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SPI 477: How to Launch and Manage a Successful Membership Community with Stu McLaren

You might have heard about SPI’s membership group, SPI Pro — creating that membership community has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made! And there’s been a lot of chatter around the idea of membership groups: creating them, ensuring they thrive, and reducing membership churn. Maybe you’ve thought about creating a membership community of your own, or maybe you’re just curious. Either way, you’re in the right place!

Today’s episode is essentially a masterclass in membership communities. I’m honored and thrilled to have Stu McLaren on the show today, someone who has over 10 years of experience launching, cultivating, and empowering people through online membership communities.

As I said, this is pretty much a masterclass. We’re not just skimming the surface or laying out steps for getting started. We get into some advanced strategies and tactics for creating “habits of consumption” within a membership, onboarding in the best way possible, and ensuring the longevity and health of your membership. Definitely take notes for this one!

If you’re interested in starting a membership community of your own, I definitely encourage you to check out Stu’s program at

Today’s Guest

Stu McClaren

Stu McLaren coaches and consults New York Times best-selling authors, top rated speakers, experts and niche celebrities on how to launch, grow, and scale high profit recurring revenue streams.

As the former founder of the world’s #1 membership platform for WordPress, WishList Member, he had the chance to serve and support over 60,000+ online communities and membership sites. Through that experience, he gained a unique insight into the subtle membership nuances that produce massive results.

Today he uses that knowledge to help his clients to launch and grow multiple high 6 and 7-figure membership sites and shares the same blueprints at

You’ll Learn


SPI 477: How to Launch and Manage a Successful Membership Community with Stu McLaren

Pat Flynn:
One of the best decisions we made in our business last year was to launch SPI Pro, our membership community that has not only offered recurring income in our business, but offering recurring value to people who show up. And it’s just been absolutely incredible. If you want to check it out, it’s But I’m not here to promote SPI Pro. I’m here to talk about the fact that membership communities and membership groups and membership software, this kind of stuff has become the most popular topic as of late. A lot of people are looking for ways to take their groups and make them more private, make them more secure, make them feel more like a sense of a community outside of the walled gardens of Facebook and other places too.

And today I have none other than the master of creating membership community, somebody who’s helped tens of thousands of people, including us, Stu McLaren. Stu is an amazing father and somebody who has had a decade-plus long experience doing this. What you’re about to hear is probably going to be one of the most useful episodes you’ll ever hear when it comes to building memberships and communities online. This is going to be a good one, so make sure you stick around. Here we go.

Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host – one of his all time favorite basketball players is Muggsy Bogues, because this is relatable – Pat Flynn!

What’s up everybody, Pat Flynn here, and welcome to episode 477 of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. My name is Pat Flynn here to help you make more money, save more time, and help more people too. I’m excited because one great way to help people is to bring those who are in your community – if you want to support them more, if you want to bring them together with others and build networking and build accountability, a membership community is an amazing way to do that. It can be a free one. It can be a paid one. But either way, you have to have value and you have to set it up properly. And that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today with Stu McLaren: how to launch and manage a successful membership community.

We do get a little advanced as well with some of the things that you can do inside the community to make people feel like they belong, to make people want to continue to pay and show up and be a part of the conversation. And we also get tactical, like how do we move people from a free Facebook group into a group that’s outside of Facebook? It’s very difficult, but Stu breaks it down for us, and it’s so simple actually. So make sure you stick around. This is a great one. One of my favorite people in the world, Stu McLaren, here he is. Enjoy.

Stu, welcome back to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. How are you?

Stu McLaren:
I am doing great, and thank you so much for having me. Dude, I just got to tell you, I know I’ve mentioned this off before, but I love the setup. And as we are looking to create our own home studio, I’m always looking through your videos and tutorials on how you got it all set up, but it looks amazing.

Thank you, man. I appreciate that. For those of you listening, I’ve worked really hard this past year to make the video quality here – which just Stu and I are able to see each other so we can read each other’s cues and stuff. So this isn’t on YouTube or anything, but I’ve been really enjoying playing with my new toys a lot, like thousands of dollars of video equipment. So anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with all that. And again, if you need any help, let me know.

But the last time we spoke together, we talked about membership communities and that’s what you’re known for, obviously. You’ve helped thousands of people start their membership communities. I don’t know if you remember this, but I had interviewed you on an iPad in the middle of Hawaii. Do you remember that?

I do remember. Yeah. And yet your audio quality was amazing. You were so concerned, you were like, “Well, this is the first time that I’m going to do this, but I’m trying out this portable audio setup.” I’m like, “Dude, this sounds amazing.” You always have amazing quality with the podcast, but I do remember that. That was fun.

That was really fun. What you didn’t know is literally one minute after we hung up, the battery died on the iPad.

I didn’t know that.

I couldn’t plug in because I was literally on the beach and I was using my other cord for all these other things that were connected to it. Anyway, all that to say thank you for letting me experiment. And that conversation was great because it’s helped a lot of people understand sort of the ins and outs of memberships and how they can fit into your brand, how you have membership communities on top of online courses. And of course, since then, and you were very much a part of this, we now have SPI Pro within our community and it’s been absolutely incredible.

