Proven Business Models
Business owners unfamiliar with membership sites often ask me, “Why would I want or even need one?” It’s a reasonable question. Here’s are five problems membership sites can address very well and can provide you with business opportunities you could not offer without one.
Problem #1 – Hosting an Online Course
A big reason business owners turn to membership sites is for publishing an e-learning course. This is where you make learning materials available to your paying customer.
It can be a course covering any topic. We’ve worked a client that teaches Spanish to English speaker. His program provides four courses to be taken in a series addressing the needs of beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert speakers. Each course consists of 12 lesson with extensive exercises that students cover on their own.
We built another system that teaches students to program Android devices. It’s a 120+ lesson course that takes students with little programming experience and shows them how to become skilled Android device programmers. It starts with a lesson showing you how to set up your first programming environment and gives sample code, video lessons and uses all sorts of teaching features to get the message across.
Business owners can address the problem, “How do I make my course material available online?” It’s a great way to make your smarts available online.
Problem #2 – Publishing Timely Industry Updates
A lot of business owners make a living by sharing information with their audience. They are the expert and their audience pays them for timely updates on a specific topic.
If you don’t have a membership site, you can email out an update or a newsletter with your information in it. Think of a person who advises day traders on the current trends. We’ve seen real estate experts publish periodic updates for real estate investors to find opportunities.
One problem with email delivery is they are too easy to forward to others. Members can click and pass your private information along. Using a membership site is a better option. Not only is it harder for members to blatantly share your content, but it enables you to keep your content current real time. Suppose you send out an email with a simple mistake in it. If you email it, that mistake is out there forever. If you keep it on your membership site, you update the site and no one ever sees the mistake again.
You can use your membership to solve the problem, “How do I publish periodic updates to my paying customers?”
Problem #3 – Offering Office Hours
Courses and updates work well on membership sites. You can enhance the perceived and actual value of these by offering by adding “Office Hours.” Your initial offering is a do-it-yourself program. You design that so it includes little to no access to the expert or the expert’s team.
Adding an office hours feature enables you make the expert available for answering questions. This can be as simple as scheduling a conference call where members can pose questions. You can later make these calls available in an archive for members who could not attend live. You can teach on these calls followed by a question and answer session as an alternative format.
The key here is you can provide an add-on that can be purchased and it takes little time on your part to deliver. People wanting to learn efficiently will latch on to an offer like this. It gives them access to a live person, which is comforting, and is seen as a way to keep from getting stuck.
It also provides you with built in feedback. You will hear issues directly from your members. You can identify problems with your materials. Members will tell you. It may even open up opportunities for you. You hear a member asking for help and you can convert them from a do-it-yourself to a done-for-your customer.
Problem #4 – Building an Online Community
Building an online community provides members with benefits similar to offering office hours. If a member has issues they can wait for your next office hours session. They can also pose the question to you in a community forum. You can of course answer the question, but often happens is other members will chime in and answer for you. You will want to monitor this so you don’t have members leading others astray, but this works well in many of the forums I follow.
There are many programs where the online community or tribe is what members value most. That connection with other people doing the same thing together can be something that provides stickiness for your program. It’s something that takes no ongoing effort to keep running and you will be seen as the provider of this desired community.
Problem #5 – Providing a Connector Service
If members are coming to you as the expert, they will likely come to you for guidance in the general area where you practice. Often times you can provide a resource library of information, recommendations and assets your members want.
For example, we build membership sites. Many of our members are Infusionsoft product users. Many people ask us for things related to what we do, but that we do not offer ourselves. We frequently get asked to recommend copywriters, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts and other services. Providing a resources section where we list these can be beneficial to your members.
Something you can consider is to strike up a referral partner arrangement so you get paid for sending members to a specific vendor. You don’t offer a service, but you can still make money by referring people to a trusted source.
The opportunities here are endless. The point is you provide something you can easily include in your membership site and further enhance the benefits you provide your customers.