This Major Mistakes That Are Guaranteed To Kill Your Membership Website in 2024

Avoid common pitfalls that harm membership businesses. Learn how to steer clear of damaging mistakes for lasting success.

Are you unknowingly sabotaging your membership business? In our eye-opening video presentation, discover the key mistakes that could harm your bottom line. Learn about ineffective marketing tactics, subpar customer service, and other pitfalls that may undermine your success. Take charge of your business’s future by watching our video now and implementing crucial changes for sustainable growth.

Mistakes That Will Kill Your Membership Business

#1 – Not Targeting a Niche (Going Horizontal)

#2—Choosing a Market with Funded Competition: You think you can compete with other players in your space with much-paid traffic.

#3 – More content will lead to more sells

#4 -Complexity Kills

#5 – Doing Everything Yourself

#6 – Basing Your Business on One-time Sales

#7 – Choosing an Idea with a Two-Sided Market

You are having one group of people to market to is hard enough. But having to find and reign in two customer groups is brutal. Examples of this include Elance, eBay,, and any ad-supported website (since you have to sell to advertisers and visitors)

#8 – Going Freemium

#9 – Ignoring the Numbers

#10 – Starting Your Marketing Once Your Product is Complete

This Week Show’s Sponsors

LifterLMS: LifterLMS

Convesio: Convesio

Omnisend: Omnisend

The Show’s Main Transcript And Links

[00:00:00.780] – Jonathan Denwood

Welcome back, folks, to the Membership Machine Show. This is episode 74. In this show, we will be talking about the major mistakes that I guarantee will kill your membership business in 2024. It should be a great show. I think we’ve got some great insights. I’m getting most of my content for this show or insights from the bootstrap startup world. And I think you can directly apply many concepts in that particular world to build up a successful membership website in 2024. A specific resource that’s influenced me And a lot of my attitudes is a great podcast from Rob Rowland, Boot Startups for the Rest of Us.

[00:01:37.650] – Jonathan Denwood

If you’re looking for some great business insights, subscribe to this podcast and go over to Rob’s as well. I’ve got a great special guest. He’s a regular and works a lot with WP-Tonic. I’ve got Kurt with us. So, Kurt, would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

[00:02:02.320] – Kurt von Ahnen

Absolutely, Jonathan. My name is Kurt von Ahnen. I own a company called MananaNoMas. We focus primarily on membership and learning websites, especially enterprise sites with SCORM content. I work directly with Lifter LMS and Jonathan over at WP-Tonic.

[00:02:18.050] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. He does a great job helping at WP-Tonic with Lifter LMS, one of our favorite learning management systems in the WordPress space; he is excellent value for money and a great team. So, as I say, we’re going to be going into the things that you need to understand if you don’t, it might kill or will kill your fledging membership website. But before we go into the meat and potatoes, I got a couple of messages from our major sponsors. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, folks. I also wanted to point out that we’ve got a great membership website and a membership group on Facebook. It’s called the Membership Machine Show Group. Why don’t you go over and join it? If you have any questions about the topics we discuss in this podcast, or you’re looking for any specific questions, we’ve got a great crowd of WordPress enthusiasts and experts, plus people like you. So go over there and sign up. It’s totally free. We love you to be part of the community. So this is also a quick general discussion before we go into the main points.

[00:03:55.960] – Jonathan Denwood

So in the intro, Kirk, I said that I was highly influenced, or before we went live in the show, I said I’m highly influenced by Rob Rowland, his work, and his podcast. What do you think? I think there is a lot of connection between starting a bootstrap startup business and actually starting a membership site. They are different. But I think there’s a lot to learn from that community when it comes to the marketing side and the things that might kill your membership website off. What do you think?

[00:04:34.520] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, to steal a saying from you, Jonathan, it’s all swings and roundabouts, isn’t it? In many cases, a startup depends on membership, and memberships, just by their nature, are a startup. You are trying to put out content. We’re trying to create an environment to bring a group of people together and hopefully generate revenue. And so, yeah, it’s absolutely a startup in my mind. I think there will be a lot of consistency between the methodologies of growing a startup from a bootstrap perspective, the same as developing a membership from a startup perspective.

[00:05:13.910] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah. So let’s go straight into it. You’ve been on a couple of shows, and I’ve really hammered away with this, but I think it’s a crucial thing, not targeting a niche, horizontal. That means going too broad, folks. That means not really laser focus on a niche audience and trying to go too wide, too quick. I feel it’s the major problem with many people that go into building a membership website. What’s your own thoughts and insights about this, I’ve given this particular topic a lot of thought because I suffer from this.

