Sometimes it's worth revisiting the basics.
James Schramko and KLEQ's John Lint go over the reasons you'd want to have an online membership business.
If you're exploring the option or need a reminder, this is the episode for you.
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James has often talked about the subscription business as the key to wealth. In particular, he promotes paid memberships as a model that is not only sustainable but leveraged.
This episode’s topic is the first in a series that James and KLEQ founder John Lint will be tackling, as part of a membership course/education/software project that they’ve been working on. They plan to address some of the single topics that have come up most frequently, and these will more or less line up with the book James is putting together on memberships.
The question, Why have a membership website? is an important one, think our two experts. Most training formats start with the why. And while it might seem a tad basic for their regular listener, they don’t want to assume that whoever’s tuning in has heard all their episodes.
The business that is all about freedom
Having a membership site, says John, is all about building a real online business – not an online job, an online business. It’s all about freedom and getting leverage.
A membership is a business that will work for you. It’s always working, generating income even while you sleep. As a subscription-based, recurring revenue-based business, it will let you expect X amount of dollars from X number of members, every month or year as the case may be.
You’re not stuck on the hamster wheel of creating, selling and promoting something for a one-time fee. You’ll be focused instead on creating value for your members, solving their problems, and getting them the results they need.
And every single month or year, you’re being paid. You have predictable income coming in on a regular basis.
There’s nothing left to say, says James. He does want to mention, though, that members of his community have listened to case study episodes on the podcast – KLEQ users setting up memberships in everything from midwifery through to business coaching and food. And the ease of it has inspired them.
James and his membership journey
James would also like to put in a bit of history, how he wound up with memberships. He looked into how to start an online business when he still had a job. He’d observed that many of his Mercedes-Benz customers had their own businesses. And coming online, he tried a few different business models.
He was an affiliate at first, selling other people’s products, which was good. But he’d make the sale, get paid, and that was it. He’d need to make another sale.
He switched to selling other people’s subscriptions, and that was a huge leverage point, where he’d sell people into membership and get paid recurring commission.
He sold info products, but again, one-time sale.
The first membership James had, he’d give people access to their delivery, where he did webinars and updated the product for free for members. It was a lifetime membership. So again, he’d get paid once, and that was it. Plus, he’d need to keep servicing the members. It’s a model he’s not a big fan of.
The good thing about that membership, says James, is he had a warm prospect list he could reach out to with recommendations, and because he’d built value, they were likely to take an interest. He was able to springboard from that to his current model.
“Sell once and you get paid over and over again.”
But what James likes about a membership, and what really stuck with him, is you sell once and get paid over and over again. How much over and over again, is really up to you. But this is a big deal. When he switched to this model in 2009, he says, that was it.
“The balancing act is delivering value for your members.”
Then the balancing act is simply delivering value for your members, and making sure that you keep more members than leave, if possible even growing the membership.
Membership versus other business models
James and John compare memberships with a couple of other business models.
Take ecommerce. Ecommerce is usually low-margin business, and it’s difficult. You may have to spend a lot of money to buy the products that you’re going to hope to resell. And then you need to try to buy those products at the lowest price possible, so you can sell them at the highest price possible to make some profit.
And the funny thing is, if it actually goes well, then it’s hard to keep growing the business because you need all the cash coming in to buy more stock, and there’s not much left over, if any, and usually you have to take a loan to grow an ecommerce business.
There’s a lot of competition, too, none the least being Amazon. If you partner with them, it’s like building a YouTube channel or a Facebook page. You’re at the whim of any changes they’d like to make.
Then there’s the agency model. It’s hard to scale an agency past yourself. James knows lots of solopreneurs in that model. And if you have a solopreneur business, if you are the business, you don’t have a business, you have a job.
It’s only when you get a team, or a lot of customers, that you start to actually have a business. But even then it’s not the most leveraged type of business. You’re still trading time, services, for money.
The coaching model and memberships
If you sell one-to-one coaching, says John, it could be a step towards more freedom in that the margin can be higher. You can charge more and have less clients. But again, you’re exchanging time for money. You have to show up and be there all the time. If you’re doing one-on-one coaching, then that’s going to limit you in the amount of clients that you can get.
So the next step to leverage is to do coaching, but one to many. And a membership is the ultimate way to do that. You can create training once and resell it forever, or offer access to it forever. Or you can put it on autopilot, and have it delivered automatically. You wake up, you’ve got sales.
You can do Q&A calls and monthly trainings for multiple members, and that is where leverage comes in. You’re spending 30 minutes or an hour with many customers instead of just one. And that opens up hours in your week.
Note, however, you still need to show up. James and John know this is key – to show up, make sure you listen to your members, and make sure that you deliver, more importantly, on the promise that you made before they joined the membership site. One of the biggest mistakes is to make big promises, big headlines, and then never be seen.
James is in his forums a part of every single day, delivering the goods as part of his James Schramko community.
Why have a membership site, in short
As mentioned, James also runs group Ask Me Anything sessions, and weekly group calls for higher-level members. He offers private coaching as well, but leveraged via chat.
These days, one of his favorite tools is Loom, installed on his phone. With it he easily makes personalized videos for higher-paying customers, delivering a customized experience. They also enjoy the frameworks, checklists and trainings that he refers them to, to get the results they’re after.
Instead of stocking up an ecommerce store, or doing agency-type things for the customer, James creates an information zone, containing the elements of content, coaching and community.
Future episodes will cover these elements. They’ll also talk about retention, choosing a membership topic, what to have in your membership, and platform (we recommend John’s membership software, KLEQ.com).
For now, why have a membership? In short, you get to own your own income stream, and you get to sell once and get paid over and over again.
It’s worth thinking about your vision of what your future can look like. Just recently, James has had four of the best surfing days of his life, something he couldn’t do without his current business model.
Some ideas in parting
Has John got any closing thoughts?
It’s all about the freedom, he says. Freedom to do what you want, whenever you want, and that comes by having a recurring revenue type of business. That leverage is important, because otherwise people get burnt out. They come online and find themselves stuck doing something they don’t enjoy.
And it’s about independence, building something of your own that gives you peace of mind and gets you off the hamster wheel of constantly creating and selling.
“A membership is not an instant riches thing.”
Is it easy? Not right away. This is not an instant riches thing, says James. You have to allow time, and money for tools, and some energy expenditure to get a system up and running. But once you set it up, there isn’t a business like it, James thinks.
If you’re interested in this topic, head over to SuperFastResults.com. You’ll see James’s KLEQ installation there, and Profitable Membership Business, a great foundational course. James’s book is free there as well, Work Less, Make More, with a related 30-day challenge.
And if you’re looking for an all-in-one membership solution, check out KLEQ.
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