AMY PORTERFIELD: Well, hey, there. Amy Porterfield here. Welcome back to another episode of the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast. I am thrilled that you’re tuning in today because this is one of the best episodes I've ever created. Now, you might be saying, “Uh, yeah. You say that all the time.” But I don't. I mean, I genuinely feel that you are going to get immense value out of this episode. And here's why. We are talking about membership sites, but not just about membership sites; more specifically, how membership sites and digital courses coexist inside of your business. And I think all the questions you've had over the years about membership sites and when to create one and how to promote them and how they work with digital courses, all your questions will be answered in today's episode.
Now, I'm not doing this episode alone. I have a special guest. His name is Stu McLaren, and Stu and I have been friends for over seven years now. We used to be in a mastermind together. We've had so many fun times together. But here's the thing. This guy has literally given me advice over the years that has resulted in over a million dollars in revenue. No, joke. I'm not even exaggerating. And so every time he gives me advice, I listen, I take notes, and I take action.
And let me tell you, I've already done the interview with Stu, so I'm recording the intro afterwards. I am sold on the idea of adding a membership site to my business model, and I know exactly how it's going to coexist with my current courses. I got so much clarity from this episode. I think you're going to feel the exact same way. So, I can’t wait to get into all the details.
Now, one thing that’s really fun is Stu was travelling when we recorded this episode, so he actually came to my house. So if you listen to my episode I did with Rachel Hollis a few episodes back, she was at my house, in my home studio, and we did the same thing with Stu. And I thought it would be fun to actually put the video on Facebook so you can see behind the scenes of us recording this episode. Now, the camera angle is totally off. I'm pretty sure Stu’s head is cut off just a bit, and I'm way on the outside of the frame. I don't know why. But we really didn't film it professionally so it would look good. We just thought it might be fun to take you behind the scenes, and you can watch us as we're actually doing the podcast interview. So, you do have a video—the link is in the show notes: amyporterfield.com/260—if you want to watch us as we actually do the interview. It was a lot of fun.
Now, one more thing. Stu's free workshop all about membership sites and helping you figure out if a membership site is a good decision for your business, his free workshop is out today, the day this episode goes live. And it is going away quickly, so you do not want to miss it. So if you go to amyporterfield.com/stu, you can get your hands on that free workshop. Sign up, watch it. I will be watching it with you. I have already seen it. It is excellent. You're going to love it. I really want you to consider adding a membership site to your business model this year. And the way you can do that is get clarity on figuring out how it will fit into your business. This episode is going to help you get that clarity. I won't make you wait any longer. Let’s jump to it.
Stu, thank you so much for being on the show. I’m so happy to have you here.
STU MCLAREN: Thank you for having me on the Marketing Made Easy podcast.
AMY: Well, you already got my title wrong. It’s Online Marketing Made Easy.
STU: Well, I got most of it.
AMY: We’ll just keep it rolling. So, just joking. So, here’s the deal. Before we dive into the top 10 burning questions all about membership sites, I thought we could start out with letting my audience know a little bit about you, in case they don’t know about the wonderful Stu just yet.
STU: Okay. So back in the day, starting 2005, I had a really good business, and we were doing great. Multiple six figures, everything was rockin’. But it was a business that was based on me helping clients. So the problem is that when my clients were busy and their schedules were full, that meant my schedules were full. And when you had multiple clients, who all had busy schedules at the same time, it meant that I was burning the candle at both ends, and that sucked because the writing was on the wall. I was newly married, and my wife and I, which is my Amy. This is Amy Number Two. I have Amy Number One. This has always been my Amy Number Two. But my Amy Number One, we were talking about having a family. And I was just, like, the writing's on the wall. I'm already burnt out without a family; I can't imagine what life would be like trying to do this while managing family. My marriage would just explode, and then, we'd have kids, and I'd be a father that wasn't around for the kids. I'm, like, something's got to change.
So, ultimately, I was looking for a new business model, to take what I was already doing and share it with more people in a more leveraged way. And so one of my friends, a mentor, suggested a membership site. So this was 2008. I didn't know a thing about membership sites. And so I'm looking into it, and I'm starting to try to create a membership site. And the technology back then was not what it is today. So I'm dealing with HD access files and server settings and, Amy—
AMY: No, you're making me get nervous already.
STU: —way over my pay grade. So, I’m talking to another friend of mine, Tracy, and I was complaining about this. I’m like, “Gosh, this is awful. All I want to do is I want a place where I can put the content and I can sell the content.” And he said, “Well, why don't you create your own solution?” And I looked at him. I’m like, “Dude, did you not just hear anything that I said? I am not technically capable of creating my own—. I can’t even set up a solution with other solutions.”
AMY: Now that sounds sophisticated.
STU: You can see where Simple Stu is at here, Amy. So, he’s like, “Well, look. I have a programmer that works with me. You're pretty clear on what you want. Why don't we just team up and we’ll create something together?” So I was like, “Okay.” So we did. And a month later, we had our beta version of what is now known as WishList Member, and a month after that, we started selling it to the general public. And it took off, Amy, like, it was amazeballs.
And what happened is that in a very short period of time, I realized this was the ticket. So I let go of all my clients, I doubled down all my attention on the software company, and in a six-year period, we grew that from zero to powering over 70,000 online communities and memberships.
AMY: Wow, I had no idea.
STU: So what happens is when you're behind the scenes, helping 70,000 online communities’ membership sites, you learn what works and you learn what doesn't. And so ultimately, that's kind of what brings us here today was through that experience, I started to see the few things that the sites that were growing year over year were doing that made them grow. And they were counterintuitive strategies. There were things that you wouldn't normally think would work, but they were working, because I saw it consistently.
And so what ended up happening was I wanted to try this myself, I partnered with our mutual good friend Mr. Michael Hyatt, and we created a membership site, and it took off. In the first week, we had 1,100 members. In the first year, it was 2,500. Year two was 4,500. Year three was 6,000. Just kept growing and growing. And so then people started saying, “How are you doing this?” And I was just like, “Well, it's just applying what I learned from all those sites.” And that brings us to today, where now I'm helping and supporting thousands and thousands of membership-site owners, and all kinds of different markets apply the membership strategies that work.
AMY: And your stories of what's worked is amazing, so I’m hoping you’re going to share some of those stories as we get going.
STU: We can get into some.
AMY: Okay, great.
I need to move closer to you, and you need to move a little that way. This way.
STU: This way, okay.
AMY: Okay, good. Okay, so, we’ll edit that out of the podcast.
STU: Kind of exclusive for you, my friends.
AMY: For you guys. Okay, here we go.
Okay, so if you’re cool with it, I’m ready to jump into the 10 burning questions all about membership sites.
STU: Let’s dive in.
AMY: Okay. Here we go. Question number one—was that your belly? Did your belly just make a crazy noise right now? I’m pretty sure it was a rumbling noise, and I literally just fed him lunch, just for the record. Okay, so here we go. What’s the difference between a course and a membership site?
STU: Okay, so, this is a common question, and I’m sure you get this with your audience all the time. I get it with my audience all the time, who are always wanting all of your course material. So the reality of a course is that a course goes deep in a short period of time. So normally a course is running six weeks, eight weeks, 10 weeks. I mean, what's the most common length do you see?
AMY: I see eight weeks, probably. Yeah.
STU: Eight weeks. And so it has a start and it has an end, but it goes deep. You're teaching a lot of material; people are learning a lot of material. But the reality of it is that during that course period, people are learning but they may not have the bandwidth to also be implementing during that time. So they’re just soaking it all up. After that course period, that's when a membership site kind of takes over because a membership site supports people in helping them implement what they've learned. So a course goes deep in teaching people everything they need to know; a membership site supports people in implementing what they have learned. Make sense?
AMY: I love that. Yes, makes perfect sense. To kind of piggyback on that—so this is not part of the 10 questions. This is 1.1.
STU: Bonus question.
AMY: Bonus question. Should I first decide on the transformation I want to create for my students and then let that dictate if I need a course or a membership site?
