Read previous articles in this series:
Preeminence is the key ingredient necessary for success with a membership site (or any business), but without means to communicate your message you will find it impossible to create an awareness of your expertise and convince people of the benefits of purchasing what you offer.
I introduced the concept of communication channels in the Blog Profits Blueprint as it pertained to building a successful blog. Communication channels are as important when it comes to launching a successful membership site, because you need a means to attract attention and funnel people into the process you set-up to demonstrate what your membership site is all about.
The Email List
In the online world the typical communication channel used is an email list. While you may use other mechanisms to get people on to an email list – for example a blog, or pay per click advertising or offline advertising – the end goal is always the email subscription, so you can feed more content and convince people that your membership site is worth joining.
A comment you often hear Internet marketers make is that if they could only keep one aspect of their business, it would be their email list. The email list is the primary communication tool for internet marketing, and the same is true for launching a membership site.
I began building my email list a full year and a half before launching my membership site. When I first started my email newsletter I had no idea it would eventually become a key tool for the success of Blog Mastermind, my membership site.
As you can imagine, if you spend a full 18 months delivering great content to people through your email list, when you send an email telling them about your membership site, a good chunk of those people will be interested, because they already trust and value your work.
If you have no email list and you intend to build a serious Internet business, even if you don’t know what type of business it will become, it pays to begin building your list early.
Forming relationships with your prospects is crucial and it’s a slow process (relationship building by nature is not something that happens quickly). The sooner you start a list and establish a preeminent relationship with your subscribers, the better your chances of enjoying a successful membership site launch.
Occasionally you can enter a market with no list, and provided you have preeminence, still enjoy a successful launch. This only occurs when you have relationships with preeminent experts, who can promote and endorse you through their email lists or other existing communications channels.
Rich Schefren comes to mind as a good example of launching a membership site with no established list. He was able to create a list of more than 30,000 subscribers and launch a membership site that generated more than 3.5 million dollars in a matter of months, using a powerful series of free reports, which his existing clients promoted using their email lists. In this case, Rich’s “behind the scenes” preeminence, led to massive mainstream public exposure though hundreds of large communication channels.
I’ve been using the AWeber email autoresponder service now for many years. If you are serious about building an email list you really need to sign up for a professional email autoresponder service that has high delivery rates and extensive features. GetResponse is another good option.
You can read my full review of AWeber and how I have used it here.
Can You Communicate with Your Audience?
If your intentions are to launch a membership site you need a means to communicate to your potential members. If you have no relationships, no email list and no money to invest in advertising, then my advice is to start a blog and email list as your first communication channels. Over time just these two tools can be enough to successfully launch a membership site.
If urgency is important and you have funds to invest, pay per click advertising combined with an email list (and a landing page/namesqueeze page to sign people up) is a much quicker path to build a list, provided there is traffic online searching for what you offer.
The quickest and perhaps most powerful way to access large communications and build a list, is via joint ventures or host beneficiary relationships. If you can find and convince the right strategic partners, you can very quickly enter a market and launch a successful membership site. However, as I mentioned in part one of this series, without some form of preeminence, most people will not be willing to work with you if you have no prior relationship, unless you can convince of them of the benefits they will enjoy.
I’ve written an entire series of articles on the sales funnel, and I suggest you go read through the series if you have not heard of the “funnel” concept before. You can start with part one here – The Sales Funnel Explained.
One of the core reasons for establishing a sales funnel is to filter prospects, discarding the poorly matched and enhancing your relationships with those who have an inclination for what you offer. Your membership site, like anything you sell online, will be more successful if you can zero in on the ideal prospects and pre-sell what you offer.
Using an email list allows you to funnel and pre-qualify people who are ideally suited to your membership site offer, which in turn leads to greater satisfaction for your customers and fewer refunds. This is the perfect situation to aim for to create a stable business.
Selecting the Right Tools
The internet is a communication medium filled with hundreds of ways to connect with people. What communications tools you choose to use is up to you and will depend heavily on your target market and resources. Experience dictates that generally, relationship building and prospect filtering through email marketing will work in most markets, and are the only tools you need to begin the process of filling your membership site with happy members.
The success of your membership site rests on your ability to communicate your message to the type of person who is interested in what you offer. The email list may be the main communication device, however it could be through a range of front-end channels that you initially build your lists.
In my case I used my blog to build preeminence, form relationships with the right strategic partners and build my email list, all at the same time over a period of many months. You may attempt to replicate my process and look to other resources such as forums, social marketing, offline advertising, sponsorship, pay per click advertising, conferences, seminars or any other communication mediums you can come up with.
The Key Is Marketing
Reading back over this article I realize that I pretty much offer one simple piece of advice – You must have a means to market your membership site or you won’t have members.
That may be a simple statement, but it’s worth hammering home the point. It’s often said that all businesses, despite operating in different markets with different customers, are all in the same business – the business of marketing.
If you are planning on launching a membership site and you haven’t considered exactly how to market your offer, it’s time to start thinking about where your potential members hang out, how you will reach them, how you will convince them of your value and how you will craft an offer that uniquely matches their desires.
Remember too that what you assume as true isn’t necessarily reality. All assumptions about what your prospects want are exactly that – assumptions – and until you either seek feedback or test the market, you are dealing with pure hypotheticals. You don’t want the success of your membership site to rest on hypotheticals.
That’s it for part two of this series. In the next installment I’ll cover the technologies available to deliver your membership site and list every piece of software I used to launch and deliver my membership site, Blog Mastermind.