A lot of community builders want to build a paid membership community or plan to convert their existing community into a paid membership model. And so they keep looking for answers to crack the online community membership model. In today’s blog, we’ll literally crack the membership model for running a paid membership community for you all!
By following the tips given in this blog, you’ll be able to run a revenue-making and profitable online community. But for that, you’d literally need to be a community builder on a mission. And the mission should be a profitable online community. You’d have to aim for bridging all the gaps that were being left out in your quest to build a paid online community.
And you’d also be required to put forth your most remarkable community building and brand expansion skills, in general, to accelerate towards this mission. You’d have to think of yourself as a part of the building blocks of the brand that will contribute to its growth. And if you don’t have any experience in running subscription programs, then fret not. This blog will tell you exactly how to do it!
But before we go any further, if you want to learn, network, and collaborate with the top community builders from across the country, then join CommunityHood today. At CommunityHood we host live learning events around community building and some of our past guest speakers have been from renowned online communities like The Product Folks, Leap.Club, and Stoa School.
In this blog, you’ll learn:
- How to figure out the vision and mission of your paid online community?
- How to acquire the first 500 paid members?
- How to improve the product over time?
And much more!
So, let’s get started!
How To Find The Vision And Mission Of A Paid Membership Community?
So, just to set some context for you, building a paid membership community is no child play. Before starting your paid membership community, you should make sure that your community is solving a problem that is relevant in today’s day and age. There are numerous problems to be solved and this is absolutely true across sectors, domains, age groups, and gender.
So conduct thorough research, go out and talk to as many people as you can to find out what your niche audience is struggling with. For example, if you want to build a paid membership community for professionals, ask them questions like what is it that they are doing for their professional growth? And what is it that they need to grow further?
And as mentioned above, you’ll find a problem to be solved across genders and age groups. Now based on these conversations that you’ll have with these people, start building the first few online community benefits or the features that you’d like to offer them. Try to figure out that one thing that stood out in all of these conversations and that people are really passionate about.
And then make sure you provide the tools for solving that problem in your offering. Try to find your push or the required kick in the feedback that you gather from these conversations. Strive to build a community that helps people in achieving their mission or vision. At the same time, also understand that you can only solve a part of the problem at a time.
The bigger problem can be found across cities and different communities. But instead of targeting the bigger problem, plan to take one step at a time and solve a part of whatever problem you choose to solve. It’s just about starting somewhere and you need to choose your start wisely. Know that picking a part of the problem and being able to solve it effectively will also make your fundraising journey a lot easier.
And before starting to build your paid community, make sure that you are 100% convinced that the problem you’ve chosen is the problem that you want to solve. You need to understand that the paid online community model is an extremely unique one. But it will also set you apart and set you up for success.
Also Check Out:
- Online Community Building: What Is It And How To Build One?
- Paid Membership Community: How To Build One Successfully?
- Community Event Checklist: Things To Do After Hosting A Community Event
- Online Brand Community: Top Hacks For Building A Virtual Brand Community
How To Acquire The First 500 Paid Community Members?
Imagine pitching a paid community network to your first member. Obviously, the first question would be: ‘Who are the members of your online community?’
And your answer would be: ‘Zero’.
Yes, we know! That is the harsh reality of life, but the positive thing is, that everyone goes through it. But you need to be prepared and understand that it going to be blood, sweat, and tears, for the first few months. You’d have to go around and convince people by explaining to them what you want to build. Below are a 5 tips that will help you acquire your first 500 paid community members:
1. Have A Website: One thing that will make it easier for you to convince people is to already have a website up and running. This is what will literally help you acquire your first batch of paid members. Of course, talking to people and pitching them to be a part of your paid community will be an insanely crazy journey, but it’ll be all worth it.
2. Go Benefits First: Make sure you aren’t selling a dream in your pitches. Go benefits first and provide an online community membership that includes a bunch of online community benefits. For example, it could be group coaching, sessions with therapists, cohort-based courses, etc. Basically, you need to go benefits first.
3. The Waitlist Model: The next in line is the waitlist model. Yes, so when you’re in the phase of acquiring your first 500 members, start putting out posts on social media. And apart from this, create a waiting list where people can drop their email IDs. Keep talking about your mission on social media to create more awareness about your community.
4. Well Prepared Offering: Make sure to think through your offering really well before reaching out to people as that is one of the key factors that will help you achieve high conversion rates.
5. Personalized Member Onboarding: While onboarding your first 500 members, make sure you speak to every single person before onboarding them. Understand that online community memberships are not like other over-the-top platform memberships where people can just go, sign up, pay, and become a member. It’s tough. But it’ll help you build right.
Talking to each member personally before onboarding them is what will help you in creating instant connections amongst members once they are a part of the community. This will also help you build a tight-knit community of like-minded people. And in the end, they will be bounded by that common mission that will make your community even more strong.
Speaking to every single person is what will help that bond stay in some sense. And doing so will also create some exclusivity and bragging for the brand as the brand will be delivering value by doing so. So, that’s very very important. Also, be mindful of the fact that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can only help you crack online community memberships.
It can’t help you renew online community memberships. So, there is only one thing that can do that and that’s delivering value.
How To Improve Your Paid Membership Community Model Over Time?
Over the next couple of months, observe what is working and what is not working. And then make changes in your subscription model and pivot it over time. So, basically, figure out a thing, give the audience some value and hopefully, certain values will strike with the audience. And then you can iterate on the offering.
Basically, if you’ll build a product that is needed in the world, the demand will be there. There will be bad months and you’ll have to change the course. There will be a requirement to do multiple pivots. You need to understand that the ball is in your court to cater to this demand. And money will just help you deliver good value to your members.
When it comes to a paid membership community model, the product roadmap is determined by your members. It’s the truth. You need to take customer feedback very seriously as that is what will help you build better. You can also call it – building in the public. ‘Building in public’ is what will help you stay revenue first always.
It will help you to stay profitable always and make your community the preferred community in your niche. People’s feedback will help you build right from day-1. It will help you ensure that online community members are valuing it a lot more, which will ultimately get you more renewals. Customer feedback will help you tweak your online community benefits a little bit better.
Another thing to be mindful of is when you hear 10 things, you would want to do 10 things. Learn that everyone will have opinions. You need to know what to take and what to skip. And that will be an important part of your community building journey. Just knowing what feedback to take and what not to take.
But overall, your conversations with your online community members will help you shape the product a little bit better over time. The mission also really helps bind everything together. You’d have to tell people that this is what they are doing for themselves. And a community will automatically come out of it. They will come in for themselves.
They will come in for the online community benefits. It is all blood, sweat, and tears in the starting. You’d have to just literally keep yourself out there. You just need to understand if you’re building a paid membership community, then you’d have to just go all in. It does take a lot. It’s not easy. And you’d have to make pivots as a community, with some features and people in the team too.
The only rule of thumb is just to keep going and to keep building relentlessly. And that’s the only way to win. And when it comes to a paid membership community, know that not all online community members will be happy. There will be strugglers in the community and some people won’t be able to make the most of it.
Here, the important thing is also to take those things very seriously. Like, get on a call if that’s what it takes. And that’ll just help you build better. And the fact that It’s paid also makes people realize that if they are not using it, they need to call it out. Whereas, if it’s just free, people don’t feel the need to flag things as it doesn’t change anything for them.
So, a lot of learning in terms of just being there. Keep talking about the mission and going out is what you should focus on.
How To Grow A Paid Membership Community Organically?
Word of mouth is something that can take a paid membership community a long way. It is one marketing strategy that can make a paid online community really really popular, without having to spend a single penny. So, here are 3 ways that can help you grow your paid membership community organically:
Social Media Posts
The best way to start creating word-of-mouth awareness about your online community membership is to start putting social posts. And to gain the initial traction, you can also take help from your friends and ask them to tag and send your posts to everyone on Instagram, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp.
Don’t hesitate in asking your friends for some help as it is one of the best ways to get the likes and comments going on your social media posts. By taking help from your friends in spreading these social media posts, all your second, third, and fourth-degree connections will also start seeing these posts on their social media feed.
Publishing social media posts will also help you in building the waitlist that we talked about above. And while you’re at it, make sure that the waitlist is very simple. It could be as simple as heading to the website and giving just the email address. And all you have to do is to keep people posted about all the important things that are happening in your community.
