Memberships are one of the easiest ways to generate recurring income. The commitment they entail from members, however, can also make them a difficult upfront sell.
James Schramko and KLEQ's John Lint continue their series on memberships, this time tackling the challenge of selling. Tune in as they discuss membership marketing channels, effective positioning in marketing, and more.
In the episode:
02:12 – Selling off the back of an event. If our hosts’ client can do it…
04:51 – The technical basics of the thing. James provides a broad outline.
06:02 – Addressing the four-letter word. Does selling make you feel dirty?
08:15 – Truth and caveats about selling upfront. Some facts about selling memberships direct.
14:34 – The social media and content route. There are popular and, yes, valid ways to sell, with some cons.
18:04 – If you have to convince the customer… Would you sell a membership the way you sell a vacuum cleaner?
20:10 – All paths lead to the membership. There’s more than one way to bring an audience to your membership site.
24:55 – John’s take on James’s method. Does John agree with James’s recommendations?
28:30 – Waiting lists, hooks and email. Consider these helpful tools.
29:55 – Give them a taste of what’s inside. A powerful way for people to know, like and trust you.
31:47 – Does your name draw them in? Why you should NOT use the word “beta”.
33:15 – The copy makes a difference. How do you make your sales page great?
35:05 – Ever consider a documentary? A less-known marketing method that worked amazingly for James.
36:45 – In summary, things to think about. Some points of value in a nutshell.
37:31 – The most important thing you can control. A little off-topic, but still a great way to end.
If this is the first episode you’re hearing of James and John‘s membership series, it’s worth listening from the start. So far, they’ve covered: why a membership website is such a great thing to have, what type of membership is right for you, how you create a membership, how you price it, and how to build your site.
If you’ve made it this far, their latest topic is selling your membership.
It won’t be an exhaustive list, but will cover some ways that you may not have considered or thought of. Certainly it will include things that have worked for our co-hosts and their members.
Selling off the back of an event
A mutual customer of James and John has created a virtual summit as a way to promote and sell his membership.
Like the events that used to be held in conference rooms, it involved multiple experts and sessions. A summit or online event can be made up of interviews and presentations on relevant topics. There can be moderations and Q&A calls.
It’s basically a series of live classes, says John. A great option to leverage the internet and reach most people who can’t travel now. His member has done a few since then, and it’s worked very well.
It’s a good way to build a list, to make sales, and to get partners on board, because of the exposure to a bigger audience.
The technical basics of the thing
Put simply, says James, an online event would need a registration page where people can register their interest or to buy admission. You can choose – it can either be free or paid. When they join, they start getting emails from your synchronized email system, letting them know when the sessions are on. You capture the sessions, and you put the recordings in their portal.
This produces a massive amount of content, and you can use snippets from that content as part of your social marketing to bring people into the event.
The summit itself is a good way to get people to know, like and trust you, and decide if they want to continue a relationship with you in your membership.
Addressing the four-letter word
James would like to touch on the topic of selling. “Sell” is almost a dirty word to some people. They feel icky promoting their products or services.
“The simple replacement for sell would be help. Can you help people be better off?”
To this, James says the simple replacement for “sell” would be “help”. Can you help people be better off? If people were willing to pay for your stuff, as an investment in themselves, so they could be better off, would you be happy to help them?
A simple example would be the motorist about to run out of gas. They pull up to a service station and pay for fuel, and they’re quite happy to do it, because they need it. And the person selling the fuel is happy to help them.
We ourselves pay for various memberships, from Netflix to our phone subscription to our internet access. So would someone out there pay you to be better off with your membership?
Truths and caveats about selling upfront
One question James has heard a lot is, can you sell a membership upfront? What are John’s thoughts?
Upfront? Like straight up? With billing on your website? asks John.
Straight up, says James.
It depends, John says. You can have a sales page that talks about your membership site and asks for the order, and lets people pay. But whether that’s a good strategy for you will depend on positioning in marketing.
Do people know you? The first thing that we need to do when nobody knows who we are, is we need to get them to know us, like us, trust us. That way they know we’re an expert, and that we can help them.
If people have never heard of you, don’t trust you, and are on your page, you’ll be lucky to get zero point X conversion. If they see you as an expert and know you’ve helped other people, the numbers are significantly better.
James has been in his industry for over a decade. A lot of people know him. He has 800 plus podcast episodes and thousands of email subscribers. So he can get away with selling his membership directly.
Most people, says John, will need to do some things before trying to sell their membership upfront. The first thing is to attract people, by publishing content and by being online. The next thing is to build your audience, whether on social media or on email.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to capture people’s email so you can communicate with them. You want to bring them back to your content and get them to know you, like you, trust you. They need to know you understand a problem they have. And you want to show them case studies and testimonials showing you’ve helped people. Ultimately, you can make an offer and present a solution to their problems. That solution is your membership.
So can you sell your membership upfront? Technically, yes.
