A Guide To Starting Your Own Memberships With The Membership Guys

  • Although the membership model is currently a popular topic, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger.
  • A membership site is technically any kind of site that requires you to login in order to access a particular product or service. Whilst it’s broad, it does mean that online courses and subscriptions services are technically memberships. The memberships that are more commonly talked about, are those that offer some form of e-learning, content and community.
  • Memberships are more commonly set up by industry thought leaders¸ or people who act as curators for bringing in other experts and thought leaders in their field.
  • If you’re not an expert or thought leader, you can set up a membership where you have a ‘learn along with me’ concept. Carrie Green is a great example of this.
  • Memberships mean you have no place to hide, which means there is a forced transparency. You need to be clear about what role you’re going to play for your audience and that you know what you’re talking about.
  • Idea validation and audience building are two of the most difficult parts of starting a membership. If you don’t have a good idea or an audience in place, who will buy from you?
  • Knowing who your audience are is important, especially if you’re not currently reaching them.
  • One-to-many recurring income gives you great stability, but you have to work hard for it and ensure you’re always delivering value.
  • You need to design your membership experience in a way that encourages people to stay month after month.
  • Free Facebook Groups are a great stepping stone into starting a membership.

If you don’t want to show up and serve your audience, a membership probably isn’t for you. It’s an ongoing model where you need to provide value every month.

  • Introducing Mike and Callie – 10:02
  • Introducing Memberships – 20:00
  • Who Can Start A Membership? – 24:00
  • Knowing Your Audience – 38:34
  • Is A Membership for You? – 42:05
  • How to Keep People in Your Membership – 49:00
  • The First Steps For Starting Your Membership – 52:30
  • Phil (Podcast Editing)
  • 5 Places to Use As Opportunities To Build Your List
  • How to Produce A Webinar (Blueprint)
  • Creating A Good Sales Page
  • Carie Green
  • The Membership Guys Website
  • The Membership Guys Instagram
  • The Membership Guys Membership
  • Retain Live 2019
Transcription below


Hello, and welcome to another episode of Marketing That Converts, and a very odd intro, yet again. Honestly, without that intro and outro, I just find it really awkward to start the podcast, which is so silly, because obviously, when I record, I don't hear the intro and outro, because that gets put in afterwards, so you think I should just carry on like normal, but it is making a big difference knowing that when you're listening to this, there's no intro and outro yet.

Now, I know technically it's been two weeks. By the time you're listening to this, it's been a minimum of two weeks, since I said, that's it, name's moved over. However, in my reality, it sounds like I've just been watching Dr. Who actually, it sounds like I'm talking from a reference from that but, and the reality is that I've recorded these episodes in the space of like two or three days. So although it seems like a really long time since I initially said I need to this intro and outro, I haven't done it yet, because it's literally been a couple of days since I last said that. Does that make any sense at all? Because I'm not sure it's making sense to me, so well done if you kept up with my rambling.

Anyway, I am going to do an intro and outro, and I think I am swaying more to the idea of me doing it than having a voiceover, but I really need to think about what I'm going to say, what music I want, and then I'll have to get my lovely editor to put it all together into a nice intro and outro. Just on a side note, by the way, because I was talking about a team member last week, I think it was, in last week's episode. Phil, who does my editing and obviously will hear this because he edits the podcast, is actually a voiceover actor, which is amazing, and he sent me some samples. They were brilliant. They were so, so good, but we've chatted together, and we both agree that we think maybe I need to do it. But he's wonderful, so I'm going to make sure that we hook up to him in the show notes, because I'd really like to check him out.

And you know, the other reason I'd like you to check him out, is because he has the best branding ever. Honestly, I love it, it's so good. So in the show notes for today's episode I am going to hook up to Phil and his website, and you can go take a look, because he's really good. And if you do need a voiceover actor, then he's very good at what he does.

So before we get on with today's episode, which is a really good one, and I'll tell you all about that in a second, I want to remind you that I've got those brand new downloads for you. The first one is all about list building, and how people miss certain places to use as opportunities to build their list, so I give you five places that you could be building your list faster today, and they're really simple. It's not some crazy, amazing thing that you need to set up technical stuff or design stuff. It's really, really simple stuff. If you want that one, go to building.

The next one is my webinar blueprint. So if you are thinking about doing a webinar, you do webinars, and you want to know how you can better produce that presentation, and the key steps that you have to go through in order to really make that an effective webinar and get those key sales at the end, then you definitely want to check out the blueprint. So again, go to

The last one I produce for you is all about creating a really good sales page, and the 10 things that I put on sales pages, which I think are a must. So they're some of the key things that we use in order to help convert when people are on their sales pages. So if you want that, go to, you've got it, page.

Anyway, today's episode is awesome. Today I am interviewing Mike and Callie from The Membership Guys, and I need to tell you that I think I have a bit of an entrepreneurial crush on these guys. They are just amazing. Not only was I very lucky that when I was in San Diego for Social Media Marketing World that we got to hang out a tonne, which was ace. And you know when you meet people and think, oh man, you're just awesome, like we could be friends, because I just got everything they said and they were on the same level and we agreed about the same stuff. So it was so good to spend time with them in San Diego, and obviously mock up husband was there as well because Mike and Callie were a partnership, they're together as well as business partners, so it was really nice the four of us got to hang out.

And then, doing the interview with them, again I was really lucky. They said that they don't often interview together, I think they said this was the first time they've ever interviewed together. Normally, one of them will do an interview. So I had both of them on the interview and it was like … It was just awesome because, let me explain.

Sometimes in the entrepreneurial world there are lots of people out there who, one, think it's a get rich quick thing, especially in the online space. So there is some people out there, and not people that obviously I try and interact with or certainly I don't bring them onto the podcast, so we don't need to worry about that, but there are people out there who sell this dream of set up a course, sell millions and you can lay on a beach in Bali. Do not get me wrong, if that is the case then amazing, I would like that. However, there's probably one or two percent of the people that actually really happens for, that they literally almost become an overnight success and they sell millions and millions and they become really successful business people.

Now I'm not saying that opportunity isn't there for everybody, it is. However, it's not this quick win that perhaps people are making it out to be. So you've seen them, those YouTube videos that come up, because I'm always watching music on YouTube or listening to it, and those videos come up. And there's one guy who's like, you know, I've just picked up my new Aston Martin and I'm in my garage with all these other cars, and it's just absolute cringe worthy.

So anyway, I've digressed slightly, but what I loved about Callie and Mike is first off, they have a very successful business. Like they are crushing it, they really, really are. However, they're the most down to earth, normal, and I hope this doesn't sound bad but fairly unassuming, as in they're not out there like shouting from the rooftops going, listen to us, we're amazing, look at how big our business is. Look at us flying here, there and everywhere, doing all this, they're not. They're like really normal people but they have an amazingly successful online business, and they're so good at what they do because they know what they're talking about.

And again, this is something that's got slightly grating for me, for someone who's worked in marketing a really long time and not only have I worked in marketing for sort of 16 years, but I have also spent a long time in the last five years learning new stuff, new techniques, new strategies and tools and all this sort of thing. So you know, I put my heart and soul into what I do and I've worked really hard to be where I am, I guess. And sometimes again, you see people wanting to do the get rich quick thing and they don't have the expertise, and they don't have the knowledge, and what was so amazing about Mike and Callie is they totally, totally do. There isn't anything those guys don't know about memberships.

So today we talk all about what a membership is, why you might want one, who's it suitable for, who's it not suitable for, the reality of running a membership, and what that might take. And in all honesty, they give us a very realistic view of what it's like to be creating a membership, running a membership, and what you need to make that work. They also give some awesome practical advice about if you are starting a membership, what are the key things that you need to be thinking about in order to get it off the ground.

So honestly, even if you haven't thought about it, this is a really fascinating one, because actually the online business space is really interesting. And when people in our industry, your industry, are working one to one with people, you realise at some point you're going to hit a ceiling and A, there's only so many people you can help, and B, there's only so much income you can earn because you only have a limited amount of time.

So for me, the reason I want to do my membership, which is coming … Literally according to my diary it's literally coming in a few weeks, so do look out for that. But the reason I want to do it is because I want to help more people. And I want more people to have access the knowledge that I've built up and the stuff I've learned, and a membership is a very, very affordable way in which people can do that. So for me, I love the membership model. I'm also in lots of memberships as well, so I see the value of them for myself, and I'm actually in Mike and Callie's membership, which I pay for. I'm very lucky that I get some access to some memberships for free, however I do pay to be in theirs because I really see the value of it.

So who are Mike and Callie? Well otherwise known as the Membership Guys, they have spent years guiding the growth of thousands of memberships and elearning businesses and online community. w a combined 20 plus years of online marketing and web development industry, they have been the driving force behind a multitude of six and seven figure businesses in huge varieties of industries. So from weight loss to coaching to executive training to bass guitar, they've established a proven track record of helping clients to achieve fantastic results.

In 2015, they decided to take all of that knowledge and experience and use it to help entrepreneurs and small business owners to achieve success with membership sites on a global scale, and this is what they now do on an ongoing basis. They also have an award winning podcast, free resources, and of course their own membership called The Membership Site Academy. I think you're going to love them, they are the nicest people, so I won't wait another minute.


Introducing Mike and Callie


So I'm really excited today to welcome the Membership Guys, Mike and Callie, to the podcast. Welcome guys.

Thanks for having us. This is a first.

It is, yeah. Both of us, two for one.

Yeah. You and I are giving a world exclusive.

So honoured that I've got both of you guys, it's ace. So I'm really looking forward to today for a couple of reasons. One, because you guys are so cool and you are a font of all knowledge. And two, that we get to talk about memberships, which we haven't done before. But before we jump into that, it would be great if you could just give us a very brief overview, and because I love your story. It's kind of the one that people dream of, that they're going to have. If you could give us an overview to how you got to do what you're doing today, that would be awesome.

Well, we kind of started working together, wasn't it about 2012, 2013?


We were both self employed, running our own businesses. Callie kind of had a subscription box business in the health industry, I'd been running an online marketing business for number of years, and we met. We are an actual couple, that always is something that confuses people. You know, are you together, or are you-

They don't want to put their foot in it.

Yeah, and kind of the big thing for you, you were the one that was really hooked into subscriptions and memberships.

Yeah, I was fascinated with memberships, subscriptions, all kind of repairing revenue using your online education kind of element and things like that. So I loved that element and I started, as Mike said, I had a subscription box and a membership, but I started helping other people and it helped me with creating my own memberships, as a result.

And because of that, so you know, you kind of expanded into like [crosstalk 00:11:51]. Yeah, it was like the digit of the year for memberships and subscriptions, and then there was a few projects started coming along where you needed a little bit more.

I needed a code monkey.

Yeah, you had the need for someone on the code side, or-

Is that a special name you have for him?


Or, you know, for the more advanced strategies, or we just needed more manpower. So we found ourselves starting to work together just a little bit more on our project, and then that become more and more and more frequent. Tot point where literally every job that we were each working on, we were working on together. So we formalised that, started officially working together, started running our digital agency, which over time just became more and more specialised in just working with membership businesses.

Because you know, we were doing memberships, but also online courses, also ecommerce businesses we were working with, but memberships were always the type of online businesses that we gravitated towards, because there are so many different elements to them, and they are a lot of fun. The people who start memberships tend to be very savvy, very passionate people and that just made our jobs a lot more enjoyable. And, they were the types of jobs we were getting the best results from for our clients.