The idea of now not just having, yes, of course, the recurring income that can come from a community, but that’s just the byproduct of what we’ve been able to provide. We’ve never had such good feedback from anything we’ve done in the past based on what we’re seeing from SPI Pro. Like nothing compares, just – there’s a different kind of thing that happens when you bring people together. Why do you think that happens that just the feedback, the testimonials are so much stronger, so much more, I don’t know, they just are different than like, “Oh yeah, I took your course,” and that’s it. Why do communities do this?

I think communities, when you’re with people in and on the journey, there’s a lot to be said for going from an idea or something that you’re thinking about to being with people all along the journey of actually making it happen. And then in the moment that it happens, when they get the result that they’re looking for, being there to celebrate and cheer them on and celebrate with them. And I think this is one of the magical parts of memberships and communities that I love, which is that you’re not with people for just a very short period of time. You’re with people over a longer period of time. So you get to support them and help them through the trials and tribulations of implementing what it is that you’re sharing. And as a result, you get more people to the finish line.

And when you get more people to the finish line, there’s just a natural energy that comes from that that spills over to everybody in the community, which has this amazing impact of pulling more and more people through what it is that you’re teaching and therefore getting better results. So I think a huge part of it, Pat, has to do with the fact that this isn’t just a short period of time where we’re in and we’re out, it is much more commitment for a longer period of time, and we’re with people on that journey. And it’s being with them in that journey that I think has the real overall benefits for everybody.

We’re going to talk more about cultivating community when you have a membership and even if you don’t, imagining you do, and what we can do to make those people feel special, make them feel like they belong, keep them on for longer. We’re going to talk about all those strategies in just a minute, but I’d love to hear from you because you’ve helped thousands of people start their own communities. What are some of the more obscure communities that you’ve helped create through a lot of your students? I’d love to just know maybe some off the top of your head about like, “You really have a community about that?” I’m just curious to see what’s been created.

Well, there’s communities in every kind of niche market you can think of, from photography and calligraphy to fitness and finance and music and art and health and dog training. You name it, there’s all kinds of memberships that have been created from that. I think one of my favorites from the past 12 months that has been brought onto my radar is from a woman named Courtney Lynne. I had no idea that this market even existed before that, but since she’s shared it with me, I now see the potential everywhere, and I think you’re going to love and appreciate this, especially now that you have a lovely little pet.

Courtney helps pet influencers. Now, I didn’t even know this was a thing, Pat, but here’s Courtney story. Courtney, she was a teacher, a counselor at school. She got a dog, a Goldendoodle. Shout out to all the Goldendoodle owners in the world. So she got a Goldendoodle. When she got the dog, the breeder said, “Please, share with us pictures as the dog grows.” What she did was she just set up an Instagram account for the dog. Well, long story short, the Instagram account blew up. And next thing you know, she’s got thousands and thousands of people who are following this Instagram account for her dog. And then the natural thing starts to evolve, which she starts to get people asking her questions like, “Hey, I’ve got a dog and I’d like to grow my Instagram account. How did you do this?”

So she started sharing as much as she could in Instagram DMs, and the next thing you know, she was getting overwhelmed with DMs so she started a Facebook group, and then this Facebook group starts to blow up and she’s got thousands of people in her Facebook group and she’s like, “Oh my gosh.” So then she hears about starting a membership. And last year she joined us for our free workshop that we run every year and she’s like, “I’m going to go for it.” So she launches a membership site, and long story short, she now has hundreds and hundreds of people in this membership. She quit her job and is focused on this full-time, which is helping pet influencers.

Now, Pat, here’s the funny part about this. My family and I, we’re in Vancouver right now as we’re recording this. Two weekends ago, we were driving, as a family, in downtown Vancouver, and we come up to a set of lights and my daughter’s like, “Oh my goodness.” She’s just fallen in love. And I look out the window and there’s this guy on a motorbike with a sidecar and in the sidecar is his dog with goggles on. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” So I literally, I put the window down and we’re at the stoplight. So I take a picture of this guy. And then on the side of the sidecar is an Instagram handle. And Pat, I go to this Instagram handle – this dog has more than 400,000 followers! I was blown away. I relayed it to Courtney afterwards and she said, “Stu, it’s a big business.”

Pet influencers are getting sponsorship deals. They’re getting all kinds of ways to be able to build a business around your pet. And I was like, “Oh my goodness.” And then of course my kids were like, “We should create an account for our dog.” So we did. We just started it, literally this past weekend, called Miss Doggy Doodle, Miss Doggy Doodle.

Miss Doggy Doodle, I’m going to find it.

I’m sharing it with you because here’s a perfect example. Courtney, she just set up this Instagram account as a way to essentially share pictures with the breeder. It blows up and she’s got all these followers. Then people started asking her questions about how she’s doing that, and that’s a real key insight there, by the way. And so then she realizes there’s an opportunity here and she launches a membership. She now has hundreds and hundreds of members, and now has gone full-time on this and quit her job because of just listening to questions that people were asking her. That probably was one of the more obscure ones in this past year. I didn’t even know pet influencers was a thing. Now it’s on my radar, dude. I see it everywhere and I’m just like, I’m so excited and blown away that we’re getting into the game as well.

