Learn about how to add a live event to your mostly online education business mix with Mike Morrison from The Membership Guys in this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Chris and Mike dive into topics relevant to membership site owners, from customer retention to bringing in experts to speak to your audience.
Mike runs a weekly podcast called The Membership Guys Podcast that covers practical advice and strategy tips for creating and growing a membership website. His business partner Callie Willows also does a podcast called Behind the Membership, so be sure to check that out as well.
In addition to podcasting, Mike is also the creator of the Member Site Academy, which is a place where course creators and membership site owners can go to learn and level up on their skills and get clear on their thinking. It also creates a place where they can come into contact with the tools they need.
Recently Mike has been working on creating a live event called Retain that is centered around the membership community. It is an event in Newcastle upon Tyne in the U.K. set to take place on September 11th through 12th, 2019. Mike and Chris dive into what makes live events tick and the value they can add to what are mostly online communities.
The more friction you have in your technical setup and in the member experience, the more distracting it becomes to your members. Mike talks about the things he does in his membership to deliver small wins and retain members. He also shares some strategies he implements for onboarding and initiating new members.
Mike’s membership includes a library of about 35 courses that help membership site owners out with various aspects of their business, including information about retention, onboarding, member engagement, content strategy, audience building, and all the key things you need to know to grow and scale your membership. They also have a tech vault that has step-by-step walkthroughs on how to use specific plugins and other tools.
You can check out the other LMScast episode we did with Mike Morrison here. To learn more about Mike, Callie Willows, and The Membership Guys be sure to visit TheMembershipGuys.com. Also head to RetainLive.com to see everything Mike is planning for his live Retain conference this year.
At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!
Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’ve got a repeat guest, Mike Morrison. Go check out the last episode we did with Mike. I had to write it down because Mike has a lot going on, so I’m going to read the highlight reel here. Mike Morrison is from themembershipguys.com, which he runs with Callie Willows.
Mike’s podcast is called The Membership Guys Podcast. Callie also does a podcast called Behind The Membership. These are two of the podcasts that are on my personal shortlist. Mike is also the creator of something called the Member Site Academy, which is a place where course creators and membership site creators go to learn and level up on their skills and get clear on their thinking and get tools to help them. Now he’s the creator of an event for membership site owners or people who want to create a membership site called Retain. It’s a live event in Newcastle upon Tyne in the U.K. That’s a very British sounding location and it’s on September 11th through 12th, 2019. Welcome back to the show, Mike.
Mike Morrison: Thanks for having me back on. Can I just pay you to go around and just like intro me? You do such a better job of it than I do.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, sure. That’s great. You’re probably one of the people that I could geek out the most on and we could record like 10 episodes and never run out of material. This whole business of online course creation and membership sites and online business and monetizing certain skillsets and knowledge and all these types of things. I’m super excited to talk to you. I want to talk about the event you’re launching specifically. But before we get into that, when someone comes up to you on the street and says like, “Who are you? What do you do? What is this whole Membership Guys thing,” what do you say?
Mike Morrison: Well, I don’t say much because I try and avoid going on the street. We don’t build online businesses to actually have to go out there and meet people, right? I keep it simple because, you know, we very much cater towards people who already know what memberships are, and they’re one step in that journey of pursuing the membership model. We don’t try and convince people that they should start a membership site and so I don’t have that kind of spiel in my back pocket where it’s kind of, “Well, you know, what I do is I make experts and influencers rich beyond their wildest dreams.”
Mike Morrison: One because that’s BS, but two because we are very much for people who already have a grasp of what a membership site is and they just want some trusted advice to actually help them pursue that model. Generally, it’s just yeah, we teach people how to build and grow membership businesses. If we’re talking to the right people, I don’t have to explain what a membership business is because that’s tiresome, man, and they’re hard to explain because it kind of applies to so many things. Online courses are technically memberships, but then they’re not what we’re talking about when we say a membership site.
Mike Morrison: Netflix is technically a membership, but that’s not what we’re talking about. So yeah, I just keep it simple and I go for people who already know what memberships are.
Chris Badgett: I feel the same way about LMS. I need more than an elevator ride to talk about it sometimes. You might need a couple elevators or a really tall building.
Mike Morrison: Yeah. I was going to say the whole elevator pitch kind of thing, I’ve been kind of in business for 15 years now. I’ve never once had to tell anybody in an elevator what I did because nobody … I don’t know if it’s the same in the States. No one in elevators in the UK talks to each other. It’s kind of like peeing at the urinal. You don’t make eye contact. You don’t start conversations. You just keep quiet and pretend to be checking messages on your phone. So no, I don’t have an elevator pitch.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome. I just want to highlight, pull out something you said in terms of your target audience. You’re not going after beginners. I think that’s a classic mistake in any niche that people make is you don’t always have to go after the beginners or the wannabes I guess even though that maybe a big market. If you go after people that are kind of already established and have like the basics in place, to me that feels a lot easier.
Mike Morrison: There’s a distinction there though because we’ve certainly worked with beginners. I mean what we do helps people from that very, very early stage where they just have a nugget of an idea and they just don’t know what to do with it. But the wannabes that you mentioned there, that’s the distinction for us. We don’t just cater to advance people, but we don’t want to be in the business of having to convince somebody to start a membership site.
Chris Badgett: It’s not for everybody.
Mike Morrison: It’s not for everybody. For us, that’s all kind of little prequalification. If you don’t already know that you want to at least explore the idea of a membership site and you don’t already know what a membership site is, you’re not for us yet. There’s plenty of people out there who are happy to sell the dream and happy to try and convince you to start a membership, but it doesn’t last because you and I know that there are so many people just chasing shiny objects online. For a lot of people, a membership or an online course, it’s just another shiny object.
Mike Morrison: I want people who are past that initial stage of “oh, well, this is something I could try, or this is something I could do, or this might make me some money.” We don’t want those guys yet. We want them when they’ve actually spent a little bit of time to even just get a foundational understanding of what a membership site is. That saves us so many headaches. It makes it so much easier to do what we do.
Chris Badgett: Very well said. On that term and definition, this is an issue I struggle with a lot when it comes to LMS online course membership, membership website, membership plugin, membership model, membership pricing, whatever. How do you define membership site? What does that mean to you? You mentioned briefly like not Netflix or whatever.
Mike Morrison: Well, yeah. That’s the thing. A membership site technically is any website for which you require a registered account that you log into to access otherwise protected content. That’s it. That’s literally just what it is. A membership website is a mechanism.
Chris Badgett: I just want to be clear right there. That’s your criteria for …
Mike Morrison: Yeah. What a membership website is, that’s what it is. An online course is a membership site.
Chris Badgett: Could you give an example of a membership site that doesn’t include training, but does include some kind of content or let’s say it doesn’t include courses, but it includes some kind of content?
Mike Morrison: Yeah, sure. Again, Netflix and Amazon, it’s content, you know? You have to subscribe and log in and you’ve got your stuff there. You have Envato, which is … They’re the guys who run ThemeForest and CodeCanyon, all that sort of stuff. They have a membership protocol and follow elements where what you get are assets. You get templates. You get design files. You get icons and fonts. It’s a resource-based membership. I think they do have some training content tucked away in the section, but that’s not what people join for. It’s basically anything where you need an account in order to access content that otherwise isn’t freely available.
Mike Morrison: But the type of memberships when someone online is talking about membership site, they are usually talking about e-learning content and some kind of community like a forum or a Facebook group. Those are very much the sort of memberships we tend to specialize in and our audience tend to be building.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome.
Mike Morrison: For us, the distinction between, again, we say memberships and online courses are quite often used interchangeably. I think the main thing that differentiates them is just the commitment level. Online course is usually done. It’s a finished product. You pay it once and you get access to that and there’s no end date. There’s no recurring elements. With a membership, you have the recurring payment whether it’s monthly, annually, quarterly. You need to keep paying in order to continue accessing that content.
Chris Badgett: It might include more than courses.
Mike Morrison: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: On that note, I wanted to talk about the Member Site Academy before we get into talking about your new event. The stack, I love course plus community plus resources or whatever. I think you’ve done a great job with the Member Site Academy creating a really nice stack. Can you describe like what’s behind your membership if you will?
Mike Morrison: Yes. It is. It’s that combo of content, culture and community. On the content side, we’ve got a library of courses. We have kind of mini courses, which generally are about two to three hours long. I think we got 35-36 of those.
Chris Badgett: What constitutes a mini course?