So over time we just became more niched, more niched, more niched, to the point where all we were doing was membership projects. And through doing that, we became just more and more successful, to the point where we had a small, select group of clients and we just did not have capacity to work with anyone else. You know, we were heavily entrenched in a number of membership businesses, and that's great, but it also comes with a downside that you have to say no a lot more. So we were having to turn people away.

We were getting emails literally daily, weren't we? From people with questions or you know, I don't have a budget to hire you but can you just review my 20 page strategy?

Yeah sure, yeah, of course.

Yeah, and so we hated having to turn people away. So originally we set aside some time to just try and find somewhere else to send these people.

Yeah, we were looking for somebody a bit lower cost or a coach or a membership site or anything [crosstalk 00:14:24].

Yeah, surely there would be a membership about membership [crosstalk 00:14:28].

You would think so, you would think so.

Yeah, so we were looking for somewhere where we could send people that we couldn't help and we just couldn't find anything. There was a few kind of more internet marketing ebase …


Yeah, courses at the time, which wasn't the style that we worked with. It wasn't the style of membership that we worked with where it was the kind of, you know, get rich quick kind of membership. That's not our style. And so there just wasn't anything good that we could send people to, and so …

There were no good podcasts, there weren't even good blogs, you know. You would have, you'd be able to find a whole lot of blogs, but they were all really basic. So it would be maybe people who did marketing who wrote one blog about-

About, yeah.

… memberships, right? So we kind of had to make a call. Either we get more comfortable in just not helping everyone, because you can't, you can't always help everyone, or we step up, and we decided to do the latter. So we started creating free content and we set up our Facebook group, and then we put plans in motion to create the membership about memberships, and it just kind of snowballed from there.

That's amazing. And you got to, well, fairly quickly amazingly as well, got to a point where … Which actually I said amazing, it's not amazing because you've been doing it for long time and you are experts, so that makes perfect sense. But you got to the point where you could then say, thank you clients, but we are now busy doing this side. Which is lovely, because not only do you get to help more people because it's on a much larger scale, but also there are some downsides to having to work one to one with someone in terms of managing your time and your expectations and their expectations. So that must have been a really nice point to do that and go, thank you, but done.

Yeah, it was, but it came around a lot quicker than we thought it would.

Yeah, we had originally thought it would take about 12 months to start transitioning away from client work and-

We thought 12 months before we would even have the conversation about okay, are we in a position now to move away from client work? But it went a little faster than that.

Yeah, we launched the membership at the end of August and by Christmas we were like actually, you know what? We need to go all in on this, we need to just focus on this. I think part of that was, I think we both just realised that was, for want of a better way of putting it, our zone of genius. We loved doing it, Mike loved creating the content, loved working with the members, loved just being able to change people's businesses in that way as well.

Yeah, and I mean you said it perfectly. It's just the ability to help more people and when you actually … When you are working one on one with clients you don't always see the impact of your work. Quite often, especially if … You know, we were working with big corporate clients, we worked with the likes of Ancestry, McDonald's, ITV, you don't see the benefit and the impact, you know? Okay, so if the thing you do makes an extra hundred grand that week for a company the size of ITV, who cares, right? But if you can help just one person who is, I don't know, an accountant or a guitar player or a marketeer make another hundred grand a year, or replace the hundred grand they could be making with work that satisfies them more and helps them live their lifestyle better, that's a huge impact.

And so, when we started seeing the impact of that one to many and we started just really enjoying the process, the outcome, and being able to be with our members throughout their journey, rather than just being a piece of the puzzle, we knew this was it.

Yeah, and do you know what? I have had lots of experience of being in lots of memberships. I get invited to go into some memberships which is lovely, I've paid for lots of memberships and obviously courses and various things, and there's a couple of things that really strike me with you guys that I want going forward that anybody and for me and, you know, is first off, you flipping know what you're talking about, right? And I know that sounds like a ridiculous notion, because surely if you're going to start membership you should know what you're talking about. However, you touched on it there.

There is a risk and a theme in some instances of almost a get rich quick. You know, get [inaudible 00:18:50] revenue, get a membership, get this, and I see it, and I'm sure you guys see it all the time, but people are trying to launch memberships as a model because it's such a good model, but they don't know what they're talking about. So that's not great.

So you do know what you're talking about. And then the other thing that again I see happen a lot is you sign up with someone, because that someone is the person that's pulling you to the membership or the course or whatever, and then they never appear again. From experience, because I am and pay for, I want to make that really clear that I pay for your membership because I value it so much, that Callie, you are in there all the time. You know, both of you are in the here all the time, but you, Callie, are very proactive in the forum, and therefore, that's what people are paying for. So for me, those two kind of things are like you think they should be standard across the board and they're really not. So I think looking at your membership [inaudible 00:19:44] is those are the things that are just awesome.


Introducing Memberships


So tell me, because you said you started sort of 2012, and obviously yours is a little bit different, Callie, because you had a physical product that was a membership type thing, but for me it feels like memberships are still really new. So is it that they are, is it that like is it growing? What's going on with memberships?

They're not, they're not. It's this, oh I forgot the name of it now. It's what's called the frequency illusion, right? When you become aware of something, suddenly you spot it everywhere. So you know, you buy a brand new red car, and then suddenly every car on the road seems to be red. That happens with memberships. There's a fancy name for it that I learned because I did a podcast on it. I thought about this recently, and I forgot it.

[inaudible 00:20:36].

It's going to bother me for the whole day now. But yes-

We're going to make you tell us and we're going to put it in the show then.

Yeah, so it's essentially it's called the frequency or the recency illusion. So you get a lot of that with memberships. Couple that with just the nature of the online business world, there will always be kind of cycles of the latest kind of hot topic, and certainly memberships have kind of risen in …

Because more people talk about memberships now.