[00:06:06.850] – Kurt von Ahnen

I suffer from this more than you would know, Jonathan. I can remember I had a mentor 15, 18 years ago who met with me at breakfast, and he literally said, Kire, you cannot do what you do. You can’t do it. He said That rich and famous people try to stick their fingers in all the different pots and try to have something going on. They’re just called eccentric. They can get away with it because they’re already wealthy and famous. When someone who isn’t rich and famous does that, you’re just called scatterbrained and silly, right? Because you don’t look like you have any focus. You don’t look like you have anything going on. And so when I first became an entrepreneur, I wanted to be a public speaker, a writer, a website guy, a trainer, all those things. And I was like, I have skills in all these areas. I know that if I put all these together, combined, I’m going to make a living. But what happened, Jonathan, was I went broke because no one took me seriously. And then once I got a foothold in one of those verticals, I could expand over time and begin to fill those spaces I enjoy.

[00:07:17.180] – Kurt von Ahnen

But I think it’s really important from a startup perspective, you got to pick something and you got to focus on something. Famously, Timothée Morgan over at GiveRer Marketing said the same thing to me a long time ago. He said, Kurt, I love you. I love talking to you, but I have no idea how to refer you to other business people because I don’t know what you’re focused on and I don’t know what you’re going to try and sell them.


[00:07:42.280] – Jonathan Denwood

I think that’s a great point. I think everything you’ve just said is great. I think you were covering two areas. Not only were you covering finding a niche, finding a focus, but also it applies to the marketing side. I think trying to be on all social media platforms when you’re starting out is going to be pragmatic. I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve got using podcasting, using LinkedIn for a particular targeted audience. I’m going to expand that in the next few weeks. Been focussing on a particular audience with LinkedIn with a slightly with a different audience on Twitter, and then my YouTube channel and my podcasting is actually aimed at a different audience. But I can get away with that to some extent, because I’ve been doing this for a number of years. I think if you’re starting out, folks, trying to be on too many social media platforms, especially if you’re not found your niche, found your target audience, is a mixture that will lead to failure, basically. What’s your thoughts about… Does that stay in the topic, Kurt?


[00:09:15.160] – Kurt von Ahnen

I’m with you, but from a more cautious perspective. So for instance, I’m all down on LinkedIn. You know, LinkedIn is my jam. I think that the percentage of conversion I get off of LinkedIn and the quality of connection is the best there for me out of all the other social channels. However, I don’t want to put all of my eggs in that LinkedIn basket. I dabble a little bit in Twitter and Facebook, and I have a presence, but it’s not a focus. I think it’s really important to understand. As an entrepreneur, you need to focus on something to forge forward, but you keep your little insurance policies off to the side.


[00:09:53.530] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, my focus is going to be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Facebook, and what I’m doing. But I’ve got two strategies, one for LinkedIn. I think I got up my game on LinkedIn a bit about just publishing, but trying to get into conversations with people that are active in my target audience on LinkedIn. I’ve been a bit not doing that. I think on the publishing side, I think it’s going the right way. I’ve backed off for the last couple of weeks because I’ve been dealing with other stuff. But I was going to up my game on Facebook, and I think the other platforms… We produce a lot of content at WPTonic. This podcast is part of it. So Choosing a market with funded competition, you think you can compete with other players in the space with much paid traffic? Not the greatest English, but I’ll just quickly not in writing this out. This is a concept. This isn’t 100%, but in general, unless you found a niche that these well-established, well-funded players that are spending a lot on paid traffic on Facebook, on Google, that you’re It’s linked to number one, where you haven’t found a niche, so you’re too broad, and then you’re going up against highly financed established players, unless you’ve got a really angle which they haven’t fulfilled.


[00:11:46.610] – Jonathan Denwood

But they’ve got the resources. If they are watching you, they can jump in straight away and just blast you out the water. I don’t personally think it’s a great idea. What do you think, Kurt?


[00:11:59.630] – Kurt von Ahnen

I I think when you really focus on what this is about, we’re saying you want to start a membership or even a course site, and you’re saying, okay, I’m going to get into this market and I’m going to advertise for it. I think, honestly, if you look at this element and then combine it with what we talked about, number one, your niche, I think it’s a definition of not properly defining your niche, which forces you to compete with people at a higher level. For instance, if I had a membership about dog clubs, that’s way too broad, and I’m going to be competing with other funded people that are advertising anything to do with pets and dogs and things like that. Then you can get into a specific breed and say, German shepherds or some Burmese mountain dog.


[00:12:49.970] – Jonathan Denwood

But then you still- I like those.


[00:12:52.150] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah. And then you do some more research.


[00:12:55.300] – Jonathan Denwood

What dog do you think I am?


[00:13:00.150] – Kurt von Ahnen

I don’t know. I think you’re some a doodle. I think you need some a doodle. I don’t know.


[00:13:05.470] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m a British Bulldog.


[00:13:07.490] – Kurt von Ahnen

No, if I was going to pick a dog for you, it would be like a labradoodle to offset- They’re bonkers.


[00:13:14.790] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m not that bonkers, am I? Because they’re totally bonkers.


[00:13:19.210] – Kurt von Ahnen

He’d be like, Throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball. But my point is, if you start really looking at how you’re competing and you’re getting driven out of your market, it’s because you didn’t niche down far Then Burmese, even if you pick Burmese mountain dogs as your topic, maybe it comes down to Burmese mountain dogs training, Burmese mountain dogs, grooming, Burmese mountain dogs, nutrition. But once you establish that vertical and you become that person, then you can expand and fill the rest of the gap that you missed.


[00:13:49.330] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah. Like I say, folks are influenced by the bootstrap startup world. There’s quite a few podcasts, and I was listening. I mentioned it in the intro, folks. I’m influenced by Rob Rowland, who’s a multimillionaire, and it’s a personal friend, him and his wife. He was talking about this because he did enter his last business that gave him real security for him and his family, because both him and his wife come from a very poor background, and financial security was something very important to them, and he’s spoken about this. He built up to a stage where he could finance his last startup, a major startup, which was in a very competitive, well-funded sector. But the competition was really quite poor, and that was in email and marketing optimization. And he invested almost a quarter of a million, from which he had built up in other online businesses and managed to build up something called Drip, which they, in the end, him and his founders sold. But it was in a very competitive… They were up against programs like Mel him and similar well-established, but he said they weren’t very good. So this isn’t gospel, but in general, going up against well-established, well-funded, unless If you find the niche, isn’t a great idea.


[00:15:33.120] – Jonathan Denwood

But this is all the points we’re making. There will be contradictions. That’s why you can’t write a business book and say, I’ve solved all. I’ve got a success map here. There are too many variables, basically. On to the next one. More content will lead to more sales. What do What do you reckon about… I’m just going to throw this. This is another pet area for me. What do you reckon about this?


[00:16:07.920] – Kurt von Ahnen

There are so many elements that go into what actually constitutes or creates a sale. I’m a walking living example that more content does not lead to more sales. I’m going through an exercise right now, Jonathan, similar to you with SEO. I’ve got over 800 videos on my YouTube channel with 83 subscribers. Something’s wrong. I didn’t do something right. And I was so busy working on client sites that I didn’t work on my own stuff. And so now I’m having to go back and try and drive that through SEO. But just because you put out content doesn’t mean everyone is seeing it. You have to drive that traffic somehow, some way. But I don’t want to discourage people from making content because you need a good foundation. You need a good base. But a good base, like in the YouTube world, a good base could be 25 videos. You don’t need 800.


[00:17:03.170] – Jonathan Denwood

No, you’re totally right. It’s just finding a balance. I am not saying to you, if you’re listening or watching this, folks, that content isn’t important It’s just finding the Goldilocks spot, because I have been involved in clients that have spent over a year, and it just expands and expands and expands. But all these things are linked. It’s also linked that their topic was too broad, their focus was too broad. Your first one or two courses, because you can build another course and go into a subject in more detail. Stuff is stopping you. There’s no fire night resource limit here. You just make another course. If you get traction and you get a good response from your initial courses. If you found your niche, and I’ve said this before in other episodes, you got to try and put yourself in your student shoes and get some quick wins for your students. That’s what the first few courses are about. But if you like Then you move on. If you’re focused at more the higher intermediate to expert, obviously that course content probably gets longer, more intense, more elements. So it does depend on the audience. Like I say, these are broad guidelines.


[00:18:52.000] – Jonathan Denwood

They’re not flagged stuck in the ground. There will be There’s a lot of chances where you won’t do this. But in general, spending six, eight, nine a year knocking out 50, 60 videos, all the writing, downloadable PDFs, quizzes, goes on and on and on. And in the end, I think it’s down to the fear of actually publishing and getting actual response and avoiding that dire moment where you find crickets in response to your course content. You do not want to spend a year writing stuff. Because if you do get crickets when you publish your first course, it isn’t the end of the world. All it means is you haven’t found market fit. That’s all that means. Just means you’re probably You got to twig it and look at your verbiage and how you’re marketing it. A lot of people, if they go too far down this road, it leads to them, Oh, it’s a total failure. I spent a year writing all this out, and I’m just going to give up. But where it’s actually just feedback that you probably just need to look at things a bit more. What do you aim?


[00:20:28.390] – Kurt von Ahnen

The biggest thing that hit me When I had a project that I put a lot of time in and didn’t have a lot of results from was, A, I recognized three months into my marketing process that I was marketing to the wrong people. I was marketing to the students that would be taking my membership in courses when I should have been marketing to their boss. Their boss was the one that would actually be making the purchase.


[00:20:51.640] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, it is if the boss is going to be paying for it.


[00:20:54.400] – Kurt von Ahnen

Exactly. Then I was like, Just because I know all those people doesn’t mean I know their bosses. Then And the next problem that I had had was my copy didn’t match the pain point of the boss that would make the purchase. So my copy matched the pain point of the student, but not the boss. So now I was marketing to the wrong people originally, like the wrong people were getting the messages, and then the messages themselves weren’t structured in a way that reached out. And to your point, I had a ton of content that was already done, but all of it was focused on the wrong folks. I should have done a test market feeler thing before I spent 900 hours building that stuff.


