Tuesday, December 23, 2008

10 Compelling Reasons to Own a Membership Business

There is a growing number of information marketers who are realizing the power of owning a membership business due to its residual income nature compared to a traditional ebook sales model. You see, traditional sales model is based on a transactional model. This means, unless you have another product to sell to your customer, they are no longer paying you money. This means as a marketer, you have to charge a high upfront cost for people to get access to your information. By operating a membership website, you can make your product a lot more affordable to more people. In other words, if you charge $99 for your product, you might want to consider charging only $14.99 per month for people to access your portal instead. This way, within 7 months, you will have broken even and the rest is pure profit.

Credit for some of these points goes to Jay and Sterling from Internet Business Marketing podcast.

Here are the 10 compelling reasons you might want to consider:

1) It's a business in a box.
It's like owning your own cash machine. Especially if you set your site up right to encourage user generated content, your users will create content while you benefit from the membership fees. Your users would appreciate you for putting together the space for them to network with each other.

You can set it up to also have volunteer/user moderated content to ensure proper standards are met. Your moderators will receive special benefits from you, like priority access to other content or being able to attend special events hosted by you for free.

With the proper marketing and membership site infrastructure, you could even make your site grow on its own by encouraging members to refer other members to your site, and paying commissions for those referrals. This cuts down marketing costs and increases your profits, as well as putting your business on autopilot.

2) Residual Income
With your users paying you month after month for the benefits of being a member, you will receive a residual income from your membership business. This changes your business from being strictly transactional to one which focuses on bringing ongoing value and developing a deepening relationship with your clients.

What does this mean?
  • It Breaks the Customer Churn.
    Instead of spending money chasing new customers month after month, you can focus on servicing the clients you currently have. It is easier to sell to people who have already opened their wallet to you than to someone brand new. Remember, people buy from those they know, like and trust. Selling to your existing customers is easier because they already know, trust and hopefully like you. Of course, you will want to bring more people into your network through marketing, but this will give you a base of dependable income.

  • It Breaks the Product Creation Cycle.
    Instead of producing product launches month after month to push to your clients and encouraging them to “get the latest product” or the latest product upgrade, you can focus on adding value to your members and network. This also means you do not have to “sell” constantly.

  • It Breaks the Event Churn.
    Some businesses promote seminar events, day in, day out. This is extremely taxing and involves extensive traveling. By bringing people into your private social network you can not only create residual income for your business, but enables you to launch mega events. Thus you can bring in a lot more people and may only need to hold these events once or twice a year.

  • It Breaks the “Pitch Fest”
    Instead of constantly promoting products and inducing “social fatigue” to your list, you can reserve promotions for only the very important or more profitable opportunities. People don’t like to be constantly “pitched”. Having a residual income business model allows you to earn a healthy living without “cheapening your brand” through constant joint venture marketing.
What this ultimately means is that you can now focus on delivering good products and continually adding it to your membership site. The people who stay inside your club can benefit from your ongoing product creation. You no longer need to "re-sell" products to them.

Stop for a minute and ponder on the beauty of this model. Everyone wins. You win, your clients win and your affiliates win (they love getting paid on residuals too).

3) Residual Commissions for Your Affiliates
Let me ask you this. Would you rather be paid one time upfront for your referal or month after month? Most people would rather be paid month after month because it is less work and more money in the end.

If you can provide a residual stream of income for your affiliates, they will love you. They will be more inclined to cross promote your products to their people. In fact, if you can say "look, I've been paying Bob $10,000 a month for the last 3 months because he sent a broadcast to his list for my program." You are going to get people's attention.

4) It Strengthens Your Brand
Listen, fans need a place to hang out. Whether you are in the internet marketing space, knitting, coin collecting, you want to hang out with other people in your special niche. People like to network, share ideas, get feedback, help others and be helped. It's human nature.