STU: Okay. So my belief is that the transformation’s actually the same. So a lot of people think that the course content has to be completely different from what I'm teaching inside a membership site. No. They're actually the same thing: you're helping people make progress towards some end result. The transformation, it’s the same thing. All you're doing, the experience is just different. In a course, you're teaching them what to do, and you're going deep on that. In a membership, you're helping them implement what they've already learned.
AMY: Okay. I love that. So, I'm pretty sure you've already answered question number two. Can a course and a membership site coexist in a business? And the answer’s yes.
STU: Buddy, they are like peanut butter and jelly.
AMY: And jelly! I knew he was going to say that. He tells me that all the time.
STU: They absolutely go together because of the nature of them. The course, as we stated, it goes deep. It teaches them what to do. But then at the end of it, people are like, “Well, wait a minute. I need help implementing this.” How many times have you come to the end of your course, and people are like, “Wait. What happens now?”
AMY: Where are you going? STU: Where are you going? Like, you’re still going to be here, right? People panic, and it’s because they’re like, now the rubber hits the road. Is that the saying? Rubber meets the road, or—
AMY: Yes. That’s a very manly statement, the rubber meets the road.
STU: Where the roses meet the petals?
AMY: What are you talking about?
STU: I don’t know.
AMY: But it is true, what you're saying there. And here's the deal. I have just experienced this—shout out to my Digital Course Academy™️ students.
AMY: Hello, there, love you all. And you all want more, and I hear it. They're saying, we're done with the 10 weeks, but we're still fully implementing. So it does make sense that if I had a membership site to offer now, we could then celebrate where they're at and move into something else. So you can bet that is something we're working on.
STU: So, can we just pause there for a moment?
STU: So you’re moving forward on this, right?
AMY: We are moving forward on it. So here's the deal. I told all my students I was doing it, and then I pulled back a little and said, “I need to rework that,” which I'm so glad you're at my house. We’re going to talk about it all night.
STU: And now that you're coming to the end, you see that your students are asking for it.
STU: Interesting, ladies and gentlemen. Interesting.
AMY: So what Stu is saying about this idea of you’ve got this course, it is a natural progression, and now I personally see it where my students are saying, “Amy, we want to continue with you. Please don’t go away. What’s next?” And I think they would gladly pay for what’s next.
STU: So here’s what we need to do, my friends—listeners and viewers alike. We need to hold Ms. Amy Porterfield’s feet to the fire, and we need to say—send in comments, send in texts, Instagram, DM her—say, “Where is the membership site?” Give the people what they want, Amy.
AMY: You’re going to create chaos. You want to give them my phone number now?
STU: Sure. Here’s here address. If you want to—
AMY: Stop! But it does need to happen. I finally see the power of it. And you've been talking about this forever with me, and now I get it.
STU: But I’m dead serious in it, though. In the sense that as a course creator, as a membership-site owner, what we are trying to do is help people accomplish a transformation. We’re trying to help them make progress in some area of their life. And that’s why these two go hand in hand. A membership site, if it was just a standalone membership site, it's just a lot longer of a journey to get somebody to that transformation because you can't teach as much and as quickly as you could in a course. So it takes a longer period to get to that transformation. That's why a course is amazing. You go deep really quickly. But in a course, it's an incomplete story because you've taught them everything, but when people need the most help is when they're actually implementing it. And that's where the membership comes in.
AMY: I do totally get it now, and—
STU: Maybe you like peanut butter and jelly, or do you like chocolate and peanut butter?
AMY: I like peanut butter and jelly.
STU: Okay, there it is.
AMY: That’s the best way to go. It’s very true.
Okay, so, here’s the third question. What type of content should I have in my membership site as opposed to the content I create for my course?
STU: Okay, excellent question—
AMY: Yeah. I like this one.
STU: —because oftentimes when the course and the membership are there, people think they've got to create a whole bunch of new content. And so the fear of the content treadmill, be honest, this is like—
AMY: It’s question number four, so don't go there. How to feed the beast of a membership site.
STU: Okay. So we won't go there. But the content is different in the sense that in a membership site, it's less about teaching, teaching, teaching. It's more about reminding them of what they've already learned. Now, I'm assuming, by the way, my answer to this is assuming that we're talking about somebody who has both a course and a membership, okay, because the content in a membership if it was just standalone by itself would be a little bit different. But if it's in conjunction with a course, then it's less about teaching them more stuff, more about reminding them what they've already learned, and supporting them in the implementation of it. So it's more like answering questions, it's more group coaching calls, it's more templates, it's more resources that help people implement what they've learned easier and faster.
AMY: So, I love this because one of the things I got to work with, Stu, about my potential membership site, and I loved the idea. We haven't made any decisions, so don't hold me to this just yet. Me and my big mouth, before I have it all figured out. But I love the idea of creating a membership site where the prerequisite is you have to have gone through, let's say, Digital Course Academy™️. That way, when I'm coaching them, when I'm giving them advice, when they get stuck, I could say, “Go back to module five,” or “make sure module two is totally completed before you move on.” I love that.
STU: It makes your life a million times easier because you know everybody's on the same page. And so you don't have to reteach, you don't have to, you know. And there's danger in that if you don't have that commonality, because if you're telling people to go back to a course and somebody doesn't have the course, well, then, of course—
AMY: Of course, of course.
STU: Of course, of course. —it’s going to raise questions from those people, “Well, where do I get that?” And then you have the people who’ve already gone through it, and they’re like, “We know this. We’ve already gone through it.” So you’ll have to reteach and reteach and reteach. No. When you’ve got a course, you leverage it. Use it. When it’s a prerequisite, leverage it and use it. Refer people back to it. Make sure they go back and consume it, because you’ve already done all the hard work in creating the course in the beginning.
AMY: Yes. So true. And the membership site will encourage them to get to the finish line if they haven't already.
STU: Absolutely it will. It’ll help them consume that material. Listen, at the end of the day, as course creators, we know our stuff works. And it's not a matter of, does it work or doesn't it? No, it works. It's just we have to get people to the point of consuming it and implementing it. That's when they make the progress.
AMY: So true. Okay, so I already hinted at question number four, but the question is: how do you manage the content-creation process? I have a membership, and creating new content every month feels like I have to feed the beast, and it's exhausting. And this is the number one reason I didn't want a membership site.
STU: Yeah. This has always been your biggest fear.
AMY: Yeah. I’m like, “I don’t want to have to create content every single month, week after week, after I already put my blood, sweat, and tears into that course.”
STU: She just wants to kick her feet up at the Porterfield Palace and enjoy the sun!
AMY: I’m enjoying the mao-tai, and just relax, yes.
STU: This is the online life, ladies and gentlemen. Okay, so, let me tell you a story. When I partnered with Michael Hyatt, he was coming off a When I partnered with Michael Hyatt, he was coming off a New York Times’ bestselling book. So he was in high demand as a speaker. He still is. He gets asked to speak all around the country. And at the time, he was speaking anywhere between 30 to 40 times a year. So you add a day on the front, a day on the back for travel. He was gone over 100 days a year. And at the time, you know his blog and his podcast. At the time, he was blogging every day, and he was podcasting every week, and so he didn't have a spare minute to think about creating content for a membership site.
So when I hear this concern about the content beast, the content treadmill, I just think back to what we did with Michael. And it really boiled down to having a content strategy that did not require that ongoing feeding of the beast. And essentially, for Michael, we developed a strategy, in terms of the type of content we would be delivering, whereby we could create a whole year's worth of content in six days. So if I were to say to you, “Amy, if we could create a year's worth of content in six days, does that feel manageable?”
AMY: I’d say, “Bring it on.”
STU: You'd say, “Bring it on.” Exactly. And basically what it boiled down to was three two-day video shoots a year. So those two-day video shoots, they would be jam packed. We would be like bom, bom, bom, bom, bom. The schedule is lined up, we're ahead of it, we're on it. But after that, essentially, the content gets handed over to, in our case, it was a video-production team that did the majority of it. And then that would just get scheduled.
