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Why Simplicity Is The Key To A Profitable Membership Site With James Schramko [Episode 47]


James Schramko is a highly sought after business coach, with two long-running membership sites. He focuses on creating profitable, value-packed recurring income streams that deliver a massive impact for your customers, without taking over your life, and in this episode you'll find out how.

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Where in the business do you position membership or a continuity offer?

  • It’s really hard to sell membership straight up. You can surrogate that with warm traffic.
  • I think podcasts are a great front end tool.
  • If you’re selling one time products I have found that the best thing to sell is a live event.
  • You can make the membership part of the deliverable and a way to continue the journey.

What makes a membership offer compelling?

  • The last thing people need now is more crap. Keep it real.
  • I have tried a lot of variations in the last ten years: yearly, biannual, monthly, quarterly, varying rates…. These days I focus on monthly and I give them everything rather than a drip feeding.
  • When they join the onboarding is tailored to them and I only use a fraction of the resources available to get them on board. Retention is the name of the game when it comes to memberships.
  • The onboarding material will suggest solutions to the problems they're having. Let them discover the rest later.

What is your approach to content creation?

  • Depends on the type of content.
  • The amount of revenue brought in by that membership; less the costs put into it, divided by the number of hours i spend on it. This is my effective hourly rate. I like to see at least $1000 an hour
  • I want to encourage my members to consume.
  • I recently added a private and personal coaching element to my content. Every day i log in and give personal coaching.
  • Firstly I load in their recordings of my live events. People can access years worth of content from these.
  • I also add one piece of training every month
  • There are P2P discussions where I have learned a lot on the forum.
  • My membership is driven on free content. I generally have to create one training a month that answers everyone's questions. This has worked for over a decade.

You’ve talked about community and content… what are the other things that have helped you get where you are?

  • The most important thing is results. You need to get the right kind of engagement. I’ll take the engagement of someone asking questions and going to events and being interactive. Those members are engaged.
  • Do counterintuitive things like remaining in contact with people
  • I track down people who go missing. I write newsletters and stay involved to ensure I am delivering valuable results
  • If you're selling a one time product the owner may have moved on.
  • The key is being present, rolling up the sleeves, and doing good work!

How do you take care of people at scale if you have thousands of members?

  • I have around 500 members in my smaller group and I have about 34 people in my higher tier class. This is enough for 7 figure profit
  • The best way to have churn is to have more members.
  • This attracts people who want a good deal but not the content. A ‘win an iPad competition just gives you a big list of people who want an iPad; not the solutions you offer.
  • I try and stay off facebook and use my own platform. It's easy for people to target your customers and inject ads.
  • I use Xenforo, and I recommend 10X pro as a platform… deadline funnels, viral releases, affiliate linkups cart processing etc and still have modules, but YOU control it. With facebook YOU are the product.

Do you have any tips for keeping people engaged within a forum?

  • Get off facebook, and start using your own platform. Use emails and push notifications to get engagement in your own forum
  • Hunt them down if they go missing
  • Send emails.
  • Have your own App
  • Use push notifications.
  • Use video greetings to let people know you care
  • Feature members with podcasts
  • Have meetups or annual super meetups

Do you sell people into the smaller group and then let them upgrade? What’s your strategy?

  • Forget the ascension model that does not work. Let people get to where they need to be straight away.
  • Most of my members are referrals from high level referrals: heavy hitters. I don't know how the ascension model got so popular… it's not a linear thing. Let them buy the highest membership today. If you don't have a subscription start at the top because its more profitable.

How do you figure out the promotion for that?

  • I use a chooser to get people to the right product straight away.
  • People don't stick around if you don't get results, so you need to provide real value.
  • I think its two questions and I can have them in the right area of my business. The only exception these days are people who buy my book on amazon. It's almost always a member referring another member.
  • It's a very organic process.

With such a deep understanding of your members you must be able to provide ultra specific content to your users.

  • Yeah, in that top level group there is mainly frameworks and checklists.
  • People are there for the coaching. The general, non-obvious stuff.
  • Are they having a good life? Are they getting satisfaction? Do they feel joy on a constant basis or have they built a business that they hate?

A book that you would recommend…
My own book, ‘Work Less, Make More'. I think it's the missing link. Otherwise, Alter Ego, by Todd Herman  

What is your top success habit?
Question Everything.

Who do you look up to?
My wife, she's a remarkably strong person

What are your favourite apps right now?
Peak and Surf Check. I also like Slack.

Here’s the big one… who do you like more, Rob or Kennedy?
You said that Kennedy is lonely. I think he needs some support. I always wonder what drives a question like that. Is this a performance assessment for the podcast? In my mind you're both on the same top shelf.

Finally, where can folks go to find out more about you?
My website which is superfastbusiness.com.

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