One of the most important parts of building any kind of business is testing the market—and memberships are no different.

Testing your membership business idea is essential if you want to gauge the potential return on your investment without risking a lot of time and resources.

What if your idea is not well-received? What if you don’t have enough resources to create your ideal product just yet?

Testing your membership business idea before committing to creating a full membership site allows you to address both of these concerns at the same time.

In this post, we talk about how to test your membership business idea with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), including a step-by-step guide for building your own membership MVP.

How to Test Your Membership Business Idea with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

What we’ll cover:

Minimum Viable Product 101

At the very beginning of your membership business journey, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the budget and resources to offer all of the features that you want to. However, you probably can put together what’s known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

An MVP is the most minimal, bare-bones version of your membership idea, containing only the most vital features required for someone to use it. This helps you determine whether or not people are willing to pay for your most basic membership offering.

To validate your membership business idea, it helps to start by thinking about the most basic actions that you want your target customers to take.

Ask yourself questions like:

  1. Can I get people to visit my site?
  2. Will they give me their email addresses?
  3. Can I get them to engage with my content (complete my lessons, interact with my spreadsheet, watch my videos, etc.)?
  4. Will they pay me for this?

If you can’t get people to pay for your MVP (or even complete non-monetary actions like subscribe to your mailing list), it’s unlikely that they will pay for your full membership either. So, this is one of the best ways to figure out if you should continue investing into your membership idea—or change course.

The Importance of an MVP for Membership Businesses

Ultimately, a good MVP paves the way for a polished final product that converts sales; Early adopters get to interact with your product or service and provide feedback that helps you improve your offering.

By nature, MVPs are especially valuable for memberships, as the success of a membership business relies heavily on meeting the end user’s needs on an ongoing basis. Effective member onboarding, new features, and fresh content are all optimized with user feedback, for example.

Testing your membership business idea with an MVP can also help you gain a competitive edge over other businesses. When you start small, your business stays flexible and has a better chance of adapting to changes in an evolving market.

For example, LinkedIn’s first MVP had none of the sophisticated features the platform offers today. It received only a handful of signups in the beginning.

Now, it boasts over 810 million members.

Other Benefits of Testing Your Membership Site Idea with an MVP

MVPs Help You Understand Your Target Audience

An MVP helps you understand your target audience’s needs and behaviors. When you put your product on the market, your customers get a chance to experience it in the real world—regardless of how polished or unpolished it is. 

This helps you develop a connection with your target audience.

An MVP provides a good understanding of your target audience
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As users interact with your membership product or service, they may come across things they like as well as pain points. You can use this opportunity to gather their feedback and evaluate all kinds of things, from the user experience to the effectiveness of your marketing.

You can collect feedback from users by sending them email surveys, or including a survey or questionnaire as a part of your membership MVP experience. For example, you might prompt users to give their feedback when they finish your video, eBook, or coaching session.

You could even prompt them for suggestions about upcoming features. This gives early adopters (MVP users) the feeling that they are a crucial part of the product development process—which they are!

MVPs are Helpful for Product Development

When you build an MVP for your membership business idea, you accept that it’s the first and most basic version of your ideal product. This practical mindset gives you the ability to analyze the performance of your MVP more objectively.

For example, if you see that a certain feature is received poorly, you can more easily acknowledge this shortcoming and take steps to improve your product, as opposed to taking it personally.

Remember: Even negative feedback ultimately helps you improve your product.

Allow yourself this room for error and opportunity to learn; You can create several iterations of your product as you continue to tackle user issues.

Your MVP will help you perfect your vision over time, ensuring that the final product meets your target customer’s needs.

MVPs Get Your Membership Idea into the Market ASAP

From your initial idea to your final product, you will spend a lot of time thinking, discussing, and deliberating over all of the decisions around your membership business. The desire to create the perfect product and take the market by storm tempts every new business owner.

However, sometimes these deliberations can be time-consuming with no actual result.

Creating an MVP can help you save time and effort by testing your membership idea immediately
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When you build an MVP, you’re able to channel your ambitions toward creating something immediately testable, observable, and malleable—something that you can evaluate and improve as you go along. You don’t have to wait for the perfect moment (or wait until you have tons of content) before stepping into the market.

Remember: You can start with the bare minimum features and very little content. You can even start a membership business without existing content (by offering webinars and scheduled events, for example).

MVPs Help You Start Generating Revenue Right Away

Many successful startups began with little-to-no resources, making the most of what they had. MVPs work in a similar way.

By starting with only core features, you can provide a useful membership MVP to your audience without breaking the bank. In turn, they’re able to provide you with the revenue you need to invest back into the production of your full membership business.

It can be a true win-win situation. Plus, if the conversions don’t start happening quickly, you know it’s time to change something.

Ultimately, an MVP can minimize the financial burden of getting your membership business idea up-and-running.

