Essential Books Every Membership Site Owner Should Read
Naturally as membership site experts we have a penchant for online learning.
However sometimes you really just can't beat a good book.
Fortunately there are several great books out there that form essential reading for anyone looking to start and grow a successful membership site.
Here are our top recommendations:
Callie Willows & Mike Morrison
Of course we couldn't write a book of membership “must reads” without including our our own books!
In 2017 we launched a new podcast series called “Behind the Membership”. Its aim was to dig deep into the stories of real people running real, successful online membership businesses.
Not to give them a platform to blow their own trumpet, but to get to the heart of what made them tick, how their journey had unfolded and what insights they'd picked up along the way.
We had the privilege of uncovering some absolute gold in those conversations – an incredible wealth of insight and experience that was just too valuable to leave languishing in the archives of the podcast, so we've compiled the biggest takeaways into this book. These are real people, real memberships, real stories. Enjoy.
Callie Willows & Mike Morrison
Member Machine gives you bite-sized but in-depth information on all aspects of membership site creation, with daily activities and exercises for you to complete in order to get your online membership up and running easily.
This 30 day guide to launching your own membership website gives you with a clear path to follow that will give you the best start for your website. Each day focuses on a specific area and, most importantly, gives you the action steps you need to take in order to move forward.
Readers will find no nonsense, no fluff, straight to the point practical guidance and actionable steps aimed at getting you up and running in just 30 days.
Robbie Kellman Baxter
This book should be top of the list for anyone involved with memberships. Robbie's experience with subscription giants such as Netflix make for an enlightening read on the fundamental mindset needed to truly “get” the membership model.
While The Membership Economy spans across all forms of membership-based businesses, not just e-learning and community-based membership sites – the principles are universal; and there's plenty to think about in relation to customer experience, engagement and member retention.
We see this almost as a companion-piece to The Membership Economy; going more in-depth in terms of presenting a practical “blueprint” of sorts for a subscription business that generates regular recurring income.
While The Automatic Customer is broader in scope to the types of subscription businesses it covers; there's still a lot of actionable insight that you can model your membership site around – and there's a core focus on transforming an existing business into one that's more subscription-based.
One of the biggest mistakes we see membership site owners make is to rush ahead in turning their idea into a product, without stopping to do any research that would validate whether their idea is, in fact, any good.
That crucial stage is one that Pat Flynn has brilliantly dissected in his book “Will It Fly” – taking you step by step through the process of narrowing down, researching and validating your business idea in an entertaining, informative and easily to follow manner.
Anyone still at the “ideas stage” of their membership site should pick up a copy and use it to help ensure they don't waste time, money and energy pursing a bad idea.
If you want long-term success for your membership site, you need to find ways to keep members engaged for months and years on end.
The book really delved deep into how to encourage habitual behaviour amongst your members and have them interacting and participating with your product the way you want them to. It's underpinned by some serious psychological know-how and really taps into what makes your members tick.
While not specifically written for membership sites, the fundamental principles and advice apply to any business looking to form long-lasting relationships with their users.
We're always stressing the importance of member retention, and in “Evergreen”, Noah Fleming delivers some serious insight and tips on how to cultivate long-lasting relationships, gain customer loyalty and improve user retention.
This book very much reinforces our standpoint that focusing on maximising your member lifecycle should be an even greater priority to membership site owners than worry about attracting new members.
While not specifically aimed at memberships; this book stresses the importance of great customer onboarding, and walks through specific examples and practical advice for crafting the customer journey for the first 100 days and beyond.
As we so often say, your members will come for the content, but they will stay for the community.
Community is what makes the difference between someone being a member for months, and them being a member for years.
There are many books on building a community but this one tops our list. It's packed with practical tips and strategies that will help you to take your community to the next level.
This is such a great book on so many levels – not just for changing how you think about creating online courses and training materials to go into your membership; but the principles Julie Dirksen covers also apply to writing blog posts, planning presentations, workshops and more.
If your membership has an e-learning or training element then we definitely recommend this book to help you get a new perspective on how best you serve your members.
Anne H Janzer
A short read, but an essential one, this book packs in a lot of solid and easy to implement marketing and strategic advice specifically for subscriptions and membership sites.
While some areas do overlap the sort of stuff you'll already see covered in The Membership Economy and The Automatic Customer – the marketing focus on both acquiring and nurturing existing customers sets it apart and makes this a must-read.
Most memberships are run by experts and influencers whose brand is built around them being the best in their field.
Chris Ducker calls these people “Youpreneurs” – personal brand entrepreneurs running, primarily, online businesses; and in ‘Rise of the Youpreneur' he outlines step by step how you can become the go-to person in your industry and leverage your knowledge and expertise online.
Memberships, of course, get a mention (with a hat tip to your favourite neighbourhood Membership Guys!) – but this book goes much further at exploring the other key pieces of the puzzle that will help you stand out from the pack and become recognised as an industry leader.
Most online memberships offer premium content as their main “deliverable”, and at the same time use free content in their marketing. That adds up to a lot of content creation!
So you want to ensure that you're squeezing every drop of value from the content you're producing. That's where “repurposing” comes in – and that's the topic of this endlessly useful book from Amy Woods. It's a no-nonsense, implementable guide to repurposing every type of content that you can create. Not only will it show you how to get more out of your blog posts, webinars and so on – but there's also a whole chapter dedicated to repurposing specifically for memberships.
If you've found yourself struggling on the content creation “treadmill” then grab a copy of this book.
Other books worth reading:
While the books above are what we'd recommend all membership owners try to get their hands on, whatever their particular model or approach to membership is. However there are some other titles that – depending on your particular strategy – we'd recommend checking out if they're relevant to what you're doing:
- Content Marketing: The Content Code by Mark Schaefer, Content Mavericks by Andrew and Pete and Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Product Launches: Launch by Jeff Walker
- Email Marketing: Email Persuasion by Ian Brodie and Invisible Selling Machine by Ryan Diess
- Outsourcing: Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker
- Copywriting: How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards
Updated December 2019