Yeah, there are more people talking about memberships in general. There have been courses about memberships out for well over a decade, 15 years. Basically for as long as it's been possible to make money online, there have been people talking about the membership as a vehicle for doing just that. The faces change, the tactics change, but they've always been there. It's, I think, kind of just a … I don't know if it's a symptom, but a characteristic of the online business world that there's a lot of hunger for shortcuts. And whenever there's a hunger for shortcuts, there will be people out there selling these guaranteed systems, and there's no shortage of that when it comes to the membership model as well.

So that combined with the kind of the tendency of the online business world to have these bandwagons that often pass through, combined with … Yeah, what I was saying. You are seeing everyone talking about memberships because you have that active interest in memberships, and you've probably noticed everyone talking about memberships around the time that you kind of start thinking, this may be something I'm interested in. So, yeah.

I would also say they're outside of the business base, the online business base. You're seeing more hobby based memberships, more kind of really specific niche based memberships come up, because it's so much easier now. The tech is so much easier, the … You know it's a really accessible model now as opposed to 10 years ago, I would say.

Yeah, and I think the rise of just subscription as a model in general has led to an increased viability of the membership model. So the fact that now, like most software where you used to pay a huge fee to get a licence, you download it and instal it. Most software now it's subscription based, right? Even Adobe was one of the biggest of those, you pay thousands to get a licence key and a CD, now you pay 45, 50 dollars a month for that subscription. So the rise of subscription in other areas has had that knock on effect into the membership space, coupled with, as Callie said, the increased range of tech, the increased accessibility to even the most tech phobic of people, you can set up a membership fairly easily now, so that's all kind of helped with that rise.

But yeah, the result is that it's actually not a new thing and the reason why I kind of great pains to point out that it's not is because sometimes that leads to people worrying, oh is this a bubble? Is it a bandwagon? Is it just the latest fad? It's not.


Who Can Start A Membership?


And what about, do you see it getting bigger and bigger? Do you, you know … Yeah? And I think it's a great model, because it makes perfect sense. If I wanted to pay you guys at the level you are now to ask you a question when I needed to, Callie, if I you know, if I had to pick up the phone and pay every time I spent with you on the phone, that would cost me considerably more money than putting a question in the forum, which, okay, I'm not always guaranteed to get you directly answering it, but the other … One, you do, but the other thing is that obviously you've got other people in the here who are, through osmosis or being in that industry or knowing what they're doing there, who are also in a position where they can answer, isn't it? So it's great. It's a great model.

So in terms of memberships, it's weird that you should talk about things like Adobe, because those things don't spring in my head. When I think of memberships I think of knowledge, the knowledge industry. So tell me if I in a sense, what is it that it's just a particular industry? Or is it that actually anyone anywhere can start a membership?

Well, this is a thing, because when we start getting into semantics it can get confusing, because things like the Adobe soft, they are subscriptions. So they would be called software as a service, but obviously they have the recurring element, they have that ongoing value exchange that are presently in a typical kind of membership. Technically a membership, or a membership site is just any kind of website where you need to have an account that you login in order to access something that otherwise you would not be able to access. Generally that's in exchange for a recurring subscription, although not all the time.

So that is such a broad specification. So technically online courses are a type of membership. Subscription services, technically they're a type of membership. Any online space, when we're talking about memberships you're generally talking about elearning memberships with some form of community. So you know, websites like, where again, they've got the community aspect but you pay your subscription fee, you've got access to courses and stuff like that. So in the context we discussion memberships, in the context of anyone you listen to talking about online business or marketing, it's predominantly elearning community. In fact, we say it's generally a combination of the three Cs, content, community, and culture.

Okay, yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which that puts [inaudible 00:26:27], isn't it?

Yeah, because most memberships are typically set up by thought leaders or experts in a specialist field, or people who almost act as curators for bringing in of experts in a specialist field. So that presence that you talk about, that accessibility of someone you want to learn from or learn with, that is such key ingredient of the type of memberships that we all mean when we talk about membership sites.

So do you think you need to be an expert in your industry and thought leader to even start a membership? Do you think it helps, or do you think it's just a case of it doesn't matter?

I think it depends on the kind of membership you want to set up. So as Mike said there, a lot of memberships are set up by experts, thought leaders as a way for them to kind of distil their knowledge to more people and help more people. But you also have that element where you can curate other people's content. You can have a kind of learn along with me style of membership, where actually you're bringing in experts, you're bringing in learning and you know, people are growing and going through that.

So [Carrie 00:27:30] Green's a good example of that, because most of her content isn't created by her. She created this community of female entrepreneurs and she brings other people in to teach most of the content. She's not there saying I'm an expert in all of this, this is everything I know. She's providing other people's expertise.

She's the horse, she is the curator and she provides that platform. Essentially you scratch her [inaudible 00:27:52], but instead of her just going to someone who has knowledge she wants and saying, can we have a little private coaching call, she can go to them and say, could you come in and basically do the same thing but I'll bring my audience and we can all watch together. I think the important thing is knowing which of those types you are, because where problems occur is where you don't have the expertise but you pretend you do.

Trying to teach the expertise.

Yeah, and the great thing about memberships, why I love them, is there's a forced transparency because there is nowhere to hide. The success of your membership relies on people paying you month after month. So it's not like you can just sell people a falsehood and then just [crosstalk 00:28:42]. Yeah, and then just run out of town once you've got their money. You have to stick around, and so if you're faking it, then they're going to realise … You might get away with it for like a week, maybe a month, but you're not going to be able to get away with it for very long, and that's obviously going to backfire on you and your business.

So yeah, you can do it either way, but I think you need to be clear about what role it is you play for your audience and ensure that's, your membership aligns with that. Carrie was a great example that Callie just mentioned. Callie, Carrie, almost getting mixed up myself.

Glad you got my name right. [crosstalk 00:29:20]

Different looking.

Yeah, there were a thousand scorned Starbucks people who got [inaudible 00:29:26]. But [Par 00:29:30] Flynn, Par Flynn's another fantastic example of this. His entire shtick, especially in the early days, not so now, now that he's built up his experience and expertise, but in those early days his whole shtick was, I'm just learning this stuff myself, so rather than you going out there and having to pay for auctions or make mistakes, I'll just go one step ahead of you and I'll be the crash test dummy and then I'll come back and tell you what I've learned. And that worked phenomenally well for Par.

Of course over years that evolves, and that can evolve for membership owners too. We've seen Carrie Green with that for [inaudible 00:30:11], she doesn't create the content because she's not there as the expert. But actually now she could.

Yes, and she-

[crosstalk 00:30:17].

And she does now because she's amassed a lot of expertise over …

Yeah, and she's a smart woman. But I think it's really interesting actually, because in one way you think having other people come in is ace, because you haven't got to even create the content. Like literally you could just be like, hi, and then someone else comes in and does all the work. However, because I get asked from lots of people who just start memberships, who don't have an audience, don't have a following, would you like to be my expert in membership? And I have to say that a lot of the time I will think about it, but inevitably I think, can I work on my own stuff or do I go and work on their stuff for nothing? Because that's what they're asking for, that you do it for free, and the trade off for me at that point is not worth my time. And that sounds really awful, but as business people you have to obviously value your time very carefully.

So lots of people will ask me to do that, and I'll go I'm okay, thank you, I'm really busy on my own stuff. But obviously Carrie Green has got to the point where her membership is so big, that if Carrie Green came knocking on your door and said, could you just do a master class? You'd be like, yes I will, because of the fact that you know, your trade off, your time and your expertise, is being put in front of someone else's audience, but it's a big dedicated audience. So I guess, can you really start that strategy from day one with that?

Well this all goes to probably the two biggest mistakes we see people make with memberships. They skip two key stages. First is idea validation. We see this all the time, it's not exclusive to memberships. Someone gets this idea in their head, they think it's incredible. They ask their husband, they ask their wife, they ask their babysitter, and they all say yeah, what an amazing idea, right? And so they run head long into it and they pay a lot of money to make it happen, get a website built. They spend hours locked away creating content and putting all the pieces in place and then they launch and it's just crickets.

It's crickets riding on the back of tumbleweeds through this neverending desert of nothingness. Because they never did the research, they never validated that their idea was one that was needed, was something that people would pay for, and that they were any good at connecting people with a problem to their solution. So skipping the idea validation is the biggest and most common cause of failed memberships, failed enterprises just in general.

The second is audience building. Because you know a big, big part of why those crickets and those tumbleweeds are there is because people don't spend the time to actually build a crowd, to grow a following of their passionate fans who have hunger for what they're creating. They just assume they can follow the Kevin Costner model of build it and they will come, and it doesn't work. It's nonsense, and so we always caution patience with creating a membership site because if you don't have that audience in place who will buy from you, then it's that whole thing if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it. If a membership launches to literally zero people, it hasn't launched, all right? So what you're talking about there with Carrie compared to some of the invitations that you get …

I would bet if those guys came and actually, you already knew who they were because they'd been creating content and they've got a podcast and they've got a blog that they're doing as part of the audience building effort. You've maybe heard some of your audience mention them from or where there's an [inaudible 00:34:06] and then come along and you can look them up and see that they've got this huge Facebook group and they can say, you know, we've got X amount of people in our membership, that makes an easy yes for you. But the no, where you see that there's no beneficial trade off is where they just don't have that audience. So there's no benefit to you because they've got like three people in their membership, and so you're just doing free work for …

So the audience building is so crucial, not just for making sure you actually have enough people to sustain a successful membership launch, but also to enable you to actually go out and attract experts to come in and do training. Unfortunately, people are just in way too much of a rush to look at what plugin they're going to use. Should I use [Kinjave 00:34:59] or should I use [Workalight 00:35:01]. Man, if you don't have, if you've got zero audience, if you don't have an email list-

That's semantics, isn't it?

It doesn't matter, yeah. You might as well set fire to your money.

Yeah, do you know what? I love the fact that you just talked about that because of the fact that, as the guys know on the podcast, I talk about it. Obviously I am in a world where I mix with lots and lots of people doing of these things, and I have to say that general consensus and the thing that I struggle with is just launch it. Just this clarity in action, and believe me I know that's true, because sometimes I procrastinate, because I fear that if I launch something and nothing happens that that's it. I might as well just go and put my head in the oven or something.

So I do get that sometimes you have to act. However, I think that there are way too many people out there who are like just launch it, launch it. I've had clients that are one to one clients, that we've been on calls and they're like I want to launch. And it's like how many people know you do this thing? How many people do you have currently following you, taking your content for this thing, because it's no one or not many people. So even if you go ahead and take that action and launch does not guarantee that those people are suddenly just going to come out of the woodwork and be brilliant.

And also, the other thing is I see, I don't know if you see it like this, I see a lot of pivoting. Okay? So I see people, I'm going to pivot to, suddenly I'm going to sell cars, or I don't know. But you know what I mean? Like they pivot all the time again, they're confusing their audience. So again, I had a conversation literally just last week a really amazing lady who was doing and amazing job on one, decided she wanted to pivot, there's nothing wrong with that, absolutely fine, pivot all you like. However, you're starting from scratch again, because that's a bran new audience, and they don't know you're doing that thing, and in fact, when they think of you, they think of you as something else. So now you've got to do a whole lot of education [inaudible 00:36:55]. So I love the fact that you talk about that because I think there are way too many people wanting to do that.

Definitely, and you know what I think it's a symptom of short term mentality, and the thing with memberships, memberships are all about the long term. It's a marathon not a sprint. So if you just launch and it fails, so you then just launch again and it fails, as you said, you confused your audience if you pivot. You also burn credibility, you burn your own desire to actually get this done, because then it just becomes about the process of getting somewhat successful launch as opposed to the process of creating the product you want to create. You start focusing on okay, well obviously the thing I wanted to do was wrong, so how do I change that to just make it more successful?

Nobody wins in that process, and it is because of the mentality of clarity in action, the glamorization of failure, like it's okay if you fail like 100 times as long as you succeed on the 101st. All of this needs to be tempered with a little dose of sensibility and I don't know if it's the Britishness, you know?


Knowing Your Audience


Maybe, maybe, because we are generally more cautious and more, you know … And we don't like failure and we don't like making fools of ourselves either, I don't think. I'm not saying that other nations do, I'm saying that I, you know, that is something that really concerns me, so the whole kind of just get it out there and just launch. But I think that's another reason why people pivot so much, because they launch, nothing, they launch, nothing, they launch, oh I'm obviously launching the wrong thing. No, not obviously, you know?

I think there's a fine line between just get it started and don't get it perfect but get it started. There's a fine line between the two, and the don't get it perfect, get it started firm believer of yeah, procrastination, analysis paralysis, all that kind of thing, you want to get rid of that and you want to do it, but you need to do it with a sensible base of this is exactly what I'm launching, this is who I'm launching it to, this is what I've done to ensure that that's a success, rather than just being I've had this idea, tomorrow night I'm going to whack up a sales page and start selling it and [crosstalk 00:39:10].

And the problem is you tend to hear about ones where people have done that and succeeded, you hear about those a lot more than the thousands of people who've done that and completely fell on their backside. So yeah, it is about balance, but doing things right doesn't mean you have to delay everything by years, but you still have to put in the steps. You've got to build up to it, you've got to do the research, you've got to spend a little time building noise.

It doesn't have to take a ridiculous amount of time either. When you were talking there about when you pivot, you have to realise that you are starting from scratch. I don't even think people realise the extent to which that is true, because with ourselves we had a successful agency. For an agency we had a good size email list and following and all that, but these were all people who had come to us because their approach to memberships was that they just wanted to offload it to somebody else and not do the work. So these weren't people who wanted to learn, these weren't people who wanted to join the memberships to figure out how to do this themselves, and so when we made that pivot and not a huge pivot in terms of …

Yeah, it's so niche.

It's so niche. Same, you know, not teaching anything new or anything like that, but even just that little pivot in the segment of the audience that we serve, what their needs are and how our solution to those needs changed, we scrapped the audience we had because we had to be realistic in knowing that it wasn't the right audience for this membership. I think people take too much for granted that the 10,000 people who follow them on Twitter who have been built up since a decade ago when they were doing a completely different thing, that they are still a relevant audience. The people who've been languishing on their email lists for a decade, that they are somehow suddenly going to be ignited by this launch of a membership site-

That we were waiting for it, why haven't you done it already? Yeah, you're right, because I've had exactly the same where it's we have an agency and no one who has paid us money through the agency is a potential client for what the membership I want to do, or the sort of coaching programmy type thing, or whatever it is. Because like you said, they are people who want to pay me money to get asked to do it. They have no interest in doing it themselves. So it's an entirely different audience.

And don't you see, well you must see this a lot because actually one of the things that, one of the reasons, I guess, and you can confirm this or deny, that most people go into a membership is because they are doing a one to one model or a one to a small few, and they want to go into a one to many model. But in doing that, that's a different audience.

Totally, totally.


Is A Membership for You?


Yeah, it's a different audience who will pay $10,000 for a coaching over who will pay $49 a month for a membership. And that's fine if you go into it with that knowledge that, as Mike said, this is a different audience and you're doing that so that you can service the people that you can't offer your higher priced ticket to, and that's fine. But yeah, it is recognising that it's a completely different set of audiences.

Yeah, yeah. So is there anybody that you think avoid memberships like the plague? Like is there any particular businesses or people that you think, this I not for you?

The main thing is if you don't want to be involved, if you don't want to show up and serve your audience on an ongoing basis, then a membership isn't for you. Stick with a course, stick with the services, because a membership … You know you can have types of memberships where you're less involved, but at the same time it's an ongoing model. You need to provide value every month. Most of them have some kind of community element where you are going to need to show up in your community and if you don't want to do that, if you don't want to create content or show up in your community, then a membership just isn't going to be for you.

Yeah, you've got to do the five year test. So in five years time, if I tell you that your job literally every single day of your life will involve getting up, going into a community, answering questions on the topic that your membership's about, creating new content and planning courses, every conversation will be about this subject, does that sound like heaven or hell? Does that sound like the best job in the world, getting paid to literally just chat about this thing you're excited about and interested in, getting paid to create content about this one thing, and to have done that for five or ten years, to have answered over that time the same questions repeatedly without wanting to bang your head against the wall, does that excite you? Or does that sound like the worst thing in the world? And it's okay if it doesn't sound like your thing, you just understand that you probably shouldn't do a membership, because that's what you're signing up for.

And yet, some people to us, the fact that you know, we don't need to do client meetings, we don't do client calls, we don't really do much that involves deadlines, we just talk about memberships. If we think, oh, this is a really interesting thing about the membership model that we've not covered, we can just decide to just go off and do a course. We don't have to wait for a client to come along and say, oh hey, you know, I've got this problem. Can you solve it? If we just want to spend the whole day just chatting with people about memberships, we can. We have a job where we can eat, sleep, live, and breathe-

The thing you love.

… that we love and we find interesting. I think that is a very, very important thing to decide whether that is your bad or whether sounds like the last thing in the world you'd want to be doing [inaudible 00:45:02].

I love it, honestly, because I can't tell you the amount of conversations I hear or I'm part of or whatever where the focus of a membership or an online course, or an online business at all is all about so I can be in Bali on the beach and on my … You know, don't get me wrong, you can do this from anywhere, but that's the focus. Or the recurring income, which again, obviously that is part of it and it's ace, but I think what they're doing is they're focusing on these amazing aspects of it, forgetting that one, you've got to know what you're talking about, because people will literally find you out in a heartbeat, two, you've got to find that audience, and three, you've got to want to do it, because you're not showing up, people aren't paying.

Exactly, you know, the thing that does attract people to memberships the most is the recurring revenue part of things, and that is, it's fantastic. It's game changing for a business, particularly when you're working one on one where you have those peaks and valleys. And maybe you have five or six key clients, but it you lose one of them, that can be a major step back. Having one to many recurring revenue, just, it gives your business a stability, a predictability, a reliability that you just don't get on those other types of business models.

But, there's give and take, and so if you want people to pay you on an ongoing basis, you need to deliver value on an ongoing basis. It's an equation, right? And in order to deliver that value long term, you need to have that passion. You need to have that sustainable interest in your part on your side, and that is the bit that people don't always realise, that you can't just start a membership about something you have a passing interest in. I think what you were … Mind just completely gone [crosstalk 00:46:56].

Can I interject [crosstalk 00:46:59].

You can interject.

Perfect timing. As you said, most people do come into it thinking about, I want to add some repair and revenue to the business, and that is nice. It's a huge benefit, as Mike said, but you need to come at it from caring about your members, caring about getting your members results, not caring about the money. Because if you get your members results, if you care about showing up for them and you care about serving them, then the money will naturally come along from that.

Yeah, and it's remembering it's a business model above all else, and this is the thing I think that goes missing. This is the crux of everything we're talking about. When you see, you know, the typical internet marketing hype sleaze nonsense, that is really trying to sell the dream that you can kick back on a beach, sipping cocktails while all of this recurring revenue just magically appears in your bank account.

That's easy to be seduced by, it's very seductive, and so while we're kind of preaching the sensibility argument, we also understand just how attractive that idea of passive income, recurring revenue is. But memberships aren't a gimmick, they're not a magic bullet, they're not the shortcut, they're a business model just like any other type of business model. They require work.

And I like the way that you think more long term. I think, again, and in fact this is evident in … You've got an event happening toward the end of the year that I'm coming to, very excited, and it's called Retain. It's all about how you retain if you're doing a membership, because again so much of the focus on a membership is launch, launch, launch, launch, launch, launch, and that kind of smacks a bit of that getting the rich quick thing, rather than the thing that most people I think, and again, you're the experts, but from what I see is people very often forget the retaining bit. That you're getting them in the membership, but what are you doing to keep them there? That has got to be key part of it, hasn't it?


How to Keep People in Your Membership


Definitely and you know, if you're looking for a way of getting rich quick, a membership's the worst way of doing it. It's get rich slow, because most memberships, they're going to be priced, generally, depending on whether the B to C, B to B, whatever, but you're usually looking at between $20 and $60 a takes a long time to get rich on like 40 to $50 a time, you know? And that's why actually a lot of people who are selling the dream, they're not selling it a $50 a month membership, right? Because they are in it to get rich quick and so they know [inaudible 00:49:28] manage to get rich quick. You build that sustainable business over time and you amass that revenue over the long term.

And you're absolutely right, you know the main difference between something like a membership and something like an online course is the importance of retention. Because if you are losing members just as quickly as you're getting them in, then your business is just not going to grow. As we're saying, you're getting $50 per month per customer, so if your customer's only staying one month, every transaction's only worth $50. Right? You need a hell of a lot of new members to build that revenue up.

So you need to get people who are going to stick around for months and years. Because of that, the retention part is more important than the acquisition part. Like, you don't just need to get that sale, you need to keep getting that sale month after month, year after year, and again this is why having that long term outlook is so important in everything you do in your membership.

Yeah, and I also, the other thing, on top of getting them in, it's all well and good even if you're just getting one in and one out, but it costs you every time you get one of those people in. So it's not like if someone stays for two months, you earn that 50 pounds or dollars the next month, whereas if they go and you get someone new in, that's not $50 you've just earned, that could be $30 or $25, because it's coast you that much to get them in there in the first place.

Yeah, if you're spending on advertising, if you're putting money into like podcast production, everything has a cost, time or financial, or even just brain space. So yeah, if your customer lifetime value is $50 … This is what it comes down to, is someone who's $50 a month and stays ten months, their customer lifetime value is 500, so just about extending that customer lifetime value for as long as you can. Because of that, you need to deliver that ongoing value, you need to design the member experience in such a way that facilitates people actually using your product, because again this is what you're seeing as peddled as a lifetime memberships, but keep your price so low and don't contact your members so that-

They forget they're paying.

Yeah [crosstalk 00:51:39].

Why would you want to do that? No, what is wrong with people?

We've actually seen someone claiming to be a membership expert like spouting that nonsense.

Yeah, brilliant. Yeah con people into forgetting that they have your membership. That sounds like value, isn't it?

Yeah, it is crazy, keep [inaudible 00:52:01].

Okay, so if my audience is sitting there thinking, do you know what? This sounds really interesting, and I want to think about getting started. What other kind of first couple of things that you think … I mean you've mentioned a couple of them already, which is great in terms of audience, but if they wanted to start down the road of membership, what, other than joining your membership [crosstalk 00:52:23] is going to cover everything and that's it, it's easy then, other than doing the actual work which is harder than you'd ever believe. But what do they do, how do they need to start down this road?


The First Steps For Starting Your Membership


I think like there's some straightforward things you can do. You kind of need to bring your audience into kind of a sample place where you can start engaging with them. So we're big fans of free Facebook groups as almost that stepping stone into a paid membership. You know that, okay, this is probably something I'm going to explore in maybe six months or so, one of the easiest thing to do, set up a free Facebook group now and start pushing people into that. Because what will happen there, not only are you gathering your audience in one spot where you can then engage with them, but you can also start paying attention to the problems they're having, the questions they're asking.

You can start using them as a little focus group. Like all of us are in the business of solving problems, and so your membership is just going to be solving those problems on a bigger scale or a deeper scale. So being able to actually lock in a free Facebook group, ask them questions, what's the biggest challenge you've got, what's stopping you from making progress, what results are you looking to have? That is such valuable information for shaping what your membership will be, and making sure it's more firmly aligned with what people actually need and that obviously is going to make more compelling when you open it up.

