I interviewed Kristina Romero from RockStar Empires and KRMD on her advice for course and membership based business. This is what she had to say.
What’s your experience with membership businesses?
I’ve built quite a few membership websites, with my company KRMD Designs, which is like a web development company. I’ve done a lot for the clients on the client-side end. Then, I’ve done it myself with Troy Dean, we partnered with Rockstar Empires, so in this weird meta way we created an online course and membership website, in order to teach how to build an online course membership website.
It’s really understanding what works and then you’re gonna keep trying what’s not working. So you learn what works, then that’s what we’re teaching people.
We start at the top with our email list. Why is it so important for membership businesses to grow their email subscriber list?
It’s really important that, if you have a membership website, or you have some type of recurring revenue, or some type of brand that you’re trying to build, that you secure an email list because it’s all about relationship.
“You can meet someone on the street, and then you just don’t suddenly ask them over for dinner.”
You get to know them, and you get to talk with them and offer them value over time. You see them again, and run into them again. Then, after you build that relationship, you start inviting them over and just check out more things. That’s exactly what that’s like. Membership websites are kind of built upon trust, and you need to earn that trust.
The best way to do that is to build an email list so that you can slowly over time begin to prove yourself, build that relationship, and then sell them what you have to sell them.
Let’s say I want to grow my email list. What’s one of the things I need to remember when I’m doing that?
The one thing you need to remember is the conversation that you’re having. You really want to find what it is that you offer, what value people really like, and what people like to hear. Then just start having that conversation.
That can look like an ebook, some kind of download, or simply just the content in your email. It’s all centred around the same conversation. There’s a little bit of legwork involved in finding out what conversation you should be having. But once you’ve got that, then I think that’s the biggest hurdle to starting it all.
When we’ve got our members, we’ve had a few members coming in and we open the doors, should membership businesses focus on getting new members or keeping their current ones?
This is a really good question. So often we think more. We think the more the better. But what happens is, we’ll go back to that trust. Once you establish trust with someone, once they value what it is that you have to say, you’ve earned a raving fan, as we like to call them.
Once you’ve earned a raving fan, that is going to be probably your most lucrative community, your most lucrative list. That’s who you want to keep having the conversation with. You might create a new product or an advanced level of what you already have, or some other kind of small tripwire book or course or whatever it is.
Then you’re going to serve that fan base. As great as it is and important that it is to grow and grow that email list, don’t forget about your existing fan base because they’ve already proven that they like what it is you have to say, and they’re willing to pull out their credit card to pay for that.
What’s most important to remember to keep my current members happy?
Community. Community is the most important thing. You have to remember to keep your members happy, because we all want to feel connected. We all want to feel as part of a larger tribe. To just kind of sell someone something, or like a course. They enrol in the course and they don’t see anybody else, then there’s no faster way to get someone to just abandon what it is that you’ve created. You need to connect them with each other, and with monthly coaching calls, or Facebook or forums, anything that can kind of bring people together. On a day-to-day basis most of us are alone in our office, even in a co-work space you’re kind of alone at a cubicle.
“Community. Community is the most important thing to keep your current members happy”
We need to connect with one another. If they get that connexion and that community from what you have to offer, they will continue to hang around and be happy.
Mike: We’ve done this interview with maybe half a dozen people now. Not a single person with that question has said add more content.
Mike: To just overwhelm people with more content has never been the answer to keeping people happy. It’s always come down to community. Half of it’s community and half of it’s listening to what they want.
It’s like when anyone comes to you with a problem. If anyone sits down on your couch, and they’re like, I have this relationship…
This girl doesn’t like me. They’ve got a problem. You give them advice. Well they have to go out and implement that advice, and it’s harder said than done.
But if you kept talking at them, and now you need to go on this match dating site, and now you need to go to the gym and lose ten pounds, and now you need to do this. They would be completely overwhelmed and run out your door, right? Adding more content’s not the problem. Getting people to implement and take action on the content you’ve already created is what people really want.
How do we decide what to charge for a membership?
That is the question everybody asks, because the whole reason they’re doing the membership site is they want to make money, because they want that recurring revenue. So that they can stop the day job, they stop client work, whatever it is.
It really is the question that’s top of mind, and it’s actually the last question you should be asking, because if you don’t know a slew of things. If you don’t know who your target market is, if you don’t know the value that you’re offering them, if you don’t know the way that you’re going to transform them and change them, then you really don’t know how much this is worth.
“It really is the question that’s top of mind, and it’s actually the last question you should be asking”
It’s a kind of a balance between understanding what the market is offering for that same type of transformation or change, then really what you need to charge in order to get profitable for you. I think most often we undercharge. Most often we go the cheap route because we think if it’s cheap then more people will buy. We’ve seen in our experience it’s actually quite the opposite.
If it’s just right over the threshold of what people think is affordable, it’s just right over that threshold, then people find it more valuable, which is really interesting.
You need to become invaluable. If it’s the kind of service that requires you to take care of the community, I think you have to go higher with something like that. If it’s more hands-off and you can just let it run like a turnkey type of system, then the cheaper chicken is not a bad route to go. I always like to say, I always like to make it worth your while so that you do invest yourself in growing it and bringing people in.
