Starting and building a successful membership with Stu McLaren

Today’s episode of the podcast is an interview with the amazing Stu McLaren who a membership expert and the owner of TRIBE – a course that teaches business owners all about memberships and generating a recurring revenue. We talk all about memberships – how you can get started with your own and build it for success.




  • Memberships are not guaranteed to succeed – It takes some tweaking and figuring things out!
  • Key components for a webinar:
  • Get people to register
  • Ensure people show up
  • Make an offer
  • Any type of business can be turned into a success when you understand which piece of the puzzle needs you to spend energy on
  • It is really important to get clear on what matters right now
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by all the things then take no action
  • How can I get started in the most simple way possible?
  • The noise does not matter!
  • Founding member launch
  • Communicate with an audience on social media or via your email list and let them know about your idea
  • Cast the vision for where you see the idea going
  • Invite them to come and join you as a founding member
  • Follow up – send them how they can join
  • Just get going and begin
  • Once you have momentum on your side, everything else becomes easier
  • If no one is interested in your founding idea – you have saved a lot of time!
  • Your membership should give your members solutions to ongoing problems or new skills
  • When you are outlining your membership, you want to create contrasts between now and the future – the journey to where they want to be.
  • Use 1 and 3-word phrases to describe how your audience feels right now and then to describe where they will be.




Don’t give up! Ask the right questions and work it through.




  • An introduction to Stu 06:33
  • Making your business/membership a success 09:45
  • Getting started with a membership 13:09
  • Your membership roadmap 23:05











Hello and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. How are you doing? So this week I have an interview and I am very honored and lucky that Stu McLaren was able to give me some of his time and come and talk to me about memberships. As you know, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, well, you maybe new here today as if you are new.

I have a membership. I really liked my membership and therefore it was very nice to talk to Stu about memberships. However, before we get on with today's interview, I want to ask you a favor. Now I love doing the podcast. It's one of my favorite things. And I love getting lovely messages from people who said they've listened to it and they enjoyed it.

And maybe I made them laugh sometimes you never know. And I'm asking a lovely favor that if you wouldn't mind sharing this with one other of your business friends, family, Whatever, whatever, like if you're happy to share it, I would be so very grateful. If you enjoy any of the episodes, if you just want to DM them, post it on social media, whatever you want to do, I would honestly be so crazy grateful for that. You know, you know, and I know that marketing is hard and, you know constantly trying to keep yourself out there is work.

It takes work. So I would really very much appreciate that support from you as one of my lovely listeners. So thank you for that little advert over. So let's get to today's episode and interview. So hopefully, you know who Stu McLaren is. He is the guy who talks about memberships. He has a course called Tribe where he teaches people to do memberships.

Now I've had my membership for years. I help other people launch memberships and talk about them and know about them. And I never bought Tribe, never, not for any particular reason, but just didn't. And then I was working with someone who did my 90 day program and they bought it and they raved and raved and raved about it.

And I hate to say it. I got FOMO. I seriously thought I need to see this stuff. I need to go in there and look at this stuff. And I'd always liked Stu, had seen him years and years ago, uh, trafficking conversion conference. And I knew I liked his approach. So I thought, ‘You know what, I'm just going to buy it to see how he manages it and what he does and what his system looks like.'

And I am like an open book when it comes to anybody else's stuff. I constantly want to see what's happening, what they're doing. Like, how they do things. So I bought Tribe and I wasn't disappointed. Now, obviously I would like to think that I know a bit more than the average person about memberships and running memberships and marketing them.

However, there was still definitely stuff that I learned because you always can learn new stuff. I don't think anybody should ever and will ever be at the point where there's not something to learn. And it was great. And one thing I loved about Stu when, because I'm not very good at like getting involved, this sounds really weird, but I'm not great in Facebook groups.

Like I struggled enough with my own and it's mine and it's part of my academy, but I am, I wouldn't even say I avoid it, I just don't. I, I just miss stuff all the time and I don't, I don't use them the way people should use them. So anyway, but I watched a bit of Stu stuff and I saw obviously when people were launching and I watched him on a couple of videos and what I loved about him was he talked about people and he celebrated launch.