So, it was beautiful because we were able to get ahead of the schedule. We would create anywhere between four, sometimes upwards of eight, months’ worth of content on a two-day video shoot. So we were just getting further and further ahead on the content creation.
So at the end of the day, the way you nip that content beast in the bud is you batch produce. Number one, you have a great content strategy that doesn't require that ongoing stuff. And you have a content strategy that allows you to batch produce. And when you do that, then you can get ahead of it, and it never becomes a problem. In fact, it actually becomes addictive because what happens is when you're doing those batch dates, it's like, ooh, we're going to get so far ahead. Ooh, I don’t have to create content until seven months out. Ooh, we’re 12 months out now.
AMY: I can’t even imagine.
STU: And it does. It becomes a thing. So, number one, great content strategy. Number two, batch produce.
AMY: Okay. So, you also taught me this system—and not everybody has to do it this way—but you had different content being released every week, and you had a reason for that, and you made it easy in terms of—I don't know how Michael did it—but it doesn’t always have to be video. It could be pdf, it could be a Q and A, whatever. But talk to me about that week by week, inside of a membership site.
STU: Well, there’s different types of membership sites. The most common one, though, and the one that you're referring to is what we call a publisher membership. And it's like a magazine. It's like where you're publishing regular content on a regular basis. But—and this is a really key thing as it relates to content for all content creators, whether it’s a course or whether it’s a membership site. Obviously, a membership site is my road course, this [unclear 20:46] world—but what we see is that if you provide more than an hour's worth of content per week, you start to see drop-off of the consumption, meaning if you're requiring more than an hour a week for people to consume your content, and now they've got to implement it, it becomes too much. I just think of, we’ve got two young kids, we lead busy lives, you lead busy lives. I mean, you've got everything going on in the Porterfield Palace, people coming in all the time.
AMY: And that hunky husband of mine.
STU: The schedule is just jam packed. But, honestly, though—
AMY: This is a PG show.
STU: Oh, right, right. Well, I was just saying you guys go for nice walks all the time. I don’t know where your mind has gone.
AMY: Just keep going.
STU: Geez, Amy Porterfield. This is just a PG show. You know that, right? Okay, so, but, people lead busy lives. That's what I'm trying to say. And whether we have kids, don't have kids, whether we've got commitments in the community and the church, whatever it may be, bottom line is that people lead busy lives. And if you're thinking that people are going to be able to consume more than an hour’s worth of content and implement on top of all the other learning that they're doing, it's just too much.
So in a membership site, we, especially for a publisher model, we like to keep the four primary pieces of content per month, which essentially equates to one per week. So one per week, and it's less than an hour of content.
So let me just break down Michael’s. So in Michael's, we have four pieces. Number one was a masterclass. This was our longest piece of content. It would last anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes, and it was usually a video interview.
AMY: So that's what you were batching with him, those three days [unclear 22:27].
STU: So here's an example. We would go to an event where we knew there were going to be a lot of people there, and we would have a day before or a day after and we would just schedule back to back—you've been to one of those.
AMY: I did that, yes.
STU: I've been part of those. And it's just back to back. That’s where we were batch producing the masterclasses. So masterclass was one, and they would be anywhere between 35 to 45 minutes. And in our case, it was usually with another expert. In some cases, it was actually me interviewing Michael, because he's an expert on many things as well. But 30 to 45 minutes.
Second piece was we did a backstage pass, and this was a short, some 10 to 20 minute max. It was a little video segment, a behind the scenes, of Michael in his business. So as an example, it could be kind of like this. You've got the studio. People are curious, how do you do all this? How do you set—? What is this controller that nobody can see over here? Whoa, look at that. This controller with big buttons on it. Look at these lights. People want to know what's going on over here. This is what we would do. We take people behind the scenes and show them what is happening in here.
And so we did all kinds of segments. We did segments on how he comes up with blog post ideas or podcast ideas, or how he records his podcast, or how he comes up with ideas for his events, or—okay, this one was one of the most popular, and we thought it was so silly. When we produced it—
AMY: Okay, I’m ready.
STU: —we were, like, “This can’t be a real one.”
AMY: What was it?
STU: We showed people how he packed his suitcase when he was leaving for a speaking engagement.
AMY: Well, he would be an expert at something like that.
STU: People were fascinated. Okay, admittedly, I ended up going out and buying the suitcase—
AMY: I’m not surprised.
STU: —that he wanted to [unclear 24:11]. But stuff like that was behind the scenes, 15, 20 minutes.
AMY: And he didn’t always have to do that. Somebody could do it for him—
AMY: —put together pdf or something?
STU: Yeah, so, basically we would complement that video segment if pdfs needed to be, but many times, they—
AMY: Oh, we’d just do video behind the scenes. Okay, got it.
STU: And then sometimes, to your point, he actually wasn’t involved in some of those because it might have been, like, the behind the scenes of how his team handles this, or how his assistant does this, or whatever. But it was a behind the curtain kind of look into the world of his business. So that was the second piece.
Third piece is that we would have a live Q and A.
STU: Easy peasy. This would be 60 minutes, and it was just question, question, question, question, question. Members would submit the questions. He would answer them. Easy.
And then the final piece is that we did something called a Plat U How To.
AMY: Okay. What is that? It’s so snazzy.
STU: Yeah. Snazzy wazzy. But it was essentially about a 1,500-word how-to, step-by-step article. So it had a lot of images to show people's screenshots if it was a technical thing. But it was just about a 1,500- word, step-by-step article.
So number one was a masterclass, 30- to 35-minute video. Number two was a backstage pass, 10- to 20-minute video segments showing behind the scenes. Number three was a live Q and A. And number four was a Plat U How To, 1,500-word article.
AMY: Got it. And you don’t have to do all of that yourself.
AMY: This is where a good content writer, a virtual assistant, other people on your team can help you.
STU: You could have guests [unclear 25:54] that are coming in, guest contributors. In fact, I was talking to—who was it the other day—I talk to so many members [unclear 26:02]—but anyway, they were telling me they have guest contributors, and they said that in the beginning, they were trying to do all of the content, and they said it actually brought a whole new life when they had guest contributors come in because it added variety and it added—what’d you call it—schnazzy snazzy?
AMY: I’m pretty sure you said that, not me, for the record.
STU: But it was a lot more—it brought more energy into it. So, point is, you make a great point, it doesn't have to be you that’s creating it all anyway.
AMY: Definitely, because I know my students are overwhelmed by a lot of content creation, so batching, and I love the hour a week and no more; you can do less than that. And getting help, or it doesn't have to all be you.
STU: Let me tell you another quick thing. So often people get tripped up with they've got to be the sole source of all content.
AMY: Yeah, I do that.
STU: And there are so many examples of people who are not that whatsoever. I think of John Gallagher. So John Gallagher has a membership site called HerbMentor.
AMY: Don’t tell me you say “Herb.”
STU: Well, this is what I was going to say.
STU: Is it “Herb,” or is it “Erb”?
AMY: It has to be “Erb.” I don’t understand the “Herb” thing.
STU: Okay, maybe it’s a caveman thing. I don’t know.
AMY: Do you guys in Canada say “Herb”?
STU: Well, I think I used to say “Herb,” and then—
AMY: You crazy Canadian.
STU: —I used to get that look from so many people, like, what are you saying? And I’m like, okay, maybe it is “Erb.” I don’t know.
STU: HerbMentor. So when he started the membership site, he was not the expert. He brought in other experts, so he became the facilitator. This is a really important distinction. And so it was his membership site—he's got thousands and thousands of members—his membership site, but it wasn't his content. He was bringing in guest contributors.
Another example. Andrew Warner from Mixergy.com. I remember Andrew, he had a popular podcast, still does, right? And he saw the need to take his students deeper than just the podcast. And so when I talked to him—this was years and years ago—and he does the same thing. He's not the expert, but he brings in the experts that his audience needs. So he understands and identifies the needs, brings in the experts accordingly. So there's many ways to do this, where the content does not solely fall on your shoulders.
