Membership Geeks

Running a Membership During the Coronavirus Crisis

You don't need me to tell you that the world is currently in crisis and that countries are starting to take measures we've never seen before.

As more and more people are forced to social distance or self-isolate, and the economy starts to feel the repercussions, it's natural to feel anxious and uncertain about what this means for you, your loved ones, and your business.

Although I'm sure I'm not the only one person who can also relate a little too strongly to this?!

While many businesses are being forced to take drastic measures right now, or even shut up shop for the foreseeable future, those of us with online businesses are generally in a slightly better position, and hopefully won't have seen the majority of our income disappear overnight like some people may have.

But what are the rules on this? Should you still be marketing your membership when the world is in crisis? Is it insensitive to worry about higher churn at a time like this? How can you better help your members right now?

These are just a few of the questions we've been answering inside our own membership site, Membership Academy, over this past week. And I want to share some of our answers with you here too.

The first thing I want to make clear though is that this is an unprecedented time. None of us really know what the best thing to do is, so all you can do is what feels right for you and your audience.

Show Up and Serve

The most important thing that any membership owner can do right now is show up for their members.

This isn't the time to go AWOL in your own membership.

What is happening right now is affecting everyone to some degree, and that includes your members. They're likely feeling the same anxiety and uncertainty that you are, and now is the time to reassure them, to point them to resources that can help them, to create relevant content or simply just open up the space for members to connect more in this time of weird social rules.

If your members are particularly hard hit by this situation, then look at ways you can ease that burden. Maybe it's a payment holiday, the option to pause rather than cancel, a support fund, extra live calls, or simply giving more resources to help them through this challenge.

As we already said, there's no right or wrong answer, but your members need you to let them know that things are going to be okay.

And if you have a membership that people may be flocking to at this time – like a music, art & craft or fitness site – then your job is also to provide some much needed respite from the real world.

In fact your membership could be an important and much needed distraction at a time when the world feels like a scary place and people are spending more time at home or alone than ever before. You've got an important role to play in keeping people sane during this time, so encourage members to make use of your membership and serve them how best you can.

Don't Shut Up Shop

It's tempting to think that because of everything happening you should shut down your marketing and stop selling, but for those of us lucky enough to have a business that can function in this ‘new world', that's possibly the worst thing we can do. The world can't afford for everything to shut down over this, and you likely can't afford to either.

And don't forget there's a lot of people looking to take this enforced timeout to do something they've always wanted to – start a business, learn an instrument, write a book. And for some people, things haven't really changed that much at all.

So if you have a membership that will serve people at this time, then it's absolutely okay to still be mentioning that and continuing your marketing. In fact you can probably help a lot of people and have a major positive impact by doing so.

That said you do want to be sure you're not seen to be making light of or taking advantage of the current situation, so it's worth checking any existing content, promotions, ads and sequences you have set up to make sure that there is nothing that could be seen as callous or inappropriate. My general rule of thumb is to think ‘how would I feel if I saw this right now?' 

It's also worth considering offering a free or low cost trial or special membership offer if you know your site could be helping people right now, but you also know your audience have been hit hard financially by the current circumstances. This gives people a valuable resource in a time of need, builds good will, and will likely translate to long term paying members for you – because people remember the ones who helped them through a difficult time.

And while you shouldn't be afraid to still charge, if you do have something you're able or feel compelled to offer for free or at a significant discount because you know it will help people, then do it.

Just as you need to show up for your members, you also need to show up for your wider audience in any way you can (but not at the expense of your own health or business please – running yourself into the ground won't help anyone).

Be Proactive & Innovate

Another issue many may have is that your membership isn't actually up and running yet, but you've just taken a big financial hit because your clients are cancelling or your job bas been suspended.

First things first – don't rush into anything out of panic. Take a deep breath and assess the situation and what you can actually do at this time. This can actually be a great time to innovate! So what problem can you solve for people right now and how?

If you're able to weather the current storm financially then now might actually be a great time to finally get your membership built!

If you have extra time then make use of this to further your business now, so that you're in a good position when things start to go back to normal. It's maybe not the best time to actually launch your membership (although it depends on the membership and where you're located) but you can certainly take advantage of the extra time you may have staying at home in order to build your site, batch content, plan your marketing etc.

We've made our book Member Machine completely free for the time being to help you do just this.

If you're struggling for income however then it's also worth looking at whether there are things you can do for a short term income boost:

  • Can you bring previous client work online using tools like Zoom?
  • Could you run a paid online training webinar or offer 1-1 coaching?
  • Could you even do a barebones low cost membership or community using just a Facebook group, or maybe create an email course?
  • Also consider listing yourself on sites like or Upwork if you have skills that other business owners could utilise

There are a lot of ways you can pivot what you may have been previously doing to fit the current marketplace.

Lean Into It

The truth is we don't know exactly how things are going to go and how long this situation will last. Things are uncertain right now, and people are panicking because of that, but as things settle down over the next few weeks, we'll hopefully find a ‘new normal' and things won't feel quite so intense.

So now probably isn't the best time to make any big decisions about your business. Let the dust settle first.

What you can do during this time though is think about what you can do now, so that when things do return to normal you can hit the ground running.

  • Can you hunker down and batch create content?
  • What about plan an epic launch or promotion for when you're ready to go all out with marketing your site again?
  • How about tackling that ‘one day' to-do list that's sat in your project management system (or is that just me?)

Even if sales flatline or churn increases in the short term, you can still do things now to put your business in a better position for the months to come.

The honest truth is we're likely all facing extended periods at home and a change to our social habits, so lean into that and see how you can turn it to your advantage in the long run. What can this time make possible for you?

And remember you're not going through this alone. If you're an Academy member then you can join in with the discussion and stay connected on the forum here. And if you're not a member then be sure to join our free Facebook group for any extra support you need at this time.

Helpful Resources

There are a lot of people putting great content out right now to help businesses through this crisis, so rather than reinvent the wheel, here's some great additional resources for you to check out for tips on things like working from home, handling the financial situation and more: