How to Grow Your Membership with a Trial + Convert Trials to Paying Members with Mike Morrison

Hear about the power of memberships, 2 keys to make it work, what you need to know about free trials, and 6 strategies to converting trials to paying members.

Lately, we've been working closely with clients lately to launch memberships through their virtual summits. We've seen 50, 200, 300, and even 500 members added through one event by following this incredibly powerful strategy, and I'm excited to share a guest on the podcast with you this week who can go deeper into the membership side of this strategy than I can. 

One strategy I talk with clients about often is incorporating a membership trial into various areas of your summit. As much as I wish I was an expert on memberships in addition to summits, that's not the case. So to learn more about this powerful strategy, I've brought in Mike Morrison of Membership Geeks to share everything you need to know before trying out the trial strategy.

If you're not familiar with Mike, he's the best of the best when it comes to launching and scaling successful membership sites with the longest-running memberships about memberships out there. 

In this episode, you'll hear about...

  • the power of memberships
  • the two keys of a membership that works
  • what you need to know about free trials
  • 6 strategies to convert trials to paying members.

This is one of my favorite episodes to date, so let's dive right in!

Listen to the episode

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Download the episode transcript here.

Episode at a glance:

[3:11] Mike starts out by sharing how he got started as a freelancer and the burnout he felt with that. He knew there had to be a better way to get out of the feast-and-famine cycle and not start from zero each month. Now that he has a membership business model, there's room to have the ups and downs of business because of the recurring revenue.

It's not just about the money or the growth. The fulfillment that comes from being able to actually flex your muscles in terms of what you know you can do and how you can help people is incredible. 

[8:08] When you launch a course after your virtual summit, that initial income is great, but you have to keep finding ways to bring in more course sales. With a membership, you have continued monthly revenue, and typically, people stay in a membership for 9-10 months.

[10:43] There are two key areas between memberships that work and ones that don't. The memberships that don't work are usually the ones that didn't do the work to validate that a problem existed and needs a recurring fix. Validate the existence of an audience with an existing problem that needs a recurring solution, not a one-off answer to their problem. You also need to validate your commitment and interest level. Memberships are a longer-term game.

 Another big thing is to focus on retention. Memberships are a retention business, not a sales business. It's not enough to get people in the front door, you have to make sure you're keeping them inside. 

[14:48] Trials can be great for memberships, but there's no one-size-fits-all that will work for every single membership. It's something you'll need to test and validate that it works for you and appeals to your audience. 

[18:55] Retention data is very broad due to the various factors in niche and industry. Broadly speaking, you can expect a 20-30% retention rate from trial sign-ups to paying members. This will vary depending on the strategies you're using, the length of the trial, and the type of trial. 

Do you want 40% of the people on your list to become members who otherwise wouldn't if you didn't offer a trial versus none of them? If people don't stick around beyond the trial, that's fantastic, because now you know which people are giving you a no, because they filter themselves out. They're not the enemy. They're not a lost sale. They're just someone who you have enabled to make a firmer decision over whether they want to buy from you or not. And this way they're not just sitting there on your email list, disinterested when they open your emails. 

[24:28] There are some types of memberships that aren't ideal to give a free trial, especially those that are priced over the $150-$200/month range. These memberships are typically following more of a group coaching or mastermind model that may be a littler more high-touch. When you know 60-70% of members won't stay past their free trial, it can water down the value of the content in a higher-priced membership. 

[27:15] Retention is one of the biggest things we get asked about when it comes to offering a membership trial through a summit. How many members can you expect to stay beyond the trial period, and how do you increase the likelihood that people will stay? Mike shares 6 tips to increase membership trial retention: 

  1. Charge for the trial, don't make it free. 
  2. Consider ways to reframe the trial offer.
  3. Offer to repeat or extend the trial if they didn't use it.
  4.  Incentivize people to skip the trial.
  5. Have something "special" happening the week after their free trial ends.
  6. Practice "future pacing" and let people know what's coming up. 

[38:10] A lot of the focus is on getting members in your door, but you need to focus on the importance of member retention too. Your business cannot survive on members who only stay for a month or two. 

If you're making a positive difference in people's lives, it's going to be a no-brainer that they'll stick with you. 


About Mike

Mike Morrison is co-founder of the Membership Geeks and Membership Academy, where he helps guide the growth of high-performing memberships, e-learning businesses, and online communities.

With over 15 years’ experience in digital marketing and online business; Mike has worked closely with multinational brands such as McDonalds, ITV, and; and has been the driving force behind a multitude of 6 and 7-figure membership businesses.

He’s the host of a popular podcast, author of three best-selling books, and can regularly be found on stages around the world at events including Social Media Marketing World, YouPreneur Summit, and Podcast Movement.

Membership Academy  |  Membership Geeks Podcast  |  Membership Roadmap




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Hear about the power of memberships, 2 keys to make it work, what you need to know about free trials, and 6 strategies to converting trials to paying members.Hear about the power of memberships, 2 keys to make it work, what you need to know about free trials, and 6 strategies to converting trials to paying members.

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