How to create a membership program and generate recurring revenue

Caroline Burk

Updated: Nov 17, 2023 · 7 min read

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Small business owners everywhere, no matter their industry, have limited time. But just because your time is limited, doesn’t mean your revenue should be. That’s where recurring revenue can be a huge help, and one way to achieve this is by transitioning to a membership model.

You may have been considering a membership-based business model for some time, or maybe this is the first you’re hearing about it. Either way, you probably have some questions before diving in.

Jamie DuBose, Keap Certified Partner and owner of Zenplicity, knows the ins and outs of memberships because they’ve been an integral part of growing her business and freeing up time for her and her team. Jamie recently sat down with Keap to talk all things membership and provide insights every small business owner needs to know before adding memberships to their offerings.

If you’re curious about how to create a membership site and how it might help you serve more people, save time and increase your revenue, then read on for Jamie’s tips and watch the video for more details.

How does a business determine if adding a membership is a good fit?

If you’re considering a membership model, the first thing you might be wondering is if it would even work for your specific business and industry. This isn’t as hard to figure out as it may seem, and Jamie DuBose has a straightforward way for you and your team to determine if a membership program is the right move.

She advises everyone considering this transition to ask themselves:

  • How much of my time is spent with clients?
  • Is a majority of my schedule spent serving customers one-on-one?
  • During the time my team spends with clients, are we constantly answering the same questions or solving the same problems?

If most of your time is spent one-on-one with clients and performing the same services for each person, then you’ll be relieved to know there’s a more efficient way of doing things. Jamie recommends businesses in this situation start offering memberships with group coaching opportunities.

“A membership model would not only help you answer those questions for your customers in a group setting, but it would also help create community and give them a place where they can learn from other peers about the problems that they’re solving in their business,” Jamie explains.

Along with creating a thriving community and generating more revenue, this new approach will help you consolidate your work and free up your schedule so you can focus on other aspects of your business.

What are the common mistakes businesses make with memberships?

Once you determine you’re ready to start down the road of memberships, you’ll want to be aware of common mistakes others encounter so you can avoid them. Jamie has been in your shoes, and she also helps her own clients through the membership start-up process, so she knows what mistakes and roadblocks to look out for.

The biggest error she sees people making as they learn how to create a membership site is not spending enough time thinking about what type of content or resources to populate their future site with.

“I think sometimes the thought of a membership site gives us a really great place to add all of the content and the courses we've created that we really want to share,” Jamie explains, “but what ends up happening is there's a misalignment with what we’re offering versus what those members want to consume.”

When someone signs up for your membership program and realizes they’re no longer getting the same value they did in one-on-one calls with you and your team, they can begin to wonder if it’s even worth it to stay subscribed. Jamie describes how this friction between what’s expected and what’s offered is what leads to membership turnover and a loss of profits.

The solution? Carefully consider what your audience is looking for — what questions are they asking? What problems do they need solved? What expertise have they been seeking from you? Asking these questions will help you get to the heart of what your clients want and help you craft resources that make them forget one-on-one calls ever existed.

Another tactic Jamie recommends to avoid this common mistake is to routinely survey members. For more details on how to conduct surveys, as well as other mistakes to beware of, watch Jamie’s full video.

How should businesses organize and plan membership content for consumption?

The planning phase is the most important part of creating a membership program, and there are three integral parts to this process:

Content planning

This first phase of planning ties into the common mistake covered above, and, as Jamie explained, content planning can help you avoid high turnover in your membership program. Remember, it can be tempting to populate your site with any and all components you already have, but don’t do it.

When content planning, Jamie urges clients to stop asking themselves, "What components can I add to my membership?" and instead start asking, "What repetitive challenges do I see coming up over and over again when I'm supporting my clients and customers?"

“Answering this question will definitely put you on the right path to providing valuable resources for your members that they will appreciate and actually consume,” Jamie explains.

Practical planning

To stay organized as you map out content, before and after you launch, Jamie recommends using a content planning tool, such as Asana or Trello. These platforms offer a place to store and organize your content so you can easily develop campaigns in advance.

This step will be especially important for the final phase of preparation Jamie covers: tactical planning.

Tactical planning

Tactical planning takes the practical step a bit further and deals with how to use the content planning tool you choose.

“In terms of tactical planning, be sure to map out your themes, your call schedules or any kind of content that you are going to need to produce in advance,” Jamie says. “This will make sure that you stay on track with those things and you can work in advance to make sure that you have everything you need.”

It’s clear the key to a successful membership model is planning. Jamie recommends building out months of content so you’re never left panicking about what to offer on your membership site or rushing to produce less-than-quality materials. If you want more details about these phases of planning, watch Jamie’s video above.

Support as you start your membership program

Rethinking the way you do business can be overwhelming, but there are trusted resources to help you. Keap happens to be one Jamie consistently recommends to her clients and uses in her own membership model.

Keap is a small business CRM and marketing automation platform. It’s also built to help small business owners with workflow automation and business automation, so it’s the perfect software to support you and your team if you decide to build a membership program.

Jamie’s favorite Keap feature for membership programs? The campaign builder.

“There are just so many opportunities to automate parts of the membership process, and I cannot imagine doing it without Keap's campaign builder,” Jamie explains. “We can actually set up everything well in advance — everything from our new-member onboarding to the not-so-fun administrative stuff like failed payment campaigns and cancellation campaigns.”

By automating the various components of a membership model, Jamie and her team are able to focus on the most important part of Zenplicity: the clients. “Once we set it and publish it, everything is good to go and we don't have to manually be doing those tasks that are essentially holding us back from supporting our clients even more.”

If you’re ready to dive into the world of memberships and start generating recurring revenue, watch Jamie’s entire video for more insight. And if you want to save time by automating your membership model, you can discover what Keap’s all about with a 14-day free trial (no credit card required).

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