How to Structure and Validate Your Membership Site

A step-by-step guide for service-based professionals

Declan Wilson
Jan 16, 2018 · 9 min read

There are many articles written on how to validate product ideas before investing time and money building them. However, in my hours of research, I’ve discovered that there is very little help when it comes to validating membership sites.

That’s because most membership sites are ambigous. They are a collection of digital products with personal touch points and bonuses sprinkled throughout. They are difficult to define and validate.

However, as a service-based professional with REAL paying customers, you have an advantage. You’ve already proven that people are willing to pay you to help them achieve a certain set of results. You coach or instruct your clients as they overcome challenges and barriers between them and their desired results.

Your clients pay you X-amount of dollars to achieve X-amount of results.

I recently published an article on how service-based professionals can glean valuble data from their customers and clients to help identify specific pain points that can be addressed with a custom membership site:

The purpose of this particular article is to teach you how to structure your memberhsip site that fits your unique business and validate the following question:

Are there subsets of challenges that clients can solve on their own if given a detailed and quality set of instructions (i.e. a “tool kit”) and are they willing to pay for it?

To better illustrate, let me first walk you through the Brick Method.

**Before moving on, I’m putting together a comprehensive membership site playbook (10,000+ word PDF) that lays out every step — from ideation to launch to scaling — a successful membership site for service-based professionals. If you want to receive first access when I publish it, please leave your email address here.**

The Brick Method — Giving Structure to Your Membership Site

If you haven’t read my previous article about utilizing a Deep Dive survey to understand your market’s pain points, please do so now:

Once you’ve done the grunt work and collected and analyzed your Deep Dive survey results, you might notice a specific distribution I like to call the 60–30–10.

60% of respondents all experience a similar set of challenges that are somewhat cheap and inexpensive to solve. If given proper instructions (via an eBook, online course, or video) these folks could overcome the challenge on their own.

Another 30% of respondents experience a set of challenges that require personal touch points to resolve such as brainstorming solutions, asking other people how they discovered solutions, or simply asking for advice.

Finally, there is a small subset of respondents who experience unique and complex challenges that require one-on-one consultation or small group coaching by a professional to resolve.

As a service-based professional, you’ve built your business resolving each of those three subsets of problems so that your clients achieve a certain level of results. And just like the data from your Deep Dive survey, 60% of the problems you solve are relatively easy (for you), 30% require some personalized touch, and the other 10% are unique and challenging.

It’s the 10% that gets you up in the morning, excited to learn how to tackle a new challenge. It’s what made you dive headfirst into your industry. The other 90%, well, not as exciting but it comes with the job.

But what if there was a way to outsource the other 90% so you could focus your time and energy solving the unique 10% and doing other things you enjoy doing?

Enter the Brick Method. (I put together a quick concept video below.)

Here’s a link to the feedback form I mentioned at the end

The Brick Method — as explained in the video above — is a concept I’ve developed after speaking with other service-based professionals to restructure your business so that you only have to spend your time on the challenging 10% while you outsource the 60% and 30% (and still generate revenue without the 1-on-1 grunt work).

How do you re-structure your business? Easy, with a membership site.

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The diagram above is a very simple example of the Brick Method. It consists of a three-tiered membership program each with different levels of access (or bricks) available:

  • Level 1 — At this level you’ve assembled a tool kit equiped with everything your clients need to solve 60% of their challenges. Clients pay a one time access fee.
  • Level 2 — At this level your clients pay a recurring fee to have access to your tool kit as well as a facilitated community of other people who help brainstorm and solve the other 30% of challenges.
  • Level 3 — At this level your clients pay a premium fee (one time or recurring) for exclusive access to your time. Here you help them solve their top 10% of challenges and bring them through a complete transformation.

So the question you are probably asking yourself right now is, Will this work for my business? Let’s find out.

Let’s First Clarify Some Assumptions

First, I am assuming that you are a service-based professional with real paying clients. This is extremely important as this process is largely based on working backwards to deconstruct your current business and restructuring it, not building it from scratch.

Second, you are knowledgeable in your field and industry and have proven processes that help your clients achieve specific results. Again, you aren’t building anything from scratch.

In other words, you are legit.

Now here is the third and most important assumption:

We can prove this membership model will work for your business if you are able to first validate your tool kit (Brick A above).

Why is the tool kit key to your entire membership model? If you remember, the tool kit is designed to solve 60% of your clients’ main challenges. On the other side, you are willing to solve the top 10% of your clients’ challenges for a premium fee.

Naturally, this will create a void for the 30% of challenges that your clients will still seek out help and you will be able to supply with a space for discussion and brainstorming (aka membership forums, weekly group calls, etc.).

Since you’ve already validated people are willing to pay you for your services to help them achieve certain results, all we need to do now is understand if people are willing to pay for a tool kit. If so, you’ve got yourself a membership site.

3 Step Guide to Validate Your Tool Kit

Here’s the trick that will make this entire thing work: You aren’t even going to call this “thing” a membership site. All you will be doing moving forward is validating your tool kit.

Membership sites are intimidating. They’re difficult to distill into a simple this-is-what-you-pay-for explanation because you are essentially launching 3 products and services (Bricks A, B, and C) bundled together.

That’s why we are going to keep things simple and focus on your tool kit.

Step 1: Review your Deep Dive survey results

Again, if you haven’t gone through the Deep Dive survey steps I outlined in my previous post, please take some time to do that first.

The goal of the Deep Dive survey is to understand your market’s simple biggest challenge right now. Then as you analyze their feedback, your job is to “bucketize” their challenges into broader categories.

From your list of 3 to 5 buckets, sort them from easiest and cheapest challenge to solve, to difficult and expensive.

Step 2: Define your tool kit

Before spending a dime or any amount of energy creating a tool kit from scratch, we are going to mine your current body of work.

Go into Google Drive and create a new folder for each bucket. In each folder, you will create a new document for the following:

  • Emails — pour through your emails between you and your clients. Find any emails where you lay out a strategy to solve a particular challenge. Find some where you share insights or knowledge. Sort these emails into their proper buckets.
  • Notes — If you keep a handwritten notebook look over any insights or ideas you’ve jotted down. Dig until you find those gems scribbled in the margins. Either type out these notes or take a picture for their respective folder.
  • Videos/Recordings — If you’ve recorded anything for your business, even simple screen captures, dig and sort through those as well.
  • Blog posts — Do you have a blog for your business? Same thing.
  • Social posts — Go through your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter postings. Have you shared anything helpful in the past? Sort those as well.
  • Half completed work — My computer and notebooks are littered with half-baked ideas, bookmarks of articles to read later, sketches, etc. So many ideas never see the light of day because clients change their minds or you come up with a better idea. Dig and sort through those as well.
  • Templates — Do you work from any templates to make things easier for yourself or your clients? For example, if you’re a copy writer, do you have any scripts or templates from past campaigns?

Spend a good bit of time with this step. You’d be surprised how much you’ve aquired over your years in business.

Now, before moving on, go through all of the documents you’ve assembled and assign each one a fancy name. Remember, each one of these tools represent a tactic, tool, strategy, or resource. Giving them a name will help later on.

Once this is done you officially have a working prototype of a tool kit.

Step 3: Email 10 people to buy your tool kit

A mentor of mine once sold a high-ticket coaching service to build marketing funnels for online courses. I couldn’t afford it. But when he launched a reasonably priced DIY course (his own version of a tool kit), I gobbled it up.

There is a market of individuals who want your knowledge, we are trying to prove they exist. Our goal to do so is simple:

Convince 1 out of 10 people to pre-order your tool kit.

This is going to sound intimidating, but you are going to straight up email 10 people out of the blue and ask them to pay you. Here’s a sample email template I’ve adapted from Hubspot:

Subject Line:   Question about {goal they have}Hi {First Name},I’ve worked with your peers in {industry or niche} for X years now. One of the key challenges they struggle with is {challenge}.Over the past year I’ve helped Y individuals to achieve {personal goal}, resulting in Z {revenue added, money saved, productivity increased}.If you're looking to achieve similar results, I've assembled a tool kit of my best resources, tools, and strategies that have helped your peers in the past. I'm launching access to this tool kit on {date in the near future} but you can pre-order it here for {price}: {link to payment gateway such as}If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.Best,{Your Name}

As you’ll notice, your email highlights the major challenges that you uncovered from your Deep Dive survey. Also, when you mention results, be as concrete as possible. Why focus on results? People don’t want to pay for fancy tools, they want to pay for results.

Now, who exactly do you email? As tempting as it sounds, you can’t email any participants in your Deep Dive survey. You made a promise that you wouldn’t use their feedback to sell them anything.

Instead find 10 people in your target market who you’ve had some kind of communication with before. These could be old leads, folks who’ve reached out with a question, former clients, and even friends and family.

Your goal here is to get at least 1 real sale. 1 sale out of 10 is 10%, not bad. It’s enough to prove to yourself that you have something here and that it’s worth pursuing further.

If you don’t make a sale, find out why. Listen to feedback and readjust. Maybe the price isn’t right. Maybe the results aren’t massive enough. Tweak your offering and email another 10 people.

It’s also worth noting any follow up questions you recieve. Save these as they will be helpful for your marketing purposes later.

Now What?

You’ve proven to yourself that it’s possible to restructure your service-based business into a membership site. You have data and insights on hand to structure your membership site with the Brick Method so that you deliver results to your clients and save you time.

But how exactly do you pull this off?

In my next post — which I will link back to here once it’s published — I will cover the technical aspects of building a membership site from scratch (even if you’ve never built a website before).

I’m putting together a comprehensive membership site playbook (10,000+ word PDF) that lays out every step of launching a successful membership site for service-based professionals. If you want to receive first access when I publish it, please leave your email address here.

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Declan Wilson

Written by

Stay-at-home dad. 9-to-5 escapee. Aldi aficionado. Want to build your 5-to-9? 👉

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

Declan Wilson

Written by

Stay-at-home dad. 9-to-5 escapee. Aldi aficionado. Want to build your 5-to-9? 👉

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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