By creating a space for people to talk about your product/brand/company, you strengthen your brand, and customer loyalty. Especially when you show good customer service and have a good product that you stand by. Invariably, in any business, you are going to encounter the occational bad apple. Should that person complain about you in your membership area...others will likely come to your defense...without you having to lift a finger. That's powerful.

5) Deliver Value to More People
If you operate your business on a consulting basis, you are trading time for money. You might even charge $10,000 per hour....but as soon as you stop working, the money stops flowing. By operating a membership site, and systematizing your information, your clients can help themselves. This way, when they want to talk to you, you can charge a lot more for your time.

Operating a membership site also establishes you as an expert/authority on the subject matter.

6) Easy to Create a System
There are literally millions of things that needs attention when operating a business. Whereever you can automate and systematize your business, you can save time and money. By putting your information and process onto one place, it is a lot easier to "McDonald-lize" your operation.

Create operational procedures and manuals so you can pass on mundane maintenance tasks to volunteers, assistants or secretaries. This frees you time to do other more important tasks, including time with your family.

7) Multiply Your Value Proposition
When your clients come to your social network/membership site, they have the opportunity to network with people local to them, share common interest as they do, be able to get advice, tips, and ideas from other members...this gives your network tremendous value.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog: 10 Secrets to a Successful Membership Site, people join your membership site for the content BUT THEY STAY FOR THE COMMUNITY. This is a critical factor in fighting membership attrition.

Your members can find mastermind partners, joint venture partners, accountability partners from your network. They can find clients, investors, business partners from your network. All these things they previously can not get from just buying your product.

8) Product Research
Want to launch another product but not sure if it's going to work or not? Ask your social membership site. Ask them to participate in the creation process so that the product launched will be exactly what they want.

Pay attention to their frustrations. What's not working for them? What's that "magic wand" that will make their pain go away. Without tapping into a community, it's a lot harder to find out what your people like and don't like.

Perhaps there's a feature of your product your clients don't like. How would you know about it without having a place for them to voice their complaints? This is your opportunity to continually improve your products and offerings.

9) Leverage Social Proof
In an age of decreasing trust, people want proof of success. By having your social network/membership site, you can highlight and showcase success stories from your members. You can ask for testimonials from your members a lot easier than if they were a one time buyer.

Especially if your membership site has some sort of a free membership or a free trial, your new members can experience the benefits of membership...thus easing them into a relationship with you and with your community.

10) Survival
If you don't do this, then your competitors will. This is your opportunity to re-engineer your business and leap frog your competitors. Be an industry leader. Take advantage of the first mover advantage. Once you are branded as "the industry's leading club (within your niche)"...it's hard for others to follow.

This is classic evolve or die. The social networking movement has changed the way people communicate. The businesses that change and take advantage of this will thrive. Those that resist, won't.

This is an excerpt from my book: The Social Marketing Manifesto. This book will retail for $29.95 and will be released early 2009. As a special offer, just sign up for my A-List newsletter, and I will send you a copy for free. Being a subscriber, you will also recieve pressing industry news. And, no, I will not spam you. I practice what I preach.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

10 Secrets to a Successful membership site

A lot of people are talking about membership sites these days. There are a number of advantages to creating one; most specifically, it allows you to receive residual income from people coming to your site for membership benefits.

Typically, when you market an information product, most people buy the product from you, pay you once and just go away. You may keep them on a mailing list and send them other offers from time to time. When you put people into a membership site...your customers pay you month after month...and you can make the product more affordable...AND provide a whole lot more content and multi-media experience...such as a video showing people how to do it.

I recently heard a great podcast from Internet Business Mastery on membership success secrets, and this post is primarily thanks to Jay and Sterling. (if you are not listening to these guys, I highly recommend them).

While the temptation is to rush out and create a membership site right away, here are some success strategies you should consider when making your own membership site.