Launches and openings with like, ‘Oh my God, they've got 10 members. That's amazing.' And it was so refreshing because I think there's too many people out there who talk about and show examples of people who have made hundreds and thousands and millions from things that they've done. And they only use those examples.

They only use the examples of so, and so did this thing and it was phenomenal when actually when you look at the small print often says, this is not a typical result. So I love the fact that Stu was like, oh my gosh, they've launched, they've got ten members, high five. So I think he's really genuinely a nice guy.

Also, you may recognize the surname McLaren cause I had his lovely wife, Amy a few weeks ago who is also a very lovely human. So I should imagine they are just very nice, genuine people from what I have had experience of. I'm going to leave you to listen to the lovely Stu and I can't wait to see what you think.

Okay. I am very excited to welcome a very special guest today to the podcast. Welcome the amazing Stu McLaren.

Stu: Ah, I, I, that, that just feels good to be called the amazing Stu McLaren. If my kids would walk in, say, it's my amazing dad. That would be, you know, that'd be epic.

Teresa: To be honest, tapping your children a bit younger than my daughter.

She's 11. If I could walk in a room without ever even looking at me, like I was, I don't know what then that would be amazing.

Stu: So nowadays I get, ‘Oh dad, you're so embarrassing.' You know, like, I, I will, I gotta tell you one, uh, one dad, when so I was in the car and I'm always trying to encourage my kids to like sing along with me in the car.

My daughter's always like, no, it's too embarrassing. But one day I was like driving, uh, her and her friends and I put on like Taylor Swift, shake it off. And Marla's friends, they were just like singing at the top of the lungs with me. And I was just like belting down and Marla, my daughter, she was like, ‘oh, like maybe this is fun.'

And it was like a turning point. So like now, now she sings karaoke with me all the time. So fun.

Teresa: I love it. Honestly, you and I both I am the embarrassing mum, cause I think I'm really cool. And like, they just look at me. I have stepchildren.

Stu: We are cool, they haven't realized that yet.

Teresa: As parents. We're super cool, but like I've got 18 year old stepson and he just like, he's like, ‘Yeah T. Yeah, you try it, you try and I'm alright, thanks.' Stu I am confident you do not need any introduction, but if someone has been under a rock somewhere, please tell my audience who you are and what you do.

Stu: So I help business owners create more recurring revenue in their business with membership sites, and they could be all kinds of different types of membership sites, um, from product based memberships, service-based memberships, knowledge based memberships.

Uh, but the point of the matter is, is that I help business owners generate recurring revenue. Now, how I got to this point was because I had a business myself where I was limited in how I could grow. It was a consulting business and it was really great and successful. But the point of the matter is, is that something had to give, because, uh, I got to the point where I could, the only way to grow the business was to give more time and I didn't have any more time to give.

And so I was just like, how do I fix this? Because I don't like being limited like that. And one of my friends and mentors, this was back in 2008, he suggested that I create a membership. I knew nothing about memberships, but once I dug into it, I was kinda, I was getting tripped up with all the technology. And I was dealing with things like HT access files and server settings.

And it was just way over my head. And so I was moaning and groaning to a friend of mine about this. And he said, well, why don't you just create your own solution? And I looked at him like, ‘Dude!' Like, ‘Are you not hearing what I'm saying?'

Teresa: I can't do the other stuff.

Stu: I can't program something like that's the whole reason I'm struggling.

And he said, well, why don't we team up together? Because he had a programmer that he was working with to create a solution. We did, a month later, we had the beta version of what then became known as wishlist member. And then a month after that, October 22nd, 2008, we started selling it and it took off. And before I know it, we had the software company that was powering tens of thousands of membership sites all around the world.

And that's where I learn. Behind the scenes of like what works and what doesn't as it relates to growing a membership, because there was a small group of membership site owners that we were serving that were growing year over year, over year. Whereas everybody else, they kind of just like would flat line. And so I was like, what, what is that small group doing?

It's growing year over year, differently than everybody else. And that's when I started to discover that there are best practices that ensure that year over year growth versus what everybody else is typically doing. And so since that, uh, I have begun teaching that and for the last five years, uh, we've been teaching it serving tens of thousands of people, uh, in helping them launch successful membership sites.