That’s it. Nothing else. No details. Nothing. And once you have enough people on your waiting list, let’s say 1k people, along with sending them the important updates, you can start enrolling the relevant people in the community too.
And the third thing that will ensure consistent word of mouth for your paid online community is the value that you deliver. So, keep delivering high value. Keep obsessing over customer feedback. And take NPS very very seriously. Remember that no amount of marketing can ever match a great customer experience.
Wall Of Love
If you want to create the right word of mouth for your paid membership community, then create a wall of love. Yes, you read that right!
For that, all you need to do is to take screenshots of all the positive posts that people are making on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter about your community and post them on a separate website that is made just for this purpose. You basically have to highlight and show how important the sheer amount of love that your online community members shower you with is important for you as a community.
This idea is actually very interesting and also very tactical. That whatever positive that people are talking about, you just reemphasize it to the audience and then let it generate a positive bias. But know that this will only happen if you keep delivering value as a paid membership community. This strategy will help you extract as much organic growth as you would like.
And not just this, trust us, this wall of love will also help you stay sane on hard days. So, some of the tactical things like creating this wall of love and speaking to the audience in the spaces where they already exist will help you create a really strong word of mouth for your paid membership community.
How To Build The Online Community Membership Model?
Just on a broad level, when you start community monetization as an a la carte, the day zero, there are some general things that you need to keep in mind. Some of the strategies that you should use to monetize a community and shape your revenue model. One of the best ways to start monetizing a community is to give people access to a certain number of online community benefits like group coaching and events in a specified amount.
And to do so effectively, make sure you have an application ready for your brand that has proper names for each of your offerings. The names could be as simple as Masterclasses or Clubhouse. User experience is important here. And the more easily people will be able to access your offerings, the easier your community monetization journey will become.
Then over the next 4-5 months, after you’ve started to monetize your community, gather feedback and collect data on net promoter score, (NPS), and build on that data relentlessly. One way to make your online community members really love the mission and what you are doing is by working constantly on the feedback being provided by them.
Also, be open to doing some early experiments. Make a bunch of changes and tweak your online community membership model to see what works best for your community. This could include things like experimenting with monthly and yearly subscription models to a varied range of pricing as well. See what change or experiment makes the people start valuing the network a lot more.
And to get that data, keep a close eye on your NPS. Apart from the general online community benefits that come with an overall subscription, you can also try and experiment with some premium services. This could include things like if a member of the community wants a one-on-one session with an expert, then they would have to pay additionally for it.
Basically, do experiments for a while. Add a bunch of features over time and make pivots as required. Doing so will also help you to open the floodgates a little bit. There are no two ways about the fact that the online community membership model does help community builders in onboarding faster. So, So, keep experimenting with the pricing and subscription model and see what works really really great for your community.
Working upon customer feedback is what helps people value the online community membership a lot more and that’s how a revenue model evolves. And having multiple offerings is one strategy that will ensure constant revenue for your community. For example, you can have things like group coaching, one-on-one expert sessions, jobs, etc. that will also give you some revenue.
You can directly make a certain amount of money in case someone books a one-on-one coaching session, or some other on-demand service. Offerings like these even have the potential to overtake even subscription revenue at scale if done right. And that’s how you should focus on evolving your revenue model over time.
But if you are thinking of monetizing communities, first and foremost, take a step back and understand what is the value that you want to give to your community. There are people who just want to create a community to push a product or just because it’s cool on Twitter. So, don’t start a community for the sake of it.
Forming a community requires a lot more than just getting a certain set of people together on your website or application. So, first and foremost would be just to understand customers, feedback, and what it is that they want.
The second would be to improve outcomes. The outcome could include things like learning, engagement, networking, and all of that. Have clarity about what is it for your community?
What are you expecting the people who are the members of your online community to get out of it?
And then eventually the brand loyalty gets built with everything else. Remember that it doesn’t get built overnight at all.
How To Change Processes After Establishing The Online Community Membership Model?