Oh, that’s so funny. When we got Jarvis, our new puppy, we were considering going down that route, but then we’re just, “We already have enough things going on. Let’s not even have to worry about that.” But I actually follow, now that you mentioned this, there’s this doodle named Samson that I follow. He does these wacky things. During Christmas, he was wearing all this stuff. It’s just like, wow, I guess this is, especially when there’s sponsorships involved and super large audiences of animal lovers, I mean, this makes complete sense.

Well, the one that I was mentioning that we saw in Vancouver, his name was Bentley. If you look up, I think it’s Mr. Bentley, he’s got like 400,000+ followers. But when you look at what he’s doing, dude, it’s big time sponsorship deals with major companies. And it’s just fascinating to see the adventures that this dog is on and of course obviously his dog owner. But yeah, I mean, I just think that we live in a fascinating time right now, a fascinating time. And it just goes to show that you really can build a business and a membership around virtually any topic you can think of.

And you had mentioned, actually @Mrbentley_thedog, verified on Instagram, in fact. 418,000 subscribers. “Just a furry little co-pilot, living life one backward step at a time.” Hilarious. Wow. And there’s a thing with DoorDash here. There’s some other sponsorship stuff. That is absolutely incredible. You had mentioned a keyword and that was – and you had changed your tone a little bit when you were talking about questions. Why is that important? How do we know what’s happening and how a membership could start just based on what people are asking us?

Well, at the end of the day, what a membership does is we are helping people make progress in some area of their life. There are all kinds of different types of memberships. There’s product-based memberships like Dollar Shave Club where they are sending us a physical product on a regular basis. And the whole premise behind a product based membership is that we’re creating a tremendous amount of convenience for people and we’re saving them time. There’s service-based memberships. These would be like a massage of the month, or in our case, we get organic fruits and vegetables delivered to our door every month. And again, similar sort of deal. It’s a convenience play.

Then there’s information-based memberships, and there are different types of information-based memberships. But if I were to summarize them into two big buckets, we’re either helping solve an ongoing problem such as losing weight or improving damaged relationships or things of that nature, or we’re teaching people a skill, like learning the guitar or learning how to paint or draw or whatever it might be, or grow our pet influencer business. But at the end of the day, we’re helping people make progress in some capacity.

I think like when we are helping people in social media, whether it be on Instagram or Facebook or Clubhouse or wherever, we’re doing the same thing. And in the midst of doing that, people are likely going to be asking you questions. In the case of Courtney, who we mentioned earlier, she was just doing her thing and people were noticing what she was doing and were asking her questions. And so if you find yourself answering the same questions over and over again, that’s a really good sign because that means that people are looking to you for answers.

And if they’re looking to you, what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to sift and sort through the millions of search results that they get when they type in their problem. And they just want somebody to create some clarity for them and cut through all of that clutter and just say, “Listen, if you want to get this result, do this and do this and do that.” So if people are asking you questions, they’re looking to save themselves time. They’re looking to create clarity for themselves. They’re looking for you to sift through all of the noise and give them the next steps. That right there is the backbone of what makes a great membership a great membership.

So if people are asking you questions, that is a very healthy sign. And I think back to when I partnered with our dear friend, Michael Hyatt, with Platform University, when he launched that, and he’s since sold that to Pete Vargas. But when we launched that, we launched it on the back of questions that people were asking him from his best-selling book, Platform. The interesting part about it, Pat, is when I was doing the research for what kind of content we would provide inside the membership, et cetera, I was going through thousands of blog comments and I was looking for the questions that people were asking, because in the questions are the clues as to what to provide that people are going to be willing to pay for.

So good. It’s already making me think about what have people been asking me a lot about lately? I don’t know if you know this, but I have this new YouTube channel in the Pokemon space. And it’s really interesting because just by putting that out there, I have now dozens of questions that come out every week from other Pokemon YouTubers asking me, how’d you do this? How’d you make your videos look like that? How did you grow your channel like this? How are you doing this? And I’m just like, “Hmm, okay.” Now I got to go – okay, well, now I got to prioritize and just say no to that right now, but it’s just, again, I could potentially create a little group of people who are also Pokemon YouTubers to hopefully encourage them, hold each other accountable, probably create some really cool connections and whatnot because I know a lot of them feel lonely being the weird poke-tuber that they are.

Okay. So think about and look at the questions. There’s so much here. I want to fast forward to some more advanced stuff for people to look forward to when they have their membership, but I know that people are going to be looking for solutions on, okay, well, where do I start? What do I do? You had mentioned a free workshop or something. Is that something that we could direct people toward or at least point people in that direction for?

Yeah, 100 percent. I mean, every year we host a free workshop where we are teaching how to launch, grow, and scale your membership. I think one of the fun parts from last year, if we were to rewind, was… The not so fun part was this was right when COVID was starting. There was so much uncertainty and there was a lot of fear in the marketplace at that point. Similarly, for a lot of people, especially business owners, that uncertainty created a lot of questions about their livelihood. And so what was interesting during this free workshop was we saw more people implement what we were sharing than ever before, because there was a sense of urgency of like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m going to do this now almost as a backup plan.”

