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#169: How to Set Up a Paid Membership Program with Ease

Have you ever thought about how to set up a paid membership program for your business? It’s a lot easier than you think.

And what’s great about paid memberships is they lead to recurring revenue. Could you imagine not having to work for every sale, but setting something up once, and having it pay off month after month?

Today, I’m talking with Melissa Lanz, membership expert, about how to set up a membership or subscription program in the easiest possible way.

We have our MiloTree Membership Group, and I love it! We coach passionate bloggers and online entrepreneurs every month in our group.

In this episode, Melissa and I talk about how to figure out what your membership should be about, how to easily set it up with no fancy tech, and how to go about selling it!

We dive into:

  • How Melissa created her membership meal planning program
  • How to figure out what you’re an expert in
  • How to think about pricing
  • How to set up the technology to get paid and deliver your content
  • How to sell it to your audience
  • How to test it and tweak it

If you’ve wondering how hard it would be to add a membership program to your business (it’s honestly, not hard!), definitely listen to this episode!

Set up a membership with ease, listen to this episode of The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie. You will see it's much easier than you think! Click the link to listen.

Show Notes

Subscribe to The Blogger Genius Podcast:

Intro 0:04
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.

Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello, my friends. Welcome back to the show. I’m your host, Jillian Leslie. I am a serial entrepreneur with my husband, David. We’ve built two successful companies MiloTree and Catch My Party.

I am a business coach and a business translator. I take what’s working in online business, and I break it down. So, you can use these strategies to monetize your own blogs and online businesses.

If you are enjoying the podcast, I would love to send you my short weekly newsletter, where I share my four biggest takeaways from my most recent podcast episode. You get the cheat sheet; you get to know what is working.

You can then decide to listen to the podcast episode if it resonates with you. But stay up-to-date, things are moving quickly in blogging, so head to bloggergenius.com, super easy to remember and sign up today.

And you’ll start getting this so, you can stay on top of your business. For today’s episode, I have Melissa Lanz on the show. And she is a membership expert. She teaches people how to build membership businesses.

As you know, I preach that as a blogger, you need to sell products. And this is a really smart way to get started, especially if you have a community or an email list.

And what I love about this interview is we talk about the down and dirty ways of setting up a membership and how it does not have to be complicated. I think you’re going to get a lot of great ideas in this episode. I hope it gets the wheels spinning for you.

So, without further delay, here is my interview with Melissa Lanz. Melissa, welcome to the show.

Melissa Lanz 2:04
Hi, happy to be here.

Jillian Leslie 2:06
You are a membership expert. And I feel like right now, people at least in my community are leaning in to memberships. So, will you share your entrepreneurial journey how you got into creating memberships and where you are today?

Melissa Lanz 2:27
So, when I started my business in 2010. And at the beginning, it didn’t roll off the tongue in the same way, subscriptions and membership as it does now. I quit my day job; I was very successful in the corporate world. And I just got burnt out.

And I quit that job. And I was looking for something that I could do more from home. I had small children that was more, online gave me more flexibility, more freedom.

Creating a Membership Program for Food Planning

This freedom was the reason I quit, because I just didn’t have any freedom in my corporate life. So, I stumbled on this idea to create a membership for a meal planning for families that wanted to eat healthy. It was during the time of the Food Revolution.

Everyone was saying you should eat healthy; you should buy kale at the farmer’s market. But nobody was actually telling them, what to do with all of those healthy ingredients.

So, I came up with the idea of The Fresh 20 and the thing that people asked me the most was about how I did it. I took what I already knew how to do. I went to chef school when I was in my early 20s. I had a young family.

So, I understood what the family food dynamic was in the home. I was an interactive, marketing professional. So, I built software for marketing in Fortune 100 company, so I knew how to be online.

I knew about food. I knew about family. And that’s what everybody came to me for. So, whenever I tell anybody like oh, you want to start a membership? My first question is, what are your friends and family tap into you for all the time?

Because that is where you should start. So, when I started The Fresh 20, it was just me and a computer screen at my kitchen table.

Jillian Leslie 4:31
And what is Fresh 20? What conceptually is that?

Melissa Lanz 4:35
So, The Fresh 20. It’s an online digital meal planning service. So, we help families that are trying to get off of the takeout cycle and the frozen food cycle and the processed food.

We help them cook weeknight dinners with using only 20 fresh ingredients for the week. It’s about buying less, making more being more sustainable and being healthy.

