Is your membership working against you, rather than supporting you?
At their best, memberships create stable, recurring revenue and allow you more breathing room while having an immense, transformational impact on your customers.
But all too often, memberships become yet another thing on your plate that makes you feel burnt out and overwhelmed.
Maybe you’re stuck creating endless new content every week. Maybe you’re hosting group coaching calls that drain you, rather than inspire you. Maybe you’re losing customers faster than you can afford, and you’re tired of launching every three weeks to try to replace them.
Don’t lose hope. With careful thought and restructuring, your business can nurture sustainable growth, bring in stable recurring revenue, and help your customers transform their lives in a truly meaningful way.
Before you despair and decide that running a membership business isn’t for you, read this post to find out how to fix the most common traps that membership creators fall into, and take action to make your membership business successful, sustainable, and impactful.
You’re Doing Too Much
This is the biggest challenge that membership creators face. If you have a business where you’re promising new content every week, hosting calls that exhaust you to attend, or doing too much of any kind of work that feels extractive rather than replenishing, pause and rethink your offer.
The first trap that people fall into with memberships is thinking of them through a 1:1 model, rather than a scalable model. One of the best features of memberships is that they’re scalable (you can learn more about scalability in episode 141 of The Holistic Business Podcast).
When you first move from a 1:1 business model to a membership model, there’s often an underlying belief or habit where you feel uncomfortable not working harder for your money. You overcompensate and put way too much into your membership because you’re used to trading time directly for money, and charging customers for the value of the transformation you offer feels too easy.
But consider that a membership packed with way too much content and features isn’t just detrimental for you—it’s detrimental to your customers’ experience, too.
The reality is that doing more in your membership is not actually going to help your customers if you can’t justify it as necessary for the result that they’re trying to get. Your customers are busy. If you stuff your membership with a bunch of features that overwhelm them, they’re going to have a less than stellar experience trying to achieve the transformation you promise.
Choose to place your time and energy only into the tools that actually help your customers achieve their goals, and get rid of the rest. Do yourself and your customers a favor by keeping your membership structured, streamlined, and focused.
You Don’t Have a Sustainable Sales System
The second biggest mistake that membership creators make is not having a sustainable sales system in place. When you create a membership, you need to learn how to sell it in order to make it financially lucrative.
Do a quick audit and see if you actually talk about your membership to your audience. If you simply have a page on your website about the membership and hope people click on it but never actively promote it, that’s a red flag that your sales system isn’t robust enough to generate the kind of leads necessary to make it profitable.
Your job is to help your audience understand why they should care and why they should invest in your membership. Help your potential customers figure out if your membership is right for them by implementing a solid sales strategy that can bring in new members that sustain your business.
We suggest implementing an online sales funnel that can guide your customers through the purchasing decision step-by-step. For help on how to set up a sales funnel and troubleshooting offers that don’t sell, listen to episodes 200 and 204 of The Holistic Business Podcast.
You Don’t Have a Customer Retention Plan
If you don’t have a customer retention plan, you’re going to start losing money. Nobody wants to talk about this or acknowledge this, but having a customer retention plan is key to keeping your membership healthy and sustainable.
The industry term for the percentage of people leaving your membership is churn. Having a churn rate of less than 10% per month is ideal. If your churn rate is higher than 10%, it’s time to reassess how you’re planning to keep your customers after they decide to buy your offer.
A good customer retention plan starts at the very beginning. Do you have an onboarding email? A call for new members? If you don’t have any processes in place to welcome your members after they purchase, make sure to develop one that addresses basic user experience so they won’t leave as soon as they arrive simply because they don’t know how to use their membership. Give them a tour and clear directions on where everything is located and how they can best make use of the resources.
Think about ways you can make sure that your customers are effectively using the tools you’re providing them. If they feel like they have too much to do or that it’s too hard to make progress in the membership, they will leave.
Another piece of customer retention is proper offboarding. Your customers will have failed payments, they’ll want to pause for a short period of time, they’ll have other circumstances that prevent them from continuing on in the membership. Develop a process to handle these situations in a way that helps people fix their payment methods, resubscribe when they want to, and easily return if they choose to do so in the future.
You Membership Isn’t Integrated With the Rest of Your Business
Does your membership actually integrate well with the rest of your business? Most small online business owners don’t make enough money from one offer alone, and have multiple revenue streams to support them. Double-check to make sure that your revenue streams aren’t cannibalizing one another.
Do you have standalone courses that contain the same content as your membership? If so, rethink what your membership provides your customers separately from your other offers. Memberships shouldn’t be random additions to your business for the sake of generating extra revenue—in order to be successful, they have to exist for your customers and fit in with their journey and your business.
Decide what role your membership will fill in your business. Memberships make ideal top-of-funnel offers, where customers can first get to know you and be prepared for deeper work with you through 1:1 sessions. They can also make for great high-level offers for intimate small group work, or become places where people can go after working with you privately to continue getting support. Figure out which role works best for you, and remove any conflicting or repetitive content from your business’s menu.
To learn more about how to troubleshoot your membership, listen to the full Holistic Business Podcast episode.
If you’re ready to dive deeper into how to run a membership that works for you and your community, sign up for our waitlist to apply for the Membership Accelerator program, our year-long intensive where we help you design (or redesign) and then scale your membership sustainably, without burning out and without falling into these common traps. We’ll be opening applications in just a few weeks, and if your application is accepted, you’ll be invited to attend a free private training with Sarah where you’ll learn much more about memberships, the math behind running a successful business, and concrete actions you can take to start generating the revenue you’re dreaming of.