Joe Nicoletti has had his course affiliate marketing business, Learn Scrivener Fast, for a long time. We sat down at a coffee shop one day, to figure our how to add a recurring revenue to his website. It was funny because we weren’t planning on it, we were just hanging out on a whim! Most people pay us to take to them about memberships and we have a plan.
Part of me was thinking, “I wonder what would happen if a guy who has course sales would open a membership.” Because, most people we see start from nothing, Joe was different because he already had an existing loyal audience.
Joe says what went so well for him was that he was very specific on his course topics from the get-go. His specificity brought in a core group of laser-focused people. The only time he struggled was when he was chasing other things, focusing on how to get more money into the business, which took away from his focus on the courses.
What he didn’t realize at the time was that what he was searching for, was already at his fingertips: a membership site.
What makes a million dollar membership?
What make a million dollar membership is a growing, healthy, online community of hundreds if not thousands of paying customers.
What makes that happen? It comes down to two things:
2) Leadership (or accountability) - Your community needs someone who can lead the charge, but also hold your feet to the fire.
Back to the coffee shop conversation with Joe. What Joe’s customers were asking for was simply needing someone to show up. Scrivener is a program that writers use to organize the writing process. So Joe helps people with that program but also gives them support with workers block and things on that side too. He was doing this through courses, at the time.
But, the thing that was missing was bringing people together in a community.
Joe began experimenting, everyone has to start somewhere! Joe began sending out a couple emails simply saying, ‘hey, I’m starting what is basically a writing group. Let’s pick a day and time to block off 60 minutes.’ In those live chat meetings, Joe would help everyone set goals, ask them what they were working on.
His results were amazing! People were becoming more productive and he in turn, was getting a lot ore positive testimonials. Every week the momentum kept building. All Joe had to do was make time for and show up them. The best part is, is not only held Joe’s community accountable, but it kept him accountable too.
Now, that community has grown. What started as a one time per week meeting, has turned into 3 days a week and 6 different time slots. It has become something his members look forward to. So much so, that he hired 2 other people to help him host.
The reason memberships give better results than courses.
People who pay, pay attention.
Right now Joe’s membership is $27/month, very similar to his gym membership that he keeps month after month, which he pays for to keep him accountable.
In Joe’s words, “you want to make it just painful enough that if you don’t use this, you’re going to kick yourself.” People don’t want to feel like they are flushing $27 down the toilet, they will want to use it!
The pleasure motivation comes when they are shocked with how much more productive they are, because of your support and simply showing up.
Membership Master Mindset
The first part of your membership that you need to look at is sales. You have to launch and sell as many memberships as you can. Test price points, promotions.
Then, after your first year you can start looking at retention. You can start thinking about to increase your retention month by month.
With Joe, he had a very simple launch he had about 300 people out of the gate. Now remember he already had a large following. It was about a week-long launch sequence about issues focusing on what he could had specific solutions for.
Like we said, Joe already had a healthy audience. So, for him by simply adding recurring revenue with his membership he got $8,000/month. Which means that is enough revenue for two $48,000/year employees.
That way of thinking about your recurring revenue as new hires is a Membership Master mindset.
For Joe, he knew the membership model would allow for him to not have to dip into any more expenses but by using the membership model he was able to hire a team of people to cover the cost of his team. As you grow your number of members you can grow your team!
Look for the problem + become the solution.
Joe didn’t start out wanting to make a course on Scrivener. He had tried to create a bunch of other things that failed, because he wasn’t focused on a specific issue that he could solve.
At the time, he was using Scrivener for three different blogs he was writing for. He kept seeing everyone having trouble with Scrivener and wanting to learn it but couldn’t seem to on their own. It was a problem that Joe thought he could help with.
Joe starting experimenting and began creating few tutorials. People began asking for private coaching, just to learn how to use Scrivener. That was the first time people were offering to pay him money to show them how to do something.
Then, he did his first webinar with an affiliate. That affiliate invited a bunch of people to show up that he could teach. He made $10,000 on a single webinar, for just 1 hour of his time!
