You’ve spent years learning and building up expertise in your industry. You’ve spent endless hours honing your skills, and now you want to share what you know with the world. Great! Maybe you’ve already launched a membership business or you’re still in the development stage.
Regardless of where you’re at, you know that having a thriving community — one where people come together to master something, one where people are engaged and feel connected — is crucial. Because without members, you lack profitability.
If you’re looking to acquire members to join your community or get people obsessed with your course so they come back time and time again, we have membership acquisition strategies that you can implement today to become more successful tomorrow.
If you want more support in building your online community, come join OUR Mighty Community for free and meet other new and established community owners! We’d love to meet you. Join for free!
In this article…
Before you launch
There’s never been a better time to launch an online community than now. Thanks to the pandemic, everyone has been stuck inside, feeling restless, and has turned to the internet for new ways of connecting and learning opportunities.
Before you hit that publish button, there are a few things you should consider to gain visibility and grow a stellar community.
Figure out your “Ideal Member”
If you’re looking to build an engaged community, you need to know who these people are. In marketing, this is known as your target audience. Here are some factors to consider: who exactly are these people and what life stage are they at (e.g. students, professionals, retirees)? What are these people passionate about? What are their values? What are their goals? What are their challenges and how will you address their pain points?
Another way to ask this last question is, if these individuals join your community, where will they be in a year from now compared to when they started? (We call this a Year in the Life.) Be clear on what the journey will look like and how belonging to your community will help them achieve their goals.
We have a free training on finding your Ideal Member in our Mighty Community!
Develop your Big Purpose
If you want to create a thriving community, you need a reason for bringing people together. That’s why it’s important to have a “big purpose.” A key element of a thriving community is being crystal clear about the community’s shared objectives. If you don’t have a reason for bringing people together, no one will want to join your community or your members won’t achieve the transformation they’re searching for.
Another way to think of your big purpose is the driving force. It’s why your community exists now — you are bringing together the exact people needed to realize the community’s goals.
Here’s a helpful template we’ve created to help you narrow down on what your big purpose is:
Interview potential members
As you’re working to figure out who your ideal members are and what your big purpose is, make sure to get all the information you can. The best way to do this is to reach out to 15-20 individuals who you consider to be ideal members.
Ask them what they’re currently struggling with, and pay attention to areas your community might be able to help!. For example, if it’s a career course on how to get a promotion: you could ask them when they last received a promotion or even what they found most frustrating and challenging when it came to asking for a promotion.
When you interview potential members you can get a clear understanding of their pain points and figure out how to address them in your community. You could take this even further and see what would motivate them to enroll and learn what they’ve found most intriguing and most annoying about communities or courses they’ve previously taken.
Getting a better sense of what potential members want in a community will help you refine and design the best space possible!
Doing this background work will guarantee a great Community Design™, and for this reason, is a membership acquisition strategy in its own right!
As with any product or service, you want to get the word out to as many people as possible. You could have the best offering, but if no one knows about it then what’s the point?
With effective promotion techniques, you can properly market your course and attract your ideal member. That’s the key here — effective promotion techniques. You want to have the right strategies in place, to get the right people at the right time.
So here are some promotion tips and tricks to keep in mind for member acquisition.
Use email marketing
Do you already have an email list? Awesome! This is a great starting point. Sending out emails to promote your community is a free (if you don’t use an email marketing platform), easy and effective strategy.
This doesn’t mean you have to bombard your contacts with emails. Be selective and strategic with how many emails you send. If your contacts feel like you’re spamming them, they’ll quickly unsubscribe and disengage from your content, which is exactly what you don’t want.
Make sure to bring value to your audience by sharing tips and tricks, instead of just selling. But DO include frequent invitations with a call to action (CTA) to join your community.
One of the keys to good promotion is good networking. To start with, you can approach the people you already interviewed to figure out who your “ideal member” is. After all, if they’re your ideal member and you built a community just for them, maybe they’ll be interested in joining. It’s best to approach this as a low-pressure invite, recognizing that the time might not be right for everyone. But don’t be surprised if some of these people decide to join!