AMY: So good to know, and it relieves a lot of stress from people that are thinking about doing a membership site.
Okay. So back to our questions. Question number five: when you—oh, this is a good one. Are you ready? And I actually know the answer to this because I've asked you this before, and you really nail it, so don’t mess this one up.
STU: Okay. Wow, okay. Hopefully, I know what I said.
AMY: I love what you said. So, when you let new members in, should they get access to previous monthly content? If someone signed up for your membership site today, did they get all of the material from, let's say, the year’s past. Give it to me.
STU: Okay. I have struggled with this because I don't know if anybody listening feels the same way, but I am very protective of my early members because they were taking a chance on me. When we welcomed founding members, I mean, there's nothing typically in the membership site to begin with, so they're taking a chance on me. I love going to bat for them. I love bringing them lots of goodness. I love taking care of my early members.
So when I think about somebody, let's say, we start our membership site in January, and it's 20 bucks a month, for simple math. And we fast forward to June. So six months have passed. My founding members have paid essentially $120—20 bucks a month times six—to have access to that content. So I used to think, well, that’s not fair. If somebody is coming in in June, they're paying 20 bucks, and now they have access to everything? No way. I'm going to put a gate on this. And now my thought process was just like a magazine. If I sign up for a magazine, I sign up for Sports Illustrated, they don't just send me a big old box of every issue that they have ever published in the past. So I’m like why is it different digitally?
So when we were running Michael's site, we put a restriction on it. So we said, “Yeah, you can get access to the back—” we called it the backlog, “but you pay the 20 bucks that the others have paid for.” Amy, it caused a support nightmare because the new members coming in, they’re like, “What? Wait. You’re nickel and diming me? This is terrible. Just give me access to the content.” And then what I thought was where I’m like, “I’m protecting the interests of my early members,” they didn’t care. It was no big deal.
So what happened was, I was trying to protect something that my founding members didn’t care about. It was causing an absolute support nightmare. Finally, we just said, “Forget it. Let’s just open it all up. Give them access to everything.” And all the problems went away.
So, I used to think, restrict it and be protective—
AMY: Yeah. That’s what I would have thought.
STU: Now, I’m just like, don't even worry about it. You know, we think that we're protecting the interests. It doesn't really matter. And what ends up happening if you do do it is people get their knickers in a twist, and then it's all downhill from there.
AMY: Who says that? “Knickers in a twist.” Who says that? Only Stu. Only this guy right here.
So, one of the benefits, also—it doesn't even matter to say this, but I want to say it anyway—the family members got it six months ago, seven months ago. They've been able to marinate on it, implement it, use it, way in advance. So if anything, they got—
STU: They had the first-mover advantage, absolutely.
AMY: Yes. So that’s really cool. Okay, so when you told me that, that totally changed how I’m going to approach it.
STU: Well, it just simplifies things. It just eliminates a lot of technical stuff and a lot of support nightmares. It just makes it simple. I am a huge fan of keeping it simple.
AMY: Me, too. Me, too. I’m totally with you, there. Okay, perfect.
Question number six: how do you price your membership site. If you have a course, should it align with the pricing level of your course?
STU: Great question. This really is going to be determined by whether the membership serves as a front end or a back end.
AMY: Okay, so since we haven’t talked about what it looks like to serve as the front end, when would that ever be a case?
STU: Well, okay. This is another scenario where the membership and the courses go hand in hand because you can’t have a membership site that serves as a front end to a course, meaning it’s a way for people to kind of get warmed up and a little taste of your goodness so that when you do offer the course, those members become your highest qualified leads, your highest converting people. And we see this all the time. But for that to happen, the membership, if it's going to be a front end, would typically be a lower dollar amount because you want more people in. You want to get as many people in and warm them up, right?
Now, if it's a back end to a course, well, then, the pricing structure is going to be a little bit different because you're going to have fewer people coming through your course experience, and not only that but they are in love with you after a course experience. So there's no warming-up period. They already know the value you bring, and they know the value of your information; they just want support in it in implementing it. So they’ve had you for six weeks, eight weeks, 10 weeks, and they’re like, “Whew, give me some Amy Porterfield 365 days a year!” And so they already see the value in there. So the price points for a membership site on the back end are typically much higher. And another big reason why is because people experience the transformation a lot faster.
So if the membership site is on the front end, you’re teaching, and it’s dripped out in a much slower process, so the transformation takes a lot longer. That’s why I love it on the back end. They learn everything the need in the course, and now the transformation happens fast on the back end, and people are willing to pay a much higher price point for it.
AMY: I love it. I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I’m going to put you on the spot. Can you think of an example of one of your success students who put it on the front end?
STU: Good question. Okay, let me think.
AMY: I know. I totally put you on the spot.
STU: Yeah, I can. Okay, so, Jamie Swanson is an example. So she has both a course and a membership site, and she helps photographers. And particularly—she actually made a pivot in her business—she used to help photographers—this is another important lesson. We can go down this rabbit hole if you want. I mean, it’s your show. You tell me.
AMY: You can go down it a little. I’m going to pull you back, though.
STU: Okay. Well, long story short, she used to help all photographers grow their business. Very broad. But at the time, when she started doing this, which was years and years ago, she was blazing a new trail—or paving a new trail?
AMY: I think they both work.
STU: Okay. So I’m [unclear 34:30]. Thank you for all the clarification.
AMY: I‘m terrible at analogies. I never use them.
STU: I don’t even know if it’s an analogy. I think it’s just a phrase.
AMY: Now you’re making us look dumb.
STU: Okay, sorry.
AMY: Okay, we get the point.
STU: So, back then, it was new. Over the years, though, that market has been—a lot of people have come in and started teaching the same thing. And so she is now getting lost in a sea of everythingness, and it was becoming harder and harder and harder. So she made a pivot in her business. Instead of trying to serve everybody, she said, “What's a slice of the market I can serve?
AMY: I’m all about the slice.
STU: She went and became known for something specific. In her case, that was helping photographers become known as a personal-brand photographer. Now, you've experienced this because you have and paid on a regular basis for a photographer to come in and take personal-brand photos. This is a huge emerging trend in the marketplace because as social influencers are like, “Hmm, we need great-looking pictures,” the photographers are like, “Hello, I'm right here. I'm right here.” But if they are known as a personal-brand photographer, people are much more likely going to hire them.
So Jamie’s helping them in that regard. And so her membership site solves one specific problem. It helps a photographer find one recurring client per month. It's a very simple promise, and what it does is the transformation is unbelievable because people come in and they're like, “Oh, my gosh. It was so easy to get that client. With that one strategy, this month I got a new client.” And so now they're excited about it.
But Jamie also has a course. So in the membership, she delivers one strategy per month. In the course, she goes and delivers a whole bunch of strategies in a short period of time. So that is a perfect example of how the front-end membership helps her with the back- end course. And the fact of the matter is the transformation’s the same, which is helping photographers become known as a personal- brand photographer and get clients. But whether it’s in the membership or in the course, transformation’s the same, but the purpose of the membership if on the front end; the course is on the back end.
AMY: Good job with the example. That was a good one.
STU: You had me sweating. I had to go back in the brain archives.
AMY: That was good. Okay, question number seven. Wait a second. Hold on. Where was I? We already talked about pricing it. Oh, I got off track a little. What were you going to say?
STU: Well, we didn't actually nail the pricing, right?
AMY: I think you did because you said when it's on the back end you can charge a more premium price.
STU: Okay, that’s true. Can I add one more thing to that? Whether it's a front-end membership or a back-end membership, there is something I absolutely want all of your listeners to hear.
AMY: What's that?
STU: That is always start lower than you think you want to end up at. So I'm going to use just a simple example. Let's just say that we envision having our membership site land at $97 a month. I would probably start at $47 a month, and then I would have a price-increase promo that would take the price to maybe $67 a month, and then I might go to $77 a month, and then I might go to $97 a month. And people might ask, “Wait. Stu, buddy, why would you do that? Why don’t you just jump right to $97?” Because there's a whole bunch of reasons. Number one is when you are first launching a membership site, give a founding-member price as a huge incentive to get in now. People will jump at that opportunity. Then, what you do is you say, “And as a founding member, you'll be forever grandfathered in at this founding-member price.” It's a huge benefit because when you raise it, now they are, like, “I was genius to get in at this time.”