And we can talk about what kind of transpired from that afterwards. But what was fun about it was that this free workshop was the catalyst to literally hundreds of people launching their membership just off of the free workshop itself. I share that because the workshop itself is super valuable. And in it, you’re not only going to have the details in terms of what your next step should be if you’re thinking about a membership or you’re looking to launch one, but as we experienced last year, if you’re willing to just go for it and to put into practice what we teach, you’re going to get results. And that’s exactly what happened last year as well.

So yes, the workshop can be found at, and it all starts on April 22nd. We teach it live and there’s a lot of amazing energy that comes from this live experience. And so, yeah, I would just really encourage people to come check it out at

Awesome. Thank you, Stu. Now, let’s talk about the idea of having a membership. What are we selling exactly? I know a lot of people will have a hard time wrapping their head around, “Okay, membership. This sounds good.” And then they go to build a sales page and it’s like, “Huh? This just feels like thin air that I’m selling.” What are we actually going to say on the sales page? What is our position? Is it just like a space for people to connect? People can do that on Facebook already. What’s different about this? How do we actually sell our memberships?

I always like to come back to marketing fundamentals, and the question I always want everybody to have an answer to is this: how will someone’s life be better or different as a result of joining your membership? Or heck, even if it wasn’t a membership, how is someone’s life going to be better or different as a result of joining your course, or signing up for your coaching program, or joining your mastermind, or watching your YouTube channel, or whatever it might be. But how is someone’s life going to be better or different? That’s the question you got to answer.

The way I like to think about it is, where are people now and where do they want to be? Where are people now, where do they want to be? The difference, that gap, is what we are helping people close. And we’re helping people close that gap faster and easier inside of our memberships. What we’re ultimately doing is supporting them. And it’s not about bombarding them and loading them up with a whole bunch of information. That’s actually the worst thing that you can do because in more than a decade plus of supporting literally tens of thousands of entrepreneurs launch their memberships, I can tell you the overwhelming number one reason that people cancel from a membership is overwhelm.

So we don’t want to just bombard people with a whole bunch of information. What we want to do is we want to give them a clear path of how to go from where they are to where they want to be. We call this in our world the success path, and it’s you getting clear on what those steps are going to be and outlining it for people and then supporting them in the implementation of those steps. So, right from the beginning, we were talking about the joy that comes from working with people and watching them make that progress. That is the path that we are mapping out for people, and we’re holding their hand through that process.

The key thing here is that we think the wins, where they want to be, are like, the massive wins. That’s not always the case. In fact, people will stay part of a membership as long as they’re making progress, as long as they’re making forward progress. I’ve never heard anybody say that they are canceling from a membership because they’re making too much progress. So, as long as you and I are just focused on helping people make that progress, they’re going to stay. That’s why people join, for clarity in terms of how to get from where they are to where they want to be, and the support in helping them do that faster and easier.

How does one provide support in a membership? Is this one-on-one calls or something else? How do we do that?

Great question. I think you can do it in a variety of different ways. I think a lot of it is filtering out the noise and giving people clarity around what to focus on and what’s relevant to them right now, versus trying to do all the things. An example of that, when somebody joins our membership, we deliver a survey. Right away, before they can even get in, we ask them a bunch of questions. And in the questions that we’re asking, we’re identifying, where are people on their journey? Are they right in the beginning, like in the beginning stages, or are they more of like intermediate, in the middle, or are they more advanced, like toward the end? Because the experience that we’re going to create is going to reflect where they are on their journey.

And so, for example, if somebody is in the beginning, then when they log into the membership, we’re going to display material that is more focused on helping them right where they are right now. If somebody is more advanced, we’re going to show them and display for them more advanced lessons and material. And so what happens is now we’re creating an experience that’s built around where they are helping create focus and clarity that these are the most important things they should be focused on right now. Forget everything else because everything else doesn’t matter based on where they’re at. So I think that’s an example.

Another example of supporting people is working with people. One of the things that we do is we do brainstorm breakout sessions. We hold these once a month and we hold them at three different time zones, 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 9:00 PM. So no matter where somebody is in the world, there’s a time zone that’s going to fit. They don’t have to prepare or have anything structured. They come on and we open up with some instructions, yada, yada, yada. And then we break people into breakout rooms. These smaller breakout rooms give people the chance to have a sounding board and share their ideas and get feedback and support one another.

So it’s not just like Stu is the one source of all information. No, no, no. This is about tapping into the collective wisdom of the group. And so those breakout brainstorm sessions are so powerful because now you’re getting people engaging and interacting with each other. They’re developing relationships with one another. They’re getting all kinds of different perspectives. And each time they join a breakout brainstorm session, they’re going to be in different groups. And so it allows them to meet more of the people in the membership.

These are just a couple examples. There’s also examples of just holding work sessions where it’s nothing more than just a block of time when you’re going to be working on a particular thing, perhaps implementing something that may have been taught in a lesson that month or whatever it might be, but it’s about creating a block of time to implement what is being taught.

These are all examples. At the end of the day, it’s not just loading them up with more information. It’s about thinking through how can I help somebody implement what it is that I’m teaching easier and faster? Sometimes that’s templates, sometimes that’s resources. Sometimes that’s just a block of time to sit with people and work through actually putting what they’re learning into practice. These are all different ways, but ultimately at the end of the day, that’s what we’re focused on is just, how do we continue to help support people in implementing what it is that we’re sharing?