Teresa: Amazing. That feels like such a great place to learn from. That you've got these people and you're looking, going, hang on a minute, because I think this is maybe this is kind of one of the myths that frustrate me a little bit, that every membership is just going to fly and be amazing. And that just isn't necessarily the case. Is it?

Stu: No, sometimes you just got, you got to figure stuff out, but like, You know, saddens me is when something doesn't go right for somebody. And then they throw the baby out with the bath water and they say to themselves, ‘Oh see, see, it was just, it just wasn't meant to be like, it's not gonna work in my market or nobody's going to buy it from me or who would want to listen to me.'

Like they throw all this future and potential possibility out the window because something didn't go according to the plan. But here's the reality, like in any business endeavor, regardless of whether it's memberships or not, but in any business endeavor, it's going to take some tweaking and a dial-in and figuring things out.

And you just got to ask yourself questions like, okay, ‘Was everything a complete failure?' Well, 9 times out of 10, you're going to see no, not everything was, but what part of it was, uh, you know, uh, you know, uh, things fall through the cracks and what you might discover is that like you fix that one thing and everything else changes.

I'll give you a quick example. A client of mine, Lisa, she had come for a one-on-one private consultation. So I reserved one day a month to work one-on-one with clients. So she flew in with her husband and, uh, you know, during those days we typically tackle, you know, one specific area of the business. Um, so then at the end of the day, they, the client is walking away with like a specific plan for that.

So in her case, she said to me, she said, ‘Stu, I just, I really suck at webinars.' And she said, my, ‘I just can't, I can't sell.' And I said, ‘Well, is that like a whole truth?' This is again like I'm asking, ‘Is that a whole truth?' I said, ‘Let's look at your numbers. Let's look at your webinar process. Now in her case, essentially, there's a few key components to a webinar.

Like one we need get registered people register, two, we then need to ensure that people show up for the webinar and then three, we then make an offer on the webinar. So we have these three points that we can look at. And she was assuming that she sucked at sales, but when we looked at the numbers, that was not the case.

She was actually really good at the sales. The problem was that not enough people were showing up to the webinar. So once we realized that it's just like, ‘Oh easy-peasy.' Now we strategize about how to fix that one component. We fixed that one component, everything else takes care of itself. And so this is where I, you know, sometimes just wanna, you know, give, you know, entrepreneurs will kick in a butt like when they, you know, are going and they're giving up on themselves, I'm like, don't give up on yourself.

Like, no, it's just a matter of asking the right questions and, and thinking it through and working it through. Um, what I can tell you is like virtually any type of business, you can 100% turn it into a success when you start asking the right questions and identifying the right pieces of the puzzle that you need to spend energy on.

Teresa: Yes. It's such a good point. Cause like you said, and coming back to those facts and stats and like actually working out and you're right, you know, How many people did you get sign up? How many people did actually turn out? Then how many people converted? Because often when you do do the thing, if you're passionate and you're good and you're, you're going to convert them, it's going to convert because people can't help themselves.

In my experience anyway, you know, I do some bootcamps occasionally. And when I do a whole week with a bootcamp, like they get to the end and they're like, ‘Yeah, yeah, what's next?' Like, but it's getting those numbers in the first place. Isn't it? And working out that startegy.

Stu: So, yeah. And like, and I would say to that, sorry to cut you off.

But I would say, I would say it's like, it's really important to just get clear on like what matters right now, you know, so often, like, you know, uh, for example, this week I was talking to a friend of mine, a high school friend of mine, who I hadn't talked to in more than 15 years. Reached out and, uh, the reason is because she left her, uh, you know, corporate job and now she's looking to start her entrepreneurial business.

And she had her knickers in a twist, worried about all kinds of things that quite frankly did not matter at this point. And what, when we chatted, I said, ‘Look Michelle, the only thing that you need to worry about right now are these three things.' Which is for her which is beginning to build a teeny tiny audience.

She didn't need to get worried about like what shopping cart to use and this and all of that, blah, blah, blah. That's like down the road. Right now her focus just needed to be, I need to, uh, begin creating, uh, building my audience and building my email list. And in order to do that, I'm going to do this activity on a consistent basis.