And don’t stop here. Relationships and networking are the basis of a lot of great businesses. Building a solid networking strategy is crucial.
Here are some other relational networking promotions you could try:
- Guest appearances on podcasts
- Attending networking events
- Speaking at events or conferences
- Posting in relevant LinkedIn groups
- Asking other people to share your community launch
Validate with presales
After doing all of this work, from narrowing in on who your ideal member is to strategically promoting your community, you’ll want to test the waters. This is where preselling comes in. When you offer a presale on your course you’re ramping up the hype around it, and you’re gauging interest levels among your audience.
It’s easy for people to say, “oh yeah, I’d totally join that community!” and then not show up. Having a presale validates the idea and shows that people are ACTUALLY willing to pay for it.
The other nice thing about a presale is that you can start generating revenue before you actually launch. If your community will have a strong course component to it, the presale can also be used to validate the course idea and make sure people will actually buy it. Maybe you’re halfway through developing the course or maybe you’re nearing the end. Wherever you are in the process, it affords you more time to finalize the course and see how much demand there is. You could even have a target goal in mind — say if you get 15 people to sign up, you’ll for sure launch your course. If you don’t, it’s back to the drawing board.
10 membership acquisition strategies
Now that we’ve gone through the pre-launch phase, we’re going to focus on member acquisition and retention, so you can have an incredible community.
The last thing you want, after putting hours of work into developing and even marketing your community, is crickets. Even if you have a few bites, the goal here is to develop a steadily growing community, filled with enthusiastic and active learners, who benefit from the material you’ve provided.
Here are 10 tactics to acquire more members.
1. Make it urgent
Nothing will get people signing up and buying something quicker than urgency. Think about hard-to-find items, popular concerts and events, and even the latest trendy fashion piece. Online retailers are well aware of urgency when they use this tactic and claim “only a few left in stock.”
Sometimes, a bit of urgency is a good thing. Adding a deadline to an offer, or even to membership (“One week left to register”) or even capping the number of participants (“Only 2 spots left!”) can be an important way to help people get off the fence.
If people think they have all the time in the world to register, sometimes they’ll take forever and might not even bother.
2. Give members a bonus
While the strategy above is based in FOMO, this membership acquisition strategy is more about the perception of added value. Ensuring your community provides value and offers solutions to your members’ pain points is essential. But giving them something a little extra? Now you’ve got a deal!
For those who sign up early, you could offer a 10% discount (this can be tied into the urgency strategy as well, “last chance to save 10%”).
Everyone loves free stuff. Here are some possible bonuses you could offer:
- an ebook
- access or discounts to a course
- a coaching call
- a special webinar
- a premium subgroup
3. Host webinars
Another way to draw in potential members is by offering webinars. Webinars offer your audience value and can keep them engaged, while giving them a chance to get real-time feedback on questions and training.
Webinars also establish you as an expert in your field and help build trust with your audience. They will start seeing you as an authority figure and they will seek out your content for advice
When done effectively, webinars should be teaching your audience what they need. So, while you are providing value and offering your expertise, you should be showcasing problems, and offering solutions (e.g. your community that they can sign up for).
4. Provide “teaser content”
Don’t give it all away, but instead make them want more. It's a "teaser." You’ll do this by offering a sample of your content, for example, on social media or via email to your list. In other words, tease some of the intriguing parts of your community or course. Provide valuable insights and steps future members can take towards their goals.
They’ll try out the material or find something useful and may want to learn more. Giving value in the form of a “teaser” is a tried and true way to build your brand that can mean more members in your community.
5. Offer a free trial
Similar to teaser content, you could give potential members a free trial of your community. There are different ways you can go about offering a trial period. One way is giving potential members a free trial membership, such as two weeks of free access.