Mike Morrison: I just call them mini courses. I should just call them courses. Length predominantly. Length and specificity of the topic. Facebook Ads for memberships is a course as opposed to a module within like a mega 50 hour long course. Marketing Automation with Active Campaign for membership sites, again, mega specific. That one’s maybe an hour and a half, two hours long. For me, mini course, it’s length and specificity. We got about 35-36 of those. Some shorter, some longer. We’ve got a library of kind of quick win tutorials. Those are like 10 to 15 minute hyper specific, usually very technical kind of quick fix.
Chris Badgett: In the tutorials, are those kind of on a page or a blog post?
Mike Morrison: They’re in the library. We have a library that kind of divides into … It’s very much laid out a bit like Netflix now. It divides into our growth lab, which is for people who have membership already. We have a selection of courses on retention, on onboarding, member engagement, content strategy, audience building, all those key things that you need to know to grow and scale your membership. We’ve also got the tech vault. That’s where we’ve got step-by-step walk through plugins on … I’m sorry. Step-by-step walk through courses on pretty much all the major WordPress based membership plugins, a few membership platforms, LMS systems, themes, and stuff like that.
Mike Morrison: That’s just one repository library with all the tech stuff you’re going to need. We’ve also got the …
Chris Badgett: Those are tutorials, not mini courses?
Mike Morrison: Yeah. Those are, again, 90 minutes to two hour long step-by-step. This is installing inside. This is connecting it to your email provider. This is connecting it to your payment provider. This is how you protect content and all that sort of stuff. Then we’ve kind of got our centerpiece, which is the membership roadmap and that is effectively kind of our signature course I suppose for people who are at the beginning stage. It takes them all the way through to having a membership fully built, launched and up and running. It kind of takes people through to like their first six to 12 months of their membership.
Chris Badgett: In our language that we use in this podcast, we would call that a learn and process course. That roadmap is like a complete process if you take people all the way.
Mike Morrison: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You know, because I’m a reformed web designer and developer, it’s all quite nicely rigged up. We’ve got a nice kind of almost gamified layout and stuff like that. It’s pretty funky. It’s pretty cool and it’s really in depth into that whole process without being overly bloated. It is. It’s quite a prescriptive start to finish course. Then we’ve got the community. We do live Q and A calls. We’ve got a lot of stuff man.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome. The community, is that a private Facebook group?
Mike Morrison: It’s a forum. We use IP.Board.
Chris Badgett: IP.Board.
Mike Morrison: Yeah. Yeah. I’m not a big fan of Facebook groups for paid communities for reasons which would extend the length of this podcast by several hours. I love them as part of your audience building, of your funnel and sales process for your Facebook group is awesome. But when people are paying for it, there’s a lot of drawbacks with using a Facebook group versus using forum software. Yeah, we use IP.Board. When it comes to forums, IP.Board is like legit. It’s the best one I’ve ever used and I’ve been using forums since the late ’90s. Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s quite active.
Chris Badgett: Quick question with my tech hat on, I believe I heard from you on one of your episodes you have a … Is there like a single sign on WordPress to IP.Board kind of thing?
Mike Morrison: There is, yeah. Yes. Yeah. I will say IP.Board for anyone who’s not come across it, it’s not a WordPress plugin. It’s a completely separate standalone piece of software, so you need a little bridging software, it’s a SSO plugin, that you can purchase from the IP.Board’s marketplace. It’s about 79 bucks. That just means that when people sign in to your WordPress site, because that will be the main place you send people, that’s where the dashboard is, that’s where they pay and sign up and all that sort of stuff, they automatically get logged into IP.Board. It’s as seamless as it can possibly be when you’re running two completely separately standalone pieces of software.
Mike Morrison: It just automates the kind of creation and automatically logs people in and out and all that sort of stuff.
Chris Badgett: You said coaching calls, right? Was that weekly or monthly?
Mike Morrison: We do two weekly member Q and A calls. These are ones where all of our members can turn up and ask us questions. They can send us questions in advance and we just spend an hour or two just going through those questions.
Chris Badgett: What software are you using to do the Q and A?
Mike Morrison: For about three years, we used Google Hangouts and then embedded them onto the website. We want to make this as frictionless as possible.
Chris Badgett: They’re still inside the membership?
Mike Morrison: They’re inside. yes. They log into the membership and there’s a page on which we have the livestream video embedded alongside Chatroll. We use Chatroll for the local chatroom. They’re side of side so it kind of looks a little more seamless. It just means they don’t have to download any software because I always hated the idea that if you wanted members to come along to like a member webinar, they’d have to dangle and register for a GoToWebinar session. It’s like, “But dude, you’re already registered. You’ve got my name and email address. Why do I have to give it again every single time I want to come to this Q and A call and I’ve got to download this software and it just sucks.”
