Why you should be using email automation to grow your membership site

From Chris: This is a post written by friends of mine about membership sites, a topic I value a lot. I thought you'd like it while I'm at YoastCon and because of their promotion at the end.

Email is an incredibly powerful tool, and when used correctly, can transform your business in ways you may not think possible. Sure, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+, – wait, no, not that one) is great. Some people even manage to build a business based on their social media following. But here's the catch: when you do that, you're completely dependent on someone else.

[In a rush? Scroll waaay down to the end of this article – we're doing a giveaway that you won't want to miss out on.]

Do you really want to depend on the whims of a giant company who doesn't even know you exist when you're trying to boost membership on your site? Or would you rather be in control of the communications you have with those folks? Not to mention the fact that open & click rates for email are vastly superior to platforms like Twitter.

By now you may be thinking “ok, email may be better, but where do I start? How do I actually use it well?” Glad you asked! Let's talk about two ways that email can help your membership site:

  1. Gaining new members
  2. Boosting member success and thus reducing churn (cancellations)

Gaining New Members

Unless you're running a huge membership site, you can't rest on your laurels when it comes to growth. And really, even the huge sites have to work constantly to win over new members, because the reality is that you'll always have some churn.

It's All About Trust

What are people thinking of when they're considering joining your site? Sure, there's the cost/benefit analysis, how easy it is to use, etc. But the number one issue at hand is trust. If a prospective member doesn't trust that you're an authority and that your site will deliver what it says it will, there's no way they'll pull out that credit card.

“But what about a free trial” I can hear you thinking. Sorry, that doesn't cut it alone. Sure it helps, but people are busy! Until you win at least some trust, they're not going to risk even the time investment of signing up for a new trial.

So what's the easiest way to prove your authority and earn that trust? Make it as easy as possible for a visitor to enter into a transaction with you (that doesn't just mean monetary!), and make sure you deliver on your end. Email automation makes this super easy, and conveniently gives you a way to keep in touch with your new potential member.

Give ‘Em Something Good

My favorite tactic for this, and what you'll see most often, is offering a “lead magnet” (a crummy term, but it's standard) in exchange for a visitor's email address. To do this, you'll need something of value – say, a worksheet or cheat sheet, a short guide, etc. Then set up a “lead capture” form on your site, and when someone gives you their email address, send them a link to download your lead magnet.

Once someone downloads the lead magnet, you should follow up with them to build your relationship with them. Most Email Service Providers make this easy with some sort of autoresponder setup – we like Drip better than all the others available, but of course you should use whatever works best for you.

Those follow up emails should at first focus solely on providing value to the lead – ask if they have questions about the lead magnet, need any help with it, etc. Offer suggestions or solutions for common issues you see among people in their position. Basically, try to overwhelm them with value, and resist the temptation to push a hard sell!

…But Not Too Good!

Oh, one more thing about that lead magnet: avoid making it too valuable. Huh? That's right. You might want to offer your amazing, comprehensive, 500-page ebook for free, thinking that'll get tons of people to join your list. Nope! That's what we call a high friction lead magnet. Basically, you're asking people to commit to reading that whole thing, which is a lot to ask if they've just found your site. Stick to small, easily digestible items as lead magnets.

Boosting Member Success and Reducing Churn

Think back to why you started a membership site. No doubt you're looking to build a successful business, but I bet you also truly believe you've got something that will help people, right? Some specialized knowledge they can benefit from, or perhaps a community of others in their unique position you want to connect them with. So of course you want to help ensure your members get the most out of your content, right? Happily, increased member success also means fewer cancellations and thus lower churn rates.

Here are a few quick ways to use automated emails to boost member success:

  1. Send a welcome sequence when someone first joins your site, with tips for getting started
  2. Send a reminder email (or multiple) when a member's renewal date is coming up, if you're on an annual cycle. This helps prevent a surprise when they see the charge on their credit card statement.
  3. Highly engaged members who visit your site often will almost never cancel out of the blue. Conversely, when someone disappears for a while, that's a good indicator they're at risk of canceling. Send a “haven't seen you in a while – need any help?” email if a member hasn't been to the site in a while.

Start Small and Grow From There

Thinking about all of the possibilities with email automation can be daunting. The key thing is to just get started – take one of our examples, set that up, and see what happens. From there, you can start building more automated sequences over time – don't feel like you need to have it all set up from day one!

Key Points

  • Email beats social media all day long
  • Focus on delivering value so you can build trust
  • Keep it low commitment
  • Use automated email to reduce churn
  • One thing at a time – don't get overwhelmed

Need a Jumpstart? (Giveaway)

You've probably already heard about Chris Lema's Membership Huddle course. If you're getting ready to launch a membership site, or want to take yours to the next level, this course will be a huge help to you. Since we love helping people with membership sites, we asked Chris if we could give away a spot in the course. If you'd like that spot, just head over to our site and enter your email address to join the giveaway.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission, at no cost to you.

Default image
Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Have a specific question?

Over the last few years, through private consulting, coaching, and using the pay-by-the-minute Clarity service, I've helped hundreds of folks like you solve their business, strategy & WordPress problems.

Let's chat. Most calls last less than 20 minutes.

Chris Lema on a Video Call