There is a trend online to offer membership programs where people sign-up to get access to training and networking for a recurring low fee. I personally know of several online businesses that have bought into expensive membership software only to be disappointed.
There are three reasons a membership program can be difficult:
- You don't have a huge database (50,000 on list)
- You aren't well-known, well-branded
- You don't have compelling content
Unless you've got a huge database, a highly recognizable brand, and unique compelling content, a monthly membership program will probably fail. Unless, of course, you circumvent these issues. There are ways to be smart and make a membership site work like a charm.
Part of the problem is beacause there is so much free information available on the Web today. Also, you have to have access to large numbers of people to get enough members into a low-fee program to make it profitable. It is also time-consuming and work-intensive to keep people's attention, to keep them coming back for more.
A couple of years ago, with my ex-partner from The Blog Squad, we ran a semi-successful membership program, and those three factors came into play. I say it was "semi-successful" because here's what happened. People enrolled, loved it, but after a while, didn't actively participate.
They got immediate access to hundreds of modules of blog training. There were articles, videos, and teleseminar recordings. We covered everything, content, design, outreach and action. Anyone who wanted to start and master business blogging using the Typepad platform could succeed.
As is usually the case, only a small percentage of the members were actively participating and posting discussion topics in the forum. There were only a few "vocal" members, always the same ones. They got tremendous benefit, and I suppose that many of the silent lurkers did also.
There was the problem of "information dump." Because members faced so many learning modules, some said it seemed daunting and they would put it off for "when they had time." And you know how that goes…
After a few months of membership, and putting off their participation, some members realized they weren't going to learn without participating and then they tended to unsubscribe.
Access to large numbers of people keeps a membership site full of participating people, who then make it enjoyable and valuable for everyone. There need to be huge numbers to make it work. So here's what you need to do…
2 Ways to Run a Successful Membership Program
So how do you keep people interested so that they get their money's worth each month and don't mind paying the fee? One solution is to make your membership site as participatory as possible.
Your membership program needs to be asking people their opinions, thoughts, dreams, questions. Here's how you can do that:
- Give users assignments
- Let them track their progress
- Offer them opportunities to journal and write
- Give them opportunities to set their own goals
- Offer them classes and groups
- Give them a chance to get their questions answered on the site
- Give them a chance to get to know the other members through networking & sharing
- Give them surveys and quizzes to monitor progress
Make your site as user-friendly as possible. Make sure you respond immediately, or have a dedicated assistant always available.
Memberships for Free?
The other solution is to offer a membership program without charging people. Use it as a lead generator. Once people are involved and participating, they are engaged with you, trust you, and will want more of what you have to offer. Then you offerthem your fee-based services and products.
Don't have a huge database? Consider partnering up with others in your field. That way there is a large source of members. And members then get a choice of whom to work with. I can easily envision how this would work well for coaching professionals.
If you'd like to learn more about this, then Marc Manieri of JournalEngine will be available to answer questions:
Tuesday March 2, 2010
4 p.m. ET
Teleconference Call – free & will be recorded
Register Here: JournalEngine Teleseminar