All the other stuff it's not necessary right now. And my thing that I would encourage everybody is just like what matters most where for you, where you are right now, everything else you can just like, press pause on the worry for all that stuff. Just focus on the few things that matter to you right now. When you focus on that everything else begins to fall into place and you build momentum. And the clarity comes from being able to take action, but too often, people get overwhelmed by all the things, and then they never take action on any one thing. And then they're just like sitting there, like, uh, uh, you know, standing still type thing.

Teresa: I had someone in my membership talk to me about they wants to launch group coaching program, ongoing kind of membership thing. And they were like, for weeks they kept coming to me and going, well, what's the system like, and is this system going and how do I have you tried this on? And what's this like, and in the end I got to go and talk to her and like ‘Okay.' So. We've talked about all the systems. You've looked at them all, what do you actually need to serve them today? Like if I said, start today, what do you actually… She was like, ‘Well I'd need maybe a Facebook group, zoom, emails.' And I was like ‘So you don't need a system then.' I said, so ‘Can we just start? Like, can you just offer it?'

And she said, because she was telling me I've got people waiting for it. But why are you, you know the amount of changes? And you must see this all the time and especially in your own business as well. Like the membership, how I started on day one and how it looks today is so different. Like, cause I've learned so much stuff.

Stu: Yes. Yeah. And the question that I encourage everybody to write down is how can I get started in the most simple way possible? How can I get started in the most simple way possible? Because when you start asking yourself those questions, All of the noise you quickly realize does not matter.

At the end of the day like what matters is that you put it out there, like, I'll give you an example. So one of the things that we, uh, teach, uh, our clients and customers, our audiences to do what we call a founding member launch. And a founding member launch, you don't have to have all the bells and whistles and all the things set up.

In fact, it's involves five simple steps. So the first step is like you just communicate either on a Facebook post or if you do have an email list, create an email list, or if you, uh, if it's an Instagram channel or YouTube, wherever you are communicating with your audience. Right. And so the first step is that you communicate with this idea came that you are, uh, potentially looking to do. So what you want to say is you want to say, ‘Listen, I've had this idea. It's not done yet. I haven't created yet, but it's right now, it's just in an idea phase.' And you just start talking about like, where the idea came from that's step one. Step two is then you cast the vision for where you see this idea going.

And again, you're saying this is not created in fact I'm thinking of creating it. And this is where I see it going. This is where I see it and what I see it becoming. You cast the vision for the idea. Step three then is you invite them to come and join you as a founding member. So if you like the sound of this idea, and you want to be part of this idea, I want to invite you to come join me as a founding member.

And you want to explain that they you're going to grant them the lowest price possible that they'll forever they'll get the membership that they'll forever be locked into that low price, it, because you haven't created this yet, you'll be creating it with them, but you invite them that's the third step. First step is you give them a specific call to action.

So this is where people get tripped up. They're like, ‘Oh wow.' See, I, I, I don't have a sales page, I don't have this. You just say no, the easiest call actually just send me a direct message. If, if you, if you like this idea and you want to join me as I, it just send me a direct message and say, I, I, I love to be in. And then the fourth or the sort of the fifth step is then follow up.

So when people send you that direct message you literally just send them a, like a PayPal checkout link or something. So you don't need a sales page or nothing. And here's what's happened like time and time again, when, when people just get out of their own way and they just get going and they use this five-part framework.

Or just outline they're amazed at how simple it was to be able to begin creating momentum. And once you've got momentum on your side, Everything else becomes so much easier. You start to realize what's possible. And, and now with that momentum, you know, if you, uh, encounter, you know, more difficult time you're going to bust through those so much faster and easier because you've already got that momentum.

And a perfect example of this was like Anna Saucier a few years ago at one of our live events. Uh, I had, uh, Jamie Bright who was up on stage and she was, she, I asked her to share how she did her founding member launch. And she walked through this process that, you know, I just outlined for you and Anna and the audience.

She was like super inspired by this. And she's like, ‘You know what? I'm going to, I'm going to go for it.' So she had a teeny tiny audience of about 350 so people. And her goal was to generate $5,000 from this founding member launch. So she followed the steps to a T that we talked about. She did it in, on her, a in a Facebook group.

