More and more entrepreneurs are starting a membership community these days, and for a good reason. It brings in recurring revenue, gives your audience a place to build community and network, and allows you to offer products and services to a targeted segment of your audience: your committed customers and “superfans.”
Here at SPI Media, we started our membership community, SPI Pro in July, and we already have hundreds of members. We weren’t planning on launching SPI Pro until 2021, but then COVID happened. We sadly had to cancel our second annual FlynnCon conference (That was hard because we were SO excited about it).
But with FlynnCon canceled, we realized we could put all of our energy toward getting the SPI Pro site set up earlier than planned. Plus, since most of us are quarantined at home behind our computer screens, it seemed like a good time to offer a virtual membership community to those who were craving connection and community.
We are thrilled that our membership community has launched and is going strong. We highly recommend starting a membership program. BUT, there are some things you need to ask yourself before you jump into the deep end. Here are the top 5 things to ask before your start:
Is Your Audience Ready for a Membership Community?
As you know, it takes time to grow your audience and customer base. Here at SPI Media, we have been growing an audience since Pat launched his online business 11 years ago. We have built a huge library of content for people who want to start an online business.
But over the past few years, we’ve noticed that a segment of our audience was ready for something more. Some of them have grown their businesses and become successful in their own right, and they were craving content to help them get to the next level. Our audience has evolved and grown along with us.
We also noticed they were craving more community. Our first ever FlynnCon conference last summer was a huge success. But some of the feedback we got from attendees was that they “wanted more in-depth content” and that they wanted “more opportunities to network and meet people.”
That clued us in that our audience was ready for a membership community. A place where entrepreneurs who were serious about growing their businesses could get more in-depth content, get to know other entrepreneurs, network, and have more access to our team.
We knew our audience was ready, and they trusted us to provide them with the information they needed.
Which brings us to the second point: Does your audience trust you and your brand? Maybe you have a big social media presence that you can leverage to build a membership program. Or you have a podcast and have built your reputation as an expert in your field. Before you think about a membership program, you need to have a sizable audience, and be trusted as someone who can offer that audience what they need.
Are You Ready for a Membership Program?
It may seem simple: Set up a membership site, invite people into it, and walla, you have a membership program.
Not so fast. Building a membership program can be daunting. You will need to decide what membership platform to use, what type of program you want to create, what the fee structure will be, what content you will provide and who will create it, who on your team will manage the site, how you’ll market the program to your audience, and more.
Do you have the capacity? If you’re feeling burned out or overwhelmed, now is probably not the time to take on something new in your business. If you don’t have a team that can help you set up and manage the program and help create the content for it, that’s another factor to consider.
Here at SPI, we have several people who have helped us set up SPI Pro, including those on our team who have helped create content, manage the tech side of things, develop marketing tactics, and interact with the community. We also hired trusted consultants like Jay Clouse who has tons of experience starting membership programs, as well as freelance designers. After the program launched, this team is also involved in the ongoing management of the program.
So make sure you’re ready, have the capacity, and can hire an inhouse or freelance team to help. If you can check all of those boxes, then maybe you’re ready to launch your own membership program.
Can You Provide Additional Value?
What more can a membership site offer your audience than what you’re already providing? What will you offer your audience with that they can’t already find elsewhere? How does your membership program fit into your overall business goals?
These are all questions that you need to answer before launching your program. For SPI Pro, we knew that we could offer value to those in our audience who were ready to take their businesses to the next level. Those who were committed to putting in the effort and the time to find success.
Of course SmartPassiveIncome.com offers tons of free content for entrepreneurs. It contains over a decade’s worth of blog posts, podcasts, videos, guides, and resources for people who want to learn how to start and grow their business.
But we wanted to provide more for our audience, so we built SPI Pro upon three main areas that we weren’t already providing:
- A Private Community where people can feel safe to ask questions, pitch ideas, network, get feedback, and build relationships
- Exclusive Content such as free video workshops, a monthly book club, free Ebooks, and special deals for SPI Pro members.
- Direct Access to Pat and the rest of the SPI Team through AMA (ask me anything) events, new member virtual meet-ups, and book club Zoom meetings, and more.
What is your audience asking for? If you don’t already know, you may want to send out a survey to get an idea of what they want that you aren’t already offering.
Do You Have the Patience to Grow a Membership Program?
Membership programs take time to grow and nurture. If you’re energized by “one-and-done” projects and instant gratification, you may want to think twice about building a membership community.
SPI Pro is off to a great start, but we also have plans in place to make sure it’s a success for the long-haul, including ongoing marketing to recruit new members, customer support to help with any troubleshooting, continual content creation that adds value, and engagement from our team.
All of this adds a layer of commitment and complexity to our business, but our team was ready and excited to make it happen. Ask yourself whether this is the time in your business when you can take on this challenge.
Will Your Program Provide a Return On Investment?
In order to determine whether a membership program is right for you and your business, you need to determine whether it’s worth it.
How much time and energy will you and your team spend on the program? How much will it cost for design, content creation, hosting the site, ongoing marketing tactics, and any other business costs?
How will you price your program, and how many paying members will it take to get a return on your initial, and ongoing, investment?
Will it be worth it?
If you can answer a resounding YES to all of these questions, you may be ready to start your own membership program! Here at SPI Media, we're here to help you get started by showing you how we built SPI Pro and what we've learned so far. Be sure to register for our free workshop below!