I love that. So that’s top-down support and also support from within, from community members to community members. And I absolutely love that, because I often hear people come for the content and they stay for the community. What were those times, again? That’s really important because that’s something that we’ve been struggling with within SPI Pro is with relation to just time zones and such. What were those times once again for live event type stuff?

Yeah. We do 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. One of those time zones is going to fit for the vast majority of the world. We’re not encouraging anybody to join all three of those. They’re more than welcome if they want to. But almost always one of those times zones is a better fit and allows us therefore to be able to create an experience that is inclusive of everybody, no matter where they live in the world.

That’s great, super handy. How do you encourage community members to participate in events like that? What are you doing to set that up and help encourage them to actually show up at that time? Because once they’re there, things start to happen like magic, but you kind of have to fight for that sometimes.

Yeah. Well, I think there’s a couple of key things that I would point to here. One is consistency. Just being – same bat time, same bat channel. When it’s like, first Tuesday of every month, people can lock that in way in advance and you don’t have to depend on people necessarily seeing your emails or communication about it. They just know because they heard it one time and now they’ve got it on their calendar for the rest of the year. So I think consistency in terms of when you do what is really important so that you create those habits, habits of consumption. And that’s with both like, experiences like what we’re talking about, but also with your content and how you deliver it.

If you think back to the days – and some of your listeners Pat are going to be too young to remember, but you and I remember the days when we had to show up to TV when Friends was on at Thursday at 7:00 PM, or whatever the time zone was.

Yeah. No choice.

Yeah. We had to show up. If we wanted to see it, we had to show up. But we remembered and it created a habit of consumption, and the same is true here in memberships. If you can set the same time each and every month, that creates that habit. But the other part of this that I think is really important but often gets overlooked, when it comes to really setting your members up for success, is the onboarding. The onboarding is the most vital piece of a membership, especially in the early days. But it often just gets overlooked where people just get their login and it’s like, okay, well, you got your login. Go find the stuff that is valuable to you.

That’s just not setting your members up for success, and here’s a key stat. I’m in this world, and I study this stuff nonstop. There was a research study that showed that if your members have a positive experience in the first 30 days, it will triple the lifetime value of that member. Let me just say that again: If they have a positive experience in the first 30 days, it will triple the lifetime value of that member. What does a positive experience look like? Well, it can be a win, like they’ve actually done something with what it is that you’ve taught and they’ve made some progress of some kind.

It could just be creating a connection on a relationship. So engaging. It could just even be consuming a piece of content that gave them clarity. But there’s all kinds of wins that we’ve got to be mindful of. That all starts with the onboarding process. So when you’re thinking about the onboarding process, first and foremost, I want you to think about casting a vision for what this experience is going to look like, much like what we do when we are making an offer for our membership or casting the vision of what it could be. We don’t want to lose sight of that.

When somebody comes into your membership, that’s part of the onboarding. We want to remind them of why they’re doing this. And AKA, this comes back to the success path that we just talked about. Casting that vision of what is possible by joining the membership. Second thing that we want to do is we want to help them be able to find the things that are most relevant to them. And as I shared with you, one of the onboarding steps that we take people through is a survey that asks them a variety of questions. But from that, we then direct them to content that is most relevant.

Now, if you don’t do a onboarding survey, that’s fine. But what you could do is direct people to where they can find content for them that is going to be relevant for them. So you might say something like, “Now, if you are brand new to learning about X, Y, Z, you may want to check out these masterclasses,” and give them links to where they can find them. Or if you’re more advanced, you specifically might want to jump into these areas or these discussions.

Oh, that’s cool. So you don’t need like a whole software system to do this for it. You can just kind of give them the options.

Yeah. I mean, back in the day, we did it like super grassroots style. Pat, we had a video and we basically said, yeah, if you’re in the early stages, you’ll see below in the PDF a link that’ll link to other areas of the membership. If you’re more advanced, there’s links for you as well. So again, just keep it as simple as possible, but give people direction on what their next steps should be.

And then the third thing that I would say about setting your members up for success and driving that engagement is to get them engaged early. How do you do that? Well, doesn’t matter what community you go into, I’m almost guaranteeing that the number one most popular thread of that community is introduce yourself. Here’s the thing: The more people you can get to introduce themselves, the better. But give your members a framework in order to introduce themselves. Don’t just say, “Hey, jump into this thread and introduce yourself,” because that’s actually — it can create anxiety. Like, well, how do I do that? I don’t want to sound like a jerk and kind of pump my tires and make myself sound like this thing.

Instead, just give them three questions, like three simple questions that anybody can answer that create connection, that allow them to introduce themselves. And hopefully in the midst of that is going to bridge and begin building relationships with other members. And that’s what we’re looking for is connection points with yourself, but also with other members. Once you do that, that’s when the community begins to really gel. And that’s when the engagement goes up, because it’s not just about the information, it’s the whole experience of being able to work through and get the result as a community, and we’re on this together, and now there’s relationships that are building, and it becomes a much more fulfilling experience.

Man, this is so good. Let’s keep going, if you don’t mind. I have more questions.

Yeah, sure.

