I’ve been focusing on building membership sites lately. They serve a real purpose for my offline businesses. Not knowing much about them I enrolled in a program with a couple of young guns who have a good handle on this space. The course is great I’ve learned a lot already but I’ve also noted some issues that come with running these sites.
In this case, the guys put the course together from a live class which was conducted over a period. Now they have reopened the course to (what’s the opposite to ‘live? not appealing!) … let’s say a canned class. That is our program is not live but we use the same material that was derived for the original group. No issue with that – leveraging product for income is perfectly fine.
But here are the things that, as a consumer, I notice.
The first issue is that many of the comments are still available from the first class – that’s good learning but it also makes the material seem stale. Someone raised this issue so the dates of the comments were turned off .. and then people compained about that because they couldn’t tell which group comments were coming from. So there is a challenge in keeping content fresh but not losing the input from previous participants.
Another issue is that the origial class obviously received some physical bonuses which future classes don’t get. Again, no real concern with that but by leaving the reference to that information it leaves a slight negative for the canned members.
Lesson – when setting up for a new group of participants, clean your content for any references to products they won’t receieve or, simply make sure they know. “Hey guys, you’re getting this course at a great price and we just can’t throw in the bonuses this time around … but we’ll make it up to you with lots of support” or whatever. At least acknowledge it and people will feel better.
Finally, another issue is the opportunity for people to feel connected when you have staggered member starts. People have no central place to ‘hang’ and chat to each other about their progrwess and share ideas. Sure, in our case we can make comments but people are at different stages so literally niot everyone is on the same page. Also, the site gets larger as more opens up to you so finding comments and connecting is not easy. There are I think good reasons to ‘avoid the chat’ and maintain control as a site admin. You can remove/resolve complaints before approving comments; and you maintain control of the conversation whereas if you have a ‘forum’ then things can get away from you. Finally, it ensures people stay focussed on what they have to do to get things done.
My final observation is the interactivity of the ‘teachers’. They have moved onto other projects and while they keep an eye on the site and respond as appropriate, the urgency and feedback on assignments is getting stale. People are all geared up to do things but it’s like wetting your pants in the dark … you’re not sure anyone notices so you’re not sure if you’ve done it right. So you just get on and keep doing.
Lesson: Treat the next class with as much attention as you would have done for the first grooup through – make sure you especially follow up on any tasks or assignments you ask them to do. Not just for the ‘risk of refund’ period.
Overall, it’s a great learning experiene to see where re-launching a membership site needs attention to enhance the experience and efficacy of the next round of paying customers!
Keep the material fresh,
Remove outdated offers and references and
Follow up on any tasks or assignments.
Like I said, I’m learning heaps technically, but I’m also noticing what can go wrong from the consumer’s point of view. And they’re the ones paying the bucks, after all. They’re the ones who decide if they are getting value. It doesn’t matter how good you think your product is, or how much value you think you are providing, it’s the custoer experience that makes the difference, So if you’re going to be setting up member sites, or any other type of interactive site, make sure the material is fresh, people feel acknowledged and they are clear on what they can expect.