This is the first part of a series of articles reviewing the steps to launch your own membership site online. The inspiration for this series comes from my recent experience launching Blog Mastermind. I will recount my journey leading up to the present, approximately one month after the successful release of my blog mentoring program, which uses a membership model.
I’ve been a huge fan of the membership business model because it creates a dependable income stream. I like this for the obvious reason – your cash flow is more consistent – but also because the reliable income lets you invest serious time and energy in your customers, because you are well rewarded on an ongoing basis for doing so.
Compare this to a one time product sale, where your inclination might be to make a big bang, generate the majority of your sales during the first few days – weeks at best – and then watch your income drop to a trickle. Once the income drys up you have little interest in improving your product and most marketers move on to their next product rather than nurture their current customers.
While some commodity or essential products always have demand, when you enter these markets you face intense competition, often based on price, and you don’t want to compete in a market where the lowest price wins, because unless you have the systems of Wal Mart, you don’t make money.
I like the stability, the sense of running a real business and the pleasure of constant interaction with your clients, that comes from managing a membership site. It’s certainly not easy work – I’m definitely working a lot harder now than I was before – but the role is very enjoyable and the intrinsic rewards – the positive feedback and the ongoing relationships – make it a fantastic business to be in.
It’s taken a long time for me to get to this point, with several stalled starts along the way and much learning too, but I’m pleased to say that I feel a great sense of comfort with my current position. Now let me pass on to you what I have learned in the grand tradition of the Entrepreneur’s Journey….
I’ve written several times on the topic of preeminence. If this is the first time you have heard this term you may want to look up the teachings of Jay Abraham, since his name is often be credited as the best source of information on the topic of business preeminence. You can also read through my previous article that reviewed how Richard Schefren established preeminence in the Internet marketing industry very quickly by aligning himself with some of the most high profiled Internet marketers.
Preeminence is essentially a perception. It simply means that people believe you are the best or one of the best or at least better than most others, at what you do. It’s because of preeminence that people choose your business over the competition, that you can charge higher prices and why people seek you out instead of you needing to solicit clients.
Preeminence is established by association with other people who have preeminence, by placing yourself in a position to create the perception of preeminence (for example coverage in the media, presenting at an event) or by delivering so much value that people refer to your materials as definitive.
In my case I started building preeminence to help with the launch of Blog Mastermind long before I even had the idea of creating a mentoring program for professional bloggers. It really began the first day I started learning about business, but perhaps it’s more tangible to say that the day I started a blog was the first day I began establishing preeminence in the industry I now work in.
Social proof is a key principle for a successful membership launch and the root cause why social proof works in a business context, is because it contributes to your preeminence. In my case I used many proof elements when releasing my membership site, some of which were planned and some were developed over time without realizing they would eventually contribute to the success of a new business.
In hindsight it makes complete sense that by giving away lots of great information on a blog, leading to building a large readership and thus making good money as a professional blogger, is the best demonstration of proof I could make to convince people that I would make a good mentor, but I was certainly not thinking this two and a half years ago when I started my blog.
The important point here is that right now you are learning and if you can take what you learn and translate that knowledge into value for other people, you then have the key ingredients for preeminence. It’s by helping others and constantly being proof of your own hype, that you build your credibility and become an expert in your field.
Preeminence Is A Deal Breaker
There are thousands of people who will read this article, many of who have the skills, the resources and the knowledge to fill a membership site with great content and to genuinely help people with what they can teach. Unfortunately for most of these people they lack preeminence in their industry, meaning that it will be difficult to successfully launch a membership site.
Preeminence is what helps you form relationships with other preeminent experts, and it’s through relationships with other experts – many of whom have access to thousands of people – that you gain the advantage of leverage and credibility transference.
When an expert recommends you as an expert you enjoy a credibility transference and access to the influence they have over their constituents. If you can’t currently call on colleagues who have real sway in their industry, then you lack the necessary resources to spread your message and build your preeminence.
Right now if you start with absolutely nothing available to the public, no relationships with preeminent experts and all you know is buried within your own experience and knowledge, then your next step to start establishing preeminence, is to offer value for free. In the information marketing world that means you need to start publishing your best work and wowing people with what you know, giving real resources people can use to enhance what they do.
Tim Kerber and his team recently release a membership site training package that teaches people how to launch a successful subscription based business online. It’s a huge training program and probably a bit too expensive for most people reading this, but if you are serious about setting up your own membership site, it might be worth checking out.
In my case, the Blog Profits Blueprint is a key tool for building preeminence. It offers a concise and powerful review of the knowledge I gained through two and a half years of successful blogging. While it was my years of experience that brought me to the point where I could write a document like the Blueprint, the end product – the value I offered people through the Blueprint itself – that really created my preeminence.
The Blueprint, combined with the success of my blog and a recommendation from many other preeminent bloggers, positioned me as an expert in my field and gave me enough preeminence to go to market with a membership site and enjoy tremendous success.
If you plan to go to market with a membership site you better have established preeminence and a means to spread your message far through the communication channels of your preeminent partners, or you may face a situation where despite the quality of your information, you lack any means to convince people to work with you or even attract attention in the first place.
Blogging as a Path to Preeminence
One of the best ways you can begin to build your preeminence is through blogging. My blog is the communication tool I used to build my preeminence. A blog full of case studies and how-to articles is THE perfect tool in today’s online business world to facilitate the foundation of your expertise, spread your message far and link you with the right people.
In the future if you would like to release a membership site based on information from a credible expert source, that expertise must be established prior to launch, or at the very least you better have some previous success stories ready to be told to convince people of your preeminence.
Remember that right now you may be on a path to becoming an expert at something, you may not know exactly what yet, but it definitely pays to always produce content and offer value to people, form relationships and learn, as one day you make just wake up as the preeminent expert in your field. At that point the rest of the process of launching a membership site is simply a matter of going through the motions and calling on your established resources and connections.