He became obsessed with how he could serve these people more. That is how Learn Scrivener Fast started, and how he built an audience.
Raise your floor higher than everyone else’s ceiling.
You always want your floor higher than everyone else’s ceiling and that’s not possible with the launch model.
You can have a huge ceiling and still have a bad month. Your expenses can get out of control.
It’s happened to us, when we were still doing launch to launch. In February one year, we really thought we were going to have to go back to work at a 9 to 5.
However, when we added the stability of a membership model, it was a totally different ballgame.
Another component of the membership model’s stability is that it not only lets you hire people, but it lets you handle the responsibility of hiring other people.
When we hire other people we have to think, ‘if I offer them this job, I may be asking them to leave another job. I’m promising them that I’m going to pay them, provide health insurance. I’m committing to help them pay for their kids’ dance class fees, I’m committing to helping them do that.’
You are committing to helping someone else live their life. It’s not something to joke around about.
If I get sick and am out with the flu with three weeks, that’s okay. I have monthly members and automations. I have other systems that will keep the membership rolling.
That’s what the membership model does for business: it gives you the confidence to commit to help people grow.
Don’t make things more complex than they need to be. Just keep it simple.
Your main product is showing up, the accountability, inside your community. There is no need to complicate it.
You can always build, but you do not want to take things away later. Because, then people feel as if you’re taking away value from their membership.
Ex. Don’t promise a weekly webinar out of the gate. Start at a bi-weekly or monthly, build your way up to to the weekly webinars.
You can figure out all the tech stuff later to make things more accessible or streamlined, but you can start even with a live chat. Use the feedback from that to improve moving forward.
Respond to feedback to se what people want more of, like Joe did. Joe asked what his members wanted and they wanted more support time in webinars, and now his up to 3 days, 6 slots a week.
Let your membership grow with you!
Don’t become your own log-jam.
When we have 200 people on a member call, typically about 10 people will ask a question. Everybody is really just there to be together, hear, and learn.
With the membership model, a lot of people think they are going to be doing all kinds of extra stuff but they’re not.
For instance, let’s look at the forums. The day I left my forums alone, was the day the conversations exploded. I was trying to lead too much and in turn became my own log jam.
When I stepped back peers emerged, community members emerged, I noticed conversations were getting answered before I could even get to them. Give people each other and show up those couple of times each month.
You can literally manage the whole community with a community manager and two member calls and it only takes like 5 hours each month.
We want to avoid what Joe calls “Scope-Creep.” Which is basically saying you keep looking at what you want to add. Joes says to avoid this give yourself two weeks. Whatever you can finish in two weeks, launch with that. Two weeks allows yourself to be brutally honest on what the bare minimum you need, is.
If you have an idea on a membership and you haven’t started yet, Joe says this:
Don’t get stuck on your plateaus.
There are always plateaus when you hit the 6-figure mark in your business. When you hit $100K, it kind of freaks people out.
Especially for business like consulting, when you start getting to $250K+, when people hit plateaus, they tend over look the membership model as a way to continue multiplying their business. Your membership not only can become a 6-figure income on its’ own, it also gives a place to pour the gasoline on the fire.
Let’s take a look at Joe’s case. He already had courses so there’s no reason why he couldn’t add a membership of some form. This can even just be availability.
For instance, if I said I am going to add hours on Mondays from 12pm - 2 pm charge $50 a month. You send that out to your email list of people that are already making at least 6-figures you can add tens of thousands in dollars to your revenue each month, starting right now.
Don’t talk yourself out of it!
Prepare your audience for your launch.
Joe says the biggest thing that changed for him business-wise was always starting with the pain.
Anytime Joe talks to an audience he ask them to ask themselves, “what is the pain here?” Or, “what are two or three pains?” His whole sales approach is “Here’s what happened to me, here’s what I figured out. Come join me.”
Joe was trying to launch quick, so he started with a 3 email sequence. There was no time for videos, just emails. He would tell the story of how he struggled to write in the past. He talked about procrastination, his inability to write consistency and then binge writing.
For him he had to raise the pain of not writing to make it better than the pain of actually writing. So how did he do this? He takes them through Freud’s Pain and Pleasure principle.
Another thing Joe does is has have people to do a survey, realize what not writing has cost them in the past. Joe then took those responses and put them in his second email, to show people how high the stakes truly are. It makes people realize how important starting true is.
Then, Joe brings it as “it’s not your fault, you didn’t know this knowledge. But, here’s this tool that can help.” It’s “here’s why this didn’t work in the past, here’s the solution for you.”
What he did was:
The second question Joe asks is, “What will this cost you in the future if you don’t fix it?”
Then, people start realizing how badly they need to start today.
The third question is, “what would your life look like if you did fix it?”
But, you have to do the fourth part which is, “what are you going to do about it?”
You already have the answer, all you need to do is twist the knife a little bit and let people make their own assessment.
You’re not allowed to decide what people will or won’t pay for.
Just because you wouldn’t pay for something doesn’t mean that other people wouldn’t. You have to get out of your own way and let people prove to you that they won’t pay for it only then is it a valid reason not to create it.
When first started doing his weekly calls, he didn’t think it would be enough for people to pay for. But, people did. The few people the cancelled because of the lack of time gave him the feedback he needed to do more times. Now, people are staying several months at a time.
People are so used to monthly subscriptions, they are now willing to continuously pay for whatever will help them.
Find the small hinges.
What are the small hinges that swing the doors?
For Joe, the small hinges were the writing times. Now, he has people in his community reaching out to replays of those calls times. It is literally as simple as a timer and a blocked off time to write, that keeps them coming back.
Look for the little things that will push people over the edge to be more productive.
Have a small reward system. Just something small whether it be a hand-written thank you note, a coffee mug, just something to show that they are a part of something and you appreciate them!
If you want to build a million dollar membership, you have to make sure people are showing up. Make sure people stay active in the communities you have, because people will stay for support and encouragement!
Have people stop, not cancel.
If someone tries to cancel their membership, convince them to stop first.
For example in Joe’s case, writers are always going to write again. If someone tries to cancel Joe could say, “hey, you’re a writer. You’re going to have another project that you’re going to write probably within 60 days. We will pause your subscription for 60 days, you’re going to get to keep your current rate. If there are any price increases, we’re going to let you keep this rate when you come from the pause. Don’t worry.”
When you assure people that you are taking away the risk that you will charge them you are more likely to get them to stay or come back.
In the meantime send them a reminder every other week, check in with them.
Don’t post for only member or non-members.
Don’t focus your messaging on solely either members or non-members. Send the same messages to everyone.
Ex. On a Sunday night you send the same email to everyone. Say something about who will show up. For the people that are not members this sends a constant awareness of the membership they keep meaning to join.
You can recycle some of your wins of your members into those emails or even weekly blog posts.
Talk publicly about what’s happening privately. Set aside a day like “Member Monday,” where everyone talks about they’re doing each week. Have everyone post their results, that’s your marketing right there. This will create a fear of missing out!
People tend to think that memberships are a lot more work, but your membership will actually save you energy.
The load of content creation, the load of marketing, leaves you when you go into the membership model.
You’re no longer moving pieces around the chess board, you’re not widdling the queen. Testimonials are now your pieces on the board. As this energy is happening, you just have to tell people about it.
Don’t close the doors.
I’m a big believer in not closing the doors. Because, then every week that newsletter says, “P.S. here’s our schedule next week. Join us at a session, try one week free.”
Not closing the doors is a really big deal. Any day of the week that somebody wants to give you money, let them give you money.
I’ve seen people open and close the doors like a week out of the month, which creates a very top-heavy revenue. But, since I keep the doors open, I wake up every day and have already made hundreds of dollars, because I have 20 people renewing every day. Security is important!
If you would like to connect with Joe Nicoletti you can find him at: