How to improve your sales funnel and grow membership by giving something away for free.

Your prospects and leads are a group of potential customers that have an interest in your business and products, often referred to as your “list.”

In this article, we tackle the problem of building and growing your list. We’ll show you how to leverage a Free Membership product as the first phase of your business’ sales funnel and (ultimately) help you convert list members from prospects to lifetime customers.

Free Giveaway Graphic


Grow your list by giving something away for free.

One of the most popular growth models that you can adopt is to give away content, services, and/or products for free. We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so in return you ask the user to share their contact details in order to access this free item.

Some of the products we have seen leveraged for this model include:


Helpful Blog Posts

Instructional Videos

Free Trials


15-minute Video Consults

Limited (but useful) Feature Software

E-book Downloads

The idea is not based in tricking people into signing up, but rather to demonstrate that you have something truly valuable that they can use and benefit from now. It’s a way to introduce yourself to a potential customer without asking for payment right away. It’s a way to enrich someone’s life and create a relationship with a customer who may have otherwise overlooked your business.

Essentially, any time you are deciding what content to distribute free of cost, it needs to be a strategic decision. You need to be thinking three steps ahead. Because by giving away something for free, you’re looking to create leverage that allows you to eventually do something for profit, right? Right. So figure out what kind of content will get you what you want, and who needs to see it for that to happen.
— Gary Vaynerchuk, Why You Shouldn’t Charge For Your Best Work


What happens next?

After these customers have used and (ideally) enjoyed and benefited from whatever you gave them, then you can start to actually sell. Now is the time to share something else that customers can pay to see, use or experience. Because you have established trust, your users will be more likely to pay you for some of your premium content.

Every user that joined as part of your “free” promotion is now part of a database that you can use to further interact with—even if it is much later on. This is the crux of how to grow your sales funnel using this model.

It can seem counterintuitive to focus your efforts on a strategy that is not designed to get you paid. Picture this: you could spend a small fortune on advertising via social media, Google Adwords, and other platforms, adding you to the sea of ads constantly bombarding users for their attention (ads the average person has gotten really good at ignoring). Or, you could direct market to your personal list of thousands of existing (free) customers to let them know about your premium membership offering. If they liked your free stuff, they are going to simply LOVE your Premium goodies.


Giving away something (of value) for free is a great business model because:

  • People love getting free stuff. If it is free and valuable you can gain popularity quickly.
  • It gets people using your service or product which should increase feedback—helping you make a better product or service.
  • You can build an invaluable customer base full of customer contact details to use for ongoing promotion and marketing efforts.
  • It makes marketing more successful because you’re talking to your own user base. It is a known fact that there’s a higher return on investment when marketing to existing customers.

Building a Customer Database.

Among all the other benefits and goodwill you create by giving away something for free, building a customer database (sales funnel) is the primary benefit of this growth method. Even if you aren’t ready to sell to this audience today, you can start building a database of potential customers immediately. Yes, it is great to have thousands of social media followers. Yes, social media is still a great way to interact with and build relationships with your audience. Just know that you don’t control a social media platform or how your followers use that platform. At any given time your chosen social media platform may change. Dramatically. You can’t rely on a third-party to maintain your “list.”

If you have built your own list of customers email addresses, you have complete control over how and when you interact with (market to) them.

Remember to be considerate with your user’s data, taking care to provide choices for unsubscribing or modifying to hear from you and how frequently. Having access to all of these email addresses gives you great power…and we all know what comes with ‘great power’, don’t we?


Let’s explore how to use Paid Memberships Pro to build your customer database. The same primary steps apply no matter what your “free” promotion is. We’ll also cover a few methods to deliver your “free” item in the steps below.


Use Paid Memberships Pro to build your customer database.

To do this, you will need to:

  1. Create a Free Membership Level using Paid Memberships Pro and have some content linked to this free level that will help your members.
  2. Set up an email marketing platform that you can use to send out emails to those who sign up for your membership. We have an integration for a couple of them, for this article, I am using MailChimp as my example.
  3. Connect your email marketing software to your Paid Memberships Pro Level using an integration, like this MailChimp Integration

1. How to set up a Free Membership Level.

Once you have Paid Memberships Pro is installed and activated, the next step is to set up a Membership Level. To do this head over to the “Memberships” tab that should now be accessible from your WordPress Dashboard and select the Membership Level option.

Membership Level Set up Screenshot - Step 1


Now, navigate to the top of the next page and select the “Add New Level” button.

Add new level button screenshot

Give your membership level a name, description, confirmation message. Under the Billing Settings, make sure to leave it blank (it’s a free level). Save the level.

Membership level set up for free level

Now you can now navigate to your “Membership Levels” page and view your Free Membership level.

membership-level-page

Note: If you are looking for more information on how to install, activate and set up Paid Memberships Pro, I would recommend taking a look at our Initial Setup Video, for a general walkthrough of plugin setup.

2. Set up a MailChimp Account and the MailChimp Integration for Paid Memberships Pro

If you haven’t already set up a MailChimp Account and need to do that you can get started here. I am not going to cover how to set up MailChimp in this article but there is an abundance of online resources to help you out with this.

We have developed a MailChimp Integration Add On that allows you to add members to MailChimp lists depending on their membership level. The integration also merges in the user’s membership level as additional contact information. This allows you to segment your members by level and send specific marketing emails to each group.

Installing the PMPro MailChimp Add On

  1. Upload the ‘pmpro-mailchimp’ directory to the ‘/wp-content/plugins/’ directory of your site.
  2. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress.
  3. Navigate to the ‘PMPro MailChimp’ admin page in the WordPress dashboard Settings Menu (WP Dashboard > Settings > PMPro MailChimp) to configure your MailChimp API Key and Lists.

Locating your MailChimp API Key

  1. Log in to your account at MailChimp.
  2. Click your profile name in the upper right corner to expand the Account Panel, and choose Account.
  3. Click the Extras drop-down menu and choose API keys.
  4. Copy an existing API key or click the Create A Key button.
  5. Name your key descriptively, so you know what application uses that key.

Copy and paste your MailChimp API key into the “MailChimp API Key” field under Settings > PMPro MailChimp.


3. Add Free Members to MailChimp lists.

Once your API key is loaded into the integration options, you should see a list of MailChimp lists available in your account. Select the appropriate lists for members based on their level. If you need to create a new list you must do so in your MailChimp account dashboard.

pmpro-mailchimp-settings

With this integration, you can also offer “Double Opt-ins” for members. This is especially important for customer in Europe focused on recent GDPR laws that are now in place.

pmpro-mailchimp-levels-lists

Remember that in addition to assigning members to lists based on level, you can also segment users directly in your MailChimp account based on our default contact merge fields for a user’s membership level. This is sometimes a better approach because MailChimp will charge you double for a subscriber that is on two separate lists.


4. How to deliver your “free” content to your members.

It is important to make it easy for free members to access the content they were promised. Here are a couple of ways you can make it nice and simple for your members to get their hands on the free content you are offering them.

  1. Set up a “welcome” autoresponder email for all new member signups in your email marketing program with a link to read your eBook. You can also include a couple of other useful links pointing to different parts of your site. Just be sure to make it easy for your members to see and download the eBook as this is the main reason for them signing up.
  2. When a new user signs up add a link to view your instructional video to your level’s confirmation message and on the membership account page.
  3. Add a link to the special free members-only blog category to the members-only menu using the Nav Menus Add On
  4. Set up a service like Calendly and share a link for members to create an appointment to chat.
  5. Use our Download Monitor Integration to offer members-only downloads of eBooks or other content.

The way you deliver the promised “free” content will vary based on what you’re giving away (surprise!). If you have a specific type of item and would like some feedback on how to deliver it, please post a comment below.


Share your recommendations with us!

Have you already built an amazing ‘freemium’ business and have some tips and tricks? If there’s something you feel I missed in this article, please share in the comments below. I would love to see what you are building and how you are using Paid Memberships Pro to #GetPaid.

Video Walkthrough: How to restrict members-only content in Paid Memberships Pro.

If you’re new to Paid Memberships Pro, you may be wondering what settings are available to restrict access to members-only content on your site. This video extends our documentation on Controlling Members-Only Content and provides a quick tutorial to familiarize yourself with a few methods to lock down your posts, pages, and categories.


Control your content.

Paid Memberships Pro is a WordPress Plugin that allows you to add Membership functionality to your website. One primary application of our plugin is to allow users to signup for a membership level in order to gain access to specific, restricted members-only content.

Once you’ve completed the initial installation and setup, you can begin to restrict your site’s pages, posts and other content. In the video below, I will walk you through the three most common methods of turning your website into a membership site by restricting pages, posts, and hiding specific sections of content using the [membership] shortcode.


Video Walkthrough

 

How to make video tutorials for your membership site.

Instructional video can be a key component of any membership website, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to share my experience creating setup tutorials and video content about our Add Ons. I hope you can use the step-by-step guide below to make more powerful videos for your membership site.


Video Communicates Your Message Quickly and Effectively

Video is one of the most powerful forms of media used in today’s time to tell stories or get your message ‘out there’. After Google, people turn to YouTube to find answers to their search queries. Video is here to stay and some say that it will only get more and more important as we head off into the future of this ever-increasing ‘digital age’.  In this article, I will attempt to cover my entire video making process. You may find when making your own videos that your process differs slightly. This is totally fine and you should embrace the process that works best for you.
Travis Lima working on a video editing.

Watch an Example of our Screencast Video Tutorials


Quick-Start Video Making Points

Below are some quick points, aimed at those who just need some tips to get going on their video making. Below these quick points, you will find a more detailed blog elaborating each point.

The (Simplified) Process:

  1. Idea/Conceptualize – Write down an idea for a video, make a list of some of the main points of the video that you want to communicate to your audience.
  2. Research – Once you have a general idea for your video, you want to go and research your topic. While researching, be sure to jot down notes that are important to highlight in the video
  3. Dry Run – Similar to the research phase, try to do a dummy or test run of your video from start to finish. Take notes of anything you may want to include in the video.
  4. Script (1st draft) – Take your idea and start writing a script. Draw a line down the middle of the page. On the one side write down what you expect to see on the video, and on the other side write the actual words that will be said while that portion of the video is playing.
  5. Record video – This can depend largely on the type of video you are creating. In the case of a tutorial screencast style video, you want to record your screen using a program like  OBS Studio, ScreenFlow, or Camtasia. For a review of 2018’s best Free Screen recording software click here.
  6. Edit Video – Using a video editing software (I use Adobe Premiere) add your video and start trimming all the unnecessary pieces of the clip, or mistakes. Try to keep videos as short and concise as possible.
  7. Script (Final Draft) – Now that you have the video portion done, read your script and watch it alongside your video. Make any relevant changes to your script. Like your edited video, keep your script short and to the point.
  8. Record Audio – Find the quietest room in your office or home, grab your script, and start reading out your script as clearly as possible. Don’t be afraid to take more than one take on this. If you are confident enough, avoid this step and record the audio while recording the video by talking your way through the video recording session. Avoid using filler words like “um” or “like” while recording.
  9. Edit Audio – Add your audio file to your video editing program. Trim off all the mistakes, pauses and unnecessary audio clips and align the audio with the video, making sure the audio and video match together.
  10. Add Extras – If you have any graphics, animations intros, background music – add this in now.
  11. Export Video – Export your video with the relevant settings. Here is a video that I used to see which are best for my videos.

Software Recommendations


Hardware Recommendations


Before getting started – The most important factor of all!

Photo by Jeff Hopper on Unsplash

Photo by Jeff Hopper on Unsplash

Before diving deep into how to make videos for your Membership Sites, I want to make one thing clear: The most important factor to making videos (or anything that we want to make but have little knowledge about) is to just get started.

Anything worth doing is not easy and it is often the case that we see a metaphorical mountain in front of us when trying something new. In the case of making videos, it is easy for one to get caught up on little things that just stall us from actually sitting down to make a video. Don’t get stuck thinking that you can’t make videos because:

  • “I don’t have the proper gear.”
  • “I can’t make videos, I did not go to film school.”
  • “I don’t know how.”

Just get started. One step at a time. Use the power of Google and YouTube to hack your way to your first video. If it is anything like mine, it will probably be average – at best. But hey! Now that you have something out there, you can improve on it. Learn from it. Doing something (even if it is average) is better than doing nothing at all. So grab your smartphone and “Just get started“.


Now let’s get started making our video.


Step 1 – Idea and Conceptualization

This step is the very first step of the video making process but it is an important one. If you already have an idea or goal for a video, great! If not, don’t worry. This step is designed to help you find or craft an idea that you can use in the making of your next video.

For me, it is relatively simple in that I have a set of Add Ons or documentation pages that I need to make videos for. Once done with the one, I move on to the next. This step can be as elaborate or minimal as you need it to be. I would encourage you to be bold and really hack your idea out in this step, but don’t get stuck here. If you feel like there is not more to do here then needed, time to move on. We still have got a lot of work to do.

General video getting started photo of notepad and phone.

If you have an idea of what video you want to make:

  1. Write your idea down on a piece of paper or use something like Google Docs or Dropbox Paper 
  2. Explore your idea by brain dumping and sketching out a storyboard.
  3. Write out a very quick overview of your idea. Include all the key bits of information that you want to bring across in your video.

This step will help you to avoid forgetting or leaving out anything crucial that you want to appear in your video. It may be hard to believe, but it is really common to come to the end of your video making process and realize you forgot to include a crucial scene of your video.

