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5 tips to bring in new members at every level

Trying to grow your membership community? Here are 5 membership site sales tips to help you bring in new members (and keep them coming back for more).

When you build a membership community, you can bring people together and share real value with your members through exclusive content. You make money directly from your subscribers by offering them valuable content they can’t find anywhere else.

That’s the power of a membership site.

But to build that community and share that value, you need members. And while great marketing can drive traffic to your membership site, once potential members reach your landing page, how do you convince them to join?

Today, we’re sharing five tried-and-tested tips for converting more visitors into members across every membership tier, from free plans to annual subscribers that come back year after year.

We’ll also showcase real-world membership site examples so you can see these strategies in action.

Let’s dive in.

1. Give potential members a taste with a free membership tier

If you’re trying to bring in income by selling online memberships, offering a free subscription may sound counterintuitive. After all, if you’re not charging membership fees, how can you make money?

But offering a free option helps you bring in more potential members, especially those in the “consideration” part of the sales funnel. They’re not 100% sold, but they want to learn more about what you have to offer.

Getting those potential members in the door with a free membership trial or subscription makes them more likely to convert later on. One study found that a whopping 89% of software companies with a free trial had 50% of their customers convert within 30 days.

If you provide valuable content to your free tier, they’ll find themselves wanting more. That’s why giving away free content is one of our favorite strategies for selling digital products.

There are two ways to offer free memberships:

  1. Create an always-free tier that never expires, then use upsells to encourage those members to upgrade to a paid tier.

  2. Offer a limited-time free trial, after which members either upgrade to a paid tier or lose access to the membership.

Let’s start with the forever-free tier. If there’s no time limit on access to your membership content, how do you convince free members to upgrade to a paid membership?

A free membership tier can act as a lead magnet of sorts. Once someone joins your free tier, you can share valuable content, send follow-up emails, and upsell them on your higher tiers. Show these members what makes your membership site stand out from the rest.

Just make sure that the content at your free tier is valuable on its own — otherwise, it’s more of an email marketing list than a membership group. (If you’re looking to build your email list and boost your membership marketing, check out this guide to membership marketing strategies.)

A shining example of a valuable free membership tier is 1929 Studios’ Free Rider membership.

1929 Studios sells online dance classes in the form of individual courses and an all-inclusive membership. Their Free Rider membership includes “occasional freebie links and vids” for dancers who are “not yet ready for courses but want to stay in touch”.

The Free Rider tier lets potential members get a feel for 1929 Studios’ classes and content. If someone joins the Free Rider tier and loves the freebie content, they can upgrade to the $40 A.U.D./month Jazz at Home membership for full access to the dance courses.

If you decide not to create a free tier, consider offering a free trial for your paid memberships.

Free trials have two major benefits:

  • You give customers a no-obligation way to get to know your brand and product.

  • You can bring in and nurture more customers in your sales funnel.

For example, Jolanthe de Koning’s Yoga for Busy People membership offers a 14-day free trial so that students can get a feel for Jolanthe’s classes and figure out if the subscription is right for them.

If you offer a free trial, don’t ask for members’ credit card information upfront. Free trials that don’t require payment information convert twice as many customers into paying subscribers.

Esther Kurtz’s Write On! creative community offers a 14-day trial. Esther’s audience of aspiring writers can get to know her products and expertise before deciding whether or not to subscribe.

Esther also emphasizes that there’s no credit card required for the free trial, making it a no-risk option for potential members.

Podia makes it easy for creators like Esther to offer free trials.

When you set up a membership site with Podia, you can create as many tiers as you want. For each membership level you create, you can give your plan a name, set up monthly or annual pricing, and choose whether you want to offer members a free trial.

(And speaking of free trials, you can try Podia out for free, too. Sign up for a 14-day free trial — no credit card required.)

To learn more about turning free trial users into paying subscribers, check out these best practices for free membership trials and five ways to convert free trial users.

In the meantime, let’s explore some ways you can bring in — and keep — members at your paid tiers.

2. Keep members coming back for more

Once someone joins your membership site, how do you keep them coming back for more?

Don’t give members access to everything at once. If you offer all of your content up front, members don’t have a reason to stay for more than a month (or even past the free trial).

If you have a collection of trainings or digital downloads you want to sell, consider selling an online course or digital product bundles instead.

One of the best membership site models to keep members engaged is the Content Update Model. Members pay you for access to new content that you publish on an ongoing basis.

If you use your membership site for blogging, members pay for access to those regular, exclusive updates and posts.

For example, entrepreneur and podcast pro Jay Acunzo includes access to a group forum and all membership posts in his membership program, Make What Matters.

Make What Matters is a community for creators looking to create meaningful content and connect with each other, so the ability to read and discuss Jay’s posts is a major perk.

Other high-value membership site content might include webinars, worksheets, exclusive podcast episodes, digital downloads, virtual events, and more. A recurring benefit might also include ongoing access to a community, like a members-only Slack space or Facebook group.

Anything that provides value to your members and helps them achieve their goals is fair game.

Becky Mollenkamp’s Gutsy Boss Club membership is a stellar example of a membership that offers ongoing value through perks and events.

In the FAQ on her membership site sales page, Becky highlights the recurring benefits of joining her membership:

  • Twice monthly group coaching calls

  • Monthly journaling prompts

  • Quarterly book club

  • Quarterly trainings from outside experts

  • Private Slack community

Those recurring benefits make it clear why Becky’s members renew their memberships month after month and year after year: The value, perks, and community aren’t limited to members’ early days.

Similarly, Natalie Sisson’s $10K Club uses a repeating 90-day plan that helps her members — women entrepreneurs — meet their goals and increase their revenue month after month.

After growing one revenue stream, members move on to the next, making the membership valuable long after the initial 90 days.

Natalie’s membership also includes ongoing perks, including:

  • Monthly group “moaching” (mentorship + coaching) calls

  • Weekly Facebook Live accountability session in members-only Facebook Group

  • Monthly mastermind sessions

  • Bi-Monthly guest experts sharing their journeys and tactics

  • Quarterly rewards and prizes for top 3 members

To keep members coming back month after month, offering continuous content updates and benefits is key. But monthly memberships aren’t the only way to structure your subscriptions — you can also offer an annual subscription.

Just make sure you make that upfront cost worthwhile.

3. Offer a discount for annual subscriptions

Most membership site platforms let you charge for monthly or annual subscriptions. Each way of pricing your membership site has its pros and cons.

Monthly pricing lowers barriers to entry by offering a more accessible price. Plus, for members who might not be 100% sure that your membership is the right fit for them, a monthly plan is less of a commitment than an annual subscription.

Annual pricing heightens barriers to entry by requiring a higher upfront price but is cheaper for creators. Payment processors like Stripe take a fee for every transaction, so the fewer transactions you have, the fewer fees you pay.

Annual billing is also better for memberships that take a while to prove their worth, such as path-to-result types like Natalie’s 10K Club above, or subscriptions that regularly update with new content.

To make the commitment to an annual plan worth it, offer a discount when members pay in one lump sum vs. monthly. For example, Jay Acunzo’s annual membership is $800 cheaper than paying month-by-month, even though it includes all of the same perks.

Similarly, Tara Leaver offers both monthly and annual plans for her Happy Artist Studio Membership. At checkout, customers can choose to pay monthly or annually, and Tara highlights the 8% cost savings of the latter.

If you have a high-price annual membership, you can also offer payment plans.

Flexible payment plans make it easier for customers to afford big-ticket items — and it makes them more likely to buy from you, too. 84% of consumers appreciate the flexibility of paying for large purchases over time.

And last but not least, you can also offer lifetime memberships.

A lifetime membership means that members pay once rather than making recurring payments. For example, InPower Coaching offers a Lifetime InPower Membership that gives members unlimited access to their community, courses, and content.

Lifetime members get guaranteed ongoing access to InPower’s community, as well as upgrades to all of the included courses. InPower also offers a payment plan to make lifetime membership more accessible.

(Learn more about the pros and cons of this membership model in this guide to lifetime memberships.)

No matter how long your billing cycle is, members won’t join unless you convince them that it’s worthwhile. That’s what our next membership site sales strategy is all about.

4. Focus on results

You’ve worked hard to craft your membership site, so it may be tempting to list out every single detail on your sales page. But a laundry list of features doesn’t necessarily make for the most engaging sales copy.

Instead of listing out every feature, focus on the benefits of your membership. Highlight the results members can expect if they join.

If you conducted customer research before launching your membership site, you probably have a good idea of your target audience’s goals and pain points. To write better sales copy for your membership site, refer back to that research.

How will joining your membership help them solve their problems? Why do they need it to achieve their goals?

That’s your unique value proposition (UVP): a clear statement that describes how you can solve your customer’s problem better than anyone else.

For example, Minessa Konecky’s Social Strategy Squad Membership is all about helping marketers and entrepreneurs achieve a #HustleFree lifestyle. Her sales page does an excellent job of focusing on those benefits and results.

Instead of covering every little detail of her membership, Minessa’s sales copy is concise, value-packed, and tells readers exactly how they’ll benefit by joining her membership.

Online business owners can tell how Minessa’s membership will help them “power up their business” and “get results faster”. Minessa also highlights the workbooks, templates, and other digital downloads designed to help members reach those goals.

In a similar vein, Natalie Sisson’s $10K Club is all about helping women achieve a specific result — one that’s part of Natalie’s central mission:

“To lead 1,000 women to earn $10,000 a month and contribute at least 1% of their revenue to a cause that’s dear to their heart, and in doing so create a ripple effect in other girls’ and womens’ lives.”

$10K Club is dedicated to helping women reach that $10k/month goal. From the name alone, potential members know that joining Natalie’s membership can help them meet their revenue goals.

Telling potential members about results can be an effective sales tool, but your audience may not always take your word for it. Make those claims even more effective by backing them up with social proof.

5. Build credibility with member testimonials

Only a third of people trust the brands they buy from. But 72% of consumers say that positive testimonials and reviews make them trust a business more.

That’s why social proof is a landing page essential.

Member testimonials and reviews give you (and your membership) credibility. When you show off your members’ results and feedback, you show potential members, “This could be you.”

Sales page testimonials are even more effective for higher-priced products, like pricey annual memberships. Research shows that conversion rates rose by 380% when reviews were included on a higher-priced product’s landing page.

For example, Jay Acunzo’s Make What Matters membership costs $1,000/year. Jay includes member testimonials on the sales page for his membership:

Jay could have included generic reviews about how awesome his membership is. Instead, he showcases specific testimonials on what his members find most valuable, showing potential customers that his membership is well worth the price tag.

Similarly, Becky Mollenkamp includes powerful customer reviews for her Gutsy Boss Club membership:

These testimonials make it clear that Becky’s membership goes beyond surface-level entrepreneur coaching. For potential members looking for a supportive, intersectional, and mindset-changing experience, they’ll know that they’ve come to the right place.

The Podia editor makes it easy for creators like Jay and Becky to add testimonials to their membership site.

All you need to do is open the editor, navigate to your product page, and click the plus sign to add a new section.

Then, select “Testimonials” from the menu on the left.

From there, it’s simple to add, design, and rearrange testimonials on your product pages.

Plus, Podia has all the membership website features you need to build your own membership site. You can sell multiple membership tiers, host your content, and post regular updates — no membership plugins required. Sign up for a free step-by-step demo to see it for yourself.

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Sell more memberships with these 5 tips

You can’t have a successful membership site without members. But how do you bring in new members and keep them coming back for more?

To recap, here are five membership site sales strategies to help you do just that:

  1. Offer a valuable free membership tier or a free trial to give potential members a preview of your membership.

  2. Boost member retention by offering ongoing perks, like a members-only group, regular content updates, and quarterly events.

  3. Make annual plans more accessible by offering a discount compared to monthly plans.

  4. Focus on the results your members can expect when they join your membership.

  5. Back up those results with social proof like member testimonials.

At the end of the day, the best way to grow your membership community is by getting to know your members. The more you learn about them, the more you can provide value, help them succeed, and foster a real sense of community.

Once you do that, you’ll have loyal members who spread the word about you and help your membership keep growing. It’s an awesome cycle — and you’re well on your way.

A portrait of Rachel Burns

About the author

Rachel is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive. When she’s not writing, you can find her rescuing dogs, baking something, or extolling the virtue of the Oxford comma.