And so, we teach them how to shop, prep and cook. And we deliver weekly meal plans to them.

So, in the past 10 years, we’ve had over 150,000 subscribers to our meal planning subscription. And we just, continue to grow and help families have a better solution for healthy food in their own kitchens.

Jillian Leslie 5:25
So, when you started this, what were you delivering an email once a week, a PDF, a video?

Melissa Lanz 5:35
So, it’s still in PDF form. I’m old school with it, I’m still in PDF form. We have a website, they log into. There we have our guides, and now we have archives that are searchable.

So, you can put in like I have chicken and broccoli, and it’ll bring up all of the meal plans that use those things. But down to the basics. I like to say we’re bossy about dinner. And it’s just our chefs and nutritionists that create the meal plans.

We’re using the 20 ingredients and the pantry 20 which is like salt, pepper, garlic, that type of thing. And they download their PDFs, to whatever screen they have, and they shop. And then we have prep guides for them.

And they’re recipes and all of the nutrition that comes along with it. It’s really just a self-contained solution for people. We have people that have been on our plans for, almost, eight, nine years.

And every week, they download The Fresh 20 and it just helps them. It’s like one of those things that you just set it, forget it, you don’t have to worry about it or worry about what you’re going to do for dinner.

And I think that is one of the reasons that people come back and we have good retention rates, because it’s a solution.

Now, what if I have a diet constraint? So, I’m gluten free?

We have six different dietary plans. So, we have gluten free, we have paleo, we have dairy free, we have kosher, we have vegan vegetarian. It’s not a drag and drop, two things I’ll say.

If you are wondering how to set up a membership program with ease, listen to this episode of The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie. You will see it's much easier than you think! Click the link in bio to listen.

To Start a Membership Ask Yourself What Are You an Expert In?

So, one, is that when you’re starting out a membership, go to what you know already. And then two, I’ll say that, really know what you stand for. Because otherwise you’ll always be changing. My solution is what I do for The Fresh 20, I create the whole plan.

I don’t want an app that you can drag and drop recipes into where you have to go and spend any of your time making decisions. People come to me because all of the decisions are already made.

We do you have an online community where people go and say, I don’t eat turnips, what can I substitute and the community says, “Oh, you should sub this.” Or people say, “Oh, my husband’s allergic to onions.” So, the community helps with the substitutions.

And then we do have a substitution guide for allergies and things like that. But other than that, it’s a plan. It’s not a make your own plan. And I made the decision not to veer from that, and just to deliver what I do.

And I think when you’re creating a membership, it’s important to make sure that you have a mission.

And if you start trying to be like everybody else, or do where the trends are going, then you’re giving up on what makes you special and what makes you living within your own business model.

Jillian Leslie 8:54
So, about pricing, how much does it cost per month? Are there packages? Can I cancel at any time?

What I say about memberships is it’s having the right product, for the right audience, for the right price at the right time.

Melissa Lanz

So, when it comes to pricing, I think it’s really important that you don’t just pick a number out of your head and go Okay, that sounds about right.

You really have to look at the competitive market and understand like, do you want it to be something that will scale very quickly to a larger audience? And that’s what I wanted at first.

When I first started, I said, okay, $5 a month because that seemed like a really simple, an easy thing for a mom or a dad to say okay, for $5. I’ll try it.

And so, for me when I created my service, as a subscription service, I knew from the very beginning, that mine was about scalability. And it was about numbers, but not every membership and subscription is about that.

So, you really have to figure out, do you want to scale? And how do you make it scalable in a way. Now, if you have something that’s like, higher end, and you need less customers, to have a breakeven and to be profitable.

That’s something that you have to look at. There’s a subscription box that’s quite popular. That is about, I think, $150 a month, but it sends you all high-end products.

So, they market to somebody that’s willing to, spend $150 a month to get a surprise gift box of high-end products. But that’s not super scalable, because there’s so many less people that will pay $150.

How to Figure Out Your Membership Pricing

So, you have to figure out where in the pricing mix, you belong. So, the best way that I can say, to do that, for coaching, it’s a lot different because people pay on results.

But if you’re selling an actual product, or you’re selling a service, like a Fresh 20, or let’s say a Netflix, which is a subscription or an Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime loses money on their actual subscription, but they make money on the other purchase.

So, you have to figure out where in the pricing makes sense for you. If you’re starting off a subscription to collect leads, let’s say, if you want to grow your list and have a very small subscription, that’s low cost.