If you don’t already have an idea for your video, try doing one of the following:

  1. Brain Dump all of the possibilities you can think of. Be sure to write any and all ideas; the right one will stick.
  2. Use Google, YouTube, and other social media platforms for ideas and inspiration.
  3. Check your competitors’ websites to see what they are doing for their audience. Use this for inspiration and not to ‘steal’ ideas.

Step 2 – Research

Once you have your idea and the general concept of your video written down, it is a good idea to research the topic of your video. Research can open up more ideas and information that you can use in your video. For example, when I am making an Add On video, I will go and read the documentation over to make sure I don’t leave out any vital details about the Add On. After that, I will search through our blogs and forum topics to see if I can find any useful information that can provide something extra to those who watch the video.

Use the internet to research your topic. Search forums, documentation, and videos to get as much information as you need to make a quality video. You may find new sources of useful information, analogies and other relevant information that you can include in your video. This is also a great way to open your mind on how to communicate your topic in a different and potentially better way to what you initially thought.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash
Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash


Step 3 – Dry/Test Run

At this stage, you should have a solid foundation of research and conceptualization of your video. Now it is time to do a dry run. In my opinion, this step still falls under the ‘preparation phase’ of the video making process. The idea here is to play out the exact video in a very rough, unrehearsed way. This is because sometimes the idea on paper doesn’t translate well practically. By trying your idea out first, you may realize missing information or a better way to communicate a particular message to your audience.

When making an Add-On Video, I will start up my local development environment (I use Local by Flywheel – recommended), log in to my Paid Memberships Pro test site, and literally go from the start to the end of installing and configuring the Add-On. I will generally make notes along the way, test all the features of the Add-On, refer back to the frontend to see what effect any particular setting it had on my site, and make sure I didn’t miss anything. Depending on the complexity of the Add On, I may do multiple dry runs so that I can get confident of what I need to do and where I need to navigate while recording my screen for the actual video.

Pro Tip – Video record your dry run to have an idea of what the video and process look like. This can help prevent re-shoots later on.

Step 4 – Writing a Script

In this step, I take all the notes that I made in the first three steps and start writing up the first draft of my script for the video. There is a general format to follow when writing a script and that usually comprises of simply dividing your page into two parts. On the left side of your page, you write down roughly what will be happening on the screen and on the right-hand side, the text/audio that will be displayed at the same time the scene you described on the left side of the page is displaying. When writing your script keep in mind the dry run(s) you did; try to play it out in your head and put the scenes together verbally on the script.


Step 5 – Record Video

After having a decent script together it is time to go ahead and start recording your video. To record my onscreen videos I use the built-in software of my MacBook Pro – Quicktime Player but I have heard good things about Screenflow and I have previously used OBS(Free) with good results.

Take your script and, keeping your dry runs in mind, start recording your screen with your screen recording software. Don’t panic. If you make a mistake or do something incorrectly, you can just re-do that specific action or section (not the entire video) and edit out the mistakes. When recording your screen now, you will basically do the same sequence as your dry runs but this time you will try to do it as smoothly as possible.

Mac QuickTime Player Screen Recording

VIDEO RECORDING TIPS:

  • Make sure your mouse cursor is always easily visible.
  • Set the ‘click indicator’ to ‘on’ of your video recording software.
  • Do not hastily go through the process of your video. Move at around 70% of your normal speed (you can always speed the video up later).
  • If you make a mistake, no need to re-record the shot. Move a step back and do the sequence again. Edit out the mistake later.
  • Turn all devices into Airplane mode, and silence all distractions and notifications that can pop up during filming.

Step 6 – Edit Video

This may seem a little counterintuitive to jump right into editing the video after recording the video, but hear me out. In this step, you have the chance to put the content section of your video together, edit out all of the mistakes, speed up or slow down sections that are moving too quickly or too slowly, and get the video to a point where you are satisfied with.

The reason I do this is that I find it easier to finalize the script. This gives you a pretty good idea of your audio to video ratio. This is important because (extreme example coming up) let’s say you have an edited video that has a total length of 30 seconds but your script has over 5000 words in it. Chances are you are going to need to record a ‘little’ more video to cover everything you want to say. By having an almost complete video that is edited, I can record some B-roll footage in an event of me having too much to say and too little to show, or I can cut down on my very lengthy script and focus on keeping the script concise (this is almost always a good thing to do).

Travis Lima working on a video editing.

Pro Tip – Keep your video, script, audio short and to the point, especially if you are making a tutorial. Your viewers may not feel so enthusiastic about having to sit down and watch a 30-minute tutorial video. Of course, the length of the video you are making can vary greatly depending on the type of video you are making.

