We live in the greatest time ever to do business than ever in our history. The fact that I can work in my home, in a regional area two and a half hours north of Sydney, Australia and I’m able to serve tens of thousands of people around the world because I’ve got an internet connection. That to me is just incredible.
And that’s an amazing opportunity that all business owners have, that is that we now have a global opportunity to connect and serve and reach people. That’s a most exciting thing in my opinion and it gives us an opportunity as business owners to get away from one on one and now being able to serve on a one to many basis.
There are many businesses who would never have thought of building an online community, whether it’s gated, membership based or not. They might think it’s outside of their core competency and isn’t worth doing.
The reality is that your market is gathering somewhere anyway. So my question would be “Wouldn’t you rather invite them over to your place to have those conversations?”. When your market is gathering in a market that you control, it’s an opportunity for you to:
- Gain insights for your products - what people like and what they don’t like
- Gain insights into your buyer persona’s challenges they’re experiencing which can give you ideas for new products
- Go deeper with your customers and serve them on a level that isn’t possible when it is just a one time transaction
It is considerably more beneficial for businesses to own the platform that our customers hang out on rather than to rely on facebook or twitter because you get a greater level of insight and control relating to the conversation. Your own platform is an environment that you control and can shape however you want.
Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn are all great platforms for reaching out to people but the reality is we don’t control them. This means business owners are limited by the restrictions those platforms place on us. When you own your own platform and your own community, there are no limitations. You can measure anything you want, survey any way you want, engage any way you want. This can give you a significant advantage over your competition. By mobilising people in a way that suits your purposes but is mutually beneficial to your community, it immediately differentiates you.
In addition, building a community can help you get out of the mindset of trading time for dollars. You can reach a wider, even global audience that are specifically interested in and served by your niche. This means you can also create a more scaleable business model.
If you implement various levels of membership with added value at each level, business owners can also develop a recurring income model from your community by charging on a monthly or annual basis for your value added content or services. A recurring revenue model can reduce the impact of seasonality and launch fatigue on your business, as well as allow business owners to have the confidence to plan and resource more consistently throughout the year.
Still not convinced that building a community is right for your business or industry? Here are a few unexpected examples to show you that all you need is a bit of creativity and action to create a successful community or membership model in your business:
- Travellingfrogs.com - Australia’s version of Airbnb and Stayz but with a different business model. This site doesn’t charge commissions to owners or guests, rather there is a small annual fee to for owners to list their property. The whole premise of this site is about building community since the owners feel that the money from commissions is better in the hands of owners and guests where it will be spent in the regional communities that the properties are in, thereby contributing and allowing these communities to thrive, whilst at the same time, building a community of owners who are passionate about giving their guests a unique, local experience.
- Dollarshaveclub.com - for a few dollars per month members receive new razor blades. The problem that is solved by this membership model? Men forget to buy razor blades like they forget to buy milk. And they hate paying more for ‘fancy brand name shave tech’. In addition to earning a regular income by providing consistent monthly razors, Dollar Shave Club gain valuable insights into it’s underserved members needs which drives upsell and cross sell opportunities.
- Elementarylibrarian.com - Jocelyn Sams was an Elementary school librarian spending all her spare time developing her weekly lesson plans. She wanted to spend more time with her husband and children so started looking for quality pre built lesson plans. When she couldn’t find them, she built them herself and started selling them online to help other librarians in the same boat. When Jocelyn became tired of endless seasonality issues (eg back to school periods) and launch cycles to sell her products, she turned to Getudigital (now known as Inbound Addons) to develop her membership site model. Instead of large sales volumes a couple of times a year when school was due to go back, Jocelyn turned her business into a thriving community and a 5 figure per month recurring income membership model serving over 700 members within 12 months.
- Obstaclecourse.training - this site is a training site for athletes and beginners interested in Obstacle Course Racing. Think Tough Mudder and Spartan Race for example. The training is provided by three of the World Champion Obstacles Course racers and varies from absolute beginner 4 week training to 20 week preparation for Ultra’s.
The 8 key reasons to start a membership site:
- Gain control over the conversations your community are having relating to your industry
- Gain insights into what they think of your products
- Gain an understanding of their challenges and how you may be able to develop products to solve them
- Differentiate yourself from your competition
- Get out of the mindset of exchanging time for dollars. You can reach a wider audience and not just get paid like in a trade where if I work x number of hours I get y dollars
- Build a recurring revenue model
- Reduce the impact of seasonality
- Plan and resource your business with greater certainty
One final thought for companies that think that building a community and membership site is outside their core competency and not worth doing … If YOU don’t, who will? Will your competition become the thought leaders in your industry and command the attention of your market or will you? The best time to start building your community is now.