So it's this, the 300 people were in a Facebook group. And so she made this post in a Facebook group and she said, if you want to join me as a founding member, uh, send me a direct message. So she, what sh the offer she made was a lifetime access to her membership. So, uh, she sold it as a lifetime access. And the crazy part was people started sending her direct messages and within 24 hours, she had generated just over 5,000, $24. And the crazy part was I'll never forget this. Uh, she had her young baby, uh, uh, like, uh, I think the baby was like six months old at the, at the event. Uh, when she left the next day to going to the airport, she was like holding the baby in one hand. And if she tried to text people back, like who had reached out, so one of the, uh, one of our other, uh, people that was attending the event, they, they saw her and they're like, let me hold it.

So they're holding the baby to the airport, she's getting back to people like on, on, uh, you know, sent direct message, but it was a game changer. And like my whole point in this is like, just make it simple. Get out of your own way. And just get going. You can do this. Use the same idea for a membership site. Duh, that's my world.

But like I've used it for, uh, selling software. I've used it for courses. I've used it for coaching. I've used it for events. Like you can use the same founding member launch, uh, to put your idea out there, engage the response. And if nobody responds, guess what you just saved yourself all a whole lot of time, energy and effort.

Now you start asking the questions like, well, what was it about this in terms of why they didn't respond? Was it just the offered at hand? Was it just not meeting their needs? So you start asking different questions, but at least you haven't gotten to the effort of creating a whole bunch of stuff that people were going to respond to.

But when they do respond now you got momentum on your side and now you're cooking with gas and, and that's the most important bit. You're out of your own way and you're in action and moving.

Teresa: I love that. And I love it because like I said, people often look to other people like, oh, you've got this really nice sales page.

And again, I was working with one of my 90 day students there that week. And she was like, ‘So, you know, what bonuses should I have? Should I have an order bump and all.' And I'm like ‘Too much. This is your first ever launch.' Like, you know, you and she wants to do it really quick. Now you don't need to do all the steps because do you think I had all that on the first go?

You think you had all that on the first go? No. We just, but no one sees us then no one sees that or not many people see that thing. But I think one thing that you said is so crucial in there, and I think this is something that I got wrong and I would happily, and in fact, I've told Stu's we got on that I joined Tribe this last time.

And the reason I joined having done so many other things is because I, I flippin love my membership, I love it. I love my members. I adore them. They're the best people. Like I only attract the best people which I love and I could do it all day long. Like if I won the lottery next week, I'd still do it. I just adore it.

And then I find it really hard to get people in the membership. And when they're in they hardly ever leave. Like they love it.

Stu: That's amazing.

Teresa: But it was getting them in, in the first place that was difficult. So one of the reasons I joined Tribe was to really get under the skin of the roadmap. So can you just explain?

Cause I think that's where I've gone wrong because I have an audience, I have a big podcast. I have lots of people on my list, but converting them was really difficult. And you know, if they're on a be on a call then that's easy. But it's I think, whereas I did a course recently sold it like that, so easy, and I think it's a roadmap.

So explain that bit. That's really important.

Stu: Well, I think, you know, with a membership is specifically like an, uh, like a knowledge-based membership where you're helping people solve an ongoing problem. Like, uh, my, my dog is like wildly out of control. Okay. That's an ongoing problem. You're not going to solve that. Like in an instant, like the dog's not going to go from like wildly out of control to the perfect puppy like that.

Right. Like there's a process to that. So if there's an ongoing problem, You know, dog out of control, bad relationship, you know, uh, health, you know, your, your health is bad. Those are ongoing problems and that makes a perfect market for a membership. Another market that makes a, great for a membership is when people are learning a new skill.

So similarly, you're not going to go from it, not knowing how to paint, to becoming the next Picasso like that. Like there's a process to that. You're not going to go from not knowing how to play the guitar, to being the next Eric Clapton like that. Like there's a process to that. And so that makes for a great membership.

So when you're framing up your membership to an audience, what you want to do is you want to create contrast between the now and the future. And so this is what we call the success path, where the journey of going from where they are now to where they want to be in the future. It is a journey. And what we do is we break it down into stages so that people can see that they are experiencing progress, that they are making progress.

And also that there's only a few things that they need to focus on right now, based on where they're at um, and it's like a huge sigh of relief. They don't have to worry about all the other things. And so what you do is you just create contrast, you create contrast between the now and where they want to be.