I don’t know if you remember. When you got your GoToWebinar account back in the day, were you one of the—
AMY: Oh, yeah, I do. Seventy-nine dollars a month.
STU: And you are proud of it, right? Because there was a $79 a month plan that gave you 1,000 lines. And then all of a sudden, like overnight, it went from 79 bucks to, like, $400 or $500.
AMY: And you do never give up your $79 a month.
STU: No. You know what the funny thing is? I bought a $79 account on the black market.
STU: Yeah! And it was a deal. I paid a guy $500 in order to get his $79 account, because that's how valuable it was. And so what I’m saying is that founding-member pricing, it only adds a huge benefit to your founding members. They feel good about it, and every month or every time you raise the price, they feel even better about it, and they never want to give it up. And so it dramatically increases your retention. Now, that's reason number one.
Reason number two is that every time you do a price increase, it serves as one of your most powerful promotions because of the same psychology that we are talking about: people want a good deal. And when they see you raise your price, they’re like, “How high is this going to go? I better get in now.” And so every time, we found our price- increase promos are some of the best promos that we do. So I love baking that into my long-term strategy. Start lower, raise your price higher, because if you start the other way, let's say you go too high and you realize, “Ooh, goodness. This is not working out. I’m going to need to lower things,” well, now think of the psychology there. Your early members have paid $100, and you realize you've got to lower it to $77. Now they’re like, “What? Lowering. Does this mean that it wasn’t a value? I should get a refund. Can I get a refund for all those months?” We think we’re doing them a good deal by saying, “No, it's cheaper now. It's a better deal.” They’re like, “Heck no. Give me my money back for all the months that I paid too much.” Weird psychology. Start low, raise it high.
AMY: I love it. Done and done. Okay. So we're now talking about more launching. We talked about pricing.
The next question is: would you consider leaving a membership site open, similar to an evergreen course, or recommend having a launch with an open cart for a short period of time for your membership site? What do you think of that one, Stewie?
STU: Well, you know—you know—Amy Porterfield how I feel. Okay, let me take a deep breath.
AMY: He’s very, very worked up about this question.
STU: I’m very opinionated about it because I work with thousands and thousands of membership-site owners, and without a shadow of a doubt, I can tell you what works and what doesn't work when it comes to getting more members in a membership site. And let me give you a story.
So Jennifer Allwood is in my—
AMY: Love Jennifer. Love her.
STU: She’s amazing. Awesome. And she loves on her people like nobody loves on her people. But she's in my empire mastermind. And at one of our meetings, she came to the front of the room, and she said, “Okay, look. This is the year. This is the year when I really want to scale my membership.” And it had taken her three years to get to 700 members, and she had an open-membership plan where she was selling it all the time, she’d be mentioning it on Facebook Live, she’d be mentioning it on Instagram, she’d be doing posts about it, but she was constantly hustling. And it took her three years to get to 700 members. She says, “I really want to scale it this year.” And I looked at her—I hadn’t even said anything—she was like, “No, I’m not doing that.” I said, “I haven’t said anything, Jen.” She’s like, “I know what you’re about to say.” I said, “What am I going to say?” She’s like, “You’re going to tell me to close it.” I said, “Yeah.” She’s like, “I’m not doing that. Well, okay, I am open to it.”
AMY: And you still haven’t said anything.
STU: I still haven’t said anything. She’s like, “I’m open to it. That’s why I’m here.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And she’s like, “But, ugh.” And then all of a sudden, all the limiting beliefs. “But I don’t have the bandwidth, I don’t have the time to do a big ol’ launch. I can’t do video series. I can’t do this.”
AMY: [unclear 42:20] time.
STU: And I’m like, “Jennifer, let’s just make this super simple.” She was really good at Facebook Lives. They come natural to her. I said, “Let’s just do a live launch via Facebook Lives.” And she said, “Well, what does that look like?” I'm like, “It’s just a series of Facebook Lives, and on those Facebook Lives you would cover these points, but you would do your thing like you always do.” She’s like, “Okay. I’ll give it a try.” I said, “Okay. So let’s look at the calendar. Let’s do it two weeks from now.” She’s like, “Two weeks from now!” I’m like, “Yeah, what do you have to prep? You’re not doing any videos, you’re not doing any webinars. It’s Facebook Lives.” She’s like, “Okay.”
So, she does her first Facebook Live, which was, for me, a real joy because I still knew inside that she didn’t totally believe this was going to work. But she was doing it anyway to kind of please me. So she does her first Facebook Live, and she makes a post in the group after. She’s like, “O.M.G. I can’t believe what is happening.” And then she got excited, and she got energized by the fact that things were working.
And over the course of the next five days—remember, three years to get to 700 members—in five days, she welcomed 1,200 new members at $50 a pop. Completely transformed her business. And what I love about this story is that not only did it transform her business, but it gave her more time to be with her people in the membership. And this was one of the things that she said to me was the greatest blessing of closing the membership. Yes, it added a tremendous amount of revenue to her business. Yes, it enabled her to bring her husband home from his corporate job. Yes, it enabled her to move to the home that she always wanted. Yes, it gave her the space and the time to be able to adopt her four-month-old child.
AMY: I know. Sweet girl.
STU: Amazing. But from a business perspective, it gave her more time to go deep with her people. Because she wasn't having to hustle and promote and constantly be in this promotion mode of having to get people in, she could just take care of the people that she had already welcomed into the membership.
And so over the next year, she welcomed over 2,500 new members into her membership as a result of having two different openings for the membership. And we see this all the time.
Tricia Callahan is another example. She had a membership site where she had been open for over six years. And, again, she's like, “I really want to go out and—” And I said, nnt. She's like, “I know. But I've been doing this for six years, Stu. This is different. My market’s different. I’m in a—
AMY: Everyone says they’re different. And people are very freaked out by live launches.
STU: Yes. But they can be simple.
AMY: They totally can be simple.
STU: We can go down the [unclear 45:05], because here’s the thing. I get wrapped up about this and pumped up about this because it has nothing to do with what people think it has to do with. You can absolutely keep it simple. The launch is, the reason they are effective is not because of a fancy whiz-bang video series, it's not because of a pretty slide deck; it's because of the messaging and the sequence of the messaging. Anyways, we can talk about—
AMY: And there is power in scarcity and urgency. There’s no way around that.
STU: Absolutely. So when Tricia, who had a membership site, had an open model for six-plus years, when she closed it, she welcomed more members in than she had ever done before, and she was saying the greatest benefit for her was it also gave her team time to recalibrate and say, “You know what? How can we make this membership better?” because they had never had the space to be able to reflect on the actual experience because they were always trying to welcome people in. “We've got to hustle. We've got to constantly promote.” And now they had the space to be like, “We don't need to promote for months, if we don't want to. And now we can reimagine what this experience is going to be like.” And so she said for her and a team perspective, it was a game changer.
AMY: Yeah. I’m so glad you brought that up. I’m totally on the same page. We are peanut butter and jelly.
Okay, so, let’s see here. We’re in the homestretch. We are on question eight: what type of special-offer ideas work well to incentivize people to join?
STU: Wow. Okay, this is good. So, now, I just got finished telling you that I am in huge favor of a closed-membership model. But doesn't mean to say that there aren’t open-membership models. The reason I'm going to tell you this is because no matter what—I’m going to pull up my Instagram right now, Amy.
AMY: Our podcasters can’t see what you’re doing—
STU: I know.
AMY: —but they can come over to the video.
STU: I know. That’s why I’m talking them through it. So I'm pulling up my Instagram, and I am going to my saved—you know how you can save stuff?