When you have momentum, says James, when you publish content, if you run ads, if you publish a book, if you speak from platforms, if you guest on other shows, and so forth, and people start to recognize your name or get referred to you, yes, you can sell your membership directly, as he does, every day, at SuperFastBusiness.com.
That’s the down-the-track version of what’s possible.
The social media and content route
A popular membership program suggests starting a free Facebook group, warming people up, and then migrating them to one’s membership. That’s one way, and a valid way, says James. Personally, though, he would not want to spend all his time on free Facebook groups.
He knows John isn’t there a lot either.
I only check what you do, says John. He pops by, likes some posts, and is gone.
And of course, says James, you have to respond to people’s questions and comments. Hopefully, John says, if you do have a Facebook group, you’re doing a good job by showing up and helping.
Another strategy is to start a YouTube channel. Post some cool stuff, and keep on posting, like you would in your Facebook group. You need to keep on showing up and keep on doing.
You can have a podcast. Create a podcast, keep creating episodes, attract people. Become a guest on other people’s podcasts.
All these things are about building an audience and bringing them to you. What you should not do is build your business on those marketing channels. You’re there to take advantage of their traffic, to build an audience that will, again, know, like, and trust you, and that will want more of your stuff.
You want people to check out what you have – a website, a mini-course, a virtual event, a video… And if you do a good job, they’ll know you have a membership program, and when the time is right they’ll buy access.
If you have to convince the customer…
To John’s mind, there’s no such thing as selling in terms of convincing. Convincing is something you do with a vacuum cleaner, not with a membership site. You might sell one month that way. But if people quit after one month, that’s not a business.
James’s fuel example is exactly right, says John. The motorist needs no convincing to buy fuel. What the station does need to do is let the motorist know they have fuel.
And that’s your job, to let people know. This is the membership, these are the benefits, this is the promise that we’re going to solve. This is how much better your life can be.
All paths lead to the membership
James recommends making short videos to interest people in visiting your sales page. He has a training on this at SuperFastResults.com. It’s $9, very low-risk, and it shows how he’s made hundreds of thousands of dollars from short videos.
Now, someone buying the product will get emails from James. One will offer access to SuperFastBusiness membership, along the lines of, You’ve got the video training, which is one of the videos that we have inside the membership. Would you like access to all the other videos? We’re talking hundreds of videos.
And he gives them a coupon they can use to join within a specified timeframe, for a very low price. This has gotten James a lot of feedback like, I was thinking of joining the membership anyway, but when you sent me this offer, it was a no-brainer.
So yes, someone could come straight to SuperFastBusiness.com. They could go through James’s chooser, and be offered the membership and join instantly. Or they could go the slow route – listen to a bunch of podcasts, buy a little product here and there, get a few emails.
James also run ads. He runs ads to his free 30-day challenge, and the premise is you get a tip each day for 30 days. That gives him 30 days’ worth of emails to build a relationship, and it also has a coupon offer. He also gives away his book as a PDF,at Jamesschramko.com/book. Again, takers join the email list and will be offered a coupon for SuperFastBusiness. All paths lead to SuperFastBusiness. It’s the center of James’s universe.
For people not ready for SuperFastBusiness, there’s SuperFastResults. And for anyone above the level of SuperFastBusiness, SilverCircle may fit the bill.
This spectrum has taken years to put together. But if James had to start from scratch, he would say make short videos. Send people to someplace you can get an opt-in, and then use email. Email, email, email, email. Email is still the big dog.
John agrees with these strategies. It’s how you build a successful online business. Provide value, help people out, but also invite them to take the next step periodically, throughout your sequences.
Waiting lists, hooks and email
Build your waiting list, says James. That’s really a good starting point. If you have nothing, just put up a waiting list, put an opt-in. If you’ve got something, think about how you can collect email addresses.
Think about your hook. How can you stand out? James has a few little hooks out there. He’s got his Work Less Make More challenge. He’s got a free book. He’s got small courses, endless podcasts, and a truckload of little videos. And take note, some of his videos get only 36 or 50 views. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t compare to some of his students who have 360,000 YouTube views, or 800,000 YouTube subscribers.
It’s amazing what you can do off a small list of the right people when you resonate with them. So you don’t have to be a personality, you don’t have to be big and famous. You just have to be relevant.
When it comes to making the conversion, James want to make something crystal clear. The days of your sales page doing all the sales are gone. It’s not about that. That’s the ultimate conversion piece people will likely see before they hit the buy button. However, they may have come there from emails. And the email relationship is still very important. Send story-based emails and case study emails. Send demonstration emails. Send a question. Help people out.
Give them a taste of what’s inside
James has been known to coach people via email before they join SuperFastBusiness, just to show that he can help them. He’ll ask what’s going on with their business, provide solutions, tell them what to do next. They want more. He tells them they can get it inside the membership.
The risk is gone. The trust is sky-high. Prospects know James answers his emails, and they’ve already gotten help without paying a cent. Dean Jackson talks about this strategy, and James is a huge fan. He did it even before in Mercedes-Benz, where they’d take prospects for drives and let them experience the product.
