Recurring payments and income from a membership site is considered the bee-knees and the pinnacle of passive income. That is what all online entrepreneurs aim to sell, if they aren’t already making a killing and shouting from their rooftops their love of membership sites.
I’m a fan, too and completely on board. And have been for 2 years.
My largest part of my income, which makes sales daily, to the tune of $ thousands every month is from a membership site. And the price point is less than $10! (It is $9). I will point out I talk in AUD (Australian dollars) because I am in Australia and I charge in Australian dollars.
My membership program didn’t start that way – selling daily. My membership site actually started as a 4-week live course in November 2014. Which I made a loss on (selling at $97 price point and costing me $1200 to get up for sale and advertise. I made 12 sales. See how those numbers didn’t add up?)
I decided to change into a monthly membership site, with new training modules monthly and I had a vault of 4 modules, from the live course, to start the membership site! Plus I could multi-purpose content I was already creating for my blog and add bonuses and stick inside the membership site. Win-win!
By February 2015, the VA had created a membership site all connected up and it was for sale at $27 per month. And I started chasing my tail with other projects…. Look squirrels!
Sales trickled in. I can’t honestly tell you how many sales. I would guess about 18-20 sales in the first 3 months. Nowadays I have nearly 300 paying enrolled members.
Related article: What type of Website Platform Should I Have?
Mistakes I made with my membership site:
1.) My $500 mistake. Not doing bookkeeping – tracking sales. What isn’t measured can’t be improved. I was cocky and lazy and always chasing the ‘next thing’ and honestly was slack with my bookkeeping. I left it to the end of the financial year and then gave to the accountant. I didn’t look at my sales for months after setting up the membership site. It was 3 months later when I looked and realised the recurring payments hadn’t been set up correctly by the VA. I lost about $500 in recurring revenue. I remember that number and that face palm moment and biggest mistake.
2.) Wrong price point. I priced at $27 per month because that is what I saw other entrepreneurs, online business owners, and bloggers doing. That was my second biggest mistake. I was charging or pricing to entrepreneurs and that was not my target market. My target market is hobbyists or start-ups. So, after discussion with a business coach, about 9 months into selling the membership site, in November 2015, I changed from $27 to $9 per month. For everyone enrolled at $27 p/m, I emailed saying I would be canceling subscription at $27 and ask them to re-enrol and gave them a bonus for the hassle of doing so. I lost about of 2/3 of the then enrolled members. It was almost like starting again.
3.) Not offering limited time deals. I know that with purchasing or buying psychology, there needs to be a deadline. That is why we all pay our bills on the day they are due! So I had ‘planned’ to offer monthly special deals but sometimes I got lazy. Or forgot. And sales suffered. My lesson learned was: if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t done and so I schedule aside 1 day or 6 hours per month for membership site deals, content, marketing, and promotion strategy and set up.
4.) Own URL and domain. I made the mistake of putting the membership site on my website and not on its own subdomain or own domain. Honestly, it was the best decision I could have made at the time back in 2015, but have since learned that the amount of content I had on my website, it was slowing down the load time of the website. It needed its own server/hosting. Plus I had put ads on my website (ad network) in mid-2016 and those ads were showing up for the enrolled (paying) members which aren’t good. So I had to rebuild on own website and URL.
5.) Software. I used OptimizePress with OptimizeMember plugin to create the member-only pages on my website with password protected access. It was $97 to buy and user-friendly (from my end), but not for the members. The process of enrolling, paying and registering to log in and get access was not seamless. It was quite janky, with people needing to find their registration in their inbox, which usually ended up in their spam or junk folder. I got emails nearly daily that they couldn’t log in. Now I use MemberMouse, connected with PayPal and ConvertKit and the enrolment, signup and registration process is seamless.
Webinars (& What They Have to Do With Membership Sites)
In November 2015 I set myself a challenge to host live webinar training weekly, for 3 months. Mostly I was nervous and knew I would need time to get over my nerves and get over myself! The weekly challenge was mostly to build up confidence and also to – try, test, tweak and repeat in regards to sales with memberships.
With Google+ Hangouts, I was able to set up a website page, put a countdown timer, invite people, create the content, worksheets, and slides and go live within 2 hours. I had to work like that, as I was working full time, at the same time!
I was so nervous in the beginning I couldn’t eat and wanted to throw up. I got a little more confident every time.
But, as a marketing strategy, I used the live event as a scarcity bonus, that is was only available for 24 hours as a replay and then the replay was only available inside the membership site. If they missed out, they needed to enroll! I would have about 2-3 sign up around each of these weekly events. That was about 8-12 new enrolled members monthly. Nothing huge.
At the end of the 3 months, I took a break from webinars and a month later noticed the enrolment numbers had decreased. I had a brainstorm session with my VA asking why she thought this was and she pointed out the drop of 8-12 around webinars. Another face palm moment.
Take notice of every small little number. A small increase. A small decrease. These numbers all add up when starting out and growing a membership site.
Nowadays I don’t use ‘webinar’ platforms but instead prefer the simplicity of Facebook live. I can hit live and be training in 10 seconds.
How I Have Nearly 300 Membership Site Members (Making $ Thousands Monthly)
How much money I make and how? Retention rate from $1 trail and Churn rate.
At the time of writing this (March 2017), membership fees are my #1 biggest income earner at nearly $2000 per month and about 35% of total income.
