Growing your membership audience can be a slow, painstaking process.
But it's an essential one.
Accordingly to the Online Membership Industry Report, 92% of membership owners who did not spend time growing their audience prior to launching, are making less than 6 figures a year in their membership.
Ultimately when all things are equal, people will buy from people they know, like and trust; and that sort of relationship takes time to develop.
However there are ways to speed up the process.
So, if you know who your tribe are and where to find them, try out some of these tactics to boost your membership numbers and speed up your journey to success.
These are not the only ways to do it, but they are definitely four of the tactics that will help you grow a larger audience over a shorter period of time.
1) Run a free online challenge
Develop a course, program, webinar, or a series of live videos that are focused on helping people achieve a particular outcome or goal that is tied to your membership.
These programs are usually run over a set period – usually 7, 14, or 30 days.
Your free challenge should be focused on something relatively small and achievable, not too intense or complex, but enough to prove your value and give them that warm happy feeling of success.
You’re not sending 2 or 3 hours of content for them to watch every day, you’re simply plotting out a pathway to that particular outcome and breaking it down into small, digestible pieces that you send out on a daily or weekly basis.
Because you’re running your free challenge to start on a specific time and date, with everyone who subscribes starting at the same time, that allows you to build a bit of buzz and get plenty of eyeballs on you.
Scarcity and urgency are powerful tools if wielded correctly, and this is a great opportunity to use them in an ethical way.
A challenge is much more engaging and compelling than a standard lead magnet, because you can combine it with a community or group on social media.
People will join not just for the material, but because they thrive on accountability and they like to be shown the route they need to follow.
If you structure a free challenge well, it can be a great tactic for generating email signups.
In fact, we used this as a key part of our launch strategy when we moved from one-on-one consultancy to a membership model.
We had a relatively short space of time to build our audience and the main way we accelerated that was through our 30 Day Membership Challenge, where we took the process of planning, creating, and launching a membership and broke it down into 30 easy-to-digest, accessible, easy-to-accomplish steps which we then delivered as an email course.
That generated us 100s of signups which played a big part in the successful launch of Membership Academy.
2) Start a web summit
A web summit is an online event that features experts in your niche who can really help your audience, sharing their expertise through pre-recorded or live interviews, webinars, and workshops.
You could have 30 to 40 experts contributing over a two-to-three-week period.
To give this the best chance of success, make it a big event, brand it up, and make it free to attend in exchange for an email address.
You can also use the recordings from the summit to upsell into your membership.
After the summit is over, lock them away within your membership and make them a paid set of content.
If your audience want to watch those videos again, they’ll need to join your membership for lifetime access.
This is a really powerful tactic because of the element of urgency in it.
It’s taking place at a specific time and when it’s done, it’s done.
If someone doesn’t attend when it’s on, they will miss out.
This urgency and scarcity is a powerful marketing tool.
And it’s a great trade off – tons of expert speakers sharing insights and inspiration all in exchange for… a solitary email address.
They’d be silly not to.
An added bonus is that, by associating your name with these experts and thought leaders in your industry, you will do wonders for your reputation.
3) Run a contest
Contests are one of the oldest tricks in the book – and for good reason.
If you can run a contest that also rewards people for sharing the contest and getting other people to participate, you’re effectively outsourcing your audience building.
These contests are typically held on social media, whereby an entrant can secure more entries for the more people they invite and involve.
If every person invites three people, and each of them invites three people… Exponential audience growth!
But… there is no point in assembling an audience if that audience is not relevant to what you’re doing.
This method does mean you’re going to build a slightly fuzzy audience, not really crystal clear in their interest or understanding, but there are things you can do to balance that out.
It’s important to be realistic and intelligent about what you’re giving away in your contest.
Giving away iPhones and holidays and supercars is going to attract people who only want to win the contest and have no genuine interest in what you’re offering more broadly.
Keep any prizes you are offering modest and relevant, e.g.:
- Bundles of books (relevant to your niche)
- Particular equipment (e.g. photography equipment for a photography membership or a kitchen tool for a cooking membership)
- A free membership (either as a standalone or part of the package)
Make it so the majority of people who enter are doing so because they have a genuine interest in what your membership is about.
4) Joint venture promotions
By partnering up with established influencers and authorities in your industry, you can tap into their audience and boost your profile.
If there are people who have an audience just like the one you want to reach, or who at least have some shared interests across your niches, then you can access them by finding a way to offer value to both the business owner and their audience.
This model works by you providing value to someone else’s audience (through podcast appearances, guest posts, or webinars, for example) and rewarding your partner by giving them a percentage of new sales that come as a result of your partnership.
But you can go even further than that and have these big names actively promoting your membership for a higher commission.
You see this especially with high ticket product launches and courses, but it can easily be adapted to memberships.
Start by approaching the kind of people you’d like to work with and just testing the temperature, seeing if it’s something they’re open to, and whether there is scope for you to work together.
If they are open to it, make it as easy as possible for them to talk about your membership to their audience.
Share your free opt-ins, your challenges, your summit. This is almost a secondary promotional tactic, complementing some of the other suggestions listed already.
To get the go-ahead, you’re going to need to prove you have:
- a solid plan in place to track visits from their website to yours, and to continue tracking those users through to sign-up so you can calculate commission
- relevancy to their audience
- a good commission rate to offer
- a high likelihood of them making enough money for it to be worth their while
This isn’t so much a list-building exercise as it is a first step in the sales process.
A joint venture partnership shouldn’t be undertaken as a first step in testing the viability of your membership, but rather when you’ve got the proof of concept nailed down, an active audience, and are on the cusp of launching your full product.
A good joint venture arrangement can do wonders for accelerate your list growth, and then of course, accelerating sales.
If you want to learn more about them, check out our post on Growing Your Membership with Joint Venture Promotions.
There are so many more options
These are just four of a countless number of ideas for growing your membership, but if you are looking to really accelerate your growth and put a bit of fuel on the fire, these four tactics are some of the best you can deploy.
And these aren’t just one-time tactics, you always need to be growing your audience and your membership and not resting on your laurels.
This needs to be a continuous effort.
“Build it and they will come is not a valid strategy.”
You need to have leads at all times!
We’ve got a brilliant course in the Membership Academy that covers audience-building tactics that goes far beyond what you’ve read in this post. So, if you’re looking for new and creative ways to reach new people and grow your audience, then you’re going to love that course within the Academy.