We’ve had numerous people approach us asking why their membership site didn’t ever take off. They have this Great Big Idea and they’ve paid for top-notch tech. They’ve crafted webinars, blogs, and cheat sheets. They even have amazing emails to welcome people once the dues have been paid.
Yet the silence is blaring.
So what happened?
For nearly every single one of these writers, the answer is the same – they leaped headfirst into the deep end without going through any validation process first.
Here, we explain why the validation process is so critical to your success and we provide some ideas for how to effectively evaluate and validate your idea – even if you’ve already jumped in and are sinking.
When Fear Makes Us Immobile
A lot of us don’t take the time to figure out whether our Great Big Idea for a membership site is going to work for one simple reason: Fear. We don’t really want to know if our great idea, book, service, or product isn’t going to fly off the shelves. It’s far easier to work on something under the guise of hope than acknowledge defeat upfront.
We are here to say – Confronting your fear now will save you vast amounts of money, time, and enthusiasm. Or, as Nike would say, JUST DO IT.
And Then There’s False Validation
Another one of Alice’s holes we fall into is believing the platitudes our dear friends and family bestow upon us. We share our Great Big Idea with those closest to us, and they kindly tell us what we want to hear.
Let’s be clear – we aren’t saying these dear ones are lying (they probably aren’t). We’re just pointing out that they have rose-tinted glasses for a couple reasons.
For one, they love us and that often gives our ideas a pass that may not work with a stranger. Secondly, they hear us thoroughly explain the idea. When describing our ideas to them, we show our passion and we give a whole series of explanations whenever someone has questions. Remember that your online audience won’t have this advantage and will instead devote 30 seconds (tops) to decide whether your membership site is the one for them.
So What Happens When We Don’t Validate Our Membership Site Idea?
We spend a whole lot of time, energy, and money on a solution that isn’t quite what the people want. It may be close, but we won’t know what tweaks to make unless we… you guessed it… validate our idea.
With a membership site, it gets tricky. You’re asking people to pay you upfront for something they can’t see, touch, or experience (unless you provide a free trial, of course). Moreover, they may be handing their credit card over to a virtual unknown. These put roadblocks in your way that are surmountable but warrant a second look – just in case.
The 6-Step Approach to Validation
Now if you’re brave and ready to give this whole validation thing a go, we’re here for you. Really. We’ve been there, done that, and we know it can be an emotionally grueling process.
Thankfully, there are ways to lessen the pain (aka: make it easier). Here are six of ‘em.
#1 Convince five people to join
Sounds easy, right? Hopefully, it will be! Your goal for step one is to rally five troops behind your concept. For a membership site, this may mean getting five people to join a Facebook group centered on the topic you’re thinking of for the site. Make it clear that this is not a traditional membership site; it’s simply a membership group centered on a shared interest.
#2 Check out the others
It may seem counterintuitive to say this but you want competition. Let us repeat: You Want Competition. Why? It means that your idea is good. Someone else has already validated your concept. It also provides you with a glimpse at the potential for your membership site and gives you a chance to learn from their mistakes. In other words, go scout out the competition and absorb yourself in their community to the extent possible. It may help to even join forces with the competition. Perhaps you’ll offer something similar that can enhance their offerings without taking away their audience, and vice versa.
#3 Offer a Minimum Viable Product
When you’re this close to validating your idea, it will help to create a Minimum Viable Product. MVPs are prototypes that provide just enough to satisfy initial customers and give you important data so that you can make changes if needed.
For membership sites, there are a couple options. One may be to sell prospective clients a 1-on-1 coaching service or it could be a live video call where viewers can ask you questions live. You can also become an affiliate for Amazon or a similar service and sell products related to your membership site idea.
Take note, an MVP is NOT a watered-down version of your service. It can hold its own and will reflect positively (or poorly) on you and your community. Take your time developing this product or service so that it’s a genuine reflection of what people can expect when working with you.
#4 Identify (and Find) Your Ideal Member
While you may have an idea of who would purchase a membership to your community, you can’t be quite sure until you test it out. These are the people who will happily sign up for your content, product, and services.
If you haven’t done so already, create a member persona or avatar. Once you’ve carefully crafted this person, go out and find them. You can use networking events, Facebook ads, community meetups, online forums, or conventions. Are there enough people to target? Are there any people to target? If not, you may want to go back to the drawing board and reframe your membership site.
If you do find someone, however, it’s time to take the next step and…reach out.
#5 Talk to Your Target Audience
If you’ve reached this point, things are looking up. Now it’s time to take the plunge and interact with these prospects. What do they think of your idea? What are their pain points? If they had a magic genie, what would they wish for to help them progress?
Avoid canvassing people who won’t give you valuable information. Your friends and family fall into this category, as do people who only have a cursory interest in your topic. Dig deep, take notes, and be prepared for valuable insight.
#6 Create a Landing Page and Wait List
Here’s the exciting part of your membership site road map – the creation of your landing page. This is where people get a glimpse of your offering. It’s helpful to have some “hero content” for free so that visitors are motivated to fork over their email addresses.
Use this opportunity to build anticipation. Gather email addresses for future mailings and as proof that you’re an expert in your niche.
Validating your idea may seem like an exercise in patience, and in many ways it is, yet it’s also the surest way to know that your idea will work. Nothing is guaranteed, but going through these steps helps you work out a lot of kinks before going live and risking your money and, worse, your reputation.