The processes won’t really change much, except there will be certain things that you’d have to add to your existing processes. Below are 3 things that you’d have to add to your existing process after establishing the online community membership model:
1. Increased operations & communication: A lot of operations will be involved once you have found your ideal online community membership model. You’d just have to communicate the changes to your online community members via the right tools. Some effective tools for the same could be Mailchimp, Mailmodo, and WhatsApp.
You would literally have to be honest and transparent. Tell your online community members what went wrong, these are the new guidelines and this is what it takes. Being honest will help you retain around 90% of your online community members while you make those experiments for finding your right online community membership model, which is pretty high.
2. Gather feedback & implement learnings: For the rest 10% who could drop after making changes in the online community membership model, you should ask them why they didn’t see the value or why were they not active in the community?
Taking learnings from them becomes important here. Ask them why did they drop?
Net promoter score just doesn’t come from existing members. It also comes from people who don’t see the value. And after gathering feedback from them, work on what else can you do. And that’s what you should focus on doing. Just take feedback, learn from it, and keep moving.
3. Change your pitch: Now after gathering feedback, you’d just have to start selling differently. You would have to stop pitching about your community’s old model and start pitching about the new, evolved subscription model. The new pitch is what will help the number of online community memberships you sell grow.
Also Check Out:
- Community Building Career: Different Roles And Global Opportunities
- Community Team: How To Build A Volunteer Team For Online Community
- Community Festival: Impact Of Festivals On Community Building
- Building A Community Around Your Brand: The ROI Of Online Communities
How To Sell Your Online Community Membership?
Don’t pitch your online community membership as a membership that costs x amount. The reason why we suggested you speak to every single person during the onboarding process in the blog above is so that you can literally set this expectation. And any given point in your community building journey, you need not go after hockey stick growth, as it will just set you up for failure.
Going after hockey stick growth will make you just pitch your online community membership in the wrong way. Then you’ll just say come, and try this. You need to understand that careers are not built overnight, and networks are not built overnight either. It takes blood, sweat, and tears. There will be months when a member of the community is active and then there will also be months when that member of the community won’t be active.
You need to speak to your members and pitch it as a lifetime online community membership. It’s almost like a sports club membership. Like tomorrow if a member is not using the pool, it doesn’t mean that they are not going to be a member anymore. So, having that perspective change is very important. And refrain from making claims like in one year you will go from this to this.
Rather, present your community as a community that has the back of its members. You could highlight aspects like there is a mentor that has their back whenever it is that the online community members need it. If the online community members want to prepare for an interview and they need help, then the community is there. Someone is fundraising, and they need help, then the community is there for that.
If someone wants to give back and wants to mentor others, then the community is there too. The online community members want to learn from the best, then the community is there. So, it’s literally about giving everything that the online community members need to grow and things that they want. But you need to let them make that decision.
Going the – ‘do this and we will give you this’, is the wrong way of pitching your online community membership. So, the selling should be a lot more long term. Don’t even sell your online community membership for one year, but sell it like a lifetime pitch for them. This strategy of pitching online community membership is a very nuanced strategy.
A lot of people don’t realize it, and they start selling online community membership for the short term. So, sell for the long term and not as a time-period online community membership. Sell it as a lifelong online community membership. And it is also very important to crack the right team who will be selling that online community membership. That also becomes extremely, extremely crucial and important.
How To Shortlist People From The Waitlist?
This is one question that community builders think about all the time. The right way to shortlist people from the waitlist is to speak to every single person before onboarding them, as we mentioned in the blog previously. The conversation is not so much about if someone is not a fit, or if someone is a fit.
It’s just are we the right fit?
Are people coming in for the right reasons?
So, if people are coming in to get something, more often than not, they will be disappointed by any community that they are trying to be a part of. That is because it’s very important for the online community members to understand that they need to be equally invested. They need to give as much as they will be asking.
And these are small-small things that your team should talk about to members before onboarding them. And these conversations do take time. For each conversation, take at least 20-25 mins time to understand the member’s purpose of joining properly. It is very important when you get someone in your community, the person should have a giver mindset.
And that’s very very important to keep as a filter, because if everyone is there to take, then the community DNA doesn’t go well.
And on that note, if you’re looking for a platform where you can host private and live community events, then check out LikeMinds right away! Our platform comes with inbuilt features that make it super easy for everyone to host free as well as paid events.