5 Signs You Should NOT Start a Membership Site

JillBlog14 Comments

Peep this…

One of my favourite things to do with the Screw is to be real AF, pull back the curtain and show you inside our business.

From the strategies we live and die by, to the ups and downs we endure to what’s working in our business today, we tend to bare it all.

It’s kinda our thing.

So when I asked in our free FB group if there were any members wanting to (or trying to) start a membership and got back 117 comments, I knew we had to hit this topic in a big way.

And since there ain’t no way I can sum up EVERYTHING we’ve learned over the last 15 months, I decided to do it up and break it down in a 3-part Membership Mastery series.

Oh, and I’m gonna kick it off by telling you that a membership site may not work for you.

*pause*

Seriously.

How To Know if You Should Start a Membership Site

Look, I get it. Membership sites are all the rage.

And while I totally get the lure of them (hell, I LOVE Screw U, the members in it, the people we get to work with and the money it makes!), that doesn’t mean you should have one.

Harsh, but true.

So I thought I would break down the 5 (glaring) signs that you are not ready to start a membership site.

And yeah, I’m gonna be blunt.

1. You Don’t Have an Audience

To me, this is number one.

Obviously. *wink*

Why?

Because if you don’t have an audience, who the hell is going to join your membership?

It flabbergasts me (yeah, I said it) when people who have put zero time and effort into building an audience (following, email list, whatever you want to call it) try and build a paid community, with no free community or audience to build trust with and market it to.

If this is you, I want you to do this…

Take a step back, pour yourself a glass of something stiff and map out a 3 month visibility plan that you can use to get you and your business out there.

And I don’t mean just set up a FB page or a SnapChat account and assume that’s enough.

Because it’s not.

These days? You need to be consistent, you need to attract the right people, you need to give more than you take, and you need to care about your audience before you ever expect them to care about you and what you’re trying to sell to them.

How did we do this?

Through a potent combo of:

  • Guest posts
  • Podcast interviews
  • Video interviews
  • Summits
  • Facebook groups
  • Going to live events

I know.

It’s not “sexy” to actually have to work for your visibility and exposure, but you know what it is?

Worth it.

So which visibility benchmarks should you be working towards before you launch your membership?

Here are some loose metrics, each subject to change based on your niche:

  • Your email list has over 1,000 people on it
  • Your social following is around the 5,000 mark combined
  • Your website traffic is at least 3,000/month

If you’re already rocking these metrics, you can move onto the next phase: mapping out your membership content and planning your launch.

Fortunately, I’ll be breaking that down for you shortly.

And if you aren’t quite there yet then take a sec, map out your plan to build some attention around your brand and get to werk!

2. You Don’t Have the Time

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but if you don’t have at least two spare hours every day to work on your membership, don’t try and launch a membership.

Why?

Because creating and managing a monthly membership takes time and effort.

After all, you don’t want to do all the leg work to launch only to find you don’t have the time each day to maintain the daily operations, let alone give your members the attention they deserve….and are paying for.

Now I will say this, after having our membership for over a year, we’ve structured it in a way that we are now reclaiming a big part of our time back.

However, reclaiming our time took time.

So what can you do to find some time, especially if you’re feeling pulled from all different angles?

Conduct a ruthless 80/20 assessment and list out every single thing that goes down in your business AND life.

From there, go over your list and identify which tasks take up 80% of your time and provides 20% of the results, whatever those “results” might be for you.

Once you’ve identified the 20%ers, it’s time to either cut ‘em or automate ‘em.

Then once you have some time and bandwidth back, you can start devoting it to planning, launching and growing your membership.

But more on that later.

3. You Don’t Have the Desire

This one is big, because here’s the thing…

Memberships thrive and grow with consistent attention, interaction, presence and a community to propel it.

That means as the owner, you need to give your members your time, help them move closer and closer to achieving their desired results and continuously work to improve your membership.

Now, I know a lot of people think that running a monthly membership site is the holy grail of online business, because the consistent “passive” income is so damn exciting and promising.

However, here’s one thing people aren’t talking about when it comes to maintaining that revenue…

In order for someone to keep paying for your membership, they have to be getting something out of it month after month.

If not, they will cancel.

Plain and simple.

Which means your monthly revenue will take a hit AND you’re going to have to attract new members to replace the ones who have left.

To avoid that happening, it’s on you to work on your retention rate, show up consistently inside your membership, give your members your time, participate in the community and pay attention to what people are struggling with.

(Side note: Want to steal our best retention strategies that we use each month to maintain a 93% retention rate inside Screw U? Hit this link asap!)

What’s more is, you need to have the desire to pay attention to what they want (so you can incorporate elements of that into your membership) and continuously improve your membership so that it evolves and matures into a place they wouldn’t think about cancelling.

How do you do that?

Survey them. Poll them. Ask them.

Oh, and the biggest strategy of them all? Listen to your members.

Because here’s the thing…

Your members want to know they are being heard and acknowledged.

That means if you’re going to ask them what they want you to tweak, refine, add in or take away, you better be open to listening and executing on the suggestions that work for both them AND you.