Imagine a first time membership owner launching for the first time. I know you teach this, launching with a founders group to make people feel special. What are some ways that we can make those people feel special in creating maybe a different experience than those who are going to get in later?

Well, there are many ways to do this. I want to give you a new way that I heard this year from Tamra Bennett, who’s in our TRIBE community. This is one of the fun things for me, Pat. And I’m sure you’ve experienced this too. People think that I have all the answers to memberships, and I’ve certainly got a ton of experience and I speak from experience. But one of the things that I love the most is I’m immersed in our world where I’m surrounded by thousands and thousands of membership site owners. So I get the opportunity to learn from all of these incredible people who are in the trenches growing their memberships, and Tamra is a good example. Speaking of obscure markets, she has a membership with thousands of people teaching them how to paint decorative door hangers. Decorative door hangers, Pat. I had no idea what this was.

I remember when Tamra first launched her membership, she welcomed 400+ members when she first launched it. And I was like, “What is this?” I’m like, “Is this the door hangers at the hotels, like please do not disturb?” And she’s like, “No. No, Stu.” She said, “Here in the South, we have these things like wreaths that you’d put on the door, except it’s like a decorative door hanger. It’s not a wreath, but it’s like a door hanger. You can paint them and they’re all beautiful.” And I was like, “Oh, okay, okay.” Well, anyway, she’s got a membership with thousands of members. But she did something unique this year for the 400+ that I mentioned that were a part of her original founding members. She calls them her OGs. She created a yearbook, like a physical yearbook, for her membership this year.

She had a whole section that highlighted all of those original members who joined her membership. I just thought it was just a super powerful way to honor them, like to showcase them and to honor them. There was a couple of ideas from that, like one, the physical yearbook, which I thought was brilliant. She took that idea from back in the old high school days where we’d have the yearbooks. The thought around that was that she was hosting an event that was going to be coming up. It obviously got canceled because of COVID. But the idea was that all the members have their yearbook and then it was just like the old days. You go around and everybody signs the yearbook and all that kind of stuff.

But then the second idea in that was she had a whole big section that featured all of those original founding members, which I just thought was brilliant. Again, just honoring those people who joined you right from the get go. I think there’s a whole bunch of different ways you can do it, but at the end of the day, it’s acknowledging those people who took the chance on you early on with a brand new membership. Yes, they’re being rewarded typically with a founding member price that is lower than what you launch with down the road, but there’s also other ways to honor them as well.

And I think just acknowledging them that they’ve been with you since the get-go I think is a great thing to do. That can be done in a yearbook, but it can easily be done at an end of year presentation for all of your members to talk about what happened and recap the year. There’s a variety of different ways you can do it.

Yeah. I mean, that makes me think about the newsletter we get here in our neighborhood where it gets put in our mailbox once a month. We just start to see new spotlights of different members, not necessarily original members or whatever, but it’s just like this idea of showcasing each other. I think more communities need to do that. I often talk about it as sort of putting a spotlight on your own members, whether it’s your community on social media or one that you have in a private membership. I know there’s people like Chris Ducker, for example, he has Youpreneur. He had held an event where he would offer an award for the member of the year and those kinds of things. Are those things that you encourage and can work for building community within the space?

One-hundred percent. There’s another member of our community who did something I thought was brilliant, again. Her name’s Dr. Una. She has a membership site for doctors and she helps them grow their medical practice. That’s the whole focus of her membership. This year she held a summit and the people who spoke in the summit were her members. And so what ended up happening was she elevated these people. And they’re not typically the people who are going to speak at conferences or speak at events or anything of that nature. And so she said they were admittedly nervous and weren’t too sure of what they were going to share, but she worked with them to get a good structure to be able to present well during the summit.

But in the midst of that, what ended up happening was she elevated these members and they became like rock stars in the membership. And people, when they join, they were just so excited to be able to be amongst these incredible people that they had just learned from in the summit. So it just got my wheels turning for like what a brilliant idea. Like, that should be something to do every single year where you host some kind of an event where you share the best-of practices, so to speak, but you’re not the one sharing it, it’s your members that are sharing it, which only highlights the collective wisdom that is in the membership and creates more desire, more interest to be a part of that and to tap into that.

So that’s another great idea. But I think anytime you can create a scenario where you are celebrating members, highlighting members, spotlighting members, giving them a stage to showcase their brilliance and their ideas, it only creates more appeal for the membership. I think many times we get caught up in this thinking that we have got to be the sole source of all the information and all the ideas and all of the support. That’s just not true. I think it initially is going to start because you’re the one with the connection with your audience, but ultimately we want to begin elevating others in the community and really tapping into that collective wisdom where it becomes so much more than just any one person.

That’s absolute gold, and that strategy of bringing your members on to do an event to then potentially promote the members and the membership itself, oh man, I got to run with that one. I’m like, can we just pause so I can just start writing all this down and we’ll get back to it. I wanted to ask you about how to keep a pulse on how your members are feeling. How do you recommend we really understand what’s going on so if there’s anything going wrong, we can fix it, or just if there’s anything going right, we can amplify it more? What’s the best way to have that sense of how things are going?

