Signing up for a lifetime membership is like dotting the line for a new cell phone contract.
If it’s a good one, you’re connected to a world beyond yourself, and have endless bandwidth to play Bejeweled.
If it’s a less-than-awesome agreement, on the other hand, you end up trapped in the seventh circle of the fine print inferno, losing money and patience like a sieve.
Trying to escape it feels a lot like… well, like a cat trying to open a door.
It’s doable, but it’s not easy.
And it’s even trickier if you’re the one offering the lifetime memberships.
Fortunately, paired with the right membership software and a little insider knowledge about how to create a membership website, you can make sure lifetime memberships are the right fit for your members and your business.
Which is where this article come in today. We’ll uncover the pros and cons of offering lifetime memberships, so you know the best course of action to take, regardless if it’s your first rodeo or your tenth.
Let’s start on a positive note.
Pro: Sustainable audience
What’s the biggest hurdle to selling your first online course or digital download?
Finding someone to sell it to.
Unless you have an audience built through a lifetime membership program, that is. When your members sign up for life -- and anyone in a free membership program falls into this group de facto -- you have a sustainable, reliable customer base to sell to.
That audience is a huge benefit to offering lifetime memberships as part of your package.
After all, you can’t establish yourself as an industry leader unless you have people to follow you, and when your members have invested in you for the duration of your membership site, you have those followers to lean on for product launches.
It’s a lucrative lean, too.
89% of professional brand managers say an audience-first approach is more profitable than trying to make sales directly.
Plus, there’s also this to consider:
43% of consumers in the United States make more (and larger) purchases with businesses that they’re loyal to.
Having a devoted audience is part of the star-studded success behind Apple products, experts say. With a 91% loyalty score, the tech company’s newest products practically market themselves to their consumer base.
They don’t have to make a sell so much as make their customers aware of the upcoming releases, and lo and behold, every new event is heralded by hundreds of customers waiting in line -- no matter where that line is on the globe.
Memberships are such a popular tool to build audiences that they’re a cornerstone of professional content creators, as well.
Gary Henderson of DigitalMarketing.org elaborates in his advice to content marketers, “You should never rely too heavily on any third-party to distribute your content. Instead, work to build direct connections with your audience through email, membership sites, or in-person events.”
So Krishna Teja’s lifetime membership for his Complete Salesforce Platform & Lightning Experience Training?
It not only nets him a higher upfront commitment -- which we’ll talk a little more about in a minute -- it also gives him an audience to sell his future and current courses.
Which means if you chose your membership model to create a purchase-ready audience, a lifetime membership can definitely work in your favor.
Of course, no good thing is without its dark side, which brings us to the first con.
Con: Higher upfront commitment
Asking people to commit to your membership for a lifetime is easy if it’s free, but if you’re using it as a source of revenue, you have to charge more -- probably significantly more -- for it than your monthly or annual packages.
You also need to do more work to prove that you’re worth the increased price and people will get value from using your membership over a long period of time.
It’s a little like marriage, actually.
Getting someone to say yes to the dress or yup to the tux (patent pending on this turn of phrase) takes a lot more work than getting someone to agree to a first date.
Only 8% of first-time visitors land on your website with the intention of making a purchase.
So asking for a higher upfront commitment to an already tenuous visitor? It’s a gamble, and if you want it to pay off, you’re going to have to put in extra legwork to make your website more trustworthy.
Trust, research says, is the crux to making an uncertain prospect convert into a paying customer.
And when you ask for twice or three times the price of an annual membership, like you see the American Marketing Association (AMA) doing below, you’re putting that delicate trust to the test.
If you’re as well-known as the AMA, it’s a test you can afford to put your business against. If you’re not, however, it could cost you more than it earns.
Fortunately, when it does pay off, it gives you so many more opportunities to sell digital downloads, online courses, and any other product on your proverbial (or not so proverbial) shelves.
Pro: Upselling and cross-selling opportunities
We mentioned this briefly in the first pro, but it’s one worth examining more in-depth.
When you have lifetime members, you have a lifetime of opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. (Aren't familiar? Check out this guide for using upsells and cross-sells.)
After all, 59% of shoppers prefer to buy products from a business or brand they already rate as familiar.
And, it’s significantly cheaper to make those upsells to existing customers. It’s 68% more costly to make the same upsell to a first-time buyer than to someone who’s already bought from your business.
By the way, not sure what cross-selling and upselling mean? That’s understandable, they’re somewhat ambiguous terms if you’re not buzzing like a marketing beehive.
Here’s a good visual description of the difference:
Basically, cross-selling is when you sell more products in addition to the product that someone bought from you. For instance, if someone is purchasing your lifetime membership and you sell a digital download together with it as a package without any special deals, that’s a cross-sell.
Upselling is when the transaction is upgraded to the next tier, such as if you had two levels of lifetime membership -- silver and gold -- and convinced someone to move up to gold.
Alternatively, it can also be when someone buys another product from you in conjunction with your original product at a promotional rate.
And lifetime memberships -- or members who renew annually -- perform consistently better when it comes to value, cost to maintain, and net revenue (i.e., total profit after deductions) than new members.
Ergo, Blog Biz School’s renewed members are more likely to yield greater profits for Chantel Arnett in the long run than new members.
And since lifetime members are automatically renewed members, the benefit gets even stronger year-over-year when they’ve signed up for the long haul.
That’s cross-selling at its finest.
Here’s the awesome news:
It’s easier to cross-sell and upsell your products than ever on Podia. Let’s run through it real fast.
Pop over to your products dashboard.
Select a product that you want to upsell. In this case, I’ll go with the digital download “ebook.”
Switch to your settings page by clicking the third link in the navigation menu below the product title and price.
Scroll down until you see the sparkly new “upsells” section.
Then, click on the purple “add an upsell” button.
From here, you have the option to add another paid product (i.e., not one of your free offerings) at a discount or with no discount. You can set your price cuts by dollar amount or percentage.
Since holiday sales are always around the corner -- selling more on Black Friday and Cyber Monday tops just about every creator's to-do list -- and prices tend to fluctuate during sales periods, let’s go with a percentage for now, so it’s always a tempting deal.
Once you’re ready to go, just hit “save” and then…
Presto! Your product will now offer an automatic upsell whenever someone purchases it.