If not, you may have a sky-high churn rate (ie. the amount of members who cancel each month vs those who stay), and really, no one wants that.

4. You’re Not in Any of These Industries

When we first started our membership site, we figured that ANYONE in ANY INDUSTRY could start a profitable membership site.

And while there might be some exceptions to the rule, these 10 over-arching niches seem to the be the most effective and most profitable when it comes to starting a membership site:

  • Business and Marketing
  • Finance
  • Health (Nutrition, Exercise, Hormones, Digestion, Skincare etc)
  • Hobbies (Sports, Travel, Pet training, Music, Photography etc)
  • Home and Family
  • Careers
  • Education
  • Personal Development
  • Love and Relationships
  • Fashion and Beauty

Remember, these are the main industries listed above.

If you don’t see yours listed, it’s likely because it’s a sub-niche that lives inside one of these over-arching industries.

Of course, if you’re one of those unicorn niches on the web that is quite unique, take a sec and do some research.

Don’t just assume that a membership site will work for you, because it might not.

5. You Don’t Have the Revenue

“Huh? I thought I was starting a membership to MAKE REVENUE!”…is what I imagine you just said in your head.

However, this is one aspect of membership sites that not a lot of people talk about.

You see, when you first launch your membership site, your revenue likely isn’t going to be THAT high straight off the jump.

Hell, when we first launched Screw U as a membership site, our revenue took a dive because we transitioned from selling digital products (ranging from $199 to $1999) each week to selling a $29/month membership.

Plus, and this is a biggie, in order to start a membership you have to invest up-front in the tools and resources.

From the hosting to the actual site itself, there are a few things you’re gonna need if you want to create an engaging and easy-to-use membership site.

So to help you identify what might be the best tools for you, I’ve broken them down into budget-friendly AND premium tools.

Budget-Friendly Membership Tools

Hosting

Whether you’re going pro or budget-friendly, we love SiteGround!

What’s more is you can get started for less than $4 a month.

Score!

Also, we’ve never had an issue with them.

*knocks on wood*

Membership Software

When we first restructured Screw U into a monthly membership site and forum, we started using the free WordPress plugin, bbPress.

And while it was okay, we only stuck with it for two months when we realized the functionality was lacking and members weren’t getting as much out of it as they wanted to.

Word to the wise: If you’re going to create a monthly membership and you want people to actually use it, don’t skimp on the software.

After all, your members’ experience is pivotal to the longevity of your membership.

Email Provider

So here’s the thing, since we started Screw U a couple years into our business, we were already using InfusionSoft as our email provider.

However, if we had to do it all over again (and if we were just starting out), we’d pick ConvertKit.

Why?

Because the functionality is great, the price is incredibly affordable and who doesn’t love dipping their toes into the world of marketing automation for as low as $29/month!

Audio and Visual

No matter which type of membership site you choose to go with (content-based, discussion-based, a blend of both a la Screw U), there are going to be a few a/v tasks you’re going to have to hammer out.

Things like:

  • Logos
  • Workbooks
  • Video lessons
  • Audio downloadables
  • Transcripts
  • Landing page graphics
  • Sales page images

Not to mention anything else that might pop up during your creation and build-out process are all investments you’re going to have to make a some point.

And while it is absolutely possible to do it yourself and save the cash, your time investment is still going to add up.

Pro Membership Tools

As I mentioned a few hundred words above, when we first opened the doors to our monthly membership, we used as many free or budget-friendly tools as we could.

Annnnnd then we quickly learned that if you want to go pro and give your members the best you can, you’re going to have to invest in your membership.

That means either throwing down some cash or devoting some serious time to doing it yourself.

I prefer the former.

So, to give this some context, here is a glimpse at the tools we invested in to make Screw U what it is today…

Hosting

I said it before, but I’mma say it again, we love all things SiteGround.

Their prices are affordable, their service is steady and their customer support has been invaluable at times.

Membership Software

Even though we started out with bbPress, we quickly transitioned to using IPS Community Suite for our forum.

Now, I totally get that not everyone wants a forum!

If you’re one of those people, you can look into software and tools such as:

Paid Memberships Pro, Wishlist Member, Zippy Courses or even the New Kajabi.

However, I should mention that we have NOT used any of the tools above, except for Paid Memberships Pro and simply cannot rave enough about the discussion, community and connection a forum (like IPS) can facilitate.

Email Provider

For all things email, we roll with InfusionSoft.

From the tagging to the automation to the funnels, for us InfusionSoft just works.

However, when it came to using InfusionSoft with our membership software, we had to have a developer create a “single signon” (otherwise known as a SSO) which simply means a member’s password in our membership database syncs up with the password inside InfusionSoft.

If that sounds like a foreign language to you, don’t sweat. There are developers and service providers who can hook you up with this for your membership.

For us, this cost $500 (plus $300/month to actually use IFS), but was well worth the cost as it allowed our signup process to be as fluid and pain-free as possible.

Marketing Software

I swear, if ClickFunnels was a person? I would kiss his/her ring because it has been the best damn piece of software we’ve invested in…other than IPS Community Suite.

And while I get that a $297/month is steep, it pays itself back in droves month after month.

Here’s what we use it for each month when it comes to Screw U:

  • Our read magnet pages (the first step in our funnels for the U)
  • Our lead magnet pages
  • Our thank you pages
  • Our intro offer sales pages
  • Our entire sales page for the U
  • Our webinar registration page
  • Our live webinar page
  • Our webinar replay page
  • Our U Crews onboarding page
  • Our Momentum Marketing hub

And that is just for Screw U.

Interested in giving this beyatch a whirl?

You can grab a free 14-day trial here.

Audio and Visual

This is a huge one for us.

We’re fortunate enough to have one hell of a graphic designer and video editor (all rolled into one dude) who handles this entire side of our business.

His name is Eric and basically, he’s the shit.

Here is what he does for Screw U each month:

  • Creates all of our lesson slides for each of our courses
  • Edits all of our lessons
  • Uploads and embeds every lesson
  • Schedule every live call we host
  • Uploads our live calls
  • Creates every image you see associated with Screw U (and this site)
  • Designs all of our FB ad images
  • Creates all of our workbooks
  • Creates all of our webinar giveaways
  • Schedules every email

He even created that sexy little sidebar banner you see to your right.

He’s a no-brainer investment, a total joy to work with, and there is no way the U could function without him.

And don’t even get me started on our 4 other team members who are just as vital and important to the U!

However, we’re talkin’ audio/visual here.

Finally, let’s not forget the monthly video hosting costs that also creep in when you’re creating and hosting members-only content.

You know, since we’re talking about expenses.

*wink*

So, Should YOU Start a Membership Site?

Ready to start a monthly membership site that will allow you to turn your knowledge and influence into recurring revenue and give you more stability, less stress and allow you to make a big impact in the lives of others?

Well, then allow me to introduce you to the man who taught us everything we know about membership sites…

Stu McLaren.

Who’s Stu?

Well, he’s one of the co-founders of WishList Member, the man behind Michael Hyatt’s multi 7-figure membership site, Platform University and one of our favourite dudes around!

And right now he has a FREE 3-part video training series designed to help you turn your knowledge and influence into recurring revenue.

It’s a must-watch and truly one of the best free series we’ve watched!

You can catch it here and tell me after you watch Video 1 you’re not itching to create and launch your own membership site!

 

How-To-Create-More-Stability-&-Less-Stress-With-Membership-Sites

  • Wow Jill thanks for such an awesome blog post. You are so right that so many gurus push membership sites as a way to monetize their online business, but most don’t really give any criteria. I love how you laid every out clearly and gave pointers as to where we should be at in our business before considering a membership site. I’ve got some work to do 😊!

    • Josh Stanton

      Yeah you hit the nail on the head there Chrissy. Build up that attention and audience first and your membership site will be a huge success.

    • Thank you so much, Chrissy! I’m stoked to hear you found it useful 🙂

  • Lynne Taggart

    Amazing Jill!!! You’ve answered so many of my questions. Now to keep list building and growing my tribe 😍🙌🏻✨❤️

  • Kirk VandenBerghe

    Thought you’d like to know that your first “IPS Community Suite” link above [ http://screwtheninetofive.com/invisionpower ] is broken. Always good quality control process to manually click each link post-publish.

    • I did…and it WAS working 🙂

      All fixed now

  • This just gave me a big boost of confidence. I have enough subscribers and already using all the tools! Greeeeeen light! Looking forward to your next post.

    • WHOOP WHOOP!!! Excited to hear what you think of it 😀

  • Lora

    You use both Infusionsoft and Click Funnels? What are you using each one for, I thought ClickFunnels did everything (and more!) than Infusionsoft? Just wondering why the need for both as I am researching tools, thank you!

    • Josh Stanton

      We started using InfusionSoft before Clickfunnels came out and so we have procedures in place with their platform. Therefore our staff are used to using InfusionSoft and we use Clickfunnels to handle our marketing pages and to house our course content for introductory offers.

      Making the switch over to clickfunnels is possible and something we’ll look at doing in 2017.

  • Hope Venetta

    Thank you for being real and honest. I like knowing what I’m getting myself into BEFORE I dive in. I often find that “3 simple steps” or something similar is often filled with a bunch of sub-steps that leave me feeling behind the learning curve. Too many marketers, both online and off, don’t give the full story. I appreciate that you do.

    • Josh Stanton

      Glad it helped Hope!

  • Stephanie Clairmont

    Love this post, and I can see you are using some incredible tools! I would like to launch and bring in some cash before paying so much for things like Click Funnels and Infusion Soft … but I’m wondering if IPS Community Suite needs some other Community tools to create a membership site? It’s just your forum right? So what do you use to make a lovely membership site with information and videos, etc.? Then you have to integrate with a shopping cart and your list in Infusion soft right? This is the piece I am working on now … what membership platform and cart to use that I can integrate with ConvertKit!

    Thanks for your insight!