The Complete Guide To Membership Marketing For Evergreen Enrollment: Growth Beyond A Traditional Launch

by | Feb 21, 2024

Recurring revenue is like music to an entrepreneur’s ears. Like perfectly ripe avocado slices on sourdough toast. Lik finding the perfect pair of jeans that hug your curves just right. 

It’s your best friend in money form.

Point being… monthly recurring revenue is what entrepreneurial sweet dreams are made of. It’s no wonder that a subscription or a membership business appeals to most. 

However, the marketing that makes this possible? An entirely different matter. One that takes marketers weeks of testing and optimizing to ensure everything runs like a well-oiled machine. Especially if the machine in question is an evergreen membership. 

What is an evergreen membership?

An evergreen membership is an always-open site and welcomes members all year round, 24/7. Successful evergreen memberships have a strong offer, raving fans, and compelling marketing – even though they don’t have scarcity and urgency involved. 

However, some evergreen memberships have a closed-door membership site that restricts entry to a few times a year – it has natural urgency and scarcity built in. 

Whether your membership site is open-year-round or open a few times a year, the inaugural launch for both sites is some of the easiest marketing you’ll ever do!

But for evergreen memberships, once the initial buzz from a successful launch has worn off, the important question is:

“How do you enroll new members sans the hype of a traditional launch?”

If you think the answer contains the word funnel in some variation, i.e., webinar funnel or a challenge funnel, you’re right. 

But if you think the success of an evergreen membership hinges entirely on a funnel, not exactly. 

It’s only when you approach your membership strategy from the lens of a flywheel is when you create predictable systems for growth and success.

In this blog post, you’ll learn:

  • How to use the flywheel model for your evergreen enrollment instead of the traditional sales funnel 
  • The key stages of a flywheel model that will boost brand awareness, member loyalty, and sales  
  • How to minimize points of friction in your marketing so you can keep the flywheel spinning at a high speed (a.k.a. Grow your enrollments and improve your retention rates) 

What is a flywheel and how does it work?

First, let me explain what a flywheel is not. 

Unlike a funnel that thinks of its customers as an outcome; i.e. they start as a lead and end as a customer,  flywheel marketing does the opposite. 

Funnel marketing consists of putting your energy, financial, and business resources to attract customers, nurture them, and eventually convert (i.e., monetary transaction), them. Repeat. Sadly, little thought is given to what happens post-transaction. 

Flywheel marketing is where you put the customer first. In fact, your entire marketing revolves around the customer journey. And that’s what keeps your business spinning.

Source

The Flywheel Model: Attract, Engage, Delight

Your happy customers drive referrals and repeat sales. The speed at which your flywheel spins (and we want this to be at a high speed) depends on the forces that drive the ongoing momentum and the friction that opposes it.

What are forces?

We’re not talking about forces of gravity or Newton’s laws. Heck no!

  • Forces are programs and strategies you put in place to speed up your flywheel. 
  • For example, organic marketing via social media, your emails, webinars, videos and blogs, an affiliate program, paid traffic strategies, and a stellar customer service team are all forces. 
  • Forces enhance your customer’s experience with your business, and increase their chance of success, and the likelihood of referrals.

If you have forces, you’ll have friction…

Friction is anything that slows down your flywheel.  

 

  • For example, friction can be an unpleasant experience with the customer service team, a high number of marketing leads booking calls with your sales team but not converting, customers not receiving timely service, or not completing a program/course. 
  • All these factors (or friction) lead to customer churn. Or leads getting stuck in the “consideration” stage of the customer’s journey but not proceeding to the “purchase” stage.  
  • Want to attain higher flywheel speeds? Apply more force, and reduce or eliminate points of friction. 

How evergreen memberships use the flywheel for member growth

And now to answer the question you’re thinking: “This is all great. How does this help an evergreen membership to grow?”

For an evergreen membership, you want to increase the members’ success and satisfaction so they relay their experiences to non-members (or leads). 