Mike Morrison: We really wanted to make this as easy and seamless as possible. We used Google Hangouts for a long time. The major problem with that is the quality side. The streaming quality was just rubbish, but it was good enough for a Q and A call. But we recently upgraded to Vimeo live streaming. Vimeo brought out a live streaming option about a year ago. We switched over maybe three or four months ago and the quality is just pristine. Yes. Again, the key thing, you can embed that livestream into a website. That’s very important for us.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool. That’s good to hear about the Vimeo Live, which is bigger … For those of you who are familiar with Vimeo Pro, this is another step up.
Mike Morrison: It’s not cheap. Especially if you’re from the north of England where I’m from where we’re a little bit tight and we don’t like paying lots of money for stuff, it’s definitely not cheap, but it’s worth it, you know? The main factor for us … We used to do the Q and A calls. It was essentially just be a slide, a couple of slides, on the screen. We kind of do some housekeeping, some updates on what was going on in the academy, some member wins and stuff. We just kind of had a screen share up on screen with kind of … For the member wins bit, we just have a little graphics saying member wins and stuff like that.
Mike Morrison: It didn’t really matter that the streaming quality was poor because there wasn’t that much detail in what was being shown on screen. But several months back, we figured you know what? It’ll be so much better if we actually get on camera. Because of that, we had to upgrade. We had to get a much better streaming solution because it was just such poor quality. Such poor quality.
Chris Badgett: With Vimeo Live, do you still do the Chatroll or is there a tool-
Mike Morrison: We do.
Chris Badgett: … inside Vimeo Live for that?
Mike Morrison: Vimeo Live does have a chatroom option built into it, but the problem … It’s not so much the problem, but the reason we stick with Chatroll is because Chatroll also has single sign on with WordPress. If you come along to one of the live sessions and you type in the chatroom, it’s already got your name and stuff in there. You don’t have to do anything extra. Whereas with the Vimeo one, you did. Again, it’s just about making people feel and making the whole member experience feel cohesive and not like it’s five or six different tech tools kind of just thrown together. It is that, you know?
Mike Morrison: It is Vimeo and Chatroll and WordPress and IP.Board, but it’s so important for us for the member experience to not have members distracted by the tech and to have them just actually engage with what’s going on. I think the more friction you have in your technical setup and in the member experience, the more distracting it becomes to your members and the more it gets them focusing on the little annoyances like the factor, “I can see in WordPress my name’s at the top right hand side and yet it’s asking for my name again to post a comment in the chat? Why?” We want to eliminate stuff like that.
Chris Badgett: Well, you’re a techie. I’m a techie. I think it’s a big mistake if you are a techie and you’re building a membership site to assume that your audience has the same level of technical rapport.
Mike Morrison: Definitely. Definitely. Definitely.
Chris Badgett: I just wanted to add and talk up my membership even more. I see more in your website that’s inside the stack. I see expert in here. Let’s see. We’ve got your theme, the member only theme. We’ve got checklists, cheat sheets and workbooks. Let’s park just for a second. What are some example checklists, cheat sheets and workbooks?
Mike Morrison: We got things kind of like the onboarding emails kind of cheat sheet that kind of walks through structuring a member onboarding autoresponder sequence and gives some sample language that you can use and some pointers and stuff in terms of kind of the key things you need to hit on in those. We have things like just things that are literally just checklists like our member retention checklist, which is like 40 or 50 small wins that help you with retention where you can literally just print it off and just, “Yup. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.” Other stuff it’s more kind of exercised-based to kind of get you thinking, get you generating ideas and stuff like that.
Mike Morrison: But yeah, covering everything from goal setting and planning to fleshing out and brainstorming your membership idea to repurposing and all that sort of stuff. Other minute where we’re actually putting a lot of time and effort into creating more kind of swipe files for emails that you can literally just copy and paste and then just tweak. That’s going to be the next thing that goes in there because we’ve already got some, but we want to beef that up because we all have something to improve what we got.
Chris Badgett: I love that. It’s a really great stack. It’s not just like information and training. It’s all these other tools and courses and teaching people how to think and realizing that not everybody’s the same. You have the Q and A. Wherever people are feeling that friction, they can come to you and, even if it’s in a group format, get personