In December, Unlimited members will be invited to participate in a new Membership Accelerator Program (MAP) with Jose Palomino. I wrote this article to detail how we’ve learned and implemented the six session topics that Jose will be covering through the MAP.
The Six Sessions in the MAP
In the list below, I’ll cover each of the 6 sessions for the program and share how we have approached these topics within our own business.
While Jose’s mentorship of Kim and I came in the form of ad-hoc phone calls and meetings during pivotal moments in our business, this program formalizes everything into an intensive, multi-week series.
The Membership Accelerator Program is your chance to learn from Jose through targeted instruction, thoughtfully designed assessments, and live Q&A. The same things that took us 6 years to work out under Jose’s mentorship can now be learned and implemented in roughly 6 weeks. I’m truly excited for a select group of our customers to benefit from this program.
Session: Define Your Core Strategy
If your business is anything like ours, there are many competing opportunities. Narrowing in on which opportunity to go after can be a challenge. Figuring out how to approach that opportunity is another challenge.
Sometime around 2010, we had the thought to transition from a consulting company to a product company. The path we chose to do that was to focus on membership sites as a niche in web development, then develop tools as part of our consulting process, and eventually launch those tools as standalone products.
Session: Identify Your Ideal Customer
We thought our target customer was a “membership site owner”, and we acted on that. If a job coming in was memberships focused, we worked hard to land that contract. If it wasn’t membership focused, we forwarded the proposal to other consulting companies.
Focusing on a certain kind of customer was great for our business. Our projects tended to be more similar and so we were able to work through them more quickly and make a higher margin. Tools we built for some clients were more likely to be useful to others and candidates for the product we would launch.
When it came time to write copy for our new website, product descriptions, readme’s, and FAQs, we realized that we needed a more specific understanding of our ideal customer. Are they a guitar instructor or a yoga teacher? Are they running a non-profit or a small business? Are they a programmer or end user? The landing page you would build for the programmer working at the Yoga non-profit is very different from the one you would build for the small business guitar instructor with no programming experience.
In practice, we have focused on developers who are implementing membership sites for their clients. This means that we sometimes miss the mark with non-technical customers. (Ironically the target of this program and blog post.) But a lot of our best customers are developers. They get the most out of our platform. They are strong influencers who get others to use our products.
Session: Sharpen Your Best Value Proposition
Since we are targeting developers, our value proposition for Paid Memberships Pro is very developer-driven. Paid Memberships Pro is built as a membership platform that can be used for many different sites. Our software is open source, GPL, available on GitHub, and uses the WordPress coding standards developers are used to. We avoid complicated settings pages that are hard to figure out and prone to user error. Instead we encourage the use of custom code to get the platform to work exactly as you need it.
This all seems obvious to us in hindsight after functioning this way for many years, but early on we had to figure out what was unique about our product and vision in order to carve our way into the existing market.
Session: Competitor Proof your Offering
Our value proposition ties directly into our competitor strategy. In fact all of these session topics lead from one to another. Pretty neat how that is designed.
When we first launched PMPro in 2012, the primary competitors were expensive, cumbersome, and closed source. So we launched something that was free, streamlined, and open source. Instead of competing head to head with the other membership plugins that were already pretty successful, we targeted a different market with the strategy to build PMPro as a platform, the same way WordPress is built as a platform.
There are cases where other membership plugins are a better fit for a specific project, and I recommend our competitors to potential clients all the time. But there will also always be a need for a membership platform like we’ve built with PMPro.
Session: Sharpen Your Pricing
I’ve written on pricing extensively, and it has all been heavily inspired by Jose’s approach to pricing. We simultaneously have had a product that was free and also the most expensive among our peers.
We’ve had to analyze our pricing from an operational standpoint. We’ve figured out how much each incremental customer costs us to support, and have calculated that into our pricing.
We’ve had to analyze our pricing from a marketing standpoint. Many potential customers perceive our product as inferior because it is available for free, while our free plugins are typically more feature complete than paid offerings of our competitors.
At the same time, our support plans are more expensive (except during this Cyber Monday promotion, get on that) than others. This turns off some customers, but the customers who do purchase are primed to get higher quality service from us than they will at other places.
Session: Pull it all Together and Get Going!
If you take part in the Membership Accelerator Program, you will get a lot of instruction, learn a lot, and go through a lot of worksheets and exercises. During the final session, it’s important to take all of that and turn it into a specific, actionable plan for your business.
Where do you want to go and what are the next steps to get there? How will you measure your progress and how will you measure success?
It’s been a journey building and maintaining Paid Memberships Pro. Every day seems to be more chaotic than the previous day. But when I take a step back and look at the membership business our team has built, and the businesses that our plugin enables all of you to build, I can’t help feeling proud.
Marketing can often feel like a lot of guess-work. I’m hopeful that Jose’s program is able to give you the solid foundation you need to Accelerate your Membership Business.