Happy members are ideal word-of-mouth material. They relate their experiences to other folks who are likely to join your membership.

It starts with the Attract stage…

A stage that is common to the flywheel and the funnel. Here you’ll attract potential customers (casual browsers) through inbound marketing forces such: 

  1. Valuable and actionable content that speaks to every stage of the buyer’s awareness        (correlating to the 5 stages; unaware, problem aware, solution aware, product aware, and most aware)  
  2. In-person or virtual events
  3. Social media marketing
  4. Paid advertising or remarketing
  5. JV collaborations (like online summits) 

Remember, you’re courting your leads, earning their attention, and not forcing it. Building trust and rapport is paramount so they can eventually move to the next stage in the flywheel. 

Points of Friction at the Attract Stage:

 

  • Website loading speed: Ensure that your website loading speed is swift so that you don’t lose even your most visitors! Poor site speeds affect conversion rates. Your site speed is probably the first impression you’ll create for your future members. So don’t overlook this.

     

  • Mobile-optimized website: A mobile-optimized website increases the likelihood of engaging your customers. Visitors will effortlessly navigate through the content and click on CTAs.

     

  • User experience and navigation on your website: Visitors are likely to stay longer on a website when they find the experience to be worthwhile. Otherwise, they bounce and move to other sites that better meet their expectations. Clean images, attractive calls to action (begone “subscribe” button 😀), and the use of white space are some of the key factors that improve user experience.

     

  • Quality of your content: This one is obvious, but if the quality of your content doesn’t match your reader’s expectations and levels of awareness, they will hit X on their browsers and peace out. The key to quality content is deeply understanding your audience’s wants, needs, challenges, and the problems they want to solve. Align your content with your customer’s position in their journey.

     

  • Incohesive brand and messaging experience: Are you making your new leads jump through hoops to book a call, sign up for your product demo, or look hard for the special coupon you alluded to in your socials? In short, are you making your customer work hard to take the next step with you? If you’re not sure, take the digital journey from your customer’s point of view. Are the links working? Does the coupon code work on the checkout page? Is the masterclass signup buried on your homepage? Time to clean up the mess and streamline the processes. 

Your prospects (who are no longer casually browsing or strangers) are ready to engage with you. 


Note: They may even move on to become buyers, provided they have an excellent experience at this stage. At this juncture, prospects move on to the Engage stage of the flywheel and turn into buyers.

Moving onto the Engage Stage… 

Like the name suggests, at this stage, you need to Engage with potential members on their preferred channels and timeline. 

So this could be:

  • Chatting with them on your next Instagram Live, 
  • Responding to their DMs (or your team could do this), 
  • Installing a conversational bot on your website for ease of navigation and help
  • Nurturing your new subscribers via email marketing. 

6 Forces In the Engage Stage

1. Free Trial or $1 Paid Trial: Free trials work well in SaaS applications and are also a tested strategy in the coaching space. An alternative to a free trial is the $1 trial. You may wonder “What’s the difference?” In the overall scheme of things, it’s not much. But the act of inputting your credit card details and having a bit of skin in the game speaks volumes about the kind of prospect you’re serving. On the prospect’s end, it’s a low-risk opportunity to try out a membership. Free or $1 trials run anywhere from 7 to 14 days. 

Note: trial offers work best with warm leads; those who have visited the sales page multiple times, or have been on the first membership launch list, but didn’t enroll at the time. Because they’ve shown interest in being a member, these leads are increasingly likely to convert. 

2. Email marketing sequences to nurture and engage leads: The bulk of your engagement efforts with leads fall on your email marketing sequences. Craft these with value and persuasion. 

