There are several hidden powers of developing a membership site as a platform for your brand. Both free and paid membership models allow you to enhance the brand experience you offer your customers and immerse them into your BrandedWorld. In this article, we’ll discuss four brand experience factors membership sites can leverage.
3 Questions to Identify the Membership Opportunity
When you stop and think about the businesses you interact with on a daily basis, what is the common denominator that all of them share? Here’s a short list:
Netflix. Pandora. Starbucks. Hilton Hotels. Hertz. Delta Airlines. PlayStation. Xbox One. Nintendo Switch. Uber. Lift. Graze. Blue Apron. GrubHub. Apple. Dunkin Donuts. Graze. Bark Box. HBO Go. Hulu. WWE Network.Verizon. AT&T. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.
The list goes on and on…
Most likely, the brands you interact with or are familiar with have some form of free or paid membership model. The paid models are recurring – meaning you get access to their content/products/services and they receive a recurring monthly payment. Sure, there is no contract, but as long as you have a need, want, or desire to access the content/product/service, you will make sure to continue to pay each month.
In my family, we have two absolute-can’t-live-without-services: Netflix and Apple Music. Being big movie and music fans, we see access to those services as valuable, so we continue to invest the small fee each month.
It’s not necessarily groundbreaking, but it is an opportunity for your brand. Our society is moving away from “owning things” to “accessing things.” You don’t have a music collection, but you can access any song you want through Pandora, Apple Music, Spotify, or SoundCloud, among other options. Many millennials are choosing not to own a car, but to access cars through Uber, Lyft, or ZipCar.
To assess whether there is an opportunity for your brand to develop a membership component, we first need to do an analysis of the market. Looking at your audience, we want to determine if we can answer ‘yes‘ to one or more of the following questions:
- Is there an ongoing need? Does your market have an ongoing need each week or month? Providing resources and tools that could substantially reduce prep time for teachers, consultants, marketers can fill an in demand need.
- Are people looking to learn or master a subject? There is so much information on the internet, available for free that it can often feel like there is no reason to develop a paid membership model. However, that is one of the best reasons to create one. Let me explain: information overload does not help the user solve a problem, it adds to it. The key is to organize information in clear and straightforward directions that guide the user to get the result they want.
- Are people gathering online? No matter how quirky or small of a niche your brand represents, most likely there is a forum or group gathered online to discuss and share stories. Before you may have thought you were the only one who had that particular interest. However, now, you can meet people from all over the world who share the same interests, thus developing a community around it.
Defining a Brand Experience in a Meaningful and Measurable Way
I get asked all the time, “Benjamin – what do you mean when you say ‘brand experience’?” When I talk about the brand experience, I am referring to both sides of the equation – what the customer experiences and what the company experiences to deliver the client experience. This holistic view provides more insight into how the operations can be improved to provide a higher quality customer experience overall. The brand experience is so critical to me because it validates and proves that the brand is true to its groundwork – the vision, brand promise, mission, core values, and guiding principles.
A well-crafted brand experience delivers on four factors that make for an immersive and memorable experience. The four factors are:
Alone, each of the above factors hints at an intentional brand experience. Together, they move the customer into a deeper level of engagement, interaction, and trust, building a relationship with the brand. So how can a membership site deliver on these four factors?
First, let’s storyboard the customer journey, which will give us the framework for the brand experience. Then, for each of the four factors, we will begin to fill in the details, sharing tactics and examples. The result will provide you a good understanding of how a membership site can deliver a meaningful and measurable brand experience to your audience.
Storyboard the Brand Experience from the Customer’s Point of View
When you first think of a membership site, often the first thought is to list out all of the features the site will have that your audience may want. I want to stop you right there. Listing all of the features can provide you with a long-range roadmap, however, trying to execute on all of the features at once will lead to customer overwhelm and burn out on your and your team’s effort.
Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. They are stuck. They are overwhelmed by all of the information around the topic they are trying to learn and don’t know where to begin. That’s where the customer journey begins for your membership site.
In order to find your brand, a potential customer most likely will search or ask google a question and your blog post will show up, answering that question. Within that blog post, you have provided a way to learn more about the potential customer, by offering a content upgrade, or freebie, in exchange for their name and email address. If they choose to request the freebie, you then have the opportunity to offer them further of value. In the sketch above, it is a free membership with access to other similarly valuable content around the same topic. Now, as you begin to learn more about your free members, you can determine what they find valuable and what they want to learn more about.
Your email list and free membership is the perfect strategic tool to listen to what your ideal audience is saying in terms of frustrations and challenges. As you get your audience engaged and sharing, you then begin building products and services to meet those wants, needs, and desires. This is the hidden value of having a dedicated community around your brand. It becomes a self-sustaining BrandedWorld, insulated to a degree from outside competitors.
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1. Delivering Immediacy
How can you deliver immediacy with a membership site? Well, pretty simply actually. Immediacy is all about instant gratification. In our customer journey example above, the call to action from the blog post offered an immediate resource in exchange for a name and email address. This is the first step of building immediacy into your brand experience.
You can add more immediacy to your brand experience throughout both the free and paid membership models to reward, entice, and incentivise your audience.
2. Personalized Brand Experience
What I love about technology is that you can develop an infinitely scalable product (i.e. SAAS or membership site) but design it so that it is geared towards the individual. Using marketing automation and artificial intelligence, along with other tools, you can develop a deep relationship with your customers and make them feel as if you are only speaking to them, guiding them towards the result they desire.
3. Authentic Brand Experience
Some membership sites can feel impersonal or inauthentic. Your brand must be true to itself and be bold in who it is and what it stands for. Your membership site is the perfect place to showcase your brands ideals, worldviews, values, and principles. Having those cultural cornerstones come through in your product/services will make the brand experience much more authentic and will attract like-minded audience members.
4. Accessible Online Brand Experience
Accessibility. With the internet, everyone wants and expects to be able to access information, especially information related to themselves and the product/service they have purchased. Even if your company offers consulting services, having a member dashboard where a client can check the status, ask questions, or access resources could go a long way to enhancing the brand experience and increasing the transparency, which builds trust and brand equity.
What Do You Think?
Could your brand adopt a membership model to supplement or replace your existing business model? What challenges around a membership model do you have? Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.