Another way to do this is offering a limited-access trial where these potential members have some access to features (perhaps they’re restricted to an entry-level tier), or they have access to the course but don’t have access to the discussion board or course materials.
Free trials are great because they let people try without fully investing. Another advantage to offering a free trial is that you’ve gained this individual’s email address for future promotions.
There are drawbacks to free trials though. For example, some people may sign up for free trials yet have no intention of actually ever signing up for a membership. Plus, if there’s an ever-revolving door of new members, or non-members accessing your content without contributing to the community, this can have negative effects on retention.
It’s also important to consider whether you can afford to be offering free trials and what time period makes sense for your business. For example, if your trial period isn’t long enough for someone to truly get a feel for what you’re offering then they’re unlikely to commit, so you’ve wasted your time and their time. On the other hand, your trial period should be short enough to create the sense of urgency we talked about above.
6. Test your course or community
Another way to acquire members while also improving your course is by offering a discounted testing period. These “beta testers” get the full experience, unlike a free trial membership, in return for providing feedback. Successful entrepreneurs know that testing a service before it’s fully launched is necessary.
This also allows for quality control. If you’re running a course, the feedback from beta testers can be invaluable. Are some components of the course too long or too short? Are members fully grasping the concepts? Is there a technical issue within the course? How are they finding community engagement?
Having a testing cohort will also give you testimonials. If these individuals thoroughly enjoyed your course or love being in your community, they’ll happily give you feedback and a review even before you’ve launched to the public.
7. Ask for word-of-mouth recommendations
Word-of-mouth recommendations (whether they’re organic or through testimonials) help reassure the quality, credibility, and value of your course, making people feel more comfortable signing up for a membership.
Remember, at the end of the day, if you’re providing value and giving people the necessary tools to solve their challenges, they’ll just want to naturally shout about it from the rooftops!
8. Use tiers to give potential members choice
People like to have options. That’s why offering tiers or different types of membership levels is a great membership acquisition strategy. Offering tiered memberships gives you the ability to set varying levels of access to your members.
Sometimes, communities and/or courses will involve three-tiered options for their members: top tier offer (most expensive but gives members all access and most exclusive content), mid-range tier (most popular, tons of content), and low-range tier (cheapest option but limited exclusive content).
What’s great about a tiered membership is that it lets people come in at the low range, but they have the option to level up to the most appealing and sought-after offer once they’re comfortable
9. Make registration easy
Nothing will deter someone from signing up for membership more than a frustrating or complicated registration process. Your members don’t want to have to fill out a ton of questions just to become a member.
Make your members' registration process as quick and easy as possible by only including required fields on the form, and ensure the branding on your registration page matches the brand you use elsewhere. Also, confirm that online registration is mobile-friendly, so potential members can sign up anywhere, at any time. (The Mighty Networks app makes this super easy!)
You don’t want to lose potential customers simply because your registration process was too daunting, because ultimately there should be nothing that might stop them from paying for a membership.
10. Make canceling easy too
Just as registration should be straightforward, so too should your cancellation policy be. Make it clear to potential members (and even those who are currently members) how they can cancel their membership. Clearly indicate the yearly vs. monthly pricing at registration time too and remind them of upcoming payments.
No one wants to feel trapped, especially when it comes to something they’re paying for. Whether members pay for their membership monthly or yearly, ensure that you state (on your website) when they can cancel and how (e.g. whether through the login page, by emailing or phoning you) and that it ’s painless for them.
By putting these membership acquisition strategies to work, you’ll be well on your way to growing an amazing community. And if you’re looking for an online platform where you can bring together a thriving community, you’re going to need one that grows with you.
Mighty Networks is a cultural software platform that brings together content, courses, community, and commerce. With flexible Spaces that bring features like pre-recorded or live teaching, easy event integration, custom course communities, messaging all members, and Q&As with each course module, it packs a punch.
There are countless ways your community can come together on Mighty Networks, through discussion board posts, live streaming, polls, and more. Having an engaged and active community will keep members coming back over and over.