Yeah, and I would also say it's really good to sit down and actually just brainstorm all the different things that you could offer or provide in a membership, and the kind of membership you want to have, because sometimes the first idea you have for a membership isn't actually the one that you should go with. So, I've got an example here, for example, there's a VA who wants to set up a membership for that ongoing value and think, oh, set up a membership for people who would be my clients but want to know how to do the processes themselves, or want to know how to do their own podcasting thing. And actually if they sit down and think about it, maybe a better membership for them would be to teach other Vas ho to do what they've done, and that kind of thing.

So sometimes your first membership idea, or who you think is your natural audience, might not be. So I always think it's a good idea to sit and completely kind of brainstorm all the different possibilities that is of things that you would want to create a membership around.

All the ways in which you could leverage your skills, knowledge, experience, and expertise, because as Callie actually pointed to there, I think the natural inclination, when you're starting to think, okay, what am I going to do a membership about, is to look at what am I doing now, who am I doing it for, and how could I change that to fit the membership model, when usually that's not the way to go.

Because as we said before, if you are servicing people who just want to pay to get it done, they want to pay for a done for you service. Memberships aren't done for you, memberships are either do it yourself or done with you. So even if you still determine after kind of brainstorming all the different approaches, all the different angles you could take, even if you still land on serving the same audience, covering the same topics as you currently are, just realising that the do it yourself solution is so vastly different from done with you and it's got such different implications for the type of content, for the type of people who would want it to how long they might need it for and all that sort of stuff. So you do need to just go a little bit deeper into what it is you offer and what problems there are out there that you provide a solution to.

I would also say if you make the decision you're going to start a membership, get a wait list page up and running, a sinkle … A sinkle? Combination [crosstalk 00:55:59].

Is that something special?

A single simple page with an email sign up form. Literally just something exciting is coming that's going to help you do blah blah blah, pop your email address in the box and we'll keep you updated. That just gives you somewhere, that gives you a call to action you could start using in your marketing, and it gets you in a place where you have to start thinking about, okay, how do we get people who listen to our podcast to take a step down the path to potentially being a member? It gets you into that method of thinking, and it gets you being more strategic about your marketing, and in doing so it also helps you start to build up that email list of who will hopefully become your founder members.

So that when the pieces start falling into place, as you're building your membership, you can be asking these guys for their input, you can be getting them to vote on the content they'd like to see, whetting their appetite for the membership, so that when you open the doors then those people you invite are hopefully, if they've expressed their interest by signing up to wait list, hopefully a large percentage of those all convert and that give you a good starting point for then growing a membership.

When I spoke to you in San Diego and I was joking with these guys that I just didn't know where to start, and you think that because of what I do and the industries I work in and help people, you think I like … It just proves that literally, when it comes to your own stuff, you just can't do it, can you? So you have a road map in the membership, and they're like, well, if only someone had produced a road map of what to do. And I was like, oh yeah, I could probably do it like an idiot.

Anyway, one of the very first things in that road map, which actually really helped me to validate whether, when you talk about the longevity of it was what kind of content are you going to talk about? And I brainstormed all the content around my subject, because my fear, although in my industry it shouldn't be fear because it's so vast, but the fear is you've got to talk about this for a really long time. So if literally, by month six you're running out of stuff to say, it maybe isn't the membership you're looking for, is it? So that was great for me because that really helped me. Suddenly when I split it out and I was like, and there's this and there's this and there's this, and I literally had probably about four years worth of content, if I'm looking at one thing every month, so yeah.

Guys, thank you so, so much. You've been wonderful and I honestly, the down to earth, refreshing advice and perfectly common sense makes perfect sense, you know. If you don't have an audience for something, they're not going to come out of the woodwork suddenly going, oh, we were just looking for someone to build this. It's great, I think-

Yeah, the Spidey senses …

Yeah, like hello, I think …

I sense that somebody has launched a membership. [crosstalk 00:58:49].

And even though I don't know them and I don't know if they're any good or if they know what they're talking about, I'm probably going to join for the rest of my life. Yeah, it's not like that. So thank you guys so much. As always I'm going to hook up to everything in the show and it's now linked to all your guys' stuff, but thank you for coming on. It's been such a great episode.

Yeah, it's been great to talk with you.

Yeah, always fun to talk about memberships.


Thanks guys.

You know what? I think that was probably one of my favourite podcast episodes, because like I said, I just loved their straight talking, their down to earth advice, and the fact that they are honestly so smart when it comes to memberships. They absolutely walk the walk, like they have done this for years, they know what they're talking about, and honestly as a member of the Member Site Academy, when I've gone in there and asked a question, I've always had a response back from Callie, which is amazing. And I don't think that's unusual, I think Callie is, she's very active in there. Mike is as well, but Callie in particular is really active, and she just knows what to say, and she knows the response to give you.

And it's not like, you know, they're not at all like this is the way you should do it. It's like, in our experience this is, you know, if you want this this and this, then it's probably best that you do this this and this. So honestly they are really, really smart people. I loved interviewing them, such nice guys.

As always I've linked up to everything in the show notes. I've also put a link to their event, which like I said is happening in September, just looking at my diary to double check. Yeah, it's September. And I'm going to attend that event, I'm not speaking, I'm just attending, but I'm going to be there. So obviously if you're going to be there then please give me a shout. I would love to say hi to you guys.

So that's it for this week, I think I'm having a little break now in terms of, not as in you won't notice a break, I'm probably going to have a couple of weeks before I record everything, so I'm hoping and praying by the time I record the next episode, I will have actually got by backside in gear and done the intro and outro, because otherwise this podcast is going to get awkward, people, because I really need to finish it off with those. But anyway, have a lovely, lovely week and I will see you here next week.