Timing and the 4 Stages of Membership Sites

Timing is everything.

Back when I was a wee lad in the online business space, I had this genius idea (they’re all genius ideas, right? :D). I’d gotten pretty good at web development and I was trying to figure out how I wanted to use these newfound skills of mine to create my own online business.

At the time, I was still working part-time at a local restaurant and I’d just finished building them a website.

And, I thought…

“What if I got all the local businesses to provide coupons for their products and I created a site people could join to get access to those coupons?”

Sounds familiar, right?

But, this was a good 4-5 years before Groupon was founded, so businesses had no frame of reference for this kind of thing. And, as I went from business to business pitching the idea…


I got one business to sign up… the one I worked at. And, he did it very reluctantly. Now, it worked well and we were able to drum up business as a result, but it didn’t have the same impact with only one business participating and I eventually gave up on it.


A few year later, Groupon came on the scene, become a huge phenomenon and I spent my nights angrily shaking my fists at the sky! Okay, not really but I did think, “Hey that was MY idea.”

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences.

It shows the importance of timing.

And, that’s the big idea behind what our faithful leader (our CEO), Micah Mitchell, calls the 4 Stages of Membership Sites:

1. Infancy

This is when you’re first getting started. It’s the 0-10 members level. Here, your main challenges are:

  • Technical: Getting your site built
  • Sales: Finding a message that works to get a few people to join
  • Information: You don’t know what you don’t know.

The advice, then, is to keep it simple. Get a basic site built and really focus on your marketing and figuring out that sales message, because that’s they key here. Getting those first few members and getting your membership off the ground.

2. Childhood

This is from 10-100 members. The biggest challenge here is sales. You really want to dial in your marketing to get to the next level. This is the stage where your membership site can go from a side-gig to your full-time business.

The advice here:

  • More lead sources
  • More partners
  • Different ways to sell the same membership

And, ultimately, if you can get up to 10 members, you should be able to get up to 100 members just by doing more sales and marketing.

Micah uses magicians as an example. If you’re a magician, you can grow your business in one of two ways:

  1. Change your act. Continually come up with a new act and new feats to perform and go back to the same audience.
  2. Change your audience. Nail down your act, then simply find new audiences to perform in front of because it’s new to them.

The successful magicians do the latter… they change their audience. It’s similar with membership sites. You have a membership in place, you got that established in the first phase. The way you grow is figuring out how to sell that same basic product to multiple audiences.

3. Adolescence

This is from 100-500 members. The big challenge here is retention. Now you have so many new members joining each month and have probably maxed out the audiences you can find, the way you grow is by reducing churn and keeping more members in your membership.

4. Adulthood

This at 500+ members. Here, the way you grow is by creating new products. You’ve maxed out your audience… you’ve performed your first “act” in front of every audience you can and now it’s time to think about adding new “acts” — new products.

How does timing fit into all this?

It’s about focusing on the right things at the right stage. Here’s a hit list of implications from all this:

  • When starting, get a basic site up and move on because it’s sales and marketing that matter
  • Don’t start a community right away because you don’t have enough people to make it useful
  • Wait to create other products until you have a membership base to support those new products.
  • At first, don’t worry about retention. You need to focus on sales.
  • Later, retention is where you’ll get the most growth so it should become your main focus.

And, so on.

Do the right things… at the right time.

The added benefit of this way of viewing your membership is it gives you a roadmap of exactly how to build your membership business:

  • Build your site
  • Dial in your sales message
  • Market to multiple audiences
  • Figure out retention
  • Maximize revenue with new products

You end up with a complete membership business… built step-by-step, doing the right things at the right time.

And, that’s it. Hopefully, you get some value from that. Of course, our mission is to be your technology partner through all four stages. So, help you get your site built quick… but also be there as you grow your business, adding new products and memberships, and so on… all using the same piece of reliable software. That’s the goal of WishList Member (you can learn more about it here).

Another thing that can help is understanding the options you have in terms of membership models. Because there are multiple, profitable ways to build your membership site and one may be more inline with your style and they way you like to work. Picking the right one for you can help ease the entire membership-building process. That’s why we put together a free training where you can learn all 10 models and figure out which one fits you best. You can grab that free training below:

Watch the 10 Membership Models Video

Discover the 10 Most Profitable Ways to Earn Recurring Revenue From a Membership Site

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Satori Method
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WishList Member integrates with the tools I use TODAY. And they’re so eager to integrate with tools that are coming out. It’s amazing how they do it actually. If I was going to be buying a membership plugin, today… for me, I would go with WishList Member.
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