Examples of Membership MVPs

Here are a few scenarios that illustrate the different ways you can create an MVP from different membership business ideas:

  • You want to sell membership access to an online SEO keyword research tool, so you test if people are willing to pay for the same service done manually.
  • You’re thinking of creating an online course membership business, so you test selling a short PDF guide on the same topic.
  • You already offer 1-to-1 coaching, but you want to transform it into a membership business. You decide to test your idea by offering a package of multiple coaching sessions.
  • You want to build a SaaS product that gives travelers data about different destinations, so you create a robust Google spreadsheet and start crowd-sourcing it.

How to Build an MVP for a Membership Business

Remember that a membership MVP only needs to include the basic functionality and minimal features. While the exact process may vary depending on your business and goals, there are a few standard steps to follow if you want to create a successful MVP.

1. Define Your Business Goals

Goal-setting helps you set yourself up for success in the short, medium, and long term. There are many goal-setting frameworks you can use, but at PMPro we like using SMART goals.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: unambiguous and clearly-defined desired outcomes
  • Measurable: including quantifiable, assessable factors with clear benchmarks for success
  • Achievable: able to be accomplished with your budget and resources
  • Relevant: appropriate for and desired by your target audience
  • Time-bound: formed with clear deadlines for completion

Remember: Your goals should always be as specific as possible.

Another strategy to think about is creating mini goals (smaller, more immediately-achievable goals). Completing mini goals gives you a feeling of accomplishment as well as the chance to celebrate small victories.

This gives you momentum and keeps you moving toward your longer-term goals.

2. Analyze Your Target Market

Your business objectives should always be informed by the market niche that you want to enter; Before you choose start creating your MVP, consider existing market trends and define exactly who you should be targeting with your membership product.

Your vision will still guide you, but keeping an eye on real-world events via market research will help you maximize the impact of your MVP.

Analyze the solutions that already exist within your target market and identifying what this market really needs, so you can fulfill those needs. You can start with competitive analysis, where you analyze the membership products and services that your competitors offer with a critical eye.

This will allow you to pinpoint the gaps and opportunities that you can target, and inspire you to improve your product as well.

Analyzing your target market helps you position your product within a competitive environment as well; You can better identify and promote the unique selling point (USP) of your membership business idea—something that can also guide your entire marketing strategy.

3. Conduct User Research

Comprehensive user research essential if you want to properly assess the viability of your membership business idea.

Start by creating user personas and mapping out each persona’s ideal journey through your membership content. This is also referred to as the buyer’s journey, or the user’s journey.

Like user research in UI/UX design, the goal of this step is to thoroughly understand the attitudes and behaviors of your target audience. This helps you look at your membership product from the user’s perspective, giving you useful insights about your audience’s needs and pain points.

User research coupled with market analysis helps you find the product-market fit that can pave the way for a successful membership business.

4. Select Key Features

Using the data you’ve gathered through the goal-setting, market analysis, and user research process, you should now be able to narrow the scope of your minimum viable product. Go back and revisit your original idea, incorporating your refined business goals, as well as your new insights about your target market and user personas.

Then, select the key features you want to include in your MVP. 

Some factors you should consider include:

  • The time and effort required to develop these key features
  • Your resources and financial limitations
  • The primary needs of your target audience
  • Major gaps in the market that your MVP can fill

5. Create Your Membership MVP

Devise a clear and realistic plan for creating your MVP, with a specific timeline for the process from start to finish. Always consider any constraints and limitations you may have.

If your idea deals with different audience groups, you can also create multiple MVPs to target them individually. This depends largely on the resources you have available to you, and the number of ideas that you’re trying to test out.

Creating multiple versions of an MVP with different core features also allows you to perform an A/B test. This helps you determine which features your audience responds to the most, and helps you refine a high-converting membership MVP.

Key Considerations for Membership MVPs

  • A membership MVP should be a bare-bones product. Start with the most essential features and develop your product along the way.
  • Your membership MVP does not have to be perfect. Your first release will likely have some issues that you will have to solve.
  • Time is of the essence. If you wait too long to create the perfect membership business, you may lose opportunities—or your competitive advantage.
  • User feedback is crucial to the success of your membership business. Be open to user opinions and put extra effort into understanding their needs.
  • A membership MVP should be cost-effective. MVPs help you avoid over-investing or risking your time and resources without first validating the viability of your membership business idea.
  • Create structure for your membership startup by using S.M.A.R.T. goals. Create momentum with mini goals.

Final Thoughts: How to Test Your Membership Business Idea with an MVP

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost half of the startups fail within the first five years. One of the reasons for this is that these startups fail to use a systematic approach to things like market testing and product development.

Creating an MVP lowers the risk that you’ll over-invest your time and resources on a failed product. It also helps your membership business idea succeed by providing you with the data and audience feedback you need to fine-tune your offering.

With a membership business, the goal is to attract loyal customers that stick around for the long-term and provide recurring revenue. A well-designed MVP can help you properly test your idea, as well as generate revenue that you can reinvest into your membership business.

Paid Memberships Pro is the best membership plugin for WordPress, with all of the modern tools you need to test and track the progress of your membership MVP. Try Paid Memberships Pro today and join 100,000+ people around the globe who are getting paid on a recurring basis for their content, products, and services.

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