1) Create a community.
While your customers may initially join your membership site for your "premium content", give them more than what they bargain for. Surround them with a community. As Jay and Sterling points out, "people came for the content, but they are staying for the community." This is especially true if you are actively involved to build a caring and supportive community.

Attrition is the #1 enemy of operating a membership website. The more community energy/culture you can build, the less attrition you will experience.

Help the members find the support they need. Encourage new members to ask questions, and old members to help new members feel welcome. Ideas such as a general greeting announcement from all members to say "welcome home" to any new members makes them want to belong.

Choose a membership system where your members can "drill down" other members...much like Facebook, Linkedin, etc. The more you can help them get to know each other..the tighter the bond...the longer they want to stay.

Facilitate local meet up groups. Encourage your members to form their own master mind groups. Facilitate ways for them to have "side ways" communications with each other.

Seed your community with key customers and vendors. This is crucial in the beginning to build critical mass and content. Give key members deep discounts or even free membership for their name/brand/content/contribution to your network.

2) Provide a Step by Step Guide.
Often times, when you join a community site, it can be overwhelming. There's usually so much content that it is overwhelming. Make your content displayed in an easy "Step 1, Step 2" format. At the very least, give your members a "Getting Started Guide". Show them what to do.

Provide your members with a Week, by week guide. A Work Book, or some way to keep them moving forward and on progress.

If your site has technology to restrict access to content until a certain number of days/weeks has elapse since the member has joined, all the better. This content restriction is actually good...as it does not overwhelm your clients (and keep them on your membership site for longer).

One of the top 3 reasons why people leave community websites is confusion. When people get confused, they disconnect...when they do this, then you've lost them. Make it simple.

3) Create a Clear Procedure Manual - Systematize everything
Document your process. "McDonald-lize" your operation so that other people such as virtual assistants can follow your process. The idea about creating a membership website is to create residual income...and get your out of the day to day work. By documenting how you create content, how you create events, how you moderate inappropriate posts, this makes it easy for your employees/VAs to take over the task for you, so you don't have to do it.

Start doing this practice early so the task is not so overwhelming. Create a schedule and stick to it.

4) Be in Integrity.
Deliver what you promise and more. Rise above the mediocre. Give people the "Wow!" This is how your business grows because the experience exceeds their expectation.

Do what you say you will do. This may be a no brainer, but you'd be so surprised how many people in business fall short of this. If you can't deliver what you promised, then be honest about it. Don't give excusses. The only way to succeed in this era is complete transparency. Otherwise, your people will talk...and news will spread.

In this age of low trust, your customer has shown considerable good faith to decide to do business with you. They are giving you an A score, and it's yours to lose. Don't waste it. Go from A to A++.

5) Provide a Resources Page
Include your rollerdex of vendors, clients, resources, websites, tools, etc that your people will need to be successful.

I've gone to so many conferences where the list of websites people share with me was well worth the price of admission. For example, a local media contacts list, where to buy stuff at wholesale, a list of websites/tradeshows to promote your products.

Include videos showing how to use the tools would also be handy.

6) Copy Best Practices
Join other people's community sites. Don't be judgemental or defensive. Keep an open mind. Learn. See what other people are doing that you like and dislike. Remember, "if you copy what successful people do...you will get the same results as those successful people." It's called mirroring.

Ask questions. Don't be shy. The only silly question is the ones unasked.

7) Mix up the content.
Provide your content in a number of ways. Use videos, podcast format, as well as writing. Some formats work better than others.

If you are a gardener, then filming may be best. Don't get caught up in the technicalities of production quality. People are very forgiving (within reason). Focus on the content.

If you are showing people how to use tools online...then a Camtasia video might work better. If you use a mac, I recommend ScreenFlow.

8) Highlight Success
Congratulate and praise success stories from your members. Give them the spot light. Allow them to put up stories about their success. Interview them and put up the audio for others to listen to it. Success breeds success. People want to know "how did you do it?"