But you know that those subscribers, those members, to whatever you’re building, you know that there’s a price funnel a customer ascension model, down the line.

That 5% of the people that come in to your membership, are going to upgrade and spend more money with you, then you can price lower because you’re trying to get more people.

So, when I started, it was $5 a month. If you buy in annually, I think it’s $79 a year right now. That’s about a little under $7 a month. So, that was a decision that I made early on.

And I’ve stuck with the decision to just be accessible, and to reach a larger audience with my product.

Jillian Leslie 12:34
Yeah, we have two subscription businesses that are businesses that MiloTree has. So one, we sell a pop-up app that you install, on your blog, and it’ll grow your social media followers, and it’ll grow your email list. And it’s super easy.

And so, we give 30 days free upfront, and then we charge $9 a month. But then if you buy our annual plan, I think it’s $99 a year. So, that’s one, and the goal is we want large volume.

And every incremental subscriber doesn’t cost us a lot of money. So, the more subscribers we can have, the better. We also do coaching and we have an ongoing membership group for that.

And we charge $45 a month because David and I show up live twice a month and we provide so much one-on-one value that therefore that is a higher ticket item.

So, we have a SaaS business which is called Software as a Service, which is like, if you subscribe, you pay for the premium features on Canva or any of those Tailwind, those kinds of things.

Those are SaaS businesses. And then we also have a membership business, which is a higher price point. So, I completely understand. For both of them, you can cancel at any time.

If you buy the annual plan you can still cancel but we will only prorate you based on our monthly $9 a month. So, how does it work for you?

Melissa Lanz 14:20
So, that’s an interesting model. We have a free trial that goes to paid but it’s interesting. I think there’re couple ways to do it. Some people do free-to-paid some people do like $1 to paid, some people do 50% off your first month to paid.

And then I’m cancel anytime for monthly and quarterly but we’re not canceling anytime for annual.

Because when you buy annual you get access to an entire library of our five years worth of meal plans in our archives. And a couple of other things that you get on an annual basis. So, we’re asking for the commitment upfront.

How to Think About Your Customer Service

And we have a 14-day money-back-guarantee that we get, we call it our taste to guarantee. When somebody buys an annual purchase, they’re locked in for the annual and it doesn’t recur.

So, because I hate that when I’m on an annual plan, and I forget about it, and it recurs, it drives me nuts.

Jillian Leslie 15:29
Yeah. In fact, I just had this happen, where I subscribed to a fairly expensive product, it was like $150 for the year. And all of a sudden, I got an email that said, or I think it was my credit card or something that said, “Oh, we just renewed you.”

And I emailed them back, and it was literally the day that I got charged. And I said, “I’d like to cancel this.” And they refuse to cancel me. And I was so angry, and it has left such a bitter taste in my mouth. And I said, this is like gray hat practice.

This is something that’s a little sketch to do, where you are renewing the subscription automatically. And then not allowing me to email and say, hey, I want to cancel this, and I want a refund and they refused.

And so, I have to say the way that we go above and beyond, and I shouldn’t say this, but somebody will say, “I totally forgot that I subscribed to MiloTree for the last three months.”

And so again, that’s $9 a month, it’s not that expensive. And you know, what we’ll do, we’ll refund them. Because we feel like, we don’t want somebody to be resentful, and we trust our customers. So, that’s kind of the way we think about our business.

Melissa Lanz 16:59
I think customer service and setting up the ground rules is very, very important. And figuring out, and how you’re going to deal with things like that, and not be, doing one- off case here and one-off case there.

And really having a really solid foundation on what you stand for as a company is really, really important.

Jillian Leslie 17:22
Our integrity is everything to us.

Melissa Lanz 17:26
Yeah, especially in the membership model, I probably have 20 memberships or subscriptions running right now for certain things.

Why Memberships Are so Powerful

Here’s the thing about memberships, and why they’re so important. And why so many people are getting into the subscription game and the membership games, especially like large corporations, it touches everyone’s life.

So, from the time you wake up in the morning, until the time you go to bed, there’s not a moment during the day, for most people, in North America, at least, that they don’t come in contact with a subscription that they’re part of.

You have cable subscriptions, you have phone subscriptions, you have even insurances as subscription. You have Amazon Prime, Netflix. You have the subscription that sends you the razors in the mail.

There are just so many subscriptions that you touch on in the day-to-day basis. And then you have meditation apps that are subscriptions, and you have lifestyle.

