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Continuity and Memberships

What is the best form of income? Continuity income, where you sell one time and continue to get paid over and over again.

This thread is throughout all business and selling of products. The reason I got started online was I saw the value in assets from reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I didn’t feel I was ready for real estate. I played with stocks but didn’t accomplish very much. But I got started with my online business. I created a book out of the public domain. This single book took lots of effort in the beginning. But even now 6 years later it is still selling. Do the work to create an asset then the asset sells over and over again.

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But there is still something tricky about that. In order for it to sell you need to bring in new customers. That means getting traffic and converting them. This was discussed in a recent article about building a steady income online.

Even if you have the asset ready to sell it doesn’t mean it keeps selling.

But when you have a membership or other form of continuity you make the sale one time and that customer continues to pay you month after month (or year after year).

One sale = regular stable income

Yes, you have people drop out and come in, but you can figure out your numbers and everything grows from there. You’ll find some people stay in forever, while others drop out immediately.

This article is going to explore my past attempts at building continuity income and lessons I learned from them.

If you listen to the “gurus” who teach about memberships they make it seem so easy. Yet unless you have a large following and a solid topic to build continuity around it can be more work than its worth.

And these days it is getting harder. Years ago an interview delivered every month by CD worked for many people. While these may still be around its much harder to do just this. Why? Because there are tons of free quality podcasts available. If you’re going to do interviews it must be differentiate in a way to make people willing to pay for it.

Models of Continuity

Before we dive into what I’ve done in the past let’s look at different forms of continuity that can be done through an online business.

Today, many memberships are digitally based meaning there is no physical good shipped. But by actually shipping something out, which is something most of your competitors wouldn’t do because of the costs and hassle of it, you can set yourself apart. It is easier for someone to forget about a online membership, but hard to ignore something arriving in the mail each month.

Of course if you produce something digitally there is a physical counterpart. Thus a newsletter described below could be in PDF form or printed on paper.

Newsletter – The written word. Like a book but shorter. Can include pictures and be formatted in many different ways.

CD – As already mentioned interviews can be great, and you can also record yourself.

DVD – Video is both highly valued and easily produced. In my area of fitness it is essential to show the exercises so this is often the best medium to do it in.

Membership Site – This is something that is really only digital. It is a place online for members to login (usually password protected) where they can get there monthly content, sometimes interact with other members, and anything else you make available on the site.

Coaching – Coaching in any form can often be put on a continuity model rather than selling your coaching services by the hour. This can be done in a group coaching format, or one on one as I offer here on this site.

Physical Products – It doesn’t just have to be information products. Many goods can be sold in this manner too like supplements or hard goods like socks and razors. It could be an X of the month club or autoship program.

Services – There are many online services that require you to pay month after month like hosting, shopping carts or email services. This may be one of the best options, although I haven’t done it yet. With a service a person needs to continue to pay in order to use it. The big thing here will be supporting what you offer.

There are more but any one of these or combination can make a good continuity program.

My Several Early Attempts at Continuity

Acrobat Accelerator

The first membership I created was a physical newsletter and DVD program called Acrobat Accelerator. (This was the first of many bad names when reduced to initial. Publicly I always had to refer to this one with the full name as I didn’t want to use AA members.)

It ran for a little over a year when I ran out of stuff I could teach since it was all based on hand balancing and acrobatics.

What was great about this was I sold it, including a year up front, which resulted in my first $5000 month, which I didn’t match for quite some time after that. If you have people that love your stuff you can get paid up front long before you create it.

The second thing that was useful in this is that I re-used portions of the video I created for the upgraded version of my Hand Balancing Mastery Course (which has since been discontinued) and I’m just selling individual books that made it up.

Advanced Bodyweight Training Monthly

Some time after I had discontinued Acrobat Accelerator I created a new program called Advanced Bodyweight Training. In this program not only did I have several members but I used it to create products that I sold and still sell to this day like the Advanced Bodyweight Training Course and Master Muscle Control program. Members got it cheaper than the regular price and having to create something each month forced me to create more.

This was a DVD or downloadable video program. About this time was when I started offering both physical and digital options on most of my products. Just doing the video was much easier than having a newsletter as well.

This was broader than just acrobatics so I ran this program for over a year and a half, but then I eventually ran out of stuff to teach once again.

Think and Grow Strong

My foray into mental training for strength and athletics started with a continuity program. I knew there was a lot to teach and a monthly program was the best way for me to approach it. From the beginning I planned a year of content and knew that once it was done I would package it into a big program, the Think and Grow Strong Master Course, which I just recently discontinued.

This was a DVD and newsletter once again, available in physical and digital form.

Super Human Training

Super Human Training is in partnership with Bud Jeffries and is still currently running. It is solely an online membership site. Although its gone through several models it’s currently setup to deliver tons of downloads up front, with new monthly content, including videos and group coaching calls each month.

There’s never been a huge number of members but enough to keep it going. Its also been a good place to get higher paying one on one coaching members. We’ve also used it successfully as a bonus to people that sign up for our workshops.

(Here’s another acronym name problem. SHT is just one vowel off from being something we do not want to call out members.)

Superman Herbs Autoship

With the supplements an autoship program is great. Give people 10% off and they can get their supplements every month without having to buy more. When we started Superman Herbs we offered autoship. We had several people on it, but had some problems with how shipping was setup up. Back then we decided to scrap it, but in the future we’ll likely bring it back.

There’s not need to create anything new, you just continue to ship out products as you would. Except that now you know you have a certain amount of orders coming in regularly without having to re-sell to your old customers or get new ones.

Lessons Learned

Because I’ve conditioned my customers, or just found the ones that want it, many people like the physical goods. This is great to offer as you can get a higher price for them. This can be a hassle when you don’t have a big volume with which to hire a company to do it for you. I was having my newsletters printed up at Kinko’s (now Fedex Office) and burning DVD’s myself. Since I wouldn’t know how many new members would show up, I’d often end up with excess newsletters sitting on my shelves.

In my new model that I’m going to share next time I have figured out a fairly low cost print on demand method that is no hassle.

Digital is great in that a lot less work is involved. Although memberships can be complicated it doesn’t have to be. Using Optimize Press to build the site, and Wishlist to setup membership it can be fairly easy. This paid theme and plugin don’t even cost much. There’s much more robust membership options but they cost a whole lot more.

Depending on what you’re doing you may not need that. Even with downloads you can just email out to your members instead of having a password protected site.

If you’re looking for a big pay day create a membership and sell a year upfront. This can bring in lots of cash immediately. I’ve even seen people sell lifetime membership. Just be prepared to do the work later on. Most likely the people that opt for the monthly option will keep enough cash coming in on a regular basis that its worth doing month in and out, on top of those who bought yearly.

It is important that you do something that you can continue to create content about. I like doing new things and not just re-hashing the old (though that can certainly work). Whatever you’re teaching on (if doing information) make sure there will be enough to continue doing it in the long run.

Alternatively you can do something for just a year and set that up to automatically run, like I did with Think and Grow Strong, or package it up into a big valuable course.

Lastly, if you’re going to do a membership I would strive to make it your primary focus. Creating content each month can be a drag if you don’t have enough members to make it worth doing. Sure, it can be re-purposed, but to make a membership work great I would make it the primary thing you sell and put most of your focus there.

In the next article I’m going to share my newest foray into a membership, the new things I’m doing with this one, and how the launch went. Stay tuned…

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