9) Keep it Fresh and Exciting
No one wants to join a boring and stale site. Regularly add content, updates...additional field research to your site.

Launch competitions and challenges with your members. Raise the bar. Push your people to be better.

Invite special guests to write articles/content on your site. Better still, host regular "members only" teleseminars/webinars with a special guest and allow members the opportunity to ask questions with your guest.

10) Membership has its priviledges.
Fundamentally, it goes down to "what's in it for me?". To keep your members excited and interested about your site, you have to earn their attention. Why should they spend time on your site rather than time with their family?

Give your members special discounts to your products. Haggle special discounts from other vendors to give to your members.

Put together a conference for your members to attend so they can meet one another. People of like mind build synergies, allow the magic to happen.

Make a place for your members to access you...a place where they can ask you questions and that you commit to answering without giving them your personal email address.

Encourgage your members to give each other "members only discounts" to sample/buy each others' wares.

Maybe create a Join Ventures room for members to cross promote their products to each other's lists.

I liken the membership experience to joining a guild in World of Warcraft. In WoW, in order to really get ahead, you should join a guild...yet there are thousands of guilds to join...which should you join? Some guilds are better than others. The best guilds are the ones that give it's members common benefits. For examples, guild members get free stuff from other guild members instead of having to buy it from the auction house. They go on adventures together. Provide escort duties for members to go through difficult areas to fulfill quests.

Remember, there may be other products out there. Other gurus. Other places your members can spend their time, but they have decided to invest their time with you. Respect that. Give them a compelling reason to join, and stay.

Like any other business, owning a membership site is in many ways just like raising a baby. It's an investment. The more you invest in time and love for the baby, the more it will grow.

George Tran

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Confused about social media and how it all ties together? http://ping.fm/O8oMS

How to tie all it all together

Just watched this cool video that explains how you tie in Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/etc together to form a cohesive marketing strategy. Hope you enjoy it:

What do you think? Do you agree?
find out why 2009 is a mad land rush. I'm spilling my guts. http://ping.fm/22nKh

2009: Mad Land rush

As we are closing out the year, it is a good time to reflect on the year gone by. Some people have regrets, you know, "should haves" and "could haves". What's done is done.

The New Year is just around the corner. Many people have new year resolutions. Invariably, many people fail short on their resolutions and repeat the cycle of beating themselves up at the end of the year.

Why does this happen? Why do people keep having these new year resolutions only to set themselves up for disappointment? There are many reasons for this, but it's really doesn't matter.

2009 is a once in a life time opportunity for the greatest wealth transfer in the history of the world. More multi-millionaires will be made in 2009 than any year before this. Some of you reading this are probably saying "George, you're nuts. Look around, we're in the middle of a recession." That's right! If you look at history, more millionaires were made than ever before in the last Great Depression than any other time in history too. Guys, it's a mad land rush. Either you sit around an buy in to the crap you're fed by the media, or you take action and do something about it. Your choice.

Resolution vs. Resolve.

The reason why people fail to meet their New Year resolution is they pledge something they have all the intention of fulfilling, but don't have the time/money/energy/resources to actually get it done. In other words, they are bitting off more than they can chew. So this year, I am challenging you to do something different. Instead of focusing on the result, focus on the action. Here are a few examples:

"I want to lose 20 pounds this year."
Instead focus on the small daily actions that can make a difference. "I will make time in my day to walk just 5 minutes a day, and drink at least 36oz. of water."

"I want to be out of debt."
Instead have the resolve to create two new fund accounts. 1) Set aside just $2 a day...$30 extra a month to pay off your debt. 2) Set aside some money, time, and resources to learn new skills to make money in this economy. You see, if you continue to do what you've always done..you will get the same results you've always gotten. In other words, if you "get out of debt"...you will eventually get yourself back into debt....you need to change your core behavior....one of those changes include "learn how to make more money." Unfortunately, to most people...making more money means a promotion or working longer hours. That's not what I mean. Let's go back to my initial premise...2009 is a land rush....learn how to claim yours. This is where the 2) set aside money for new skills come in.

The Internet represents the largest growth opportunity in the history of human civilization. Even with the so called "recession"...the Internet is growing beyond anything anyone has ever seen. With growth comes opportunities. If you ask around truly successful internet marketers, they will unanimously tell you, business couldn't be better.

With the advent of new media, social networking, and twitter...these new ways of communication is totally changing the way people are communicating. This means opportunity! What used to work is no longer working as effectively.

If you learn the skills of new media, you will be ahead of your competitors. Big companies are not moving as fast, frankly, they are as lost as everyone else. Your competitors may not be embracing this phenomenon. If you take the time, energy and money to invest in yourself and ACTUALLY TAKE ACTION, you will be able to take advantage of the changing landscape and thrive in the new economy.

Wealth comes from creating value. Period. How can you create value by helping people, your community, humankind, the environment, etc and build a business around it so you get paid. That there is the basics of business.

How can use social media to build value? Start a blog...just like what I am doing. Create a twitter account and let people follow you. Offer more valuable content than your competitors. The new paradigm is not in slick advertising. Those days are gone. It's in building relationships. What are you doing to build relationships with people?

In summary, all I am saying is, don't have new year resolutions without focusing on core behaviorial changes. Doing the same thing you've always done and expecting different results is just.....silly. Start creating value by building relationships with people. Earn social equity.

In my new book; which I will be publishing next year, I have outlined the new social contract and the new economy. As a special gift, I would like to give it to you for free (retail for $29.95). All you need to do is to join my A-List newsletter above.

Have a safe Holiday Season.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to create a successful Membership Website Part 1

Want to create a membership website? There's numerous advantages to creating a membership website.

Unfortunately, most gurus leave out the "how". In this series, I am going to show you the specifics of creating a membership website.

In Part 1, we're going back to basics. Defining the different levels of engagement and membership access. How to structure your membership website to be successful.

Let me know what you think and whether you have any questions about setting up a membership website.


What is a Private Social Network?

Most people know what a social network is. It's a network where people come to discuss about general topics, and it allows people to get to know each other, their interests as well as find out who their friends are.

So what is a private social network, and why would owning a private social network be beneficial to your business or organization.

Below is a presentation that explains this further.

As always, your feedback and comments fuel my content creation. Please let me know what you like, don't like and how this can be improved.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

What is a social network?

Well, if we're going to talk about social networks, we should start by defining what is a social network, and how do they work in basic terms.

Social networks such as Linkedin.com, Facebook.com and Myspace.com has 2 key characteristics:

1) Member detail drill down - You get to know more about the member, their interests, and their friends.

2) Friends referring Friends - This is key to their growth. By creating a social environment that encourages friends to connect with each other, social networks grow very quickly.

Below is a quick video that explains social networking. Enjoy.

Please comment on this as your feedback is valuable to me.

Is Internet Marketing Dead?

Social Media/Social Networking has certainly changed the way consumers interact with companies, especially in the area of information marketing.

Back in the days of old, customers are sent to a squeeze/sales letter page, and the expectation is they would either buy from you or give you their email address. While this model is still the prevailing sales model for many websites, more and more people are waking up to the fact that as consumers change their habits, so too do marketers need to evolve. Those who don't may flounder by the way side.

Social networking, social marketing is a hot topic. Everyone is talking about it. It seems like it's pretty overwhelming. It's hard to get one's head around all these new concepts. Where does one even begin?

This blog is designed to help you navigate the complex landscape of social media and explain basic concepts to help you grow your business and improve sales.

If the tried and true method of Internet Marketing 1.0 is evolving, one needs to understand what Internet Marketing 2.0 means. Below is a brief video that explains the difference.

This is an interactive blog, and your feedback and input is greatly appreciated. In other words, please post a comment....good or bad. Ask me questions.