Everything that we do during the day, in one way, shape, or form at this point, set up to a subscription.

So, if you’re a business, that’s not getting into the game, of having recurring revenue, in your business in one way, shape or form, then it just doesn’t make sense.

Because people are showing their loyalty and they’re showing where they want to spend their dollars. And they’re attaching themselves to memberships and subscriptions to make their life easier.

So, they’re going to find a way to eat, they’re going to find a way to work out, they’re going to find a way to learn. They’re going to find a way to insure their house or get information. Every single business can do this.

And one of the interesting ones that I saw recently was a dental office is now saying, you can have a family subscription for the year.

And you pay this much for the year and everyone gets a cleaning and everyone gets a one-year exam and so you’re just on subscription with them. And they do that because it’s easier you do it once you pay them.

You get in with their office, you become one of their valued customers and then you’re going to their office for years and years on end.

So, it doesn’t matter what type of business you have memberships and subscriptions are kind of it’s not even the future. It’s right now what’s happening?

Jillian Leslie 20:11
Yeah, don’t quote me on this. But I think I read an article that Panera is coming out with a subscription model for their customers. I agree.

How to Easily Set Up My Subscription Business

So, let’s talk about if I am a blogger, or I am an online entrepreneur, and I want to add a subscription business as one of my income streams, what do I need to set up in order to make that happen?

Melissa Lanz 20:22
I think the first thing that someone has to do is choose the model. If you want a subscription or a membership, that is can scale you have to choose actually how you’re going to do that.

So, there’s lots of different models, like you were saying, there’s SaaS, there’s membership, there’s box to delivered goods. You have to choose the model by which you are going to.

So, are you going to be recurring on a monthly basis? Are you an annual membership? Are you a physical or digital only? Choose the model that you’re going to put that in, I call it the container.

That you’re going to put all of this into, and then the steps to do it, first, you have to curate the information.

Because I think that so many people just say, “Okay, I’m going to do this.” And they don’t really understand like, people want shortcuts to information, experiences and products.

Curate Your Customer’s Experience

So, you as a membership or subscription owner. If you were the deliver, you have to curate their experience and their information, which means break it down into ways that’s consumable to them.

And breaking down the content is the most important thing that you can do for retention. And so, you have to curate the information, break down the content, choose the model, and then you got to do what you love and stay in your lane.

People don’t think about that, they can go on Instagram, and then in the afternoon, they’re like, oh, I want to change up my membership model or whatever I do. Don’t do that, you can only grow if you stay consistent.

So, people think, some myths about the subscription, and the membership, they have to deliver all the things. You don’t deliver all the things; you have to deliver the one thing. And then the other thing is that content is king.

So, people think that they have to give a bunch of information. And I can tell you, I coach, so many people. So, I have a subscription lab, it’s an intensive, so, I help people build their memberships in eight weeks.

And I don’t even start with content until week six. Because everybody has ideas, they have content, they have everything. But what’s more important than content? Implementation.

So, if content is king, implementation is queen, and queen rules in my house. So, implementation is very, very important. So, you have to figure out those implementation levels.

So, I would say choose your model, curate the information. Get the one thing and then the first thing I have my clients do when I’m walking them through building a subscription is I have them create their offer first.

Create Your Offer First

What are you actually offering if you had to put bullet points in front of someone and say, this is my program? Or this is my membership. Or this is my subscription. This is what I offer. What are those?

Because going through that and coming up with your core offer will answer so many other questions as you’re building out your membership. Like getting that offer down on paper and saying no, this is exactly what my offer is, is really, really important.

Jillian Leslie 24:04
I think that is very powerful. I think you are right, you alluded to this, it’s like less is more. Your job is to curate. Your job is to edit out all of the other information. So, for example, could I go onto the internet and find food plans? I could.

Melissa Lanz 24:26

Jillian Leslie 24:26
Could I go onto YouTube and find food plans? I could. But if I trust you and know that you deliver, and you get rid of all the noise so that I know, okay, this is all I need. Melissa is going to hook me up.

She’s my girlfriend, she’s got this, and then I can trust her, boom, it’s done for me and I don’t have to do all of that legwork.

People talk about well, but all that information is already out there. And I always say yes, but if you can package it in an easy to digest form, that’s what you’re selling.

Melissa Lanz 25:06
100%. And that’s what that’s what people want. We live in an Information age society, but nobody has the time to go and get all that information. So, if what you’re offering is resourceful, then that’s the best way.

I think if you’re starting, and let’s say you’re a blogger, and you’re like, okay, I’ve got this great idea. And I want to help people do x. I want to help people do this.

First of all, I would make sure that you answer the question, I want to help people do this, so that they can do what. Because wanting to help people do something is great for you. But it’s so that they can do what?

So, for me, it’s save time, be healthier, and be more sustainable, and have a better family connection. So, I know my why and what I offer. But I think if you are starting, there’s something that I’d help you do.

Ask Yourself What You Know for Sure

It’s super, super simple. Get out your notebook, or paper or journal or whatever, and say, “What is the one thing that everyone comes to me for? What do I know for sure?” And then write down 12 things that you could teach about that.

It’s just such a simple exercise, but it really helps people get clarity, what are 12 things that you could teach about that? So, I always think about somebody that’s like calligraphy. They teach writing.

What are 12 things that you could teach somebody about handwriting? Because I do know somebody that has a membership about him writing. So, you could teach people how to do invitations, you could teach people how to make chalk print.

Think about all the different things that you could teach with handwriting, then write down in another column, five ways that you could teach it.

So, how could you teach that? You could do a video tutorial; you could do worksheets and workbooks like tracing books.

So, write down five ways that you could actually teach that information, and then craft your offer. Write down the bullet points of what you’re actually going to do.

How Will Your Membership Transform Your Customer?

Jillian Leslie 27:14
One other thing that I might add to that is, in another column, write down the transformation. So, for you, you just shared it, it’s so that families can connect and be healthy together, and take the stress out of food preparation.

For us with my MiloTree. It’s grow social media and email list. Your email list on autopilot and grow real subscribers and real followers.

For my membership group it’s get cutting edge coaching, and also be held accountable in a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

And just even me saying this right now, as an exercise is so valuable, like keep extending it out until you get to the transformation for what that customer is going to receive.

Melissa Lanz 28:09
100%. It’s fascinating to me that so many of the questions that we try to answer in business and marketing and everything gets back to the initial questions for my 10th grade journalism class. Who, what, why, where how?

It doesn’t matter what you are doing on planet, if you can be answering those questions, then it’s a really, really solid start. I’m realizing like, okay, so, you choose your model, you craft your offer.

And then once you have a really solid piece of that, then you have to construct your system. And that’s where people tend to get kind of in the fray. They get really nervous, they get overwhelmed, they’re like, I don’t know what to do.

And constructing your system really just means that there’s a way that people can pay you, a way that you can send them information. That’s it.

Jillian Leslie 29:11
Or products.

Melissa Lanz 29:12
That’s the system or products. To me are still information, what products would it be. So, there’s you get paid, and you send out your stuff. I think that can be really, really simple for people.

Imagine a world where growing your social media followers and email list was easy…

I wanted to stop here to talk about growing your community. One of the easiest ways to grow it is through email and social media followers. And one of the easiest ways to do that is with the MiloTree pop-up app.

We offer a WordPress plugin or a simple line of code, install it in under two minutes on your blog so that when a visitor comes, it pops up and asks them to follow you on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook or join your list. It’s as simple as that.

And if you have traffic, it will work. So, head to MiloTree, sign up for your account, get your first 30 days free and watch your followers and subscribers grow on autopilot. And now back to the show.

What Is the Easiest Way to Get Paid for Your Membership?

Jillian Leslie 30:21
If I want to put up the fastest, most unpolished membership today, what can I connect together? Or what is your easy down and dirty way of doing that?

Melissa Lanz 30:33
PayPal and email.

Jillian Leslie 30:35
Whoa, okay.

Melissa Lanz 30:38
I can run a membership. And I’ll tell you a story of someone that ran a membership. He lives in Macedonia, and he’s a coach, and he ran a membership called the Single Malt Mastermind. This is ingenious, actually. All it was, it was $997 a year.

He had 100 people in it. So, the math right there is just a little under $100,000. The membership is it’s an accountability. So, it’s for people that don’t need anything else. He sends out an email every Friday, the email asks three questions.

And he had stories and some business advice and things like that. But all you did every week was read his email, and email him back your answers. And then on Monday or Tuesday, you got a response from him back. that was it.

Jillian Leslie 31:40
And what was he keeping you accountable for?

Melissa Lanz 31:44
For what you did in the previous week, what you were going to do and any other thing that was going on in your life.

