Q: “We're getting ready to launch Game-Ready Mom for Sideline Pass, and I want to begin it as a membership site. Any advice or suggestions on how to build the membership? Set the rates? This will be the first time we charge anything for Sideline Pass.”
— Mia Jackson, Sideline Pass, Washington, DC.
dM's Answer: “Mia, I commend you for treating your new community like a business right out of the gate. I am a great resource on this topic since I've been leading a membership-based community for 11 years. So many people mistake community for business. By that, I mean they launch a community, and allow people to start joining, before they give a moment's thought to how they will run things as a business. Here are some tips to help you get started on strong footing.
- Articulate real benefits This is obvious, but often overlooked because the idea of community is so fun and exciting. But fun and exciting do not a business make. From a business perspective, community forms because people gather, and people gather when there's something in it for them.
- Start out free or very low cost. Make community membership free or very low cost for a while to introduce people to your concept and allow them to give you feedback about what works and doesn't work, and on what price points are most realistic based on the benefits you offer. When I launched IBN, membership was free for 3 full months. That was 11 years ago! I treated everyone like a paying customer and I rolled out the red carpet and the benefits for all. It made a difference. Make sure you tell people in advance that membership is free (or deeply discounted) only for a limited time so your community members are not surprised when they cannot access benefits without paying.
- Lead and be present. Include in the planning process exactly how you will be “present” for your members. Every community needs a leader. If your idea is, as is the plan of so many, to launch a community and then tell everyone to “talk amongst yourselves,” it will not work. I see a lot of this today, and it's using people. Be respectful. Be present. Make a difference in people's lives. Be a positive influence. Lead.
- Be a “super-connector”. Members of your community will look to you to be a change agent. It will be your job to make membership educational, useful, and fun. Invest in your members by connecting them to each other. If Susie tells you she is a single mom Green Bay Packer fan in the heart of Pittsburgh, connect her with other single mom Packer fans. Facilitate strong relationships. Doing so makes it fun for you and your members. It also strengthens your leaderships skills, and believe me, you're going to need everyone one of them to give Sideline Pass wings.
A membership-based community is fun. A membership-based business community is fun and profitable. Like all other businesses, it must be planned, budgeted, scheduled, launched, and nurtured with tenacity and dedication. But as important as profitability is, it cannot be just about the money. To be successful, you must also enjoy it, and you must create ways for people to see you enjoying what you are doing for and with them.
If you don't enjoy it, neither will anyone else.
There are lots more things to think about as you plan and launch your new business, but this will get you off to a good start. You may also enjoy this post, with some of my thoughts on community leadership. I'm interested to know your feedback and the feedback of others with experience and questions in this area. Keep me posted on how things go, Mia. I wish you the best!” –dM
Questions: What do you think of my suggestions for Mia? What's your take?