[00:21:41.790] – Jonathan Denwood

Yes. But We all learn. Well, everybody makes mistakes. It’s the difference between the average person and a total fool is you try and learn from your mistakes, where a fool doesn’t even know that it made a mistake, and they just keep on doing the same mistake. As Einstein said, If you keep making the same mistake, you’re going to keep getting the same results, aren’t you?


[00:22:13.630] – Kurt von Ahnen

The one thing that I want to us here, Jonathan, is the easy way out is to say, Oh, that failed. I wonder what I’ll do next. Almost. Yeah. The difficult part, the one where the people that succeed really come from, are the people that that are willing to do the hard work and go, What can I change or what can I learn from this to make it better? Or to find that success. Because if you’re quick to bow out and quit all the time, you haven’t done anything for yourself. You’ve just experienced more failure. But failure leads to success. You can feel your way to success. You just have to learn from it and implement.


[00:22:51.790] – Jonathan Denwood

On to the next thing. This is another feed that gets me going. Complexity skills. What do you think of this one?


[00:23:02.270] – Kurt von Ahnen

I preach this all the time, Jonathan. I mean, not just with WP Tonic, but when I do the live sessions with Lifter LMS and Will, time and time again, people will come on and they’ll ask us, especially people So they’re all new to memberships and learning websites. They’re like, well, I want to integrate with Google Sheets and the CRM tool and do this with my videos. And it’s like, Slow down, slow down. How many people do you have in your community? Have you grown a community? Do you have an audience? And have you, here’s the big thing, have you created a test account as a visitor or a student or a member and gone through your product for that user experience? Does your website transition well for people other than you that would use it? And I’m amazed at how many people I consult with that have seen it from the creator side or the the admin side, then they make assumptions about the user experience, but they haven’t actually tested the user experience. And that complexity will drive people away from your site quicker than anything else.


[00:24:11.810] – Jonathan Denwood

It’s all swings around about when you buy Lifter LMS or some learning management system and let a mature Lifter spend a lot of time working on how things work, and they’re similar LearnDash is another one we recommend. You get a lot of people, they want to change the basic flow and how things work. They’ve spent hundreds of hours working on that, folks. That is not where you want your focus of time. Your focus of time is the verbiage, the value proposition. The course does matter. I’m just saying, Don’t publish War and Peace. Just write a quick book. But it’s got to have value in it, but don’t write War and Peace. But don’t go bonkers about changing the basic structure, which you can… If you go with a SaaS system, you can’t. You’re stuck with whatever they give you. What I’m saying is at the beginning, you do not want to change the basic structure of the learning management system, if you can, which you can with WordPress-based systems, but resist the temptation. But on your journey to financial freedom and success, you will want to change the layout because you will get consistent input from students.


[00:26:04.940] – Jonathan Denwood

They want this function out to you, they want that function out to you. You’re not just getting one person asking it, you’re getting multiple people sending in the This would improve the membership. This would improve the value. That’s the stage where you then want to change things because your user base are giving you the signals that it would benefit them. Where if you build this on a SaaS platform, you can’t do that. You’re stuck. Then you probably then want to move the whole system to WordPress. Which is costly and time consuming. So it’s best to start with a WordPress-based system, but don’t get sucked in at the beginning about changing things. Let that be driven by your students. What do you reckon, Kurt?


[00:27:03.240] – Kurt von Ahnen

I’m with you almost 100% on all of that. The idea that you sign into something that’s been created by experts with hundreds of hours of labor and design and research and development, and you with no sales or no community yet go, Oh, this is all wrong. This has got to go another way. That has always bewildered me because a lot of times these people come back six months later and go, Oh, this doesn’t work. And they want to point the finger somewhere else. But then when you go into their website and you look at it, you go, What is this? What are you trying to do? And then, Oh, I changed this. I changed that. Okay, let’s just go back. Let’s set this up so that it works like a conventional system that the user would be intuitive with, and then you might find more success.


[00:27:55.530] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, and this is the thing. I I call them the educated fool. The educated fool can make anything complicated. It takes real skill to make something simplistic, and that’s especially with UX and layout, folks. Nice-looking, fancy-looking icons. Fantastic, but basically, they just confused people because icons, you need experience with that and layout choices. Just stay with what the system comes with initially. There’s other areas where you really need to concentrate on.


[00:28:43.370] – Kurt von Ahnen

Jonathan, can we just touch on one subject about this with complexity that I think is important? Every time you tweak something or modify something, not only do you affect the reliability of that system moving forward, in regards to needing maintenance and stuff, But you could impede the ability for that product or that section of your site to have accessibility. And that’s becoming more and more of a hot topic. And so a lot of these spinning icons or animated graphics or things like that, it’s really difficult to have like alt text or to have vision impaired tools pick up on what’s happening on the site. And that can hurt you in the long run. So you want to stick with something simple that’s easily navigatable, that’s accessible, and know that as you move forward, you’ve got something solid to build from.


[00:29:36.540] – Jonathan Denwood

The other area where this really is people that… WordPress offers some really fabulous marketing optimization that can really help in upsells, in reducing churn of your membership website, triggering different There are some enormously powerful marketing optimization platform, plugins that offer more value and more functionality than you find in the SaaS world with things like Active Campaign, Keep. You got things like Fluent CRM, WP Fusion, and Cany Automator. These are enormously powerful powerful tools that you can… But you do not go down this route when you haven’t even got your first student. You go down this route when you got your first hundred, your first 500, your first thousand students to cut down, to have onboarding sequences, have upsell sequences when you got more than one course. When a student isn’t utilizing the platform, you can trigger off a series of email that encourages them to go back and start, because if they’re not using your membership, they’re probably going to unsubscribe. That’s churn. But I have people that haven’t even published… I have had people that haven’t even published or hardly got one or two active students, and they want to build the most elaborate marketing optimizations.


[00:31:34.730] – Jonathan Denwood

I just came to the conclusion of doing this because they don’t want the dreaded day where they’re going to have to bloody publish the course. They’re just finding things to do busy work that removes the day where they’re going to actually have to go live. What’s your thoughts about this?


[00:31:56.280] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, some people would call that a fear of success. A lot of people really dread just the idea of putting their self out there. And you can see that a lot in the public speaking circuits. You can see people that are forcing themselves to do something they’re uncomfortable with. Sometimes I just talk to clients and I go, are you sure this is really what you want to do? Why are you doing this? Are you sure this is what you want to do? And in some cases, it’s just not a good fit for them. Not everything is a good fit for everybody.


[00:32:30.030] – Jonathan Denwood

Just to finish off before we go for our break, folks, I’m not being negative. We’re just giving you advice here so you avoid the mistakes that will lead to failure. So you can be a real success story, folks. The biggest resistance, and I think Kirek would… The biggest resistance is not building war and peace and not going bonkers about marketing optimization too early. And the other thing is the spending much, much, too much time on design. These are the three areas that you really want to listen. But based on my experience, the response you get will judge if you bring it up because you get a lot of resistance in these areas. What do you reckon?


[00:33:23.000] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, to say it another way, I think if we focus on membership, membership infers It’s that you like people, you like relationships, you like communication. And design, although artists will tell you that design is all about communication, you really need to focus more on the relationships and the connecting with other human beings to build your membership over trying to have the prettiest website in the world.


[00:33:49.500] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah. All right. I beg you to hurry up on this. Well, let’s go for a… The other thing is community. Don’t get me wrong, community It’s really important, but in the last year, since COVID, folks, it’s one of the most abused terms in the membership. Look, if you haven’t If you haven’t even built your first course out, I won’t worry about… I would utilize third-party platforms to try and build community Facebook group for all its drawbacks, and there’s plenty. You definitely If you do want to get your community off a Facebook group that’s really growing, I would only ever use it to a certain level, and then I would attempt to get those people off it as quick as possible. Like any platform that you’re investing a lot of time and energy on that you don’t own. I would never, over a certain size, advise a client to continue building community on a third-party platform like Discourse, Facebook, Slack. A lot of people would disagree with me, but I would utilize those platforms. Like Rob rolling, I think I was listening to his last podcast. They’re in the tech sector, and they’ve built a big community on Slack.


[00:35:23.940] – Jonathan Denwood

I think he said it’s up to 5,000 users. I totally think he’s wrong there. I think It’s great utilizing Slack, but I would get to continue building and investing a lot of energy and time on building a community on a third-party platform. I personally think it’s bonkers. He would probably strongly disagree with me, but that’s my honest opinion. But the other factor is, if you haven’t even got your third… You do not want to attempt to force people onto your website to build a community. You should utilize a third party initially, but then if you start getting traction, look at moving it to your website. That’s enough of me preaching. We’re going to go for our break, folks. Got a couple of messages from our sponsors. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, Just want to point out that we’ve got a FAB newsletter that covers membership topics. Go over to the wp-tonic. Com/newsletter. Wp Tonic is the site that supports this podcast, the Membership Machine Show. And like I say, we do a weekly newsletter that covers membership, WordPress, marketing, a load of subjects, plus the latest news stories in WordPress and tech.


[00:37:02.630] – Jonathan Denwood

But it’s a great value. So sign up for that and you get great insight that’s linked to this podcast. So on we go. Doing everything yourself. Well, that’s a contradiction because when you’re starting, it’s probably a good idea to do everything yourself because you need to understand, especially if you’ve got no budget. But if you have, it’s a good idea to get people to get the set up and then learn how the bits work, because you can just spend too much time getting everything set up. I don’t care if you’re using WordPress. If you go with WP tonic, we set everything up. You get the hosting, we set up the learning management system. Everything’s included with our hosting, folks, and we walk through it with you, so you just not got… Where do I start with WordPress? But if you go with SaaS systems, the Swiss Army knife SaaS systems, Depending on your experience, you haven’t got the setting up for the hosting, but they’re pretty complicated as well. So be prepared if you can’t. It’s getting that initial set up. But after that initial set up, I wouldn’t let people run the thing for you.


[00:38:36.500] – Jonathan Denwood

I think you got to be involved with your students. You got to get this feedback and you got to have these discussions. That’s where I think. But after you get those discussions and you start getting tractions, you do want to bring in people to help you run it. It’s It’s a balanced scenario, isn’t it, Kurt? What do you reckon?


[00:39:03.890] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah. The WP tonic setup has a ton of value because everything’s there. I think the other thing to remember is that although there is a learning curve, there are a ton of resources to get you there quickly. Wp Tonic has their own getting started with WordPress the way that WP Tonic provides the sites, right? So we have a course, we have a tutorial that shows you exactly how to get started in your site. So it’s all there. To your point, SAS programs, dude, I use a SAS program to run some things for my agency, and it does the things I want to do very well. It does. But it’s got a ton of other stuff that four years in, I still haven’t taken the time to figure out or even onboard myself with because it’s so complicated. And to your point, I can’t really change the format, the look, the way things are. I can change the logo and I can change a couple of things, but I don’t use it as a front-end piece to my business because it’s just a back-end tool for me. When you are choosing something as your front-end tool for your business, you want flexibility, you want ownership, and you want all the things that WordPress affords.


[00:40:17.890] – Kurt von Ahnen

That said, you don’t have to do it all alone. There’s concierge services through WP tonic. You can buy help to help you get started. There’s an experts list at Lifter LMS to help people We’ll get going. And you think it’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars, but it’s not that expensive. You can do a lot of things on a budget. And the leadership in the John Maxwell team advises, anytime that you become skilled at something, and then you find someone that can do it up to 80 % as good as you can, it’s an advantage to delegate that and to move yourself to something you’ll get a better return on. So focus on what you’re really good at, get familiar with everything, but hire people to do the stuff that might not be your strongest suit.


[00:41:05.580] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think at WP Tonic, we offer a quick launch package, which is great value. You get additional training, and we set everything up on a deeper level, and then we show you how it all works. If you got the budget, and it’s not ridiculously expensive, folks, it’s $1,500, and it’s fantastic. But we also got for a lower price, you still get onboarding calls where after we show you, we go through everything that you might need. Then we got a training course that’s freely available that shows you what we’ve set up. We offer a lot of stuff. I think you’ve got the budget, getting everything initially set up for you is a good idea because you could just spend months and months learning all this stuff on WordPress or a SaaS. Too much in my opinion, because the quicker you get in the trenches and working with students and getting their feedback, the more you’re on the road to success, in my opinion. On to the next thing. Basing your business on a one-time sales. Yeah, not a great business model, not a great business model for WordPress freelancers. Not in general, but subscription has been overplayed.


[00:42:35.680] – Jonathan Denwood

People would cut them back on the subscriptions because it can go get potty. But in general, one-time sales are good depending on the price. Also, low-price one-offs are good marketing triggers, offering a low price trigger, gets people on your email list, get you to subscribe to YouTube, other platforms which you can then build a relationship with. Higher price, yeah, great. But you normally also want to combine it with subscription sales because that will offer more established income for you and give you the bandwidth to build the business.


[00:43:29.140] – Kurt von Ahnen

What do you Well, if the focus of the talk is going to be on memberships, then we definitely want to focus on the idea of memberships, relationships, human contact, things like that. So these aren’t products that you sell once and forget about. These are access points or products that your audience will purchase and then expect some continuing contact with, right? Because even if it’s just connecting to other members within in that group, there’s still that relationship, that moderation bond that happens there. And I don’t think we touched on this, Jonathan, but running a membership site when it gets popular is hard. It takes work. You have to moderate it.


[00:44:14.170] – Jonathan Denwood

You don’t sell it.


[00:44:15.310] – Kurt von Ahnen

You don’t set it and forget it and let the audience take care of it. You have to actually manage it. And so if you sell things in this niche as a single point of sale, you are setting yourself up to be burned out two years later. So You want to make sure that you either delegate, have a team of moderators, or that you are recurring the charges so that you can continue to fund the efforts.


[00:44:41.590] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah. On another real Choosing an idea with a two-sided market, these are marketplaces where you haven’t even built your first course. You know nothing about courses, and yet you think you’re going to build a a marketplace in your particular subject, and people are going to come to that website and sign up and sell their courses, and you get a cut. It’s madness. It’s bonkers. Forget about it. It ain’t going to work. You’re mad. Sorry. You need to concentrate on building your first courses, and At some stage, if you want to go down that path, if you’ve got traction, you’ve got enough people coming to your website, you’ve built a brand, a personal brand, and you’re actually getting people coming to you saying, We like to sell our course on your website. That is a good sign that this might be worth going down. If you’re not in that position, forget about this. It’s an awful idea. We get about, I want to say too regular, but it regularly comes up people wanting to do a marketplace, a two-sided marketplace, where they haven’t even produced their first course. I just think it’s bonkers. What do you reckon, Kurt?


[00:46:22.480] – Kurt von Ahnen

It’s bonkers except for one very isolated hyper nicheed area. And that is you’re on a board of directors at some organization or some higher level, and you’ve already got a plugged in group of 20 or 25 people that have committed to create content and add to your project. It’s got to be preset, pre-organized, ready to go. And you have to somehow be the recognized expert to run that project that all those people want to be a part That is such a rare, hyper niche scenario that I’ve only seen that once or twice in my 20 years of doing this web stuff, Jonathan.


[00:47:11.850] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, you’re totally right. Kurt normally is. I would say about 80% to 90% of what I just said applies, but there’s always this… I forgot the a way to word this, this contrary thing with everything. I think about not producing war and peace. I think there are circumstances where you do need war and peace, marketing complexity. But in general, I’m fine with everything we said. And in general, two-sided marketplaces, forget about it. Just forget. It ain’t going to work unless you’re established. But But Kirk just pointed out something that’s totally correct. On to the next one. Going freedom. This is the most difficult one because offering a very inexpensive course as a marketing to build up your email list, I think is an excellent idea. And offering a free course for that purpose is also excellent in getting your brand out there and building up your email list. It’s the next step up then offering a well-focused PDF, a free PDF or a cheat sheet. We offer that at WP Tonic. It’s very popular. We also have developed a course which we’re going It might be marketing at a low price. But I think where I don’t like it is where if you’re utilizing it as a way of building up your email list and building up a niche…


[00:49:22.870] – Jonathan Denwood

Pre-developing a relationship before you offer a paid course at a higher level, I think it’s fine. It’s when, in general, you’re off in a ton of free stuff. It’s endemic in the WordPress space. That’s where I have problems with it. But I think you’re… I don’t know. What’s your view about all this, Kurt?


[00:49:47.650] – Kurt von Ahnen

I think that the marketplace is saturated with this type of nonsense. Gary Vynerchuk is super famous, yelling and screaming at audiences all over town with his flair for the English language and telling everybody to give away their best stuff for free and grow their audiences and people will latch on. The best way to get exposure is to call somebody and offer to work for them for six months for free. And there’s these things that people hear and they go, I never thought about that. Sounds like a great way to get my foot in the door. And as a startup, you might be tempted to offer everything for free. But remember, free has zero value. And so you don’t just want people to sign up for your membership site. You want them to be driven to your membership site repeatedly to interact and create an energy within that site. Having those numbers or having that sign up without a carrot on a stick or a reason to keep coming back is going to cause you to have lack of follow through. And in courses, that’s the anchor of failure. If you can’t get your students to complete their courses, that’s an anchor of failure.


[00:51:07.860] – Kurt von Ahnen

So to my point, I think freemium is a great tool. You just can’t overuse it. You can only speckle it in and always lead to a paid offer so that when they invest, they have a reason to come back.


[00:51:20.930] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. You’ve explained that fantastic. I’m not saying I’m totally against it because I use it myself I think we all do. But even in the WordPress, there’s been loads of people that offered a free plugin and then premium plugins. It’s difficult because They offered too much value in the free version, so nobody signed up for the premium, or there’s no value in the premium in the free version. It’s just crippled wear, and they just peaved off a load of people. It’s finding the right balance. It’s tricky. Annoying the numbers. Yeah, what do you reckon about this one?


[00:52:17.840] – Kurt von Ahnen

I’m just going to be more transparent. Your audience is getting to know a lot about Kurt today. I have suffered for this many, many times. I’m an action type of person. I I take action, I move forward. I’m always looking for the new thing, I’m always putting things forward. What happens when you have that tendency is you forget to look back and look for the feedback, look for how many people clicked, what were your impressions, What were your click-throughs, what was your conversion? And all of that stuff has importance. And those numbers all mean different things to different people. You heard me say earlier, I think LinkedIn for me is my jam because I know that conversions have a higher value when they’re sourced through LinkedIn. I wouldn’t know that if I didn’t track where my referrals come from, what my efforts are to get them, and what those referrals are worth when I close them. And so any business, whether it’s a membership, a core state, or a startup business, you have to know your numbers. If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t really have a business.


[00:53:25.030] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, it’s knowing the right numbers, folks, because like everything we’ve said in this podcast, you can overdo it. I’ve known people that wanted report after report after report and spent a load of time, and it’s knowing the right metrics. There’s loads of advice online, too much, but you also choose communities, hopefully. I think we’ve provided some great information on this podcast. I’ve been running it now for a year, over a year We’re on to… I’m quite impressed. I know I’m saying it, but I think we’ve offered some great advice on this podcast. That is a bit counterculture to a lot of flannel out there, a lot of misinformation about their, Give me 500, give me 200. It’s normally $999. I’ve got this easy I’ve got this easy plan, and it’s easy to build a membership, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah Well, a couple of days ago, and it was 200. I was very resistant until about two years ago buying any… I shouldn’t say this. I was very resistant to buying any membership courses. I’ve changed my… Even an old dog like me can change his ways. I bought more courses. I’m very selective, though, but I have bought a lot more, and I have got some really good value out of them.


[00:55:15.190] – Jonathan Denwood

I think if there’s an area that you don’t know about is buying a course that can really be helpful, but you really do want to investigate the person. I wouldn’t I wouldn’t go with the top tier of people that have got big following, that big names, because they’re so divorced from the actual in the trenches, that the value they offer is probably limited in sight. You want actually people that got a track record in the industry that are doing quite well, but they’re still involved in the subject, if you know what I mean.


[00:56:02.270] – Kurt von Ahnen

I’m very proud of you. That was very diplomatic the way that you said that.


[00:56:06.490] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m changing my ways a little bit, aren’t I? You’re rubbing off for me. Start your marketing once your product is completed. Yeah, that’s another one. I think being part of a community, being seen as a thought leader in a Facebook group or whatever, posting, making some videos about the subject, I think this can only help. I think in 2024, folks, we all should be trying to establish a personal brand. There’s part of me that hate to say that, but it’s just the reality of the situation. I think even if you’re never… I think if you’re even in full-time employment and you’re trying to… I think it’s a great… And you got any interest in the job you’re doing or progressing in your particular career. I think publishing things, talking about your industry and that will only help your career in general, even if you’re not going to do anything as a side hustle. But if you do decide to do something as a side hustle, it will help you enormously as well. I think it’s a win-win. What do you reckon, Kurt?


[00:57:44.670] – Kurt von Ahnen

Jonathan, you hit a subject I’m passionate about because I hit this a lot in the LinkedIn communities. People are gun-shy or nervous about branding themselves or posting for themselves on that platform because of their corporate ties or the boss might see it, or things like that. The reality is that employer loyalty is gone. It does not exist. And so if you are hanging your coattails on the stability of a position at a company, you’re hanging yourself on something very tenuous. So it would help if you branded yourself. And that’s where many of these membership and learning type projects come from is someone’s like, oh, I’ve got to have a security net for myself. I got to have a backup plan. Many of the projects I work on aren’t primary earning projects. They’re either personal branding or side income projects to bolster somebody’s brand, like a speaker, an author, or a coach who picks up gigs and has a position at a company. And so I am a very large proponent of branding yourself and doing your own thing. That said, marketing is consistent, and you’re always doing that. Then you launch your product because we’re saying, don’t wait until your product is done before you start marketing.

[00:59:22.840] – Kurt von Ahnen

You’re constantly marketing yourself. We’re all salespeople. If you’re married, you made the biggest sale of a lifetime. You sold yourself to somebody else for life. So we’re all salespeople. So, brand yourself consistently and have your branding in place as you launch your product.

[00:59:41.940] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, fantastic. So if you want to, we’re going to go to the end of the show, folks. If you’re getting value from this show, and hopefully you are, why don’t you share the podcast on social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, wherever you are, and also give us some feedback? You can do that on LinkedIn. Go to the WP Tonic and Jonathan Denwood. Go to the WP-Tonic YouTube channel. Subscribe to that. You got a load of content on that YouTube channel about membership. You find it a fantastic resource. And talk about the value of the podcast on your social media. It does help promote the show. We will be back next week with another technical or marketing subject that provides value on your membership journey. We’ll see you soon. Oh, I forgot something. I think the most essential part of the show was that I allowed Kurt to tell you how you can find out more about him. I apologize for that.

[01:00:53.680] – Kurt von Ahnen

No, that’s fine. I was doing the old Johnny Carson, the old…

[01:00:57.230] – Jonathan Denwood

You know, knock it out of the park. I apologize. How can people find out more about you, Kurt?

[01:01:04.580] – Kurt von Ahnen

Anything that is MananaNoMas on the internet typically leads to me. I am utterly active on LinkedIn. I’m on there almost every day, and I’m the only Kurt von Ahnen there, so I’m easy to find.

[01:01:16.630] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s fantastic. We’ll see you next week, like I say, with another great topic that will help you get success in your membership website in 2024. The main thing you got to learn, folks, is the quicker you go on this journey, the quicker you’ll get that success. So don’t postpone it. There are loads of opportunities in this space. By listening to this podcast, you’re one step ahead of the pack, in my opinion. We’ll see you soon, folks. Bye.


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