From time to time, folks reach out to me with questions about building a successful membership site. While I certainly don’t consider myself an expert, I’m more than happy to share some of the lessons I’ve learned while building WP101.com, my community for WordPress beginners. Here’s an example of one of those questions…
Q: “What are your top 3 tips and advice for growing a membership site?”
Let me cut to the chase. Growing a membership site is hard work. There are no shortcuts for building a vibrant, healthy community around your area of expertise. It takes time, careful, strategic planning, and a relentless dedication to consistently go over and above your members’ expectations every day, in every way.
With regard to my own membership site, WP101.com, I was fortunate because there was — and continues to be — a worldwide audience that grows daily. Because WordPress powers something like 20% of all the sites on the web, there is no shortage of people who are looking for the type of training WP101 provides. And since WP101 was originally launched as a side project, I was comfortable allowing the site to grow at its own pace, organically, via word of mouth for the first few years. It wasn’t until the third or fourth year that I began to diligently focus on growing WP101.
Looking back on those first few years, here are the top 3 factors that I feel were responsible for WP101’s growth:
1. “No-Brainer” Pricing.
When I launched WP101, I wanted to make it as affordable as possible for anyone who was serious about building their own WordPress-powered site. Because the value of my training content varied from user to user, I initially adopted a “Pay What You Wish” model, allowing folks to pay whatever amount they felt the content was worth.
The PWYW model worked great in the beginning, and I still feel it’s a great fit for certain types of educational content where the value varies depending on the end user.
But as WP101 became more popular, I realized that we needed a more predictable price point so that we could grow more strategically, plus enable other folks to help us spread the word through an affiliate program. (It’s hard to offer a worthwhile commission to an affiliate when the value of a referral can vary as low as a dollar or two, and 50% of that is being donated to charity.)
So we changed to a flat rate of $19 for a lifetime membership to WP101. While I do not recommend offering lifetime memberships, this “no-brainer” price point lowered the barrier to entry for most folks and enabled us to grow steadily for the next couple of years.
I’ll dedicate an entire future post to pricing models, but for now, let me just recommend that you leverage the power of the “Early Bird” discount when you first launch to create a “no-brainer” entry price for those early adopters. This will help you build early traction and get as many eyeballs as possible during those critical first days after launch.
2. Blow away their expectations. Make them say, “Wow!”
Each person brings a set of expectations to every experience. Whether those expectations are rooted in their own past experiences, or based on promises you’ve made during the sales process, you’ve got the opportunity to do one of three things:
- Meet their expectations by delivering what you promised.
- Fail to meet their expectations by delivering less than what you promised.
- Exceed their expectations by delivering far more than what you promised, resulting in a “Wow!” experience.
Michael Hyatt has written in depth on creating “Wow!” experiences, but it boils down to one question…
“Which of these three experiences will compel your members to tell all their friends about your site or product?”
HINT: It’s a bit of trick question.
You see, if you simply meet their expectations by delivering only what you promised, you’ll have created a satisfied customer. But satisfied customers don’t talk about you to their friends, colleagues, and family members.
No, there are two ways to ensure folks will talk about you… 1) disappoint them miserably, or 2) deliver an experience that makes them say, “Wow!”
So take every opportunity to exceed your members’ expectations, whether by delivering “bonus” content, responding to their questions and support requests within just a few minutes, or making yourself available for a quick Skype chat or phone call.
Think about creative ways you can exceed your customers’ expectations at every step of the process.
3. Give your members the tools they need to spread the word.
If you’re successful at creating a “Wow!“ experience for your members, they’ll want to tell someone else about your product. They’ll quickly become your most enthusiastic evangelists, so give them the tools they need to spread the word!
- Place social sharing buttons strategically throughout your site, making it easy for your members to share your content via their favorite social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc.
- Recognize and reward them for achieving milestones, like completing a course, watching your video series, or performing actions on your site like posting a comment in your forum. Make it easy for them to share those achievements and brag a little bit. (Check out BadgeOS, which lets you create achievements and issue sharable badges as your users succeed.)
- Consider adding an affiliate program to reward others for referring people to you. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on “pay per click” advertising, pay bloggers a generous commission for every signup they refer to your site. Give them a free membership so they can experience your product for themselves, and encourage them to actually write a review about their experience, rather than merely sticking banner ads in the sidebar of their site (which nobody clicks anyway).
Here’s one final tip… join a membership site yourself and then carefully observe how they do things.
Take note of the way they communicate with you at each stage, acknowledge your contributions, and encourage you to share what you’ve learned.
I highly recommend Michael Hyatt’s Platform University, which exists to help you get your product, service, brand, or cause noticed. You’ll enjoy monthly master classes, live Q&A sessions, hands-on tutorials, and an active member forum with other folks just like you who are learning how to build their own platform.
But in addition to the benefits you’ll receive from the actual training and other content, pay particular attention to how they operate. You’ll quickly see that this is one membership site that is doing it right! Watch and learn.
Like you, I’m still learning as I go, but hopefully these tips will help you grow your membership site even quicker than I have.
Got a question or a tip of your own? Post them in the comments below, and I look forward to the continued dialog!