I also bundle together the membership site with Lifetime Deals or 1 year or 2-year deals which are part of my income (own products for sale) which equates to about 30% of my income.
Related article: See Income Reports
For most of last year (2016) the average number of sales is 1 per day. For this year (2017) the average number of sales is 2 per day for the $1 trial period.
The trial period retention rate is 80% from the 1st month of $1 trail to the 2nd month of $9 p/m.
The churn rate is about 75-80%. The lifetime period enrolled members staying is 7 months, which is $64.
Where sales come from
The largest percentage of sales come from my main opt-in, being the 3 part video training series. Which then subscribers are added into a 5 email sales sequence. From those 8 emails/pieces of content, over 30% of the total number of subscribers.
The opt-in is on my homepage, footer, blog widget sidebar and the pop-up opt-in. The sales conversion rate from this opt-in is between 1-2%, which is the industry standard.
I put into the menu ‘’Enrol in Cake Business School for just $1’’.
I put an ad banner throughout blog content.
Some blog posts created are what I call ‘mini training modules’ that are directly selling into the larger or full training module that is found inside the membership site. I publish about 2-3 of these per month.
Related article: Top 10 Spots to Have Opt-Ins on Your Website
I can directly account the following sales to these marketing activities: (I am rounding up and down slightly, for ease)
- 30% from main opt-in sequence – 3 part video training series + 5 email sales sequence
- 10% from Facebook group – free community aspect, which I do regular live training and Q&A sessions and provides lots of free help and build a relationship.
- 10% from email newsletters – with either ad banner or directly giving CTA to enroll. I have automated email sequence I call ‘’mini training modules’’ that anyone that becomes an email subscriber and indicated they are interested in growing a cake business, they go into this sequence and purchase from receiving those emails.
- 10% from website – I can tell people purchase directly from the website by indications in my email service provider, ConvertKit, that purchasers have hit the website, signed up for a content upgrade (opt-in) and also enrolled in membership site at the same time.
- 10% from webinar – I previously did weekly webinars which are now Facebook live video training, which give the CTA to enroll in a membership site.
- 10% from limited time deals – bonuses, freebies, deals are offered once per month to give some time of scarcity and sense of urgency for people sitting on the fence and ‘thinking’ about buying. Read more below.
- 5% from showcasing – a bonus for enrolled students is they can be ‘showcased’ on my blog like a mini interview and ‘show off’ their business and their cake creations. I publish a post about once per month, email it out, share on social media and add to the ‘’mini training modules’’ email sequence. I can tell when someone clicks on a showcasing email, in ConvertKit, and then purchases a membership and therefore can directly relate the sale.
- 5% from podcast – created specifically as a lead generation tool to promote and self-advertise the membership site, provide more value, more training and build a relationship with CTA to enroll in a membership site.
- 5% from me – when I have had a conversation with someone and directly mention membership and how it can help them, whether in an email, in a Facebook group or private message.
- 5% from Other – other opt-in incentives or word of mouth or I just have no idea!
Related Article: ConvertKit Demo & Review (The 2 Minute Landing Page Opt-In)
What types of Limited Time Deals I offer:
The special deals or bonuses that I have offered (and can remember) that did the best, were:
- $1 trial period for the first month. I had 70 people enroll that month (May 2016) and still to this day do this $1 deal, as the trial retention rate is so high at 80%.
- Last month (February 2017) I offered a $97 course for free and had 72 people enroll that month. I want to do that type of deal more offer and will look at creating courses specifically as a bonus freebie for membership.
- Live webinar training and access to the replay for a limited time. I got just a handful of sales around each of these events, which all add up.
- A free app valued at $5 (cake pricing app, as pricing, is a hot topic) as a freebie, which was quite popular.
- Free eBook that normally sells for $47.
- Free recipe eBook that normally sells for $27.
- Free website review or Facebook page review or social media platform review.
- Free business strategy session. This wasn’t that great of an idea as over 80% were a no-show (didn’t show up!) Lesson learned: people don’t value your time when they don’t pay for it.
- Additional training, like behind-the-scenes type stuff.
The first three listed have been the most popular and effective, by far. Everything else I have tested and learned from and that is kind of what I love about the evergreen membership model – which you can be constantly testing and changing, as often as you wish!
Other ideas I have for limited time deals:
- Free amazon book
- 1 x cake pack posted to door for 1 lucky winner
- Unlimited email support
- Other apps
- Cake Business Bible (operations manual) – big ass document of what I franchised
- Free attendance to live event
- Win a logo design
Should you have a membership site?
The best advice I heard and I will give to you is – to sell a membership site you are selling a continuous solution to a continuous problem. What is the problem you are solving and if it is a continuous or eternal problem then a membership site can be the solution.
Evergreen versus open/close.
I don’t ‘launch’. That makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. My membership site is always for sale and an evergreen. All of my main opt-ins lead to the sale of this membership and they are all automated.
Every month I aim to create a limited time deal or bonus thing that gives a sense of urgency.
How much time does it take?
I schedule aside 1 day per month or about 6 hours. That is for creating a new training module, which can be a combination of multi-purpose content I have already created and added bonuses. Or creating brand new video + PDF content. I then create a couple of blog posts surrounding that training that leads to the sale of the membership site. I also create a limited time deal or bonus for the month and promote this for about period of time.
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