The hottest topic in digital marketing right now is Memberships (again…)

That’s actually a good thing (every time the trend comes back around) and here’s why:

Hiding underneath an avalanche of hype, hysteria and widely-promoted launches is a fundamental fact of modern marketing – the whole web is based on memberships.

Since there’s been a world wide web, we’ve all been conditioned to “sign up” and “log in”, wherever we go online.

From public libraries to porn, from Amazon to Apple, from Facebook to your favorite forum – every day millions of anonymous clickers transform themselves into “members” to get what they want.

We don’t even think about it anymore – we just do it – because…

Memberships are the ideal mechanism for fulfilling the internet’s natural flow of ATTENTION > ACTION > DIGITAL DELIVERY.

Ignore that at your own peril…

I’ve been building and running high-profit, low-stress online memberships for well over a decade now and teaching others how to do the same since 2009.

Any modern digital marketer worth their salt shouldn’t even think of delivering paid content online these days without a members area centralizing the experience for the customer.

Why?

Here’s a few of the many very good reasons why memberships make so much sense…

  • Superior buying experience = happier customers, spending more;
  • Secure, protected content delivery = thwarting digital thieves;
  • Passive, recurring income (if you’re selling subscriptions);
  • Improved post-sale satisfaction = less refunds, more profit;
  • Greater consumption and end-user results = more future sales;
  • Natural, built-in upsell path that’s always in front of your customers;
  • Gathers your audience on your own online property instead of somebody else’s

Depending on what kind of social interaction you offer members, there’s also:

  • Developing a loyal following of active participants in a community all your own;
  • Tons of good-will, word-of-mouth referral traffic bringing in new members;
  • Self-educating classrooms and support provided by members, for other members;
  • Promotion and team-building from within, recruiting your most valuable members to help grow and improve your properties while basking in their community rock stardom…

And we haven’t even broached more advanced memberships involving:

  • Software as a service;
  • Automated fulfillment of physical products;
  • Hybrid digital / physical subscriptions;
  • Local market advertising and publishing co-ops
  • Masterminds and group training programs

PRO TIP: Memberships are deep magic, well worth your time to study and observe carefully. It’s easy to overlook genius membership marketing strategy at work. When done well, it’s so natural it’s almost invisible.

Wielded properly, memberships are the Fire Wands of digital marketing – fast, powerful and easily mishandled by Muggles.

That means the smartest marketers generally don’t talk much about Fight Club.

The people who’ve figured this stuff out? They’re too busy counting their money to correct your misgivings.

Hell, many don’t even want you to figure it out. Why create new competition? Why poison plump traffic sources with ham-fisted half-asses doing it wrong and blowing it for everyone?

Meanwhile, the membership conversation in the marketplace of “how to” is largely dominated by magic-bean pikers pimping shitty software – outsourced a month or two back for a few hundred bucks – or whatever other shiny new “breakthrough” their copywriter invented for them.

Sound cynical? You have no idea…

Surely we can agree that many of the people promoting launches have precisely ZERO practical experience with operating a profitable membership themselves, so it should come as no surprise when their “solutions” create more problems than they solve.

There’s no point in wasting more words on all that’s wrong with being on the wrong side of the sale.

Let’s focus on the signal, not the noise…

What is it that holds back so many otherwise clever, successful marketers from making memberships work for them… what’s it really take to move the needle?

In my experience, the killer is a combination of misunderstanding, bad experiences with technology and unfounded fears about the time commitment required to operate memberships efficiently and profitably.

And that’s shameful, really… because most of it’s based on bullshit and speculation.

Let’s shine some light on a few common and murky membership misconceptions:

  1. Memberships DO NOT have to be recurring, monthly subscriptions – that’s just one of many monetization models to choose from.
  2. Memberships DO NOT need to include a community component – there’s nothing wrong with having hundreds, even thousands of members who’ll never once see or talk to one another.
  3. Memberships DO NOT require constant content creation – I publish some mammoth memberships that haven’t had a single content update in years.

When it comes to membership technology – there ARE a few ugly truths to consider:

  1. Every single membership solution will piss you off in one way or another – it’s all about understanding your actual needs versus a never-ending list of possibilities that will never matter to you.
  2. “Integration” is frequently a loaded word – just because software systems have the ability to talk to each other doesn’t mean that they’ll play nicely or work well together for you.
  3. “Pilot Error” is as often as not the cause of a membership system “sucking” –  your mileage and impression of the same system’s “suckitude” may vary.

There is not now, nor will there ever be, a perfect membership solution – there’s always going to be a trade-off somewhere.

The most popular, widely-integrated software may not be the easiest to set up or use.

The system with the best reporting and advanced marketing capabilities may be prohibitively expensive.

The cheapest, easiest to use system may have some functional quirks or not be as well-supported as others.

Still, there’s never been a better time than now to be involved with memberships.

Stu McLaren, one of the true good guys in this business and the creator of the WordPress membership plugin juggernaut Wishlist Member, just closed the doors on a massive launch for his new training program that cost between $2K – $10K.  A high-ticket fixed-term membership teaching recurring subscription memberships – oh the meta. 🙂

Kevin Rogers, one of the hottest copywriters in the business (and one of my dearest friends in real life) did a complete 180 in his business over the last year, shifting his focus away from massively profitable client work to growing his paid membership community and the resulting recurring revenue / coaching –  and he’s never been happier.

Ryan Levesque, a literally genius marketer, best-selling author and the creator of the Ask method for surveying customers, recently revealed a bunch of back-office details about taking his mastermind membership to over $2 million in sales.

We could be here all day counting inspiring membership success stories: Ben Settle’s physical newsletter subscription membership; Colin Theriot’s free copywriting group on Facebook with 14K members that costs nothing to join but earns him a lazy six-figures for doing what he did all day anyway…

But no matter how well THEY are doing with memberships – they are not YOU.

So what do YOU do when you’re jazzed about memberships, but need help making it all happen?

That’s simple… work with me, privately, one-on-one and let’s do a “deep dive” into how the smartest marketers in the game are using memberships to haul in big bucks and how you can model the best of what they’re doing in your own business.

Big-ticket guru courses are fine and can be hugely helpful if you’re the type of person that can commit to going through the full training and acting on what you learn – statistically we know that the overwhelming majority are not.

High-end mastermind groups and uber-expensive live workshops are awesome… but once those hotel lobby doors close behind you, attendees often wind up right back where they came from and old patterns are hard to break on your own.

The single most predictably profitable shortcut for mastering masterships and putting them to work in your business right away is to learn the ropes and get the real insider’s secrets, working directly with a proven expert that’s “been there”, “done that” and “bought the t-shirt”.

Even better if that expert has more than a decade of hands-on experience developing world-class membership sites for clients, business partnerships and for their own personal profit (never trust experts who don’t “eat their own food”.)

Better still if that expert has already taught this stuff to thousands of marketers from around the world – in live workshops, in group trainings, in high-level masterminds, in home-study courses, and privately, one-on-one, for years.

I am that expert and for a limited time, I’m accepting a small number of qualified marketers to join me for personal, 1-on-1 membership coaching and consultation sessions.

Click here to see all the details of my Private Membership Deep-Dive offer

About The Author: Brian McLeod

Brian McLeodBrian McLeod is a former invention industry insider turned direct-response copywriting expert  and publisher, now living and working in sunny Tampa-Bay, Florida.

Brian's list of clients and partners reads like a who's who of the world's most respected marketing experts including David Garfinkel (Fast Effective Copy, High-Speed Copywriting), John Carlton (Simple Writing System), Kevin Rogers (Copy Chief), David Deutsch, Spike Humer, Yanik Silver, and too many more to name.