You can also publish some of your insider material for public consumption. If you already have a membership going, take snippets or demos from inside and publish them outside your paywall.
Or do what some paywall news agencies do – whet the appetite with a few stories on their site before having them subscribe to see more.
Does your name draw them in?
Make sure the name of your program really speaks to the results someone wants. For instance, Improve Your Golf Drive Program. For a golfer wanting to drive the ball longer, that speaks exactly to the solution.
Don’t get bogged down on the name, though, says John. Don’t let it give you analysis paralysis.
“Beta just says, here’s the crap version of my membership.”
Just start, James says. And do not use the word “beta”. Because beta just says, here’s the crap version of my membership.
John agrees. Beta says, I’m trying it out. Please test it.
James suggests the term, “pilot”. Think of the successful sitcom programs that started with a pilot episode. Pilot program implies some element of infancy. But it also implies there’s a very good chance of becoming a smash hit, like an eight-season run.
You could also use something like a “founders’ program”, says John.
James likes that. Think about the nuances. Founders’ program, case study program, pilot program – just avoid beta.
The copy makes a difference
Make your sales offer page great. John has a sales copy training. James has a sales copy tool available as well at SuperFastBusiness.com. On the footer, there’s a link called Tools, which takes you to a sales page generator. Combining these sorts of tools, you can get something going that works.
“Email is like the safety net for a trapeze artist.”
When you’ve already got a membership and money, however, you can reinvest in an amazing copywriter, and that will move the needle. But you’ve got to start with something, so just go with your best guess. And remember, email is like the safety net for a trapeze artist.
John would argue for doing your own copy first, so you have a base to work from. If you go right away with a copywriter, you have no data for comparison. So take your time. These are all things to improve, to optimize.
And most of the good email systems will allow you to load up several versions of an email so you can compare them, see which one works. James often beat the paid copywriter’s emails with his own emails.
And most of the time, says John, it’s about being genuine. It’s about having that personal thing. And whether you are perfect or not, it doesn’t really matter, because people want to connect with the real person. It’s about being natural and organic and real, and using plain words.
Ever consider a documentary?
Another thing that worked really well for James to sell memberships was a documentary. He had a brilliant filmmaker, Michael Hanson, make him a documentary for SilverCircle. It was on the homepage of his site for about seven years.
It was a beautiful little film, in black and white. And it took viewers through a case study. James had a student who was making $30,000 a month, and within a month they got him past $300,000 per month. It was a compelling story.
James has had other members do this. Especially in markets that have a hard sell, documentaries can be a non-salesy way of demonstrating how someone could be better off. Viewers place themselves in the shoes of the main character of the documentary, and can enjoy that transformation as a story.
James is doing some work now with Kan from Social Wave, who uses videos in his marketing. Explainer videos, videos in training. There’ll be more about that in future episodes. But videos and storytelling are still sticks of dynamite to just blow things into the next dimension.
More than ever, John would say.
In summary, things to think about
When it comes to selling memberships, consider:
James suggests coupons and deadlines, just quietly. All of the technology to do this, aside from the actual email system, is built into KLEQ, but the email system will talk to KLEQ. It integrates like a hand in a glove, like Dropbox does for Amazon S3. The recommended suppliers for emails are listed on the site, you can always ask John.
The most important thing you can control
And it’s on purpose that your email is separate from KLEQ, says John. Because you need to be in control of your email list. It’s the most important thing in the world.
KLEQ was built to work at a deep level, so you can do a ton of amazing automation with your existing email system. Ontraport, Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign, Drip, ConvertKit, AWeber, MailChimp – these are the top CRMs that most people are using. That’s what KLEQ has deep integration with.
KLEQ is the only platform that will allow you to do amazing things with your existing email system, because you never want to put your email subscribers into anyone’s system. Don’t put it on KLEQ, don’t put it anywhere else.
“You lose your email list, you have nothing.”
Because if you lose everything but have your list, the very next day you can set up a page and start up something new, in your email sequence. You lose your email list, you have nothing.
The other thing about KLEQ, says James, is it’s often using content you’ve got elsewhere. All his videos, for example, are on Amazon, or Dropbox, or on a video player that his team just embed or load up. So if for whatever reason the site disappeared, he’d still have his email list. The subscriptions would still be in place with Stripe and PayPal. And he’d still have his content. So it’s pretty secure, from an OwnTheRacecourse perspective.
These days, says John, it’s extremely important. Hopefully, people are starting to understand the power of decentralized systems. You are in control of your content, you’re in control of your emails, and platforms like KLEQ take care of the tech and the cool stuff.
Not exactly the episode’s topic, says James, but a good way to finish. If you want more about memberships, there is a course on profitable membership business over at SuperFastResults.com. Or if you’re a member of SuperFastBusiness, it’s already there.
Next time he and John chat, they might be talking about getting traffic to your membership site. he’s looking forward to that.
Very cool, says John.
If you’re interested in an all-in-one membership solution, look up John at KLEQ.com.