-only and public events.
Masterminds are another great way of not just taking your membership offline, but of delivering even greater value to your members.
We’re probably all familiar with the concept of masterminds – essentially a small group of people gathering together to share knowledge and support each other as they grow their business.
And what better way to create a mastermind than from a group of people who already have a shared interest or goal?
You can create your own mastermind as an add on or VIP level of your membership, or you can encourage your members to create their own peer group masterminds instead.
Whether you facilitate the masterminds yourself or leave them in your members hands, they provide additional support and accountability, as well as creating stronger bonds between members. This can really aid retention in your membership, and importantly will also increase the success of your members.
If you don’t yet have enough members local to you, or in nearby locations to each other, then you could initially start your mastermind online, and arrange a quarterly in person mastermind event somewhere easy for the group members to travel to.
This is the big one!
You could actually decide that to add value to your members, and maybe non-members too, you will put on a full conference style event on your membership subject.
Unlike live trainings and workshops, these are much bigger in nature, usually consisting of 100’s – 1000’s of attendees, multiple speakers and they will often be a multi-day event too.
A great example of this is Chris Ducker and the Youpreneur Summit that he is hosting in London this November. This isn’t Chris’s first event (far from it in fact!) but it will be his largest and he is bringing international speakers to the UK for what promises to be a great 2 day conference. The event itself is open to all, but existing members of Chris’s Youpreneur membership were told first of the event, get exclusive behind the scenes news and a large discount on the ticket price.
Creating this kind of event is definitely no easy undertaking, but if you have the ability and connections to do so, it can be hugely beneficial and will establish you quite firmly as a leader in your niche.
And whilst your conference may be open to non-members, you’ll often find this style of event combined with meetups or masterminds just for members, to provide even more value and benefits to being a member.
When should you start adding offline elements to your membership?
The core of your membership will always be the online element, and anything you decide to add to this should always be done to increase value and options, rather than at the detriment to your existing membership site.
For that reason we don’t typically recommend taking your membership offline until your online membership base is well established (unless you’ve been running things like events before you began your membership of course!).
I’d also recommend starting small and building up, rather than attempting to go all out with a conference straight away. Otherwise it’s a bit like trying to climb Everest when you haven’t even tried walking up the hill at the end of the road yet!
Meetups are obviously the easiest way to take your membership offline, needing little preparation other than a suitable date and location, and as such can be arranged as soon as you feel you have enough members to do so. And you don’t actually need a large number of members for a meetup – the beauty of these is often the intimacy and being able to actually talk personally with each member.
We personally ran our first meetup about 6 months into the Membership Academy, taking advantage of the fact that both us and several members would be at Social Media Marketing World. We’ll be doing the same thing again this year!
Masterminds are often the next easiest to create, especially if you start off online. We began the Membership Accelerator 13 months into our membership, and whilst this is online only, if we were doing an offline version we would have stuck to the same timing – your core membership is often well established after the first year, so it becomes easier to add additional products like masterminds and events into the mix.
We’ll also be running our first live event 18 months into the membership, and have plans to run another 3 similar events throughout 2017.
We don’t yet have plans for a membership conference, but who knows! A conference is definitely the last event you’ll want to create, after your membership is very well established and you’ve already run other smaller events first and have experience with offline on a smaller scale. UPDATE: We're running our first 2 day conference for 100+ membership site owners in September 2019! Find all the details at retainlive.com
Of course, you certainly don’t have to use all of these different methods. You may decide to just run regular member meetups, or encourage members to create their own mastermind or meetup groups. As with all things membership site, you simply need to choose the best options for both you and your members.