If you’ve paid any attention in 2017, Facebook Groups are quickly becoming a marketer’s wet dream. I follow a lot of online marketers on Facebook (just to keep tabs on them) and I’ve noticed the same strategy used over and over again:
Pick a niche topic, build a Facebook Group around said topic, build up an audience for said Facebook Group, find ways to target said audience with relevant ads.
The strategy is simple enough, even for someone looking for a side hustle to bust them lose from the confides of a 9-to-5 job.
But if you are one of these side-hustlers, I implore you to take a slightly different approach: build a membership site instead.
Facebook Groups vs Membership Sites
I’m going to be upfront about this, membership sites take a lot more effort (and some money) to create and maintain versus a Facebook Group.
Actually, here’s everything you need for a basic membership site:
- Your own hosted domain with WordPress installed
- A powerful membership plugin such as Memberpress, Paid Membership Pro, or Woocommerce Memberships
- A paid theme that handles custom profiles and membership groups (I suggest BuddyBoss)
- A PayPal or Stripe account
- A Zapier account
- An email service provider like ConvertKit, Mailchimp, or Infusionsoft
*none of the links above are affiliate links
All of the items listed above take time to set up and integrate as well as a bit of money.
But here’s the major advantage: a membership site is an asset, a Facebook Group is a strategy.
With a membership site you own 100% of the content you create, data you collect, and brand you build. You can customize and tweak your site to appease your members. And you have the potential to create steady monthly recurring revenue (I’ll get to that in a second).
With Facebook Groups you are playing on rented space. At any moment Facebook can wipe out your group and all your time and effort will be wasted. Plus, all the data they collect is theirs, not yours.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, act like one. Focus on building assets, not strategies.
The Membership Site Playbook
Last year I launched a membership site that I basically built during my free time at my 9-to-5.
It’s the perfect gig for cubicle dwellers, between checking email and sending out reports, you can chip away at the Playbook I’ve put together below:
1. Build your membership site
I’m not going to go into details on how to set one of these up. There’s a ton of tutorials online that you can read/watch that can help.
If you are new to building websites, this might take you 60 hours to build.
I’ve done this so many times that I’ve created a template to start all of my projects, it cuts down about 80% of the time needed to set up a membership site. (If you are interested in using my template, hit me up here.)
2. Lock in your niche
Here’s the mistake I made with my first membership site. I didn’t focus on a specific niche.
Don’t be broad. Pick a niche that meets the following criteria:
A. It’s something you are interested in enough to spend 6–12 months of your time on.
B. There isn’t a rival community that’s already been founded.
C. It’s not a passing fad.
3. Build out a pipeline of content
Maybe it’s a course or a series of videos or an eBook. Make sure you have something on your membership site ready to go for your new members as well as a pipeline of content to release to them.
As soon as you can, start writing blog posts around your niche so Google can start working their magic and indexing your site for search.
All of this can be outsourced to folks on Fivrr or Upwork if you are looking to free up some of your time.
4. Outbound, outbound, outbound
Find the “watering holes” for your people. Do they hang out on specific Facebook Groups (hey, who said we couldn’t poach them)? Do they belong to any forums?
Find out where their attention is and go there.
Now, don’t be spammy. “Hey guys join my membership site about XYZ!” No one will bother. Instead, focus on building trust and demonstrate your expertise around your niche.
For example, let’s say someone asks a question about your niche. Write up a blog post with a detailed response and link back to your site.
It’s going to be slow at first, trust me. But keep it up.
5. Don’t charge for memberships, yet
There’s a reason why membership sites cost money to join: it keeps members committed.
I pay for a business coach because I want to take his services seriously.
I pay for Headspace because I want to stay committed to a meditation practice.
I pay for YouTube TV because I hate cable companies. (Okay, that one’s not relevant but it needed to be said).
However, in the beginning stages of your membership site, you aren’t gathering members, you’re gathering potential members. Here’s what I mean by that…
For a membership site to function you need people passionate about your niche who experience similar pain points.
At first you will have a conglomerate of people with different passion levels and differnt pain points around your niche. As much as you’ll want to try, you won’t be able to appease everyone.
Your main goal for the first few months is simple: Find the major pain point that 20% of your members will pay for you to solve.
Once you have this in mind, craft a high quality course, eBook, video series, etc. that you will grant access to it to paid members only.
Then you repeat the process. You find the next major pain point, craft a solution and protect it behind a paid membership wall.
Eventually, you’ll be able to create bundles with these pain point solutions and offer different membership levels. But until then, lurk, learn, create, and sell.
Let me repeat this again: Build Assets Not Strategies
If you are stuck in a 9-to-5, don’t even bother considering leaving until you’ve built a reliable asset. A membership site is a perfect step in this direction and one that you can easily manage on the side.
If I was able to make my escape by building membership sites, so can you.
Originally, published on Medium.
Thanks for reading! My name is Declan and I founded Brick & Click Co to help small business owners build eCommerce and membership sites. I’m opening up 2 coaching slots to help you build your entire membership site and help get your first 10 members. Email me here if you are interested in learning more.