This post is part of a series, based on the ebook 'Top 21 marketing channels for membership sites', written by The Subscription Coach Amanda Northcutt.
Determining the best marketing mix for your membership site can feel like an insurmountable feat — especially if marketing and sales aren't in your wheelhouse. Keeping a steady flow of leads coming your way month after month, year after year, in addition to every other task you’re required to perform as a membership site owner is a tall task. I'm going to break down the 21 most effective customer acquisition channels for membership websites and tell you how those relate to one another so you can form a cohesive, effective marketing strategy.
Hi, I’m Amanda Northcutt, The Subscription Coach. I help founders of SaaS, subscription, and online membership businesses get their revenue machines running at full strength through coaching, consulting, recruiting, and as a fractional executive. I have 20 years of sales experience and over 15 in online recurring revenue businesses. I hope this Marketing guide helps take your online membership to the next level!
Working on the business
Before we dive in, let's get on the same page about one quick thing: in order to stop spinning your wheels with your membership, you must take the time to work on your business and determine what's working and what's not. If you want to be successful, you have to look at your numbers. Otherwise this membership venture of yours will forever remain a hobby and not ever allow you to gain the financial freedom and reward of a fully leveraged business. If you're okay with mediocre, stop reading. If you want to acquire the basic business skills necessary to meet your big, hairy, audacious goals – the ones that scare you with excitement – read on!
What is a sales/marketing funnel?
The 21 acquisition channels broken down below are all considered "top of funnel" sources. The top of your marketing funnel can be thought of as the big bucket that all of your fresh leads go in. Your email nurture sequence, advertising (like retargeting), etc. helps further narrow those top of funnel leads down to a medium-sized bucket of people who are better qualified to achieve success with your membership offering than the mass of people who first entered your funnel. And finally, those who are sifted even farther through that medium-sized bucket make it all the way to the tiny bucket (bottom of funnel). The prospects in the tiny bucket are your most qualified leads that should be poised to purchase!
As you're reading through this list I want you to consider which 3-6 acquisition channels you are best suited to try first. Then, make a commitment to yourself and to your business to follow the steps below to find the 2 – 4 most viable marketing channels for your membership.
Once you've chosen the handful you're going to try, you need to find out which channels are most viable for you.
Your most viable acquisition channels are both profitable (your CaC MUST be lower than your cLTV or you're dead in the water) and reliable (provides a steady stream of leads rather than working once but never again).
CaC stands for customer acquisition cost and is the amount of money it takes to bring on a new member to your site. A simple example is if you run a Facebook campaign for $2,000 and at the end of the campaign have acquired 20 new members, your CaC was $100.
CLTV stands for customer lifetime value and is the total amount of money a customer pays you from their first to last transaction on your site. Put simply, if your membership costs $25/month and the average customer stays with you for 6 months, your cLTV is right at $150.
Here's how to determine the most viable acquisition channels for your membership:
- Pick a channel
- Conduct a simple test
- Assess your results to see which channels are in fact most viable
- Repeat until you find the 3-5 most viable channels that will help you scale
Be mindful that the data you collect while running a simple test doesn't always have to be statistically significant to provide valuable insight or at least can act as a starting point from which to build.
Back to science class for a sec...
Just like elementary school science, your test should have a hypothesis, defined parameters, and a way to assess your results. So, first, make an educated guess on what results you should expect from your marketing test. Second, define the scope of the test. For our purposes that can just include timeline and budget. Lastly, make sure you are able to access success metrics when the test is complete.
A do or die litmus test for a marketing acquisition channel is "can I assess my results when this thing is done, or is this a shot in the dark?" If it's a shot in the dark, there are very few cases in which you should proceed.
If you pay more for customers than they pay you, your membership business will not last. The only way to know if you’re on the right track is to look at your numbers: run tests with a predetermined budget and timeline, and then assess your results.
Acquisition channels must be both profitable and reliable, and you won't know which ones are unless you run the numbers. While this is at times soul-sucking work, it's foundational to having even moderate success, and absolutely imperative for scaling your membership.
Now that you have a framework for conducting the tests necessary to find the most viable channels for you, let's begin our top 21 list!
Chapter 1: Content - Learn all about organic search traffic, content marketing, and guest blogging! Read more >