What kind of emails will you need at this stage? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of email sequences you’ll need: 

  • Invitation to become trial users
  • Trial user to paid member upgrade
  • Trial is expiring (friendly reminder)
  • Trial extension (if your users signed up for a trial but didn’t use it)
  • Sales emails post conversion event (i.e., post webinar sales emails)
  • Member testimonial emails in your weekly newsletter emails 
  • What’s new this month series (new topic/new expert/special course in the membership)
  • Content-specific (i.e., weekly podcast email) with a PS to join the membership to dive deeper into the topic
  • Flash sales email: 3-day email where you can offer a discount or tack on a cool bonus 
  • Abandoned cart email sequence for those who’ve partially completed the checkout page

3. Free course or low-cost, entry-level product: Say you have a lead who signed up for your evergreen webinar and the pitch is to join the membership, but the lead isn’t ready (yet) and doesn’t convert – Extremely common! What next? You should continue to nurture the prospect via emails, offer a free trial if that’s part of your strategy OR offer a low-cost course that solves a specific problem for the prospect. If you’re running ads for your webinar, this strategy can help you offset your CPL (cost per lead) expense. 

4. Take a free class or experience a live session (not the same as a free trial): There’s nothing quite like experiencing live coaching and the community feels on a virtual session. You could invite your leads to join a private live-coaching session, available only to members. Leads can interact, ask questions, and get a deep sense of the community and the coaches. This act fosters goodwill, demonstrates value before the transaction, and could result in enrollments for your membership. You could offer this opportunity once every quarter (make it available to different segments on your email list). Don’t forget to send a follow-up email asking for their feedback and including an invitation to enroll. 

5. Membership Demo: One of my clients used this strategy of hosting a Membership Demo once a month. This initiative was led by the sales team. The team would send an email to subscribers, social media followers, and members of their free Facebook group to sign up for a virtual 30=minute demonstration. The demo was a live walkthrough of the features, the interface, the community, and the types of resources available, followed by Q&A. Could this have been an email? Absolutely, but the point of offering this as a live segment was to answer questions and interact with the audience. 

6. Install VideoAsk on your sales page: Interested visitors who have questions about the membership can now interact with this feature. 

Points of Friction at the Engage Stage:

  • Lack of email marketing campaigns that convert trial members or leads into paid members (i.e., you send one or two emails about their trial offer ending but nothing more).
  • Weak copy that doesn’t focus on your membership’s awesomeness, fails to bust objections, engages leads or inadequately demonstrates how the membership could solve the lead’s problems. 
  • Lack of urgency: Your lead (or buyer) accomplishes their goal with a low-cost or an entry-level product and doesn’t feel the pull or the urgency to enroll in the membership. Your entry-level offer should ideally solve one problem and agitate the next, positioning your membership as the container to get further support. 
  • Lack of social proof: Social proof can incentivize the fence sitters at this stage to take the leap (see the Delight stage in the flywheel). If you don’t have relevant testimonials, case studies, or compelling before and after stories, the chances of enrolling new members can be slim. 
  • Inactive Engagement from Leadership and Team: The success of creative and educational-based memberships bank on the founder’s story or their personal brand equity. Limited  interaction with the sales team or founder to get lingering questions, doubts, and concerns addressed, can stunt your membership growth. 

If the founder doesn’t “show up” at this stage (Live Streams, ads, reels, emails) – the lead is bound to lose interest too. The founder’s sales team, by that extension, also needs to be available to answer questions and point to useful resources. Intentional engagement all the way!

Build your happy member house with the Delight Stage… 

In the Delight stage, you’re responsible for providing an exceptional experience to your customers; new and old. 

I’m a huge proponent of quick wins. The sooner they experience these when they immerse themselves in your membership, the better. And therein lies the challenge. 

Memberships are also content warehouses, so to speak. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, feel behind, or quietly quit. That’s why it’s important to guide your members and tell them where to start and how to get the most out of their experience. 

Other ways to Delight your members: 

  • Offer a seamless onboarding experience and make it easier to achieve success. Tailor your member’s experience according to their goals or preferences. For instance, you can create a roadmap that guides them through the membership; i.e. Start here, take this training, etc. 
  • Offer multi-channel availability (chat, messaging, email) to answer their queries and eradicate concerns.

Forces In the Delight Stage 

1. Social Proof:

Last but not least, this is the right stage to get your members to fill out a customer survey and share why they joined your membership. But you don’t need to stop there. You can take a screenshot (with their permission, of course) of their testimonials, glowing reviews, praises, positive comments, videos, and messages and share them. 

  • Sprinkle these in your social media posts 
  • Share them as a before and after story in your weekly emails (to non-members) 
  • Publish them on your membership sales page 
  • Inject them in your inbound content specifically for attracting membership leads (i.e., webinars, challenges, video series, podcast, etc.) 
  • Incorporate their kind words in your sales messaging and evergreen email sequences. 
  • Use customer feedback in your ad creative 

Social proof is a critical factor in  getting skeptics, warm leads, and even cold leads to make a swift decision in your favor. 

How often should you collect customer feedback? 

I recommend setting this up as an automated process in your marketing. 

You would want to collect feedback upon someone joining (asking them why), one at 30 days and the third at 90 days into their membership experience.

2. A vibrant, supportive, and engaging community: When members decide to cancel, one of the hardest parts is saying goodbye to a great community. Sometimes it’s this single component alone that makes it worth renewing the membership. So though people join for content, they stay for the community. Communities provide a basis for a strong sense of support, connection, and engagement. 

Not every membership has a community, but for the ones that do, a massive benefit is a higher retention rate. 

3. A stellar onboarding experience: The onboarding process sets the tone for your member experience. Memberships that actively communicate with their new members improve their member retention rate. This process is executed via email and is enhanced by using some creative upgrades. 

Some things to include in your onboarding process (and by no means limited to these ideas): 

  1. Personalized welcome video 
  2. A physical gift (like a t-shirt, sticker, or a mug with your branding)
  3. 1:1 onboarding call with an onboarding specialist on your team
  4. Invitation to a New Member group call 


4. Create an affiliate program: An affiliate program doesn’t just incentivize your members, but it also increases brand awareness, member count (and sales!), and your reach. An affiliate program is a quintessential feature of a flywheel model. Like any strategy, an affiliate program is not the equivalent of immediate sales. It’s a long-term play. 

If customer feedback surveys are a force, what are the possible sources of friction? 

Non-member feedback.

Now, this isn’t necessarily friction because what you learn or apply from this data point can easily be a force. 

There’s gold in what non-members (a.k.a. People who didn’t enroll in the membership) are sharing. How can you use their feedback to either make them stay and/or improve your membership offer?

Remember, not everyone who didn’t join is not going to be ready someday in the future. Don’t give up hope on them. And if you’ve taken their feedback seriously, especially if they’ve exposed “offer gaps” in your membership, you’ll have won them over.

Another source of friction that you’d want to reduce or eliminate in the Delight Stage…

Member inactivity: A scenario where members are paying you but not logging into the membership site. The longer a member is inactive, the more likely it is that they may cancel, so you want to be aware of who these members are and attempt to encourage them to log into the membership. Unless these members have paid an annual fee to join. Even then, you want to minimize the number of inactive members because that impacts your social proof. 

How can you reduce this? 

A couple of ways: 

  1. Tracking: Depending on the email CRM you use, you can set up this automation to monitor member engagement. Simply tag anyone who hasn’t logged in for 60 days and send a reactivation/re-engagement email sequence. 
  2. Remarketing: A paid ad that focuses on a topic taught in the membership can target your inactive members. This strategy serves as a visual reminder to log back into the membership. 

And like a true flywheel, each stage feeds into the other. Increasing force and reducing friction is the key to an improved retention rate, happy customers, and brand awareness.

To conclude…

Attracting new members to an evergreen membership (post one or a few live launches) is a continuous marketing process. 

Not to say that you won’t use live promotional tactics, 2-3 times a year (highly recommended) to acquire new members. 

The real fun starts post launch: the key is to market with a customer-first approach, like a flywheel, rather than as an outcome (i.e., traditional sales funnel). 

Want me to help you with your membership growth goals? Let’s talk.

 

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