So, I’ve got an idea for a course or a membership site, where do I need to start?
You have an idea, the first thing you want to do is go out into the marketplace and see who else is doing it. You can hit up Udemy, you can hit up Google to just see what other people are doing and not get discouraged by it, but rather take inspiration from it, to not get discouraged.
You are your own person, you have your own authenticity. You have your own unique viewpoint on things, so chances are you can do it different and likely do it better. I was the person that would jump in, if I had an idea for a membership site, I would immediately jump in and start building it.
It’s like “this is exciting!” I thought it’s only going to take me about two weeks to build, why not just build it and then see if people want it? Well, after really working with Troy (of RockStar Empires), I realised that actually research is, although it can be exhausting and disheartening, and kind of go around in your head like, is this the right thing to do.It is by far the most important step.
It is by far the most important step. Otherwise you just waste your time, and you don’t understand what it is you’re supposed to offer, and what people want to hear, and what people to learn, and what people want to do. That you can only find through research.
A perfect example would be, let’s say someone wants to learn how to tile a bathroom. You, as a contractor, think well everyone wants to learn how to tile a bathroom because they want to do it for their husband. So I’m going to get that angle, right? But then you start, I’m thinking like a woman tiling a bathroom.But then you start researching and you realise everyone wants to tile a bathroom because they think it’s a health issue. The mouldy grout and like all of this. They actually feel like it’s a health issue. I’m totally making stuff up. Once you find that that’s the reason people want it, then you would have started down the path with a completely different objective. Now that you know why it is people want that, everything changes in what you’re developing, and this membership site for self DIY contractors looks a lot different.
But then you start researching and you realise everyone wants to tile a bathroom because they think it’s a health issue. The mouldy grout and like all of this. They actually feel like it’s a health issue. I’m totally making stuff up. Once you find that that’s the reason people want it, then you would have started down the path with a completely different objective. Now that you know why it is people want that, everything changes in what you’re developing, and this membership site for self DIY contractors looks a lot different.
How do I choose an audience or a customer market? What niche am I supposed to go after?
That’s a really good question. I find that people often go towards the market of who they know the most in. If they’ve worked a lot with lawyers or accountants, they tend to niche in that field because they just happen to know a lot of people. I think it’s a balance between that and what you’re passionate about.
Although you may know a lot of people in a particular space, you may end up not really liking those people or like working with those people. So it’s a little bit of a balance between what you know has the demand for what it is you’re offering and what it is you actually like to talk about.
Let’s look at, we love tools, we love plugins. Everyone loves spending money on some kind of app, they’re shiny things, right? What’s the most important tool that membership businesses need to look at?
The most important tool for membership businesses is probably a type of tool that will get you recurring subscriptions. If I had to just choose one…
I think a lot of people like to do one-off charges, so they like to do, buy this for $100, or buy this for one payment of $39. I think recurring revenue subscriptions is key if you’re gonna invest your time and your money and your passion into a membership model. Monthly recurring revenue subscriptions is what’s going to allow you the monthly income to say that this is now your baby. This is now something that can sustain you.When you just do one-off payment, there’s no way to really have predictable income. When they’re recurring, like through WooCommerce subscriptions or any type of software that will allow that to happen, you can say, wow, I’m going to have $5,000, or $10,000 or $20,000 coming in every month from these members. So now let me try and make them happy and grow this business.
When you just do one-off payment, there’s no way to really have predictable income. When they’re recurring, like through WooCommerce subscriptions or any type of software that will allow that to happen, you can say, wow, I’m going to have $5,000, or $10,000 or $20,000 coming in every month from these members. So now let me try and make them happy and grow this business.
What’s the number one piece of advice that you give to membership businesses that want to grow?
One thing I would tell people who are growing a membership business, have a membership business, would be to put yourself as the face of the brand. That’s the tough one.
That’s the toughest one. People don’t really want to do that because they’re shy, or they’re insecure, or they don’t think it’s gonna help them. But it will help them because that’s the way they position themselves to then spin off with additional services, products, more courses, more services in the recurring revenue model. To position themselves and to not be afraid to put themselves in front of the camera, and make their name part of that model.
The trust is the key word. If they just see a brand name come through with a logo, there’s not the same kind of connexion when they can see Mike Killen, and they see your face. Then they begin to think of you, it’s funny how the brain works. We like celebrities, and we watch their movies, not necessarily because they are the most talented person that could ever do that role. It’s because subconsciously our brains have connected the fact that we think we know them.
Those studios will pay big bucks to put that person on a movie because they know immediately within the first ten seconds of seeing them onscreen we will have a connexion with them. They pay the celebrity to do that and bring that to the movie because it immediately adds trust and connexion. So it’s with faces, we connect with faces. I think they said that a baby in the first two months of life can immediately recognise faces. We are trained to do that.
Abandon the logo, abandon the business name, and put your face in front of your product.
If you want to get started…
You can find me at rockstarempires.com for all the goodness on how to be your own rockstar in your industry. Then you can find me at krmd.co for website development.
Our favourite part of this whole interview was Kristina talking about relationship advice. Most business problems are similar, in that you can see the answer. But just dumping a ton of advice on someone isn’t going to help them – like just adding content.
What’s you favourite part of the interview? Let us know in the comments below.