In the world of online membership communities, success isn’t just about the metrics. It’s about building a relationship with your members—especially relationships with your core followers.

These are the people that provide the most valuable feedback, work with you to grow your community, and are with you through it all.

In a recent discussion with Ed Wallace, President of the Relational Capital Group, we learned about the pivotal role of relational capital in driving business success. Wallace, a seasoned author and coach, explored the nuances of building and leveraging relationships in the online membership business space.

Keep reading or watch the full interview below to discover 5 key principles that can improve your membership or association’s offering through deeper member relationships.

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Mastering Relational Capital: Insights from Ed Wallace

Relational capital refers to the unique value created through business relationships. It’s about harnessing the potential in every interaction and transaction. As Wallace explains, “In every business relationship, there’s an opportunity to create what I call relational capital.

The Importance of Relationships in Today’s Online Businesses

In a world where email, social media, and virtual meetings dominate business interactions, personal connections have become more valuable than ever.

Building relational capital isn’t just about improving business metrics; it’s about fostering trust, respect, and mutual understanding. This approach helps you build long-lasting relationships with members, resilient to market fluctuations and competition.

Interview: The Relationship Engine and Your Membership Site

Relational Capital Insights for Membership-Based Businesses

For online businesses like yours, relational capital is about building relationships with members.

It’s not just about offering a service or product, but about understanding the needs, goals, and struggles of members, and creating a tailored experience that resonates with them.

Five Principles of Relational Leadership

In our discussion, Wallace outlined five key principles to foster relational capital. Here they are:

  1. Display Worthy Intent: Show genuine concern for others’ goals and well-being.
  2. Understand People’s Goals, Passions, and Struggles (Relational GPS): Deeply understand what drives people professionally and personally.
  3. Make Every Interaction Count: Value each interaction as an opportunity to strengthen relationships.
  4. Prioritize People Over Processes: Processes are essential, but they should not eclipse human connections.
  5. Link Performance to Purpose: Ensure your business actions align with a broader, meaningful purpose.
Infographic on the 5 principles of relational leadership

Implementing Relational Capital in Your Business

How can these principles be applied in everyday business scenarios? One approach is to regularly assess how your interactions and decisions align with these principles.

  • Are you genuinely considering your members’ objectives?
  • Do your membership site processes facilitate or hinder personal connections?
  • How does your organization’s purpose resonate with your team and members?

Answering these questions can guide you in embedding relational capital into your business ethos.

Ideas to Build Relationships for 8 Types of Memberships

Incorporating relational capital into the bones of your membership site will undoubtedly increase the value and experience you offer your members.

Here are tailored strategies for the eight different types of membership sites supported at Paid Memberships Pro, applying the principles of relational leadership:

Associations & Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs)

  • Display Worthy Intent: Show genuine commitment to your cause. Regularly share how members’ contributions are making a difference.
  • Understand Goals, Passions, and Struggles: Engage with members to understand their reasons for supporting your cause. Tailor your communications and activities to align with their values and interests.
  • Make Every Interaction Count: Personalize interactions with members, acknowledging their support and contributions.
  • Prioritize People Over Processes: Ensure your processes, like donation or volunteer sign-ups, are user-friendly and person-centered.
  • Link Performance to Purpose: Continuously communicate how the organization’s achievements are aligned with its core mission and how members play a crucial role in this.

Blog & News Sites

  • Display Worthy Intent: Offer genuine, unbiased, and well-researched content that adds value to your readers.
  • Understand Goals, Passions, and Struggles: Use surveys or feedback tools to understand what content your readers value the most.
  • Make Every Interaction Count: Respond thoughtfully to comments and emails, good or bad, to foster a community of engaged readers.
  • Prioritize People Over Processes: Simplify the subscription process and make accessing content as seamless as possible.
  • Link Performance to Purpose: Regularly remind your readers of the value your site provides, such as staying informed, educated, or entertained.


  • Display Worthy Intent: Create an inclusive and supportive environment for all community members.
  • Understand Goals, Passions, and Struggles: Foster discussions and surveys to understand community interests and challenges.
  • Make Every Interaction Count: Encourage and moderate discussions to ensure they are meaningful and respectful.
  • Prioritize People Over Processes: Ensure that community guidelines are clear but also allow for organic interactions.
  • Link Performance to Purpose: Align community activities and discussions with the overarching theme or purpose of your community.

Courses & Coaching Sites (eLearning)

  • Display Worthy Intent: Offer courses that genuinely aim to improve skills and knowledge.
  • Understand Goals, Passions, and Struggles: Tailor courses to meet the evolving needs and challenges of your learners.
  • Make Every Interaction Count: Provide personalized feedback and support to learners.
  • Prioritize People Over Processes: Make enrollment and course navigation intuitive and hassle-free.
  • Link Performance to Purpose: Relate course outcomes to real-world applications and career advancements.

Directory & Listings Sites

  • Display Worthy Intent: Ensure listings are accurate, fair, and beneficial to both listers and users.
  • Understand Goals, Passions, and Struggles: Regularly update listings to reflect current market trends and user preferences.
  • Make Every Interaction Count: Offer exceptional support for queries and concerns related to listings.
  • Prioritize People Over Processes: Streamline the process of listing and searching for users.
  • Link Performance to Purpose: Emphasize how your site connects people to the services or products they need.

Paid Newsletters

  • Display Worthy Intent: Deliver content that is insightful, relevant, and respectful of the reader’s time.
  • Understand Goals, Passions, and Struggles: Regularly solicit feedback on content preferences and adjust accordingly.
  • Make Every Interaction Count: Personalize newsletter content where possible, such as including member names or referencing past interactions.
  • Prioritize People Over Processes: Ensure subscription management is user-friendly.
  • Link Performance to Purpose: Connect the content of your newsletters to the interests and needs of your subscribers.

Premium Podcasts

  • Display Worthy Intent: Produce podcasts that are both entertaining and informative, respecting the listener’s time and interests.
  • Understand Goals, Passions, and Struggles: Engage with your audience through social media or email to gauge interests and gather feedback.
  • Make Every Interaction Count: Acknowledge listener feedback and incorporate suggestions into future episodes.
  • Prioritize People Over Processes: Simplify the process of subscribing and accessing podcasts.
  • Link Performance to Purpose: Share how your podcasts are making a difference, be it through education, entertainment, or inspiration.

Video Membership Sites

  • Display Worthy Intent: Provide high-quality, relevant video content that aligns with your members’ interests.
  • Understand Goals, Passions, and Struggles: Use analytics and feedback to understand what video content resonates with your audience.
  • Make Every Interaction Count: Engage with viewers through comments or live Q&A sessions.
  • Prioritize People Over Processes: Ensure easy navigation and accessibility of video content.
  • Link Performance to Purpose: Regularly communicate how your videos educate, inform, or entertain, reinforcing their value to your members.

By applying these tailored strategies, you can find ways to better build on the relationships you create throughout your membership site—among one another as well as between you and your members.

Ed Wallace

About Ed Wallace

Ed Wallace is President and Chief Relationship Officer of The Relational Capital Group. He consults with and speaks for corporations and associations across the globe with a client list that is a Who’s Who of Fortune 500 companies.

Wallace’s fourth book, The Relationship Engine, provides a systematic approach for becoming an intentional, masterful relationship-builder. The Relationship Engine is about being thoughtful and deliberate in how we interact with others, especially in a business context. The book stresses that acknowledging relationships is a key to success.

Wallace has become critically acclaimed as the foremost authority on business relationships and their impact on performance.

Cover image from ebook 29 Nuggets of Wisdom Volume 1 - Sample Collection

Download the free ebook: Get 29 insights and ‘aha moments’ for new or veteran membership site business owners. Use these nuggets of wisdom to inspire or challenge you.

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