STU: I have a folder saved of ads. And these aren’t just any ads. All of these ads are for products that I want. I saw this ad; I’m like, “That is amazing. I want one of those.”
AMY: So it’ll be some stuff that you want.
STU: Okay, so, here's a thing for kids. It's called The Big Journal for kids. I’m like that would be amazing.
AMY: Marlo would love it.
STU: Marlo would love it. Here's this thing to do exercise workouts when you travel. I'm like, “That would be great.” There's another exercise—there's a smoothie machine thing that's portable. I'm like, “That would be handy. That would be amazing.” Here's a teeth whitener. I'm like, “That would be good.” And we can go through these. There's literally hundreds and hundreds of these.
Now, here's the thing. Of the hundreds and hundreds of ads that I have seen and I have said to myself, “I definitely want to buy that,” there's only one that I have bought.
AMY: Which one was it?
STU: And it was this one for an electric bike. It's right here. You can see. I even saved the ad twice! I was like, “I saved it twice?! I really want this.” That's the only one I bought, and the reason was because they gave me a reason to buy today. It was a deadline. So there was a deadline, a sense of urgency—you talked about it before. There was a sense of urgency, there was a reason why I had to buy today.
Now, the whole thing with an open-membership site is if you're open all the time, people are like, “Oh, this membership looks great. I will save this for later.” Kiss of death. So when it comes to promoting a membership site, you always want to give people a reason to buy today. So even if you've got an open-membership site, what I would encourage you to do is have a bonus that you create that you offer people. If they join the membership site by a certain time that month, they get that bonus.
So, a long time ago, before I became wise about the open- and closed- membership models, I used to have an open-membership site. But I was wise enough to know I had to give people a reason. So we created 12 bonuses, and each month, we had a promotion around that bonus which gave people a reason to buy today.
Now, whether you’ve got an open or closed, point of the matter is create a great incentive for people to buy. And it can be as simple as templates or resources or tools. Just like we would think about bonuses for courses and stuff like that, the same thing applies for a membership site. It's all about helping people get a result easier and faster.
So I love to think of, what are the top objections that people are going to have? I'll create a bonus around that. What are the top sticking points that people are going to have as far as implementing this? I'll create a bonus around that. We don't have to get fancy, but we do need to be wise in picking and identifying bonuses that people are going to say, “Ooh, that is good.”
AMY: That is good. Two things I want to point out. Number one, shout out to my DCA members. You should see some patterns here between what I teach about how to launch a course and what you're saying about membership sites. Very, very similar in that.
STU: Success leaves traces. Yeah!
AMY: Yeah! Okay, we’re getting out of control now.
And number two, I noticed that—you know, I absolutely love Rachel Hollis. And she has a membership site.
STU: Is that her picture over there?
AMY: Yes, it is. Okay, that’s going to sound very weird. She’s not framed in my office. It was a promotional thing we did.
STU: Hey, listen. You don't have to explain. Whatever.
AMY: You're making me crazy right now.
STU: Rachel, if you’re listening, just know that your picture is clipped around Amy’s [unclear 50:32].
AMY: Stop. It’s not. It is not. Okay, just shut it. Okay, so here’s the deal. She has a membership site. It’s a group coaching. And one thing I noticed that she recently did that I thought was genius, because the girl is genius, she has pay monthly or pay in full, but she gave an identity to pay in full. They're called #GOALGETTERS, and they get all this great stuff when they pay in full, something I teach to my course creators for selling a course, but it works for a membership site as well. And it works probably better for a membership site because now you're a “goal getter.” You're a special breed inside of a membership site.
STU: Absolutely. There’s a whole lot of genius baked into that. But the bottom line is that if you want people to take action, you got to give them a reason to do it today. Sometimes the urgency could be the cart closing, other times it can just be a great bonus, but you got to give thought around it. It's got to have strategy. I know you teach it. I teach it, too, because it works. And the fact of the matter is if you don't do that, your results will suffer. You just won't have the same level of conversions.
AMY: Yes. So true. Okay. Question number nine: if your course is mandatory to purchase in order for the membership site to make sense, what’s the best way to do a membership-sales process? I like your strategy with this one.
STU: Yeah. This one, again, it’s all about keeping it simple. So I remember when Nicholas Wilton called me up. Now, Nicholas has a community. He is a fine artist. He teaches people how to paint gallery-type paintings. He's amazing. And he has a course, and it's a lengthy course. I mean, we think six or eight weeks is long? He goes 12 weeks.
STU: I know. Crazy. But he was on week number 10, and he calls me up, and he's in a bit of a panic. He's like, “Stu, I don't know what to do.” And I said, “Well, what's going on?” He's like, “I'm at week 10 of my course—I've got two weeks left—and people are asking what's going to happen. They’re freaked out about, ‘Well, wait a minute. What’s going to happen to the community? Nicholas, where are you going? Are we still going to have access to this and that?’” And he’s like, “I don’t know what to do. I know I should have a membership site, but I have two weeks to go before the end of the course. There’s no way I can create a membership site before then.” I said, “Nicholas, deep breath, my friend. What you want to do is you just want to do,” in his case, “is a founding- member beta launch.” And he's like, “But, Stu, I don't have time to create a membership site between now and the end of the course.” I said, “You don't need to. All you need to do is you need to invite the people going through your course to a webinar.” I love those webinars! “And what I want you to do is I want you to tell them the truth about what's happening. It’ll sound something like this. ‘When we started this course experience together, my focus was 100% on the experience of delivering the course material. But as we have come toward the end, I have started receiving messages like this,’ [screenshot] ‘like this,’ [screenshot] ‘like this,’ [screenshot] ‘which are all screenshots of people asking, “‘What's going to happen? Are we still going to be able to stay together? Is the community going to be connected?”’””
And I said to him, “Then you say, ‘And it got my wheels turning. How could I continue this amazing experience that we have begun in the course, but instead of it ending after 12 weeks, it continues all year long? And I started thinking and imagining of a community of all of us, of artists, as we continue to learn.’” And he starts painting the vision of what this community could look like. “And it would be like this, and we'd be supporting each other in that way.” And he's painting the vision of what this could be.
And then it became the invite. “And so if you like the idea of us staying connected, of us supporting each other, of us continuing to work on our art, and us progressing and becoming better and better artists, I want to invite you to join me as a founding member. Now, I don’t have the membership site created yet. If there’s enough interest, we will create it, and that’ll be ready in about two months. But as a founding member, you’ll be rewarded with the absolute lowest price we will ever offer. When we do offer this to the general public, we are immediately going to raise the price. But your price will be grandfathered in at that low price for as long as you remain a member in good standing. And so in order to become a founding member, click here.”
So he had about 200 people on that call. And I kid you not. Over 180 of them signed up at $30 a month, generating $5,400 a month, in month number one, and he had not even created the site yet. And we see this happening over and over and over again.
And so the bottom line is this, is that we don't have to get things perfect. I heard a quote back in 2004 from Mike Litman, who heard it from his mentor, which is, “You don't have to get it right; you just have to get it going.” And when it comes to that transition, the whole point about it is that you just cast the vision of like, “Listen. We had an amazing time. We made so much progress during our course experience, let's just keep it going.” Instead of six weeks or eight weeks or ten weeks or 12 weeks, in Nicholas’s case, let's continue all year long. And that becomes a no-brainer for people. Especially if you deliver an amazing experience, which I know you do and all of your listeners do, then, it becomes a no-brainer for people.
AMY: Ah, so good. That was just genius. A hundred eighty people on one webinar.
STU: And we see it all the time. My friend Susan Garrett, who is dog trainer, same experience. Now, she had a bit bigger of an audience. She went to a sub list, again, people who had taken her course. And she welcomed 1,100 people. The list was 1,700, and she welcomed 1,100 people into her membership.
I'm just telling you. When you take people through an amazing experience in a course—you know it—there's this bond, there's this love, there's this connection that you have with people, and that's why the conversion rates are so much higher. And so bottom line is like, “I think you're crazy. If you're running a course and you do not have a membership site—
AMY: I mean, you make a very compelling argument.
