Successful Membership Site Owners Usually Stay Undaunted In The Early Stages Of Business. They Grow The Mindset, Traits, And Trajectory For Growth.
Running a successful membership site is no easy matter. It takes an entrepreneur of extraordinary caliber and stamina. If you feel like it’s all too overwhelming, you’re probably missing the right mindset for the business.
Apart from the skills and creativity you need to create content – lots of it in diverse formats – you have to enjoy leading a community of people eager for success. People join membership sites because they are inspired by the success of the site owners. They feel that if they are in the right company, learning the right things, they too can hit the heady heights of success.
That’s why a membership site owner needs to have customer-centeredness as his personal mandate. If his members succeed, he succeeds.
At Solohacks Academy, we’ve also noticed that thriving membership site owners have a certain philosophy and traits that make them candidates for big success. These can be innate, or you can learn to cultivate these qualities. It may all feel hard at first, but success is sweet.
1. Develop your membership site around your unique knowledge, talents, or skills
No matter how alike two niche experts are, there is always – but, always – a difference in their individual strengths. In life as an entrepreneur online, we are used to seeing others as our “competitors” if they cater to the same target audiences as we do. But just for a moment, stop to think about this. Are you really seeing anyone around with your exact strengths, talents, skills, or knowledge nuances?
Most often, we see others as fearsome competitors around us, and it’s we who project them to our audiences as our competitors. By doing this, we ourselves force customers to see us in the context of these competitors, making our unique strengths invisible. Instead, why not project out the natural difference that we, as individuals, have? Why not let customers – or members of our membership sites – notice what our big differential is from the rest of the entrepreneurs online?
You can do all this self-projection successfully only if you take time to identify and isolate your difference, your individuality, your maverickness, or your innovative ability. You need to do your homework and position yourself by “soaring on your strengths”. You have to view all the distinguishing qualities you have as strengths. No quality in you is a weakness unless you see it as such.
Finally, when entrepreneurs discover their uniqueness, they tend to build their niche businesses around it, and then forget to give that uniqueness some fresh airing every day, in everything they do and say. There has to be constant promotion and projection of your exceptional and unusual traits and talents, in all your activities big and small, every day of your life – or with time, your specialness will get taken for granted and will no longer stand out amidst the crowds.
Be proud of how different you are and give that thought some prominence in all your activities. Also, don’t let the world ever get jaded with who you are. It’s up to you to show different facets of your distinctiveness all the time.
2. Create a vision, a mission, a focus, and a brand that you do not meander away from
There is a wrong impression that prevails among membership site owners that there are just three things you need to do:
- One, you have to build lots of content in your niche and put it all out like a buffet spread n various formats such as ebooks, courses, tutorials, webinars, or consulting services.
- Two, you have to promote your site heavily and attract new members all the time, as many old members leave – a phenomenon called churn that affects all membership and subscription-based sites.
- Three, you can try to reduce churn if you want your membership site to make a profit, since it is six times more expensive for you find new members that it is to keep existing ones.
All these points are true, but before you get to such minutiae, you need to strategize on your larger picture about the business you run. Your business is the entity, and the membership site is your vehicle for making money for the business. Have you thought about what you need to do to set a direction for your business? Only if you have done your homework on this, can you know if your vehicle of money-making – your membership site – is delivering on the goals of your overall business?
There are four things critical to define for yourself with clarity:
- Do you have a vision for your business? A vision is a picture of how your business will be in five or ten years’ time. Which way will it grow, given the niche you have selected? Do you want more members who pay small subscriptions or fewer members who pay larger subscriptions? What will your membership site offer in 5 or 10 years’ time? Can you visualize this? If yes, that is your “vision”.
- Do you have a mission for your business? A mission is your “why”. Why did you want to start this business? For money? For the joy of having and owning your own business? For the exalted leadership status you can earn for your personal brand? To genuinely help other people because you have the experience and expertise they would like to have? Your “why” is critical to both you and the members you get. Your “why” is your “motivating energy” and it is what gives your membership site its attraction power.
- Do you have focus? Are you steady on your goals while being flexible with the means? Membership owners who keep shifting their goal posts reach nowhere special even after a few years in the business. They find they are on a treadmill where they keep running in the same place but make no progress. You have to take time to decide on your focus – your predominant goal – and make every step count towards reaching there.
- What is your brand all about? What are its values? And can you keep the promises your brand makes? Can you ensure that every piece of content or communication is always “on brand” and coherence and consistency of brand messaging permeates your every activity? Brands don’t simply grow from fame and fortune blessing you. You have to grow your brand with care, and without wavering behavior, till it becomes ingrained in public consciousness with the values, ethics, standards, and magnetic personality it stands for.
3. Cultivate in yourself innovativeness, creativity, versatility, and multitasking ability
If you are a solopreneur – and always want to be one – while you run your membership site, you can cut costs drastically by not outsourcing part of your workload. But that does mean that you save money, but your time becomes your most expensive expenditure. There are, therefore, four qualities you must cultivate if you want to be able to do all the work yourself (and you can):
- Learn the art of innovation. Although it sounds like a huge ask, and a talent that only a few have, it’s easy to learn to be innovative. What is innovative ability? It is the way you look at things differently. In this world, there are no new things. Everyone works with the same few things. But some people view what they have differently, and see a value in it that others don’t. The simplest way to get innovative is to always seek to find something new in everything you handle. Look for refreshing new angles.
- Learn the art of creativity. What is creativity? It is the visualizing of things and then putting together all the pieces you need to make that vision a reality. It’s imagination – of an ebook, a course, a webinar, a Q & A session – and then asking yourself: “What elements must I assemble to “create” this item or event?” Although creativity sounds like another rare talent, every child that plays with Lego bricks and makes something new with the bricks every day is being creative.
- Learn the art of versatility. A versatile genius is usually disparaged as “Jack Of All Trades And Master Of None”. But who says that is a bad thing? Why should everyone be a specialist in only a few areas? Maybe you’ve written an ebook … what’s to stop you from the simple versatility that allows you to repurpose that ebook into an infographic, a course, a tutorial, a bunch of templates, or a consulting topic? What’s to stop you from wanting to deliver the content of the ebook as blog posts that can work on all devices? The simple translation of “versatility” is “diversification”. Anyone in the online business can get plenty of tools that help do all this with ease.
- Learn the art of multitasking. Now, this is where I have to risk being a bit gender-biased. I have this personal belief that women are a tad better at it than men, but I could be wrong. Maybe men are getting good at it too. Multitasking is “attending to and progressing many things at the same time”. It’s like putting four different dishes on a four-burner stove and seeing that they all get enough attention to become the tastiest dishes you ever made so perfectly. In the circus business, it would be called “juggling”. Can you do many things at once, keeping an eye on everything? The secret is that it has to do more with the mind. And multitasking comes with practice. It is a learnable skill.
4. Make the customer the center of your existence and your every day’s activity
No membership site can survive for long, if it leaves its customers to their own devices. People need nurturing to use your site often and make it a habit and a haunt. They need handholding so that they get to the content that can help them achieve their goals. They need some alone time for digesting various types of content and learning – but they also need events where they can interact with other members, like webinars or group mentoring sessions. They need to feel a sense of bonding with you, your site, and the other members through a community forum.
The moral of the story is that you cannot be an absentee landlord. You need to be hands-on, accessible, and ready to help members. You have to make it your duty and obligation to help your members in any way they need help – sometimes, it isn’t even specific help because people may need emotional TLC through encouragement, support, or motivation.
Many entrepreneurs of membership sites have also to learn one very important rule of customer-centricity. Most often we tend to think of linear equations between us and our customers. We think we help them, and in exchange, they pay us money for that help. That is a “transactional” nature of a customer relationship. But “transactionalism” isn’t how any success works, in any business, let alone membership sites. Life is never transactional if true customer-centricity is there.
Why do I say this? Because you can see the evidence all around you. All success in life is a circle of “paying forward”. You help someone without expecting the same person to pay you back. They are grateful, they do the same for someone else. That person then helps another and the circle continues. Then how do you get paid? The Universe of “humanity” helps you by paying you back from someone, even if it is not always a direct payment from the person you helped.
Especially in the online world, “by giving you get”. But maybe not from the same person you gave to. Word-of-mouth travels at lightning speed, and soon someone tells someone else about your site and you land business from out of the blue. Sometimes you are able to trace the luck back to the person you helped. Most often, though, money comes from people you didn’t guess knew about your business.
Yes, there is a transaction but not between you and your customers directly. It’s a transaction between you and the Universe of people where you are generous to people with your time, effort, money, and sincerity – and the Universe contrives to pay you back (usually many times over).
5. Learn to enjoy creating content because you have to be creating truckloads of it
This is the part where most membership owners get severely tested. It’s not easy producing lots of varied fare on your site – and let’s face it, quantity and quality of variegated content is the main attraction of any membership site. If you are a solopreneur, you’d better love creating content by the truckloads in different formats – text, audio, video, imagery – because that is your core product and what members come for.
Your options are clear. If you can learn to enjoy content creation and are able to do it every day, you’ll save enormous amounts of money and become profitable very fast. On the flip side, if you plan on outsourcing content creation, be ready to spend money like water, because content creating freelancers charge a bomb for the kind of quantity and quality you need to be able to charge high prices.
There are two problems most solopreneur membership site owners face in content creation. One, is about where to get ideas for so much content to be created in your niche. Two, is about how to create content fast. I have solutions for you on both these issues.
Where can you get so many topic ideas from for your membership library content? I love this trick and I’m sure when you’ve heard about this method, you’ll love it too. It’s simple. Just take a paragraph connected to your niche – written by you or any other expert in your field. Here’s an example:
“Content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis. Eventually, when customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you. They will purchase your product and prefer it over competitors’ options. In contrast to one-off advertising, content marketing shows that you actually care about your customers.”
Notice all the underlined parts. Each one of them can become an ebook topic, or a course, or a group mentoring theme, as follows:
- 12 Ways To Make Content Marketing a Long-Term Strategy
- Secrets To Building Strong Relationships With Your Target Audiences
- How To Write High-Quality Content That’s Relevant
- 12 Ways To Change The Way Customers Make Purchase Decisions
- One-Off Advertising vs. Content Marketing: What Works And When
Who says we are ever short of content topic ideas?
Now let’s talk about producing lots of content fast. I have an amazing story to tell you.
I had one such entrepreneur as a client who somehow never seemed fazed at the idea. So I asked him how he was so confident that he would have at least fifty meaty pieces of valuable content on his chosen topic for his members’ library in under three weeks. You’d be surprised at his answer to me. He said he would just pick up about eight to ten Amazon Kindle books on his chosen topic, sign up for some two or three Udemy courses, and collect a lot of blog posts around his topic that he thought would fit his members’ library.
He would then convert every chapter of every Amazon book into his own knowledge product, by rewriting it all in his own style and language, without wasting time on his own topic research. Then he would similarly convert his Udemy courses’ modules into his own knowledge products. And, finally, he would rewrite all the blog posts he saw as suitable fodder for his library.
When he had these fifty pieces of content in place in under three weeks, he’d decide to then pad up his library by creating his own original knowledge products in slightly diverse formats with a few videos and a few podcasts and other derivatives such as worksheets, templates, PDF docs, and so on. He’d aim to keep on producing at the rate of one per day at a steady pace. By the end of his first year, he expected he would have close to 400 really good knowledge products.
So how did this story end? Did he do it? You bet he did.
6. Enjoy the experience of being part of your online community and giving it leadership
People like the feel of interactivity and bonding, alongside learning online alone. So, most membership sites create forums. They place these within their sites. Or often, they ask members to join “exclusive” closed Facebook Groups. Most important of all, you have to enjoy being part of your online community – and giving it leadership.
There are two issues about creating community forums that marketers need to beware of:
- One: If you have too few students (as most people have when beginning their membership sites) you will feel defensive about this. I know of marketers who have to keep pretending to be various students. They do this to keep forum conversations going.
- Two: Once you create a forum, you think members will intermingle. You think you can be relatively free of having to support the forum. But in truth, you still have to moderate the forum, answer queries every day, and keep the bustle going. If you have a forum, be ready to be its daily energy-agent. Or if you have some members more pro-active than others, see if they will agree to take turns to be the forum moderators. Many members like to be given such responsibility.
It goes without saying that every forum must have strict rules. Make members understand the etiquette and decency you expect on your forum.
A “daily drop of a brainstorming question” is a brilliant forum-enlivening idea for marketers. Make sure you pop into the forum each day, for a couple of minutes, and leave one new question on your niche topic that you’d like your members to wrack their brains on. It will make you look like a leader whose mission is to awaken others to think about the many topic-related issues. Tell your members that there are no right and wrong answers, as these questions from you are for encouraging brainstorming. When you pop by the next day to leave a new question, you can comment on a few of the answers members have left to your previous question.
This idea of “dropping a brainstorming question” every day is great both for you and for members. You’ll learn more about your members and their problems and delights, and improve your understanding of their psychology. Members will look forward to your new questions to answer, and feel attracted to visit the forum often. They will also feel your subtle presence in the background of the membership site, without your having to devote all your time to customer-nurturing.
