Membership Websites – 10 Questions You Should Ask Before You Join

This is the second article in my series about membership websites, to view the first article click here Membership Websites – Who Do You Spend Your Time With? Which  Membership Site Is Right For You? Determining which membership site to join can be a difficult decision. There are so many to choose from and there is no point in joining so many that you never have time to digest the content, interact with other members and  gain any real benefits  from  the community. This blog post will explore the 10 questions you need to ask before you join a membership website or group coaching program to help you make a more informed choice. . 1) What Will You Get In Return For Your Investment? When you look at the price you need to calculate just what you are going to get in return. If your membership site has a high initial cost and a recurring monthly fee  calculate how much it will cost you in total over the following year and assess whether you are going to see a return on your investment. You need to assess the quality and quantity of content on your membership site and the tools and resources that are available to members. Can you get the same thing elsewhere and what are other similar sites offering and what subscription fees are they charging. Those that charge an exorbitant initial  entry fee might be the type that will close down in six months and not be looking for the long term customers on a continuity payment scheme. If its new, look at the people behind it. Do they have a track record you can trust. Spend time looking at their websites and  doing some research before you part with your money. . 2) What Are The Other Members Like And Will You Fit In? Look at who else is a member and talk to them about their experiences. Ask yourself   what types of people you want to associate with and how much is it worth to you and your business to rub shoulders and interact closely with these people Will  you feel comfortable in this membership site or are you going to have to pretend to be something that you are not. You need to choose a membership site that allows you to be  yourself and not feel like you are constantly putting on an act. The memebrship cultures differs greatly from site to site. This is why having a free trial period is so important. Any site that doesn’t include  some type of risk reversal  should be avoided or questioned further. . 3) Is The Membership Site Aimed At Short Term Profits Or Long Term Growth? Is your membership site aimed at making the site owners  the maximum amount of money upfront with a high non returnable joining fee or do they have a long term continuity program where you pay in monthly instalments.  You may well find that they have both. A high joining fee acts as an entry barrier and a low or non existent joining fee can make it a no-brainer, especially for the first month. It totally depends on if the site wants to attract quality or quantity and at what stage they are in their own internal growth cycle. With so many fly by night membership sites and the relative ease of setting them  up using automated software scripts,  many  site owners primary  concern is to get as much money from their customers up front while their product or service is hot and has a high perceived value. Respectable sites  quite rightly charge a high initial fee because of  the energy they expended creating the content and  getting  the members to join.  They know that many  people will quit after a couple of months and the prospect of a long term recurring commission will be lost.   Their content is also at risk from plagiarism as there is nothing to stop any existing members stealing their content and selling it somewhere else. Some sites often have a limited number of places available and then close their doors. There are  several reasons for this. From a marketing perspective it engineers scarcity and a higher price can be justified and on the practical level  there is an optimum size for any community and too many members makes itimpersonal. . 4) Is The content On The Membership Site Time Sensitive And Is It Updated Regularly? One of the reasons to join membership sites is to have access to cutting edge information and resources. The problem with this especially in a social media environment is that things go out of date very quickly. If you are paying to have access to home study materials make sure you know that the content is still relevant and regularly updated.  Some membership sites offer free access to outdated content as a way to attract more customers. If the quality is good you will want to have access to the latest more up to date  material and be willing to pay for it. . 5) Does This Site Have An Existing Track Record And Can You Trust Who Is Running This Site To Fulfil Their Promises A membership site that has been running for over a year can probably be expected to continue to run for another year as they now have a solid track record and a core of committed members. Joining a new membership site with no track record is risky, especially if they are asking for a high up front fee. Proper research into the backgrounds of the site owners should be done.  You are investing  your hard earned money into something that should bring you a significant return on your  investment. Do your research carefully, Google the names of the owners of the site along with words like “Scam”  and talk to some of the existing members about their experiences.  It is your own personal responsibility to make these checks. Treat the membership site the same way you would a potential employee, or person renting your house, you are entering into a long term relationship,  its not a one night stand. . 6) Can You Contact The Site Owners On The Telephone Site owners who are not approachable or difficult to contact should be treated with  suspicion.   If you can’t ring their office and speak with a real person how do you think you are going to get a refund should you decide to change your mind at a later date. Many unscrupulous site owners even advise their telephone support staff to ignore refund  requests as Sylvie Fortin revealed in her Internet marketing sins letter. This is common practice even amongst many of the top Gurus so always check your credit card details to make sure your billing is correct even after you think you have cancelled. . 7)  Can You  Believe The Testimonials From  Existing Members? Why is it when there are a  multitude of places  to eat there will always be one or two restaurants that are packed and all the rest are relatively empty.  Word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertising.  Make sure your restaurant isn’t full of dummies to make it appear to be busy. When I visit  India each year I have a simple way to choose where I am going to eat. I find a restaurant that has a healthy mix of Indian locals and seasoned western travellers.  Social proof shows me exactly where I can find quality food and get the best value for my money. A well marketed site will use the testimonials of its  existing members in order to  get people to join. Success stories are compelling to listen to but are they all actually  believable. There are three questions you need to ask yourself when listening to these testimonials.

a) Has the person been bribed in some way to make this statement.  Many site owners will offer freebies or upgrades in exchange for testimonials . If the person who makes the testimonial is not in your circle of acquaintances and you can’t ask them personally  you can only rely on intuition to protect you.  What they say and the way they say it is vitally important. If your hear the warning bells and have any reservations keep your credit card firmly in your wallet or purse, No matter how attractive it may seem on the surface

b) Are they affiliates and  are  they going to benefit in some way if you join. Testimonials from  affiliates always need to be taken with a pinch of salt. They want to recruit you because they want to get a portion of the recurring commissions themselves. Sites that are transparent and clearly explain their affiliate program can be trusted more than those who keep it secret.  For pyramid and MLM type schemes this is the basic business model with several tiers of affiliates  all  chasing to get members underneath them. These types of schemes tend to focus on the money you can earn rather than the benefits and training you will receive by joining  the site and play on peoples greed to hook them in.