Jillian Leslie 31:52

Melissa Lanz 31:52
So, it was really about making a statement, you guys just putting it out there and making a statement telling someone exactly like, what are you going to do this week. And that was it.

So, it was literally I think he use Stripe or something, but let’s say PayPal or Stripe, and his email address $100,000 business. Let me give you one more, that’s really simple for people to set up.

You can do Stripe or PayPal, and an email thank you. And a Voxer channel for your membership, you can have broadcast and it’s where somebody could send you back messages and voice messages and things like that.

So, you could put everybody on a Voxer channel and Zoom. Right there if you wanted to have any type of coaching business, that’s all you would need is literally Stripe, Zoom and Voxer. So, it’s really, really easy to get started.

So, I never want anybody to be tripped up by the tech. Because in the subscription lab intensive, most of the time, I’m trying to talk people out of building big systems.

They’re like, what should I use? It’s the number one question I get, what platform should I build it on? And I asked them what they’re doing. And I’m like, you don’t need a platform, you need a WordPress page or landing or a lead page.

And so, people think they have to get into a platform like Kartra or Kajabi, or Teachable, or any of those things.

And most of the time when you’re starting, I advise against it, because you’ll spend more time trying to set it up and less time just getting your content and your expertise out.

Build Quickly and Get Feedback

Jillian Leslie 33:35
And I completely agree, Melissa, your job is to test this, your job is to get it up in an afternoon and see if people are interested. You do not need Teachable or Kajabi or anything like that.

Melissa Lanz 33:49
Yeah. 100% and that’s one thing, I will say, build it quickly, get feedback, collaborate with subscribers and be constantly optimizing. I didn’t waste a lot of time when I was building The Fresh 20.

And The Fresh 20 has been, over the last decade, I’ve crossed eight figures with that business. And when I started it, I didn’t think about it. Like, oh, it’s going to be this. I literally only wanted to make enough money to pay for my baby sitters.

Because my kids were so little. And so, I started it with just like I’m going to help some people. And I thought, oh, if I have 100 subscribers, that’ll be really fun. Like, oh I have 100 subscribers. I’ll make the meal plans. Like we’ll do that.

And as I started to grow, I grew because I listened to the feedback not because I wanted it to be perfect before I launched it. If you’re waiting for something to be perfect, then you’re on the wrong path.

I’m telling you; I go through this all the time with my perfectionist’s clients. They’re like, “Oh, this has to be this.” I go, “Nope, launch it, get your buy button up.”

Jillian Leslie 35:04

Melissa Lanz 35:04
Launch it, and listen for feedback. Because fulfillment, you won’t really understand what fulfillment looks like until you start to fulfill what you imagine in your head.

And what you try and build out is very different than actually fulfilling on your promise and delivering your goods, whether it be a package or a box to someone’s house.

Or a coaching session, or whatever it is, you have to get into action and implementation to be successful.

Jillian Leslie 35:35
Absolutely, I teach this concept called B-minus work. B-minus work is above average work, but it’s doable. It gets you just far enough that you can launch something with a tiny bit of embarrassment.

Why You Want to Do B- Work

Melissa Lanz 35:50
Yeah, and I would say, the other issue that I see people doing all the time was kind of tapping into something you just said, people think that if they build it, people will come. This is not Field of Dreams; we are not Kevin Costner.

So, the most important thing, if you’re thinking about going into a membership model, or any type of subscription, build your audience first. Figure out how to be really good at building traffic, increase whatever traffic you currently have increased your email list.

Because that in the end, is going to be like a key factor to your success, people like to build it first. And then they get disappointed, nobody showed up. Well, you got to get the audience first.

And as you grow that audience, they’re giving you the feedback necessary to put that into your membership or subscription, and make it really, really strong so that you’ll have members for years,

Jillian Leslie 36:46
And I recommend when you get your first sale, let’s say your first three sales, see if you can get on the phone with those people.

Melissa Lanz 36:54
100%. And then the other thing I’ll say is that a question that I get a lot is, “I feel like I have this idea. But so many people do it already.” Don’t be caught in that thing about what other people are doing.

And there’s so much originality in each of us. There’s lots of people that can teach membership or teach. Let’s even take this, history teachers, how many history teachers are there? Some are amazing, some are not that great.

Some has, great style, whatever it is. It’s not about the content. It’s not about, oh, somebody already does that. Somebody always says that. It’s about you, your unique experience and what you bring into that.

The further you move away from that the less successful you will be.

Jillian Leslie 37:44
I like that.

