How to Compete Against “Free” to Grow Your Paid Membership

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Although I read two to three books a month, the backlog of books I have yet to get through is huge! Heck, I buy a couple of books each month, clients and friends send me more … Every month that goes by, I get further behind in the list of books I need and desperately want to read.

Beyond all those books, I also subscribe to several news feeds. These include articles from my local paper, TechCrunch, Wired, Seth Godin, Florida State University sports, and a dozen others. Then there’s the podcasts: “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” “Planet Money,” “Serial,” “Entreleadership,” “The Way I Heard It,” “Built to Sell,” “Tim Ferriss,” and others. I’m weeks behind on what I eagerly want to listen to. For entertainment, my Netflix binge list includes “Orange is the New Black,” “The Blacklist,” and “Narcos,” just to get started. On top of all this, I read the weekly magazine The Week, receive dozens of email newsletters, review and comment upon dozens of client materials, and run my own company.

Needless to say, I’m running behind. Even though I’m a fast reader, there are only 24 hours in a day. (Oh, and I almost forgot — my wife and kids want a little of my time and attention too.)

Imagine for a moment you want to sell me a membership. What are you offering me? Access to a library of materials? A newsletter? Perhaps some emails? Maybe some videos or a manual? Yeah, I’ve got all that. Maybe when I get through the pile I have, I’ll consider adding your stuff to the list.

You are facing the same uphill battle with any person you’re trying to recruit as a member today. Oh, you’re going to deliver an app? How many apps do you have on your phone that you haven’t opened in 12 months? Most are used for three minutes to three days, then ignored. Is this your best retention strategy?

There’s a better way.

Do you have a backlog of media to consume? When a new book or video pops up, does it automatically go to the back of the line, or does some stuff skip the line and capture your time and attention right away? What kinds of features would cause you to let something move to the front?

Your prospective members and even your current members are constantly weighing each item to determine what they should consume next. You’ve got to have a secret weapon that makes your materials skip to the front of the line.

For me, that weapon is a nail file. See, I stick that nail file under the nail of my customer’s left thumb, creating excruciating pain. Soon enough, that customer wants nothing more than for that file to be removed.

Okay, it’s not a real nail file. It’s imaginary. I’d never use an actual nail file. Instead, I use words to help my members accurately see the life they’ve grown accustomed to. Things they’ve seen for so long, they don’t see them anymore.

I bring those pains to the forefront and help the member feel that pain to the point that it takes up their entire focus. Then, I offer to help them release the pain with a quick shortcut, positioning the membership as that shortcut.

I see too many memberships, apps, and online tools trying to gain attention by illustrating all the great features and benefits they deliver. The thing is, for the most part, your prospective members totally agree with you. They’d love to have your program, and they make a mental note to circle back to you when their pile of great intentions dwindles down a bit. Unfortunately for you, that pile never gets smaller. Instead, it grows.

What pain points have your customers grown accustomed to that they’ve started to ignore? What are the handicaps they’ve long since put a Band-Aid over that you can now cure? How can you get your members to feel that pain again? The answers to these questions will unlock member growth, engagement, and retention.

The squeamish may not like the idea of sticking a nail file under the thumbnail of a prospective member. I’m with you guys. I think it’s a ridiculous way to get their attention. Problem is, if you don’t do it, you’ll be ignored. You won’t have the opportunity to help your old members. You won’t have the opportunity to retain your new members. And, you won’t grow your membership.

About Robert Skrob

The problem with subscription membership programs is that members quit, I fix that problem. For more than 20-years I have specialized in direct response marketing for member recruitment, retention and ascension in diverse subscription members environments including non-profit associations, for-profit publishers/coaching, subscriptions and SAAS companies. For an evaluation of your current churn rate and how I can improve it, contact me here. I discover there are often two or three quick wins you can implement within a week to lower churn immediately, let’s talk about your quick wins.

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