And the simplest way to do that is literally like taking a piece of paper, draw a line straight down the middle on the left-hand side, you put now, and you use one to three words, max, to describe the market. Maybe they're confused and overwhelmed and lonely. And you know, uh, uh, they, you know, you start listing like all the things that you know that the market is experiencing right now.

And then on the right-hand side, you start listing words and, and or phrases that describe where they will be. And so when you're communicating to your audience, the reason I suggest you use one and three word phrases max is because it, it lands for people. They get it, like not being able to play the guitar, being able to play the guitar, not being able to paint, being able to paint, you know, not being able to doodle or draw, being able to draw like, you know what I mean?

Like right away, people are like, got it. And once they get it now, now they're open because the gap has been created between where they are and where they want to be. And the best way to be able to close that gap is by joining you in your membership, because that's what you're going to help them stay focused on, is their next right step for where they are in their journey. And that's a huge sigh of relief because right now I guarantee you, if somebody is trying to learn something they're going online, they're doing their searches and they're overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advice coming at them. Uh, they're overwhelmed by the conflicting advice coming at them.

Like I'll, I'll give you an example. So you and I were chatting before we went live here. I was, I was complimenting, I was saying, ‘Look at your studio. It looks amazing. It's beautiful. Your lighting is incredible.' And here I am, like, I got lights all over the place. Um, because this is one of the things that I, you know, we're looking to do is like to, to, um, uh, improve the studio, so to speak.

Uh, particularly, you know, not only here in the office, but also at home. And so, you know, I want, I knew I wanted to, uh, update my home studio. So I started doing some Google searches and I'm like, you know how to build the ultimate home office and all of a sudden, like all these things start popping up.

All of these videos. And so I'm in it. Um, I've started watching all these videos and I'm getting all these ideas and I'm taking all the notes and I'm, you know, making a list of all the equipment people are recommending. And at the end, of it, I got to I'm just like, ‘Huh!' I, I just, I just want somebody to tell me what to do.

Like I, I get it. And there's all these things that we can. I just want somebody to tell me what to do. So long story short, I went on to Facebook and I explained myself, and I said ‘Does anybody know somebody that I could talk to.' And my friend Dan is like, ‘Oh Stu, you just need to join' And I'm like, ‘What's that?'

They're like, ‘It's a membership that walks you through the process.' I didn't even think twice I go to it and sign up for it because now I have a path to follow, to get me from not having a home studio, to the home studio that I want. And it's made that process clear and effortless versus getting drowning and all of this research and ideas of just trying to piece it all together.

That's what people pay for. They pay for speed and they pay for convenience and they pay for clarity. And that's what you provide inside the membership.

Teresa: Amazing. Stu, I knew you'd give me so much value. Your time is so very valuable. And I, and I thought, around we've got to be quick, but I know because you're like me, I talk fast, you talk fast.

I thought you were going to give like either a 45 minute value in coming with ease. So Stu thank you so, so much for coming on the podcast, I will obviously link up to everything you do, which is great for firing on memberships, but I really appreciate you coming on.

Stu: Well, thank you for having me and a high five to you for your membership. And I can't wait to hear the progress of how that continues to boom and grow.

Teresa: Thank you so much Stu.

There you go, that was the loveliest Stu. I couldn't talked to him for much longer. He was very busy, man. And uh, like I said, I was very honored that he was able to give me his time. It was great to chat to him. And I have had lots of takeaways from him and things I've changed. And in fact, that was one of the reasons I created the new Small Business Growth Pathway, everything just kind of aligned at the same time as I got Tribe. And I thought I do have a pathway in my membership, but actually it's not working like I need it to, or not that it's not working like I need to, it wasn't.

I felt like I could do it better for the members. I felt like it needed to be more specific at different stages. So, yeah. So that's why I created it and my members are loving it, which is really reassuring and lovely. And I can't wait to see what results they're getting from it. It's going to be cool.

Okay. I will leave you to next week's episode, which is going to be talking. I told you I'm so organized now. I'm going to be talking about, How to get more clients and get more sales. And how you can use social media for selling. So that's going to be a good one because I know lots of people in my world at the moment of finding it a little bit tricky.

So, you know, let's try and give ourselves a bit of an injection of sales. And even if you're not finding tricky, like I'm always happy to get an injection of sales. Let's look at that next week until then have a really lovely week.