This is a great question. I’m just coming off of a meeting this morning where our team was debriefing on this very thing. What we do is every quarter, we send out a survey to all of our members and we ask a variety of different questions. And in that reveals a whole bunch of opportunity in terms of, just like you said, things that we’re doing well, things that we could improve, things that we could completely chuck, and then it also spawns new ideas for things that we may want to try. I think at the end of the day, what we’re ultimately measuring is the progress. I’ll give you an example. For us in our membership, we are… I know this is going to kind of sound like meta, meta, meta. But in our membership, we help people with launching memberships. The ultimate goal for us is have people launch their membership.

We see, every time we do the survey, more and more people are launching their membership. So the percentage of people that are launching is going up and up and up. But one of the questions that we ask is, have you launched your membership yet? That’s a stat, something that we are measuring, that we’re looking at. And if we see that that number is staying still and it’s not moving, then that tells us that something is wrong. We’ve got to double back. We’ve got to look at like, okay, well, where are people getting stuck? Where’s the problem happening here? But if that number is trending upwards and more and more people in our case are launching memberships, which they are, then we’re doing something right.

So we want to look at and we want to ask questions that are going to reveal to us, at the end of the day, are we moving people from where they are to where they want to be? Because if they’re making progress, as I’ve said earlier, they’re going to stay. They’re going to continue to want to be part of the membership. Where the membership begins to fall apart is if they’re not engaging, if they’re not making progress, and they’re not getting what they ultimately signed up for.

So I think surveying your members is a really healthy thing. I think you should do it on a quarterly basis because that helps you keep a pulse on what’s going on inside the membership. And I think you want to ask questions that may be tough for you to hear the answers to, but ultimately are going to contribute to a membership that is going to last the test of time. And so ask questions like, are people making progress? And if they’re not, why not, and drill into that, because that’ll reveal areas of opportunity where you can certainly increase the impact.

And I’ll give you one example for us that was revealing from our most recent survey. We were asking about the different deliverables that we have. And one of those deliverables is a monthly Q&A with myself. During the monthly Q&A, I answer a ton of questions. We asked, is that… I forget how we phrase the question, but it was something like, are people watching and listening to that and is it providing value? What we identified was that the way in which we’re delivering that can be improved, because ultimately even though we provide the recording, yes, and even though we use Searchie so people can search through it afterwards, it’s still a little bit cumbersome and what might be an alternative, and this was an idea that we were discussing this morning – I don’t know if we’re going to go through this, but I’ll share openly with you – is instead of doing one big, long, two-hour long Q&A, what if I just did rapid fire individual videos? It’s not a live thing. It’s I get a list of questions and I just record quick three to five minute videos, which is essentially the length of time in which I was answering those questions anyway. But now what happens is now we run all those through Searchie. Now it’s way faster and easier for people to be able to quickly find the segments that are relevant to them. It’s way easier for our team to be able to share those.

And there’s so many other benefits that come from that one experience of a Q&A. We wouldn’t have had that insight had we not asked and had we not got that feedback, and now what it’s done is it’s just got our team’s creative juices flowing in terms of how can we improve that experience, which again, is going to improve the overall experience, which is again, going to help people make more progress. So I think a quarterly survey is a really handy thing to do. And you want to ask tough questions so that you can improve that experience. Feedback is a good thing as it relates to memberships.

That’s so good. And you had mentioned a tool that I know you created to help solve the problem of finding information called Searchie. What’s the URL for that? We’re not going to talk about it too long here, but what is the URL in case people want to look that up?

Yeah. It’s In fact, that’s why we created it, was because we had just a ton of video information and it was becoming really cumbersome for us to manage. And I’m sure you’ve experienced this too, Pat, where you’ve got hard drives and hard drives and hard drives and you’re like, where did I talk about this one thing? Or what did I answer? I know I’ve created a video on it, but you have no idea where it is. Well, that was us. And then not only that, but on the other side, our clients and customers were like, “I know Stu answered this in one particular Q&A somewhere, but I can’t find it.”

That was the problem that we were looking to solve, and ultimately that led us to Searchie, which at its base allows you to be able to search inside of videos for keywords. So not just titles or descriptions, but actually what is being said in the video, and bring people to the moment in the video where it’s being said. So that in and of itself, it cut down over 90 percent of our support and it’s a good example of enhancing that experience for people as they’re consuming your content.

Pat:, is that right?

Yeah, a funny story about that. We were initially just creating it as an internal tool and our team called it Mr. Searchie, because that’s what it was helping people do. And then when we realized we were going to probably share this with the world, we were like, we can’t call it Mr. Searchie. We got to drop the Mr., and so we just stayed with Searchie.

That’s funny. That’s great. I have one more question for you before we finish up. And then I’d love to take you to the Premium Pass at backstage, just to talk about family life, because you’re a big family man and you’re doing some cool things to impact the world with Village Impact, which is an organization that I absolutely love to support. We’ll talk more about that in a minute, but I have to ask this on behalf of my audience.

Many people have a Facebook group or a LinkedIn group, but let’s just consider Facebook. It’s meh, people are there. Facebook is beneficial because everybody’s there anyway and it’s just, they’re there already. Creating a new membership means now there’s another place that people have to come to. How do we convince people that this thing outside of Facebook that we’re creating, is worth coming to and even worth potentially abandoning Facebook for?