A good membership site will sell itself  by word of mouth,  If you are going to join  sign up under the existing member  who you would most  like to benefit from your  commissions. Top Affiliates will often be the most active members of any membership website because they have the most to gain from its continued success.

c) Does this person have a track record for honesty and  for promoting quality products and services.  Some  people will promote products or services, claiming they have used them just because they want  the commissions.  Others are more ethical and will only recommend a product or service to their network  if they have personally used and tested it themselves. This is where knowing who to follow is important.  As an existing  member promoting  your own membership site  you are putting your reputation on the line,  so make sure whatever  you stand behind can deliver the goods.

. 8)  Will I Be Constantly Pressured To Upgrade To  The Premium  Membership Levels Many  paid membership sites have tiered  levels of involvement, they have an entry level membership which is either free or  under $50 per month  which gives you access to most of the sites resources and then there are higher level memberships that will offer more interaction such as group coaching  or one on one mentorship  programmes.  Read the small print carefully,  you might only be receiving full access for the first month and then have to upgrade to continue to benefit. Many sites give you a free 30 day trial this can be a good way to see if you are actually getting value for money. The Real Money Is On The Backend Most membership programmes make their real money on the backend.   A membership site that costs $40 per month  to join will cost you $480 per year. If their top Membership  level  costs  $800 per month that is  going to cost you  $9600 per year So for the site owners  there is a huge incentive to get you to upgrade because they stand to make 20 times what they will earn from your regular membership.  So in any tiered system expect some form of promotion and leveraged sales process Take Away Tactics They will always frame it in ways that will make it enticing by creating hypothetical situations showing what you might earn as a member which would easily cover your membership fees and then apply a take away  i.e.  Showing  what you will lose by not joining, the potential profits that  you won’t make. Don’t be swayed by these type of tactics. And don’t ever lose sight of where you are actually at in your business. . 9)  What Is The Real Cost To My Business Always remember that in most  businesses your gross  profit margin is between 10%-%20  (It  may be higher if you are in the information product business as you have less overhead expenses)  This means that if you spend $100 you need to create between $500 and $1000 of sales to replace that capital in your business. Add that up over the coming y ear and calculate  if  you expect to see that kind of return on your investment.  For an $800 coaching programme at a %20 profit margin the real cost to your business is   $48,000 in sales What Stage Is Your Business At And Are You Actually Ready To Expand? I am not knocking any of the high end membership sites, I am sure they provide great value to their customers and have the success stories to prove it I just want people to be more aware of the real costs and be sure their business is at the right stage to reap the benefits that are promised.  I believe the high drop out rate of many of the membership sites is that people want to run before they can even walk. They get seduced by the flashy videos and mesmerising sales copy and think that by joining, their business is suddenly going to explode with little or no work on their part. What they usually  find is that they are either overloaded with information and don’t have enough time to integrate it or they commit one of the cardinal  sins and that is trying to serve two or three masters at the same time, joining several membership sites and  never really committing to any of them. . 10)  Are The Other Members Facing The Same Type Of Challenges  That You Are? Sometimes joining a membership site is exactly what you need because you don’t have the contacts, knowledge or resources to take your business to the next level. This is where a good membership site is so powerful because you will be mixing with people who have gone though the exact same problems that you are facing and can share their experience. You can also meet people who have the talents and resources that you need in order to grow. I have heard from many of the top business experts that most entrepreneurs find this stage the most challenging because they are forced to let go of total  control of every aspect of  their business and start hiring,  delegating and outsourcing. Are You  Paddling In Shallow Water Or Are You Swimming Out Of Your Depth? If you are already experienced in Business you wouldn’t necessarily want to join a  membership site that is full of excited enthusiastic newbies.  As Bill Bartman said in The Opus Movie,
if I go into a group of 5 people I want to be the dumbest one there so there is  something I can learn from everyone
Coming from the worlds 25th richest man these are real words of wisdom.  It pays to be a little out of your depth and mixing with people who know more than you.  It’s important to find the right balance. This is where tiered memberships are very useful. People who make a similar level of financial commitment are usually at similar stages in their business development. . Are You Still Interested? If you have made it all the way to the end of this article  then you might want to check out a site I reccomend, it’s called the Master Business Builders Club . Please be aware that  this it is my affiliate link so I stand to benefit should you decide to Join. Are There Any Other  Questions? I hope you enjoyed this post and received  some benefit from my observations, please feel free to add your comments and include  any important questions that you think I might have missed. If you haven’t done so already be sure to  follow me on Twitter  to get all my latest updates http://www.twitter.com/iandavidchapman If you follow me  I’ll follow you