Stay Close to Your Mission and Your Uniqueness

Melissa Lanz 37:49
So, you really have to stay close to who you are, what you believe in your style, your personality. And that can be really difficult when people are starting to get in front of other people.

When they’re starting to build traffic, when they’re starting to build an audience, it becomes really difficult to be vulnerable, and say, “This is me.” And then have people say, “Well, I don’t want to buy from you.”

But I can tell you this, the people that are like immediately, I don’t want to buy from Melissa, those are my favorite people. Because I don’t have to spend any of my time or marketing dollars or energy in trying to get them to crossover.

And I think that’s really important when you’re starting any type of membership or subscription is like, you have to be you and show up and do that.

And that’s not like some woo woo thing I’m saying that involves marketing dollars. The closer you are to being you, the more money you will make.

If you are wondering how to set up a membership with ease, listen to this episode of The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie. You will see it's much easier than you think! Click the link to listen.

When to Use an Open Cart vs. a Closed Cart

Jillian Leslie 38:50
Can we talk about open cart, closed cart? What are your thoughts about that?

Melissa Lanz 38:57
I have clients that do both. And I think this and I just had this conversation the other day, because someone was trying to decide what she should do.

I think if your product or service is something that people would buy in the middle of the night, because they’re worried about something and they need it, that your cart should always be open.

Because if you really want to get out there and serve, why would you want somebody to be looking for you searching for a solution? They come to you and then they go on a waitlist.

So, it really depends on what you’re delivering. What your product or service is delivering. So, for something like me, I do meal plans, of course, come on anytime I’m not going to do open and closed cart.

If you’re trying to build a close-knit community and you need to put people through an onboarding process that’s very, very specific and you don’t want to be doing that onboarding process consistently constantly.

Then I think, okay, you have to have a closed cart because you want people to go through a similar experience at the same time. To me, that’s really the only reason to have a closed cart is the onboarding experience.

If the onboarding experiences is such that they need to be guided as a group in a particular sequence, then a closed cart makes sense. Other than that, I’m an open cart type of person.

But I also want the information when I want it. I’ll move on to somebody else if the cart is closed.

Jillian Leslie 40:28
Do you think, though, I think the conventional wisdom is that having an open cart creates the sense of immediacy of scarcity, oh, my God, I have to do it now. Because if I don’t sign up today, it’s going to be gone in a week.

And I think people feel that I need that in order to get people to cross over and purchase my product. Do you think that relates to cost of the program or what?

Melissa Lanz 41:00
In a sense, I think its cost of the program. But here’s the dirty secret about closed carts that people rarely talk about. The people that are really, really successful with closed carts.

It’s not because the carts are closed or open, it’s because they’ve spent months and months and months building up a marketing plan building up affiliates.

They have a closed cart, because they’re onboarding, high level affiliates that don’t have time to be promoting them all the time.

So, closed carts, it is about the marketing, it’s less about the scarcity that people believe it is. It’s more about the process that it takes to get a mass amount of people to your page.

And so, people have the closed carts because of that, and people don’t talk about that a lot. When you see people, oh, they had a $2 million launch, they had a thing and they look at it, and they say, “Oh, well, their model is closed cart.”

Well, closed cart doesn’t work if you have 1,000 people on your list. Closed cart works, when you have massive amounts of traffic coming in, at a very specific time. That’s how they’re getting those numbers.

So, if you don’t have a marketing plan, and a marketing strategy and the marketing connections to make a closed cart work, then it’s not a successful model for a lot of people.

And they do it and they figure out, why is this not working? Because you didn’t do the other 80% of the things that those other people are doing to make it work.

Jillian Leslie 42:39
I think that is so insightful. I think you’re right, I think people connect the open closed cart to the success of the launch. And I think you’re right, because you do need those affiliates who are going to spend time pushing your product.

And you’re right, you can’t burn them out and have them be promoting your product all the time. And you need to be showing up for the live webinar. And you need to have the email sequence already written.

Melissa Lanz 43:08
Right. And I mean, that’s really why they call it a launch. Because, you’re spending so much time actually launching it. The idea of launching, I think people have kind of modified what launching means.

And they’re like, oh, I’m going to launch but they only spend a very small amount of time working on that, and then they open the cart, and then they’re disappointed. So, there’s so much that goes into it.

I don’t I think closed cart is good for some things. But I think if you have, let’s take like a coaching. I have a $297 a month, kind of ask me anything membership coaching. That’s just open whenever anybody wants to drop into it, I don’t close it, I don’t open it.

I don’t really even promote it. People will say, I need a little help or whatever. And I said, “Well, you can get in we have our meetings on Tuesday.” And they come in. To me, that’s because I want to give them the time.

I want to be relevant at the right time for them. I don’t want to only open up, oh, you can get into Melissa’s. I don’t want to have like a mastermind where you can only get into my mastermind once a year.

That’s because of the style that I run my business. I’m an implementation coach. So, if I’m not accessible when somebody needs their implementation, then it’s of no use to them. So, for me, that’s how I run mine.

And the way I run it, is it’s just ongoing. You drop in and there really is no onboarding you just getting straight into that the meat of what you need to get done. If you’re going to run a program, let’s say that you want to walk them through, then yeah.

Jillian Leslie 45:09
That makes so much sense.

Melissa Lanz 45:11
I think Amy Portfield does hers a couple times a year, a couple of her courses. But again, these launches are much, much more involved than people actually realize.

Jillian Leslie 45:26
They’re not 10 days.

Melissa Lanz 45:27
And they’re not 10 days. And I will say, too, when you look at somebody like Amy, or you look at somebody like Stu.

You also have to say, it’s not just that he works nine months on his three-month launch. It’s that he worked 10 years before that, building up the network, and the friendships and the connections, to be able to have the top 20 affiliates running his launch.

So, people forget that too. And I know people say this all the time. And it’s like, sometimes I just roll my eyes when people say it, but it’s true. Your net work is your networth.

And so, all of those people having those launches, they get out there, they support people, they support other people’s launches, before they even ask. I know one really, really high-level business coach that is very, very well known.

For him to affiliate, his rule on affiliate is he won’t affiliate anybody that he hasn’t sat down to two lunches and one dinner with. So, you have to put the time in, to grow in that way.

How to Find People to Help You Sell Your Membership

There are ways to grow, you either got to build organic traffic, and really be giving valuable resourceful content and grow organic traffic through like SEO and things like that.

You have to have a network of people that are willing to affiliate and support you, or you have to rely on advertising. Those are the three weights; you can’t get around that.

So, when you’re first starting, you have to rely on, building out your traffic, or having organic reach, doing as many press things and media things as you can. And then you might put a little bit of money into it.

Spend $50 a day on, Facebook or YouTube or something like that. But all that while you should be looking at other people that are complimentary to your business and supporting them as well.

Because as you all grow up together and help each other rise, then you guys can in a couple of years, support each other and have those big launches.

Jillian Leslie 47:36
Oh, Melissa, I think this is so wise. Really, I think that you have demystified it, I think my audience will go, “Oh! that makes sense.”

And I think that the biggest takeaway is to get your membership, or subscription up as soon as possible and start tweaking, and just that it is doable. And you just have to have some serious clarity.

Melissa, if people want to reach out to you, and learn more about you and what you do and what services you provide, where should they go?

Melissa Lanz 48:13
I’m on Instagram, melissabakerlanz. And I check my DMs and I talked to a lot of people there. You can also find me at melissalanz.com.

Jillian Leslie 48:25
Okay. It’s L-A-N-Z?

Melissa Lanz 48:27
Yeah, L-A-N-Z. And I’m extremely accessible. People send me little questions and stuff like that. And I believe in memberships and subscriptions, because it’s given me so much freedom, so much flexibility.

And I’d love to be able to show somebody else how they can do that. How they can create recurring revenue. And have a little bit more financial stability and live a life that it’s like, it gets out of that worrying about where’s my rent coming from?

Where’s my mortgage coming from? How am I going to pay this? And really gets them into that space. If you have that recurring revenue, and that financial stability, it gets you in a space that you can actually show up as a contributor.

And I can tell you making that transformation from thinking about, how I was going to manage my life to being able to manage, like how I could show up and to be a contributor has been one of the biggest blessings of my life.

So, I want that for other people. And if I can help in any way, I will.

Jillian Leslie 49:28
Oh, Melissa, I have to say I’ve learned a ton from you. I thought this was great. And thank you so much for coming on the show.

Melissa Lanz 49:34
Oh, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Jillian Leslie 49:38
I hope this episode got you thinking and has inspired you and given you ideas for moving your business forward. It definitely has for me.

If you want to get an email from me once a week, short email with my four biggest takeaways from each episode. Head to bloggergenius.com and sign up. Simple as that, and I will see you here again next week.

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