STU: Your people want it! Give the people what they need! So when can we expect yours?
AMY: Okay, so moving on. We’ve actually made it to our final burning question. Are you ready?
STU: Hot diggity dog. Let’s go for it.
AMY: Okay. So the question is: what are the common misperceptions about starting and running a membership site?
STU: Whoo-wee. Okay.
AMY: What do you hear a lot?
STU: Well, one thing I hear all the time is, “I just don't have the audience yet.”
AMY: Oh, this is a big one for my audience.
STU: My audience isn’t big enough. I don't have tens of thousands. I don't even have thousands. And the good news is that you don't need them. So case in point, Wendy Batten. Wendy Batten is a great example. So she helps paint-store retailers, like, physical bricks-and- mortar stores that sell paint.
AMY: Let’s just stop there and say, “It's amazing what you can create.” We teach marketing, and so everyone's like, “Oh, it's easy for you. You’re just marketing.” But then when you hear dog trainers and paint—what is it?
STU: Paint-store owners, like, retailers.
AMY: Owners. Believe me, the sky’s the limit if you think something won’t work in a course or a membership site.
STU: We see it in all kinds of markets. Okay, let me tell you about Wendy Batten, first, and I’ll tell you about a whole bunch of others if you want to hear them. But Wendy Batten didn’t have a huge audience. There’s not hundreds of thousands of paint stores. There’s not even tens of thousands, not even thousands. She had an audience of about 460 people. So when she went out to her retailers, again, she used the exact script that we just talked earlier about, about I have this idea, this vision for what we could do, and blah, blah, blah. And long story short, she welcomed 59 members, generating $2,800 dollars a month, in month number one. Now, $2,800 a month, that’s a lot of momentum. That’s a mortgage payment.
AMY: I was going to say for most places, not California, that is a mortgage payment.
STU: California, that will rent you a bathroom. But, I mean, everywhere else in the world, that’s a mortgage payment. But that was the beginning, and that creates momentum.
And this is the most important thing to remember. A membership site, it's about momentum. I would much rather see somebody launch earlier than they think they should, because what happens is it creates momentum. You learn so much about your audience, you dial in your messaging, you get your content nailed down. So Wendy Batten is a great example. Anne Snyder's a great example. She has a membership site for women with kettle-bell workouts. Didn't have a huge audience. It was 250. She welcomed 52 two members into her membership site. And we have so many stories like this. Anna Saucier. So Anna was so inspired at our Tribe Live event. She was seeing these people that we're talking about. And she was just like, “Wow. They didn't have audiences of tens of thousands, or thousands. They had tiny—I have a tiny audience. I’m going to go for it.” She had an audience of 326 people, and she was just like, “I’m going to do it now. I’m going to launch right now. And I’m going to see how much I can make in 24 hours.”
AMY: Oh, like right there at the event.
STU: Right there at the event. So, I mean, I don’t need to say this, but she didn’t have videos, she didn’t have a webinar, she didn’t even have a sales page, she didn’t even have an order page. She’s just like, “I’m going for it.” So she was inspired by so many of the stories that were shared of how people didn’t get it right, they just got it going, and it created so much momentum.
So she used, essentially, that beta-launch script, and she sent an email out to 326 people, okay? And she was just like, “If you're interested in becoming a founding member, just send me a direct message. Send me a direct message.” And they would send her a direct message, and then she would send them a PayPal link. I mean, it was as stripped- down simple as we c get.
AMY: Everything I say not to do. This is great.
STU: Super simple. And the crazy part is is in that 24 hours, with those 326 people, she generated $5,024.
Amy, it is amazing what can happen no matter what size of an audience you have. And I'm here to tell you, when you've got a smaller audience, you have a more intimate relationship with that audience. And what we see over and over and over again is the conversion rates with people with smaller audiences is much higher than conversion rates for people who have bigger audiences.
Now, is it to say that if you've got a bigger audience this is something that you shouldn’t? Heck no, you should be doing it because the reality of it is is that the small audience gives you great momentum off the bat. As your audience grows, you’re only going to increase that momentum. So bottom line is that we've seen people launch membership sites with big audiences and have tremendous success right out the gate.
So those are the big stories with, like, the Patty Palmers, as an example, who goes from zero to 6,000 members in two years. It's crazy how she's transformed her business. Or one of our all-time favorites: Anna DiGilio. I mean, come on. I love that woman. And, you know, Anna DiGilio, she is a teacher, taught grade one, two, for 20 years.
AMY: Twenty years a teacher, did not have any online marketing skills.
STU: And she has built a multi-million-dollar-a-year business selling courses and membership sites.
AMY: We call her our marketing baby.
STU: She is amazing. I am married to an Amy offline and on! But anyway, bottom line is that if you’ve got a big audience, you can do it. If you don’t have a big audience, you can do it, too. So that’s one big misconception.
Second big misconception, we already kind of covered it, which is like, “I’m going to be on this content treadmill for the rest of my life. This sucks. Cannot do that.” Not true.
AMY: I’ve learned you can batch.
STU: You can batch. It's all about your content strategy. When you nail your content strategy, all of that can be solved.
And then, I would just say the other big misconception is that you only have to worry about getting people in. So people forget that the money in membership sites is made in people staying.
AMY: The recurring revenue.
STU: The recurring revenue. So it's not enough to just get people in. You got to keep people happy. This is actually why I love this business, because if we don't keep people happy, they leave. If we keep them happy and they're making progress, they stay. So it puts our focus where it should be, which is keeping people happy, helping them make progress.
And so the other misconception is that I've just got to get people in. No. It’s two parts. It's get them in, and keep them in. And so you've got to understand with a membership site, it's about going deeper with your members, keeping them happy, helping them make progress, and when you help them make progress, then they stay.
AMY: Amen, mic drop. So good. So good.
Okay, this officially is one of my very favorite podcasts, and I do not tell all my guests that, for the record.
STU: Are you going to pin my picture up?
AMY: Okay, it’s not pinned up, for the record. So, here’s the deal. This was amazing, but this is literally a little snippet of what you've got out there right now. As of today, you just released a brand-new, free, might I add. training workshop.
AMY: And I'm excited about it because I know it's fantastic. So can you tell everybody what this is about?
STU: First and foremost, I want you to go to amyporterfield.com/stu.
AMY: Yes, so that’s what it is: amyporterfield.com/stu.
STU: Now, if you have not got a sense of it, I am very passionate about membership sites.
AMY: Just a little.
STU: Just a little bit. Because I see the difference it makes. When I think of membership sites, I think of Amanda and Jonathan Teixeira, okay? So they were at our Tribe Live event, and they were thinking about launching a membership site, and then they were excited about it, and then they got the phone call. And I remember getting this phone call myself because my wife and I experienced this when we got the phone call that we had been matched with our son, Sam. They got a phone call that they had been matched with their child, too. And so there's two parts to this. Part one is you're thrilled, you're excited, you're so happy. But for them, the other part was complete fear because an adoption is very, very expensive. And her and her husband would have to come up with all kinds of finances to be able to pay for this in eight weeks. And so when I think of membership sites, I think of Amanda and Jonathan launching their membership site and being able to not only afford the adoption but now have this tremendous revenue coming into their business.
I think of Tara Walsh, who, her husband was in the army and suffered from PTSD. And it was a really hard thing for them because she knew she needed to get her husband help, but it meant that he would literally have to move to another location, doubling their expenses. So she's a lashpreneur. Again, going back to, you can be in any market. I mean, she helps—
AMY: That’s amazing. These right here are my lash extensions. This is what it looks like.
STU: I didn’t know this was a whole thing.
AMY: Do you love them?
STU: I—they’re beautiful! So she helps lashpreneurs. When she launches her membership site, she got the momentum going. Then, she applied what we're going to be teaching in this workshop, and took it from $2,000 a month to $13,000 a month to, in less than a year, $30,000 a month. Now is able to get her husband the help he needs. Listen, they’re not out of the waters yet, but she doesn’t have the stress that comes from now being able to pay for and get her husband the help he needs.