When you add your questions to the forum, make sure you stay with your niche topic in general. Don’t get too specific to one part of your niche topic alone. You want everybody to be participative in answering these questions, including both newbies and old members, who may all be working with different parts of your membership library.
7. Build the timeless values of persistence, resilience, stamina – and never ever give up
The minute we talk of having qualities like persistence, resilience, and stamina in running your membership site, I can almost hear a groan from my readers … you may be thinking “Oh, God, that means success is going to take a very long time!”. Why is it that people think of persistence, resilience, and stamina as only for the trek to the first signs of success, and not beyond that? In truth, persistence, resilience, and stamina will be needed lifelong – for as long as you want to continue your business.
These qualities in entrepreneurship are not about reaching that first big six-figure milestone – they are long-term ideas to take you into seven, eight, or nine-figure incomes. In short, you can never keep growing if you are low on these three qualities. And they are all different from each other even if they are similar sounding ideas.
- Persistence is the art of setting a goal and working at it every day, without expecting results. How it works is like a bamboo plant. It’s well known to gardeners that the bamboo plant spends close to four or five years, building its root structure and showing no signs of growth above the ground. Then suddenly one day a shoot appears and in the next four months, it can grow as tall as ten or fifteen meters high. Why does this happen? Because, unless the plant ensured its roots were strong enough to hold its eventual height, it does not show activity above ground. This is what persistence looks like. On the other hand, people without persistence are like gardeners who sow seeds, and then keep digging up the seeds to see if there is some sign of germination. Needless to say, their lack of persistence is making them pull out the seeds every day, resulting in greater delay than the plant’s growth warrants.
- Resilience is the ability to spring back from setbacks. It is about your elasticity – like a rubber band. The harder you are pulled back, the more ferocious your recoil becomes to get back to the original shape. This is an admirable quality to have as a membership site owner. In many situations, your resilience will get tested and you’ll have to make a “comeback” at a speed that’s greater than ever before. Members will leave, but you have to get more members than the numbers that leave you – month after month. Technology glitches may happen, but you have to rectify them with insurance they’ll never happen again. Some people (maybe your competitors) will cheat you by enrolling and then canceling out after pinching loads of your precious content. You have to double up and make your content pinch-proof and use all legal remedies available. Remember, you can do your best to avoid setbacks, but the important thing is if they do happen how fast and fiery will your resurgence be? That is your resilience.
- Stamina is best described as the strength and energy that allow you to sustain physical or mental effort for long periods of time. Experts say increasing your stamina helps you endure discomfort or stress when you’re doing an activity. It also reduces fatigue and exhaustion. Having high stamina allows you to perform your daily activities at a higher level while using less energy. Notice that it isn’t about having more energy and vitality, as most people think. It’s more about using what energy you have in an optimum way without waste of energy due to stress-reactions and without underuse of energy due to emotional lethargy. The question to ask yourself is: “How long are you able to keep your focus and attention-span and be in the “productive zone” – and how can you give yourself the right breaks to refill your energy reserves for another bout of action?” People who show stamina seem as if they have an invisible energy-gauge that tells when to step on the gas and when to stop for a breather. This ability to keep the balance between work and relaxation makes it possible to have endurance for the long haul. It’s an art of personal energy management.
8. Learn to be always budget-conscious – and, more importantly, stay ROI-conscious
I have written in another post about the habit of “frustration spending” that many solopreneur membership site owners get into. What is this all about? Here’s a piece from what I had written:
One other very important thing … when you are not making money as fast as you wish, you can at least not spend money faster. You’ll find a lot of knowledge marketers who can’t sit tight with patience while their site marketing waits to blossom. They let loose their frustrations by becoming “tool buying junkies”.
On the other hand, financially-focused marketers usually decide upfront on how far they will go on spending as they wait for results – and they revise plans maybe once a quarter. Then, come what may, they stick with the financial plans without using “frustration-spending” as a way to let out steam.
Very often “frustration-spending” is cleverly couched as “experimenting with new technologies”. The itch to get something moving in the business is camouflaged as “making room for new ideas”. If you find yourself wanting to spend on new technology, first ask yourself bluntly, “Why have I got this itch? What’s behind it? Am I really exploring technology or am I just driven to change something because the needle is not moving in my business?”
If your truthful answer is that you are really checking out the new technology, then set yourself a small but reasonable budget, and stay within it, no matter what. Don’t get carried away. Every vendor of new technologies always offers a free trial. So use those opportunities to reduce costs of trial. Also don’t spend too much time on the new technology, because it’s not a plaything that should distract you from the main tasks of your business. Time spent is also money.
Also, don’t go to the other extreme and cut all expenses to bare bones. You do have to spend on promotion and advertising if you want to get more members and give your growth spiral a boost. So do spend – but every time you spend, you have to see if that spending will beget more gain in earnings. Spending is OK on things that raise earnings many times over. Spending is not OK when the spending results in no earnings – or worse, wipes out previous earnings of profit. This is Return On Investment (ROI)-based thinking.
9. Leverage your time and productivity smartly to achieve clear and unwavering goals
Please don’t ever be proud of your overlong to-do list. Many of us are list addicts, who easily become “listless” if we don’t seem to have long lists of tasks to tick off. We see our lists as our worthiness. That’s not what work is about.
Pick the top six tasks that contribute directly to earning money in your membership business (like content creation, doing marketing activities, managing customer-care, or tracking your money) and convert them into habits. The difference between tasks and habits is this. You have to think about the process when you do a task. With habits, they become tasks done without having to watch your every step with caution. They become semi-automatic. You still need to do them mindfully, but they don’t seem to need so much summoning of mental energy.
What’s the advantage of turning important tasks into habits? On those dreary, fatiguing days, it’s easier to do a thing because it has become a habit – where, otherwise, you’d tend to put off tasks that need harder mental application. Your persistence quotient gets higher if you have converted the tasks that really matter to your business into habits. How do you create habits out of tasks? By repetition. By following the same sequence of doing, over and over again, till you can do it without needing to rev up any special extra energy to begin.
Okay, so when you have a bunch of good habits, is that it? No way. There’s one more step to wise time management. It is to sequence all your good habits into a system. So what is a system? The dictionary explains that ” a system is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.”
This brings us to the idea of scheduling. Take a calendar for the number of working days you have, and for each day have a set of fixed working hours. Now decide what your work sequences for the time slots in your working hours and working days should be. Make it all a rolling and repetitive system. You can’t count on the world around you being systematic, but you can at least count on yourself to work a few hours every day with some commitment to maintaining your system.
See, in your own solo business, no boss is watching to see if you are staying true to your word, and doing the few things that need doing every day, without let up. You need to build up your self-discipline – so that you don’t feel guilty for “dodging the boss” (i.e. yourself!) Success is not the stray lucky things you do. Success is hidden in the habits and systems you persist with day after day, even when it doesn’t look like they’re working. One day suddenly, the heavens will open up and it will pour.
10. Commit to the long-term and always hold the macro picture of your business in mind
Membership sites are so full of small tasks to be done – the minutiae – that site owners often lose the bigger picture. Life becomes about short-term tactics and not long-term planning. This dilemma, especially with solopreneurs if often called “being both the CEO and the Chief Bottle Washer” of your business.
Things like creating content, managing customer care, and marketing your site are activities to be done to achieve bigger goals. But if activities are done without strategic planning, with the macro business picture in mind, the activities will become purposeless tasks done by rote.
In an article by Villanova University, they have explained the importance of the macro picture in an interesting way:
By considering the long-term rewards and consequences of your decisions, you’ll develop smarter, more agile strategies and optimize along the way. Keeping the big picture in mind at all times is the key to engaging current challenges, planning for emerging needs in the marketplace, and advancing toward your goals.
Looking beyond immediate problems and setting the conditions for greater achievement starts with maintaining a constant awareness of your chances to make a difference. As a leader, you must align your efforts with the goals of the business, and aim to spot opportunities. You need to view the bigger perspective in business to face problems proactively, working toward innovative and transformative solutions.”
It’s a bit like driving a car. You have to be aware of the other vehicles around you, the speed bumps on the road you are on and the traffic lights at the next corner. But if your entire journey is not planned on reaching a particular destination, how will you know if the road you are negotiating is the right one that leads to the destination? Now and again you have to look farther than where you are to see the destination that lies ahead, so you can plot the next major turns or change in route or speed.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
This post is part of a series that elaborates on “How To Create A Membership Site Online For Knowledge Commerce“.
Other related posts you may like to read are these:
- How To Create A Membership Site … 10 Quality Ideas
- How To Choose A Membership Model … 10 Smart Options
- How To Launch Your Membership Site … 10 No-Fail Tips
- How To Mix Your Membership Site Content … 10 Must Haves
- How To Improve Your Membership Retention … 10 Easy Ways
- How To Price Your Membership Profitably … 10 Sound Methods
- How To Handle Customer Service In Memberships … 10 Savers
- How To Measure Membership Metrics … 10 Ideal Indicators