Creating a Membership Site for Fun and Profit – Stu McLaren

Stu-McLaren-PinterestA lot of businesses haven’t utilized an online community for their websites. Do you know the steps to take to get your own member site up and running?

Do you know when and what to charge your customers for their membership?

If you don’t, you’re not alone. Many small businesses don’t know the benefits of member sites or what to charge their community and how to manage it. That’s why we asked Stu McLaren, business owner, entrepreneur, and founder of WishList Member, to show us how, in this week’s episode of The Marketing Agents Podcast.

Big Ideas:

  • What led you to create Wish List?
    • I was a consultant helping small biz owners with their marketing and realized I was limited with my reach.
    • One thing I learned about was membership sites.
    • In 2008 it was very frustrating to get a membership site going.
    • It was too technical, and I got stuck. I was frustrated.
    • My friend told me to come up with a mock-up for what I’d like to see.
    • I had a beta version of WishList Member a month later and two months later we were selling it to the public.
  • Sounds like you were trading time for dollars and tried to get out of that mindset. You found a way to leverage and grow that to become more profitable.
    • There’s a huge opportunity there.
    • Now is the greatest time for doing business.
    • I’m in a tiny town south of Toronto and can do this just because I have an internet connection.
    • Small biz owners have a real opportunity to connect all around the world.
  • A lot of businesses haven’t considered creating an online community. Is it worth doing?
    • You’re already talking with your community. Wouldn’t you rather invite them over to your place for those discussions?
    • You have an opportunity to gain insights on your process, customer challenges, ideas for new products, and ability to serve them on a deeper level.
    • It’s beneficial for us to own the platform.
    • It’s a controlled environment that you can shape however you want.
    • When you own your own platform or community, you can do whatever you want.
    • You can start mobilizing people in different ways and can separate you in a good way.
  • I’m ready to start a member-based site. How do I get started?
    • First, identify a problem. When you have a deep understanding of a frustration in your market.
    • Second, create a solution. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. We forget how much we know.
    • Just start. Work on one thing at a time.
    • We see so many areas of opportunities but we need to show our community one thing to focus on.
    • If you know that next step for someone, it provides us tremendous clarity and a direction for your customer to head in.
    • Put yourself in the beginner’s shoes.
    • Don’t worry about the end goal yet – just help them start and move.
    • Three, think about the structure of the site you’d like to create. There are three types of member site:
      • Protected download area – great to easily get products all in one area, and centralized.
      • Modular course
      • Publisher model – monthly payment – magazine style – this is the most popular structure.
    • Deciding which structure determines next steps in process.
  • Are there types of businesses that benefit from certain types of member sites?
    • So many different types of business using membership models.
    • – company that sells mens underwear. Guys don’t like to purchase underwear. So, they take a commodity product and turn it into a recurring membership.
    • Businesses can change from one-time transaction models to recurring membership models.
    • Regular delivery of information is the most effective approach.
    • Information-related memberships are a lot easier to deliver.
    • – has 3,500+ members to learn more about herbs and healthy living. A natural extension of their focus – information delivery – helps build a community around it.
    • Wanted to improve eating habits, so joined a membership site – got recipes for week – saved time and thought, provided shopping list – don’t have to think about shopping, showed how to cook in 20 mins or less – saved time. A very valuable membership, made it fast and easy.
  • When you’re building these sites out, how do you determine your charging structure?
    • Factors that determine this are the market, content, and format.
    • If your market has to do with making/saving money you can charge higher rates because benefits are quickly validated. You can demonstrate value by showing revenue increases.
    • Health memberships are more difficult to measure.
    • Always start lower than you think.
    • Offer an early bird special, then raise prices afterwards. You reward early adopters and is a great retention strategy since people don’t want to let go of a good deal.
    • Later you can look at raising price again – join before this date and you’ll be locked in otherwise it’ll cost more later.
    • You don’t want to upset people with high to low pricing – they feel cheated or devalued.
    • You always want to be mindful with community members – be a champion for your members. Help them feel like they’re getting a good deal..
  • Is a community necessary and and if so, how much time does it take??
    • Interviews, tutorials, recordings of coaching sessions, written material.
    • It’s not necessary but certainly an asset to have.
    • People come for the content and stay for the community. It’s like glue and they want to come back by building relationships and stay connected.
    • Information only sites have a higher drop-off than one with a built in community.
    • I like to break things down into four main components a month – primary pieces of content – the reasons why people sign up – 1 primary piece of content per week. Then you can structure it and batch create your content.
    • Michael Hyatt, author of “Platform,” launched site with the 4 primary pieces:
      • 1. Master class – taught by him or guest lecturer.
      • 2. Back stage pass – audience wants to know how he runs business – behind the scenes video (shows biz numbers, engagements.
      • 3. Member makeover – full critique of customer’s platform.
      • 4. Live FAQ – on a live call and answers members questions.
      • The first two can be batch created. Set aside six days a year to record/create content for this batch content. Deliver in membership site over several months.
    • Provide yourself structure and create it once a week and batch create for economical use of time.
    • Recommend never taking finger off the pulse of your community. It’s an opportunity to provide them relevant content. Keep conversations going.
    • 3 main things on regular basis:
      • Manage community – discussions, comments, questions.
      • Create content using the 4 primary pillars.
      • Marketing the content to attract new members and keep current ones.

They come for the content, they stay for the community.

As entrepreneurs we have a great opportunity to make an impact on the world. Take nothing and make something out of it.

Juicy Links:

Rich Brooks
I’d Never Join an Online Community That Would Have Me as a Member