And this is why I’m passionate about membership sites. It is not just about membership sites. It’s about what membership sites enable people to do. As business owners, we experience enough stress as it is. Stress comes from, how am I going to pay for staff? And when you're always trying to find new customers—
AMY: Ah, it's exhausting.
STU: —it's exhausting. So I am passionate about this. And what I can tell you is that through more than a decade of helping tens of thousands of membership-site owners, it really boils down to a few key things. In this workshop, we’re going to help you with those key things. In part one of the workshop, we're going to help you identify whether your market is a good fit for a membership site. I mean, would it be helpful to know if the market you're going to or thinking about creating a membership site is a good fit first?
AMY: For sure.
STU: Because you don't want to go and put a whole bunch of energy and effort into it if it's not going to be. Well, there are characteristics, and as soon as you join us for the workshop, which is free— amyporterfield.com/stu—you're going to take the assessment, and you'll be able to know right away whether your market is a good fit.
In part two of the workshop, this is where we break down the content. We talked about content, and there is absolutely one key component every membership site should have. Without it, you're in serious trouble.
AMY: And you're not going to tell us it right now.
STU: I'm not going to tell you—
AMY: You sneaky little snake.
STU: —because I want people to come, and I want you to join the free workshop. The reason being is because when I explain it, you’re going to have this light-bulb moment. You’re going to be like, “O.M.G.” And even for people in courses, like, I remember when we talked about this when you and your team flew up to Toronto, and we did a whole day. And we mapped out this code name SP, and we mapped out this SP, and I remember you and your team being like, “This is relevant for a course as well.” And I was like, “Absolutely.” And so without it, a membership site, what you'll find is that members will come in and they won't know what to do. They won't know how everything fits in helping them in their journey.
AMY: I just got it. I had no idea what you were talking about, SP. Those are the initials of this, and I remember learning it, and it’s golden.
STU: Yes. That’s in part two of the workshop. In part three, we just pull back the whole curtain. It's an entire blueprint of the membership site. We go through the five key areas of a successful membership site, and we break them all down. This workshop, I mean, we go all out. It is full production. We are full on in terms of support.
AMY: That’s true. I said at the very beginning, you're not into all the fanciness. This video is fully produced, though. It's absolutely beautiful, so kudos to you.
STU: And we create all kinds of principles so people can implement and download and print them off and put them in the binders if they want.
AMY: I like a good binder. It’s so good, so good.
STU: Bottom line is that the workshop’s amazing, and the whole goal is to show you, no matter whether you have a product-based business, a service-based business, a community-based business, or for most of our audience, a knowledge-based business, the whole goal is to show you how to take that from a one-time transaction, where we hope our customers are going to come back and buy from us again, and instead, turn it into a recurring transaction, where we know for sure that people are going to come and buy from us again and again and again. I am so excited to do this one time a year. One time a year!
AMY: One time a year. So you do not want to miss it. So, once again, amyporterfield.com/stu. I’m pretty sure, I think it’s free.
STU: It is free!
AMY: So take advantage of that before he takes it down. I highly recommend it, and I am such a big fan of everything Stu does. Stu, thanks so much for being here.
STU: Well, thank you. And I am honored to be in the Porterfield Palace. I'm honored to be on the podcast Online Marketing Made Easy. This has always been a goal of mine, and thank you for making it happen. And listen, everybody is listening. Make sure you send Amy a direct message, send her a comment, and commit her! Get her going! Tell her, “We want your membership!”
AMY: I have to tell you, to sum this up, I can’t wait for my whole team to listen to this because, one, I want my team to listen to how you tell stories. I think it’s so inspiring because I feel like if they can do it, I can do it, too. And number two, I'm thinking, “Yes, I need to do this. Yes, this is the next natural step.” So I'm excited about it. I’m sold.
STU: Okay. I just want to tell you, though, one of the things that's really important for your audience, because I know this is important, especially because there's so many course creators, we are trying to help people in some capacity. We're trying to help them make progress in their life in some way. A membership site is the natural extension for that. You know, whether it's like Leslie Vernick, who, she helps Christian women who are in troubled marriages and they don't know what to do. And I think if she didn't have a membership site, there would be this whole community of women who would be lost, not knowing how to navigate their marriage.
Or I think of Michael Kilpatrick. Michael Kilpatrick, he helps farmers. Farmers! But I think about the impact that that’s having for these farmers who are feeling all of the pressure of big agriculture.
Or I think of Karen Cinnamon. Karen Cinnamon, she has a membership site for Jewish brides-to-be. This is the most important day in their life, but there’s a lot of complications. I didn’t know this.
AMY: I didn’t know this.
STU: There’s a lot of complications with Jewish brides, particularly, like, if one of the spouses is Jewish and one is not. And there's a lot of navigating it.
Or I think of Levi Kujala. Levi has a membership site for guitar players, and he's grown this to over 6,000-plus members. But it's not just guitar players. What I love about Levi is he's helping the retired vet, and you should see what he's doing in this community. He's bringing these vets together. They have these jam sessions. It is amazing what he's doing.
Or I think of Scott Paley. Scott Paley was not the expert. He partnered with Joan Garry, who was helping nonprofits. Now, the crazy part about Joan was that she is so good at helping nonprofits really grow their nonprofit, but she was doing it on a one-on-one basis, and she's like, “I really want to scale this.” So she partnered with Scott. Scott took care of all the membership in the back end. And they grew. And they're serving—in the first year, they grew that to over 2,500 nonprofits that they're serving.
Or I think of Tamara Bennett. Tamara Bennett has a membership site teaching people how to paint door hangers. Door hangers! And I kid you not, Amy, she just recently had her very first live event. This is year one of the membership. First live event she had hundreds of people, there live, painting door hangers together!
AMY: What are door hangers? What do you mean?
STU: You know when you go to a hotel, and they give you the plastic paper ones that say “Do not disturb me,” or “I don’t—“
AMY: Oh, she does cute ones like that.
STU: She does beautiful ones. Crazy, right? There's all kinds of different markets.
Or I think of Christie Hawkins. Christie Hawkins, she teaches people how to paint. She’s grown it to over 200-plus members. Now, the beauty about Christie is that she had a business where she would do paint parties. But the tension that she felt was that she would need to do these paint parties at night. So, she has three daughters: one in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary school. And they're big volleyball players. But she can never go to their games. But now, with the membership she doesn't do those paint parties every night. She doesn’t have to. She does one a night. The rest of the night she is full-on mom. And she’s at all of those games.
Or I think of Sarah Williams. Sarah Williams, amazing story because she had a bricks-and-mortar store, and she recognized that her customers were coming for the same things. So she turned it into a membership site, a box subscription. And it's incredible what she's— she’s got over 700-plus members in her box subscription.
I'm just telling you, there are so many possibilities. We've got stories of people in photography and calligraphy and fitness and finance and music and health and art and dog training and business and so many more! Come join us for the workshop. We'll show you how to do the same thing. Amyporterfield.com/stu.
AMY: And done. I don’t even know what else to say. Guys, thanks so much for being here. Can’t wait to talk to you again soon. Bye for now.
AMY: So, there you have it. I hope you loved this interview with Stu. After we finished the interview, we literally went and played hide and seek with his kids. So we had a lot of fun when he was at my house, and it was very loud. I forgot that little kids are so loud, but they had a sleepover that night, and when everyone left, it was a little too quiet. So it was really fun to have Stu and his family at my house, and I absolutely loved everything he shared in this special interview. I hope you felt the same way. Definitely don't wait—amyporterfield.com/stu— watch his beautifully done free workshop. I promise you, you will get immense value and, again, that clarity that you're looking for to decide if you want to add a membership site to your business. All right, guys. I cannot wait to connect with you again next week. Same time, same place. I'll see you soon. Bye.
EPISODE 260: ALL ABOUT MEMBERSHIP SITES: YOUR TOP 10 BURNING QUESTIONS, WITH STU MCLAREN https://www.amyporterfield.com/260