What’s interesting is just watching human behavior. Now, what I will tell you is that creating a new community has both its benefits and its challenges. The benefits are you can control that experience. And in and of itself, that’s a huge leg up on Facebook because Facebook, it’s just a mess. Everybody has a different experience. Their feeds are going to be different. Things get lost, and it becomes a distraction zone. So controlling the environment is a huge leg up. The downside is that you’ve got to form all new habits. The tough part is that forming new habits requires time. It requires communication. And in the beginning, that can be an obstacle in and of itself, is getting people into a rhythm to a whole new community.

This is why in most cases it’s a hybrid. It’s a hybrid of people are getting the content, and the content experience is in a membership site. The community aspect is in a Facebook group. Now, there are other platforms that are beginning to combine both. I know that you’re experimenting with different ones as well. I think the key here is that we’ve got to meet people where they are at. And I’ll give you an example. In the early days with Michael Hyatt’s membership, I remember that we were about a month and a half in and we realized the forum community that we had created, it was a no go. We had to massively upgrade that experience right away because it was becoming a point of friction where people were getting frustrated because they were wanting to engage and communicate, but it just wasn’t a great user experience.

And so we were only a month and a half into it, Pat, and we were like, we got to make a change. And that’s the beauty of a membership. It’s a fluid business where you can make these changes and you can improve the experience based on the feedback that you’re getting. And so we did. We made a massive upgrade to the forum. And as a result of that, it improved the user experience and bada bing bada boom, we were off to the races.

But I think when we think about why somebody would go from just a simple Facebook group to a community that is a paid membership, we’ve got to remember we’re creating clarity. We’re cutting through the noise and we’re giving people that step-by-step structure that is taking them from where they are to where they want to be. And yes, people can find ample free content online.

I’ll give you a really good example of this. We talked, right off from the get-go, that I’m in the midst of looking to redesign my home studio. So dude, I have consumed a ton of free videos. Yours was one of the very first that I watched of how you set up your studio. I’ve consumed videos of others who have shown the behind the scenes of how they set up their video studio, all of which have been amazing and all of which I’ve taken tons of notes in my notebook of. But I’m still at the point of like, okay, now what? How do I begin piecing all this together? It’s a bunch of randomness and I’m just looking for somebody to say, “Do this, do this, do this and do that.”

And so I did. I asked. I posted a question. I said, “Where do I go to find this?” And lo and behold, and I’ve got it up in front of me. This is why I’m relaying this because it’s real time. You probably know who I’m talking about, but Luria has a membership called Live Streaming Pros and they have a whole membership that walks people through this on a regular basis. Guess what I’m going to do? I’m going to sign up for this. Why? Because it’s going to save me so much time and it’s going to save me so much thinking. And instead of putting the heavyweight of trying to figure out how I piece all these things together, I’m going to join the membership because she’s going to outline exactly how to do it step by step by step.

This is why people join memberships, because we’re so overwhelmed and we’re tired of sifting and sorting through all the free information and all the posts in a Facebook group and trying to piece it all together. We just want somebody to map it out for us. And when they do, it’s like a home run win, and we’re ready and willing and excited to pay to join a membership to get that clarity.

Luria is great. She’s going to take great care of you. She’s helped me. I’m sorry I didn’t even recommend that resource upfront for you to save you time. So I apologize about that. But she’s going to be great. And thank you for that real-time example from something personal with you. I’m looking forward to seeing how the video studio looks. And wow, Stu this has been an incredible conversation. Thank you so much for all of the tips from the before and then after and during having a membership. Wow, this is incredible. One more time, where’s the link to the workshop in case people want to check that out and get a head start in their stuff?

Yeah, thanks for that, Pat. It all happens April 22nd. We do it one time a year. Go to You’ll be able to join us 100 percent for free. It’s a live experience. So make sure you come and show up live, but I guarantee you not only are you going to learn a lot, but there’s a very good chance, because of how we’ll show you to do it and get started with very simply, you’ll actually start putting it into practice during the live workshop itself. So

Thanks, Stu. We appreciate you, and I’ll chat with you backstage in just a minute. Thank you.

All right. I hope you enjoyed that episode with Stu McLaren. Every time he comes on the show, just so many value bombs, just makes me so, so happy every single time. Stu and I have also done some work together for his organization, Village Impact. He and his wife, Amy – in fact, Amy started it, and they help build schools in Kenya. It’s just incredible what they’ve done. I’ve donated to that cause earlier this year, and I’m just very grateful to continue to support that. They do some amazing stuff and they really care. If you want to go and check out that free workshop, is where you can go, and that starts up in a live setting real soon. But if you also want to check that out later, you can. You can probably just join the waitlist,

Anyway, thank you so much. We appreciate you. And if you are now curious about how we manage SPI Pro and our own community, all you have to do is go to, and you can apply. The next time we let people in, we’ll let you know if you got in, and we’d love to have you. So anyway, thanks so much, we appreciate you, and I look forward to serving you in the next episode. Hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already. And of course, as always, keep on rocking it and Team Flynn for the win. Cheers.

Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound design and editing by Paul Grigoras. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We’ll catch you in the next session.

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