Three Keys to Creating an Online Experience Worth Paying For

Three Keys to Creating an Online Experience Worth Paying For

Reader Comments (31)

  1. In Is your blog like Easter Island? I outlined how to get your name out there and find your audience (instead of waiting for them to come to you).

    Creating a community requires that you understand what OTHER COMMUNITIES these people already participate in. Ask yourself, can you bring something new to the table that connects them all? Can you build the relationships Copyblogger is talking about through friendly environments and useful membership privledges?

    I’ve found from creating products online that the ones with the easiest features and simplest communication methods do the best because they allow people to interact right away and see the benefits of their membership. Just look at twitter, easy entry point, easy to interact and you feel like it was totally worth it. Now twitter is free, but consider if they charged $2 per month for using it. You would still use it right?

    • Terrific points, Mark, people have always needed to belong and community will never go out of style. And I like what you say here, Chris, about the online products with the easiest features and simplest communication methods doing the best. It seems that the faster and more complex life and business gets, the more simplicity we crave.

      • I find the hardest part on this to be the creation of relationships between your community’s members…Not only that you have to creat it, but you even have to make them interact….

        Like a teacher in a classroom

        • I’ve found that you don’t so much have to create it, but you have to create an environment that makes it workable. And that mostly amounts to a bit of keeping the peace — removing trolls and enforcing an environment of respect & civility.

          Given a non-hostile environment and some shared values, they’ll do the relationship-creating part quite enthusiastically. 🙂

      • I agree that communities are a key element that I’m craving online.
        And making relevant information accessible to our members when they need it is my challenge.

    • “Creating a community requires that you understand what OTHER COMMUNITIES these people already participate in.”

      So true. It’s empathy – because you need to have the ability to step into your customer’s world, think what they think, feel what they feel, and value what they value. That’s the key to all good tribe-building and leadership.

  2. Mark:

    I have a copy of an American Express sales letter, that was a classical letter selling it’s membership benefits. I believe it is in both material created by AWAI and Ben Hart’s marketing membership site. It was selling privilege and for years, it beat all challengers to its control. I’ve also seen copy decks by Clayton Makepeace, selling financial membership packages, based upon privilege. It takes a bit of skill to convince people in copy.

    I’m a big fan of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But it’s not without it’s criticism. If you Google “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” there’s a good Wiki article. It has a section entitled “criticisms”.

    Having said all that, you do a good job of supplying 3 principles we can all follow – as bloggers, marketers, copywriters, etc. Thanks for ending with a couple good questions. I look forward to what other business bloggers, owners, etc., have to share.


    • Randy,

      After reading your comment, I am now going to research Maslow’s hierarchy or needs.

      That said, I believe bloggers and online businesses have a lot to learn from traditional businesses, especially those that have been consistent in business for decades. I love the way Mark broke this down into implementable steps.

  3. Wow. I really enjoyed reading this. I like the way you have analyzed the AMEX product/promotion and turned it into something I can definitely use on my sites. Thanks Mark.

  4. I wonder what members of a Prius club do for fun when they meet. Most car clubs go cruising, or racing, or something car related. When you buy a car for the purpose of single-handedly saving the planet, it would seem counterproductive to go for a jaunt on the back roads. I digress.

    The idea of creating a membership group has been in my mind lately. I just need to figure out how I’ll implement it. Thanks for the post, as there were some great points that are really making me think now.

  5. A nice simple way to think about why we make the choice to belong to groups/membership clubs.
    This has broad implicatons. I am considering tiered service levels. On level, of couurse, will be a warm/welcoming mebership group.

    Looking forward to hearing other thoughts on this issue

  6. Mark – Your article poses a few intriguing questions, especially for a business like ours where people who buy our products (often spouses looking for signs of infidelity, parents wanting to monitor their children, etc.) do not necessarily want to “belong” to a group. They do however sometimes get comfort in the fact that there are other people who deal with the same issues they do, but don’t necessarily want others to know they are in the same “group”.

    Thanks for the great read, will definitely make for some interesting discussions at the office.

  7. Hello everyone. I just thought I’d better mention something in the interest of disclosure. At the time that this article was written, I was a member of the Inside The Third Tribe membership site. A few weeks ago I decided to opt out of that membership site, as well as two other membership sites. That doesn’t diminish what’s said in this article; it’s still accurate. However, some people will obviously notice that I’m not active on Third Tribe these days, so I thought I’d mention this.

    Third Tribe in particular represents a safe starting point; a friendly environment; and plenty of opportunity for establishing strong relationships. However, humans being the funny organisms that they are, they and they circumstances change over time and it’s a huge challenge for any membership site to adapt to the detailed needs or situations of any specific member. In my case, I had some different, conflicting goals that made me decide to drop out of the membership sites that I belonged to. That could easily change again at any time!

    Also, thanks to Sonia and Taylor for the spiffy editing job!

  8. Mark,
    Great example with the Prius owners – I’ve seen that happen (though I’m not a Prius owner myself). Similar with Mac owners.

    There are so many memberships sites or ‘groups’ to join in virtual space, but nearly all of them lack any appreciable depth. You hit on a key point – to form true relationships, the foundation must be set in values and ideals. If the reasons for membership are superficial or fleeting, it is unlikely to lead to lasting community or relationships.

    Just look at all the Ning sites that were springing up when it was free – they were like dandelions, popping up quickly, attracting people, then blowing away in the wind.

    Base it on core values and ideals … or it won’t work. Done correctly, pride of membership among like-minded people is powerful stuff.

    Thanks for the great post.

    • Re Mac owners — Jobs is a genius, maybe best-ever, at creating products that create a sense of membership. And Mac was always that way — from the very beginning and the original Mac Users Group in Berkeley.

  9. I own an American Express Card for many of those reasons. This is good information, and I’m going to see how I can incorporate this into my site!

  10. Great article.

    I have found that the sense of belonging is strong with humans, but belonging to something exclusive is even stronger.

    I remember as a kid my dad made a lot of money, drove a Lexus and used an American Express card. When he hit a rough patch he refused to give those things up, even though it almost bankrupted him. He was obsessed with those clubs.

    Thankfully I grew up being able to see straight through them.

  11. I enjoyed reading this post and learned how important it is for people to feel comfortable belonging to a group that is friendly and supportive. It make the world of difference.

  12. I was told by one of my mentors that a website is an advertising tool to get people to do what you ask them to. Creating a membership based site with priviledges is a winning strategy.

  13. The third insight in your post is so key. Well put.

    People seek affiliation that’s relevant to their own identity. That “sense of belonging” from the hierarchy of needs is a powerful thing. To know that we are not alone in a sea of humanity. When you talk about what you stand for and provide a gathering space for kindred spirits, magic can happen.

    While I’m a copywriter by trade, one of the goals I strive for professionally is to speak to audiences in ways that create that sense of affiliation, of affinity. Whether it’s the status of a coveted credit card brand or a sense of shared political or social purpose, writing to audiences in a way that captures them emotionally should be part of everything you write.

    “You’re like me. I’m not alone. I fit here.”

    What’s more compelling and worthy than that?

    Good post.

  14. I read your article and all the responses above. We are having conversations here. You offered something of value, and we responded. I think the same is true with membership sites too.

  15. Great article! We have successfully created a unique membership site of Israeli exporters. We discovered that so many exporters want to expand and reach new markets but they don’t want to pay the price! On our site they pay a simple monthly fee and then we do whats called ‘group marketing’. For example we take lets say 10 companies that are very similar and market them as a group. Today we have well over 400 members.

  16. I run a couple of membership programs and I agree with everything that has been outlined in this article. The challenge for me to-date was getting my members to participate at the level you describe here. I have offered opportunity after opportunity to have my members join forces and become a community. But the effort always seems to fall short. The members are involved in many other projects and businesses.

    I guess the real challenge is to create a membership experience that is so powerful, that the members drive it themselves and doesn’t require constant pushing from the “leader”, or in my case, the owner of the site.

    The real question I have to figure out is, what do my programs need to be doing differently to get the community aspect of my sites really rocking?

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