Speed up sections where you can, keep an eye on sections that involve filling out forms or boring tasks. No one likes to sit watching a video of a slow page loading or someone filling out a lengthy web form. Focus on short, punchy videos.


Step 7 – Finalize Script

Now I sit in front of my edited video and I read my script out loud to see if what I am saying matches with the video on the screen. I also see the timing as to whether I may need to cut out an unimportant sentence or two… or if I need to elaborate a little more on an onscreen sequence.

Once finalized, feel free to play the edited video and read out the script from the beginning to see how it compares with the pace of the video. No need to get it ‘spot on’ but the closer to the video pace the better. If you need to record some more B-Roll video sequences, do this now and add it to your edited video to see how your script compares.


Step 8 – Record Audio

Before starting, make sure you set up in the quietest room in your house (many uses a walk-in clothing closet), turn all devices that can make a sound off, including the sound on your laptop. With your script in front of you and your microphone set up (glass of water close by) start reading out your script aloud in a moderately paced and appropriate tone (this will depend on your business and audience). Try to keep your tone away from being too monotone. If possible, try to stand straight up when reading your script and feel free to ‘speak with your hands’ – this helps with the tone of your voice.

Travis Lima recording a video voiceover.

If you make a mistake, stop and pick it up from the last sentence you were happy with. You can edit out any mistakes later. This can be quite a nerve-wracking experience at first, but you get used to it the more you do it.

If you are confident enough, another option is to record your screen along with your sound at the same time, just like many Youtubers and tutorial makers do when recording a screencast. This is a great way to minimize editing and double recording. For me, I usually make a lot of mistakes and have this nasty habit of uttering the words “um” and “ahh” every few sentences when trying to multitask or record, so I have opted for a longer, more edited approach. 🙂


Step 9 – Edit Video with Audio

At this point, you should have an initially edited video and an audio file ready to go. Import your audio clip into your video editing software, and now pair up the audio file with the video. Cut out pieces of the audio file that need to be cut, slow down or speed up the video if you need to get a bit more video to meet the length of any of your sentences.

Pro Tip – To extend a sequence as long as you need, you can pause the video and take a snapshot of your screen. Then cut split the video file and put a ‘still frame’ in between the two video pieces.

Once done, watch the video from start to finish to make sure everything is paired up and timed well.


Step 10  – Added Extras

Add in any extras to your video (if necessary) like background music, graphics, subtitles, intro animations or posters etc. Once you have added in any extras, make sure to watch your video over again to make sure everything still lines up nicely.


Step 11 – Export Video

Once your video is ready to go, Export your video with the relevant settings. I used this video as a guideline to export my video, but based on your needs you may need something else. When your video is exported, you may want to compress your video. I use Handbrake(free) an amazing video compressor that has reduced the size of my videos drastically without losing video quality.

Pro Tip – when compressing your video, make sure to select the “Web Optimized” checkbox. This helps buffer your video as opposed to loading it entirely before displaying it.

Conclusion

To close, I would like to encourage you to get out there and make some videos. This guide is packed with a lot of information but is intended to be more of a guide that you can refer to rather than being a ‘set in stone’ process of making videos. In fact, I took a process from another YouTuber and the more I made videos the more I tweaked the process to suit my style and way of working. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take heart. You are not alone and every single content creator sat in the very same seat you are in now, feeling the exact same way.


Trav’s quick-fire, last-minute tips:

  • For your first video, try to make a quick, rough test video. This video needs to be unpolished and quickly made. Now that you have completed a video, make another, try to make this one a little better than the last one. Repeat process.
  • Get started with what you have. You may not enjoy making videos so don’t invest in gear until you are certain you will use it and it will provide value to your content creation endeavors.
  • YouTube and Google are your friends. Don’t know how to fade a video to black? Do an internet search for it!
  • Use online services (again) to buy music, graphics, animations for your videos. Learning how to do something from scratch is great. But some skills will require major time investment where you could spend $5 to get it done right now.

Migrating from s2Member® to Paid Memberships Pro

cover-s2member-migrationWe get a lot of requests for the steps to convert to Paid Memberships Pro from other plugins.

I just drafted a PDF outlining the steps for a conversion from s2Member® to Paid Memberships Pro. The guide is available as a PDF to PMPro Members and higher.

The steps for this conversion will require a strong knowledge of MySQL databases, PHP, WordPress, FTP, etc. If you’d like information on pricing for this conversion, please contact us or reach out to your favorite developer. We’ll happily provide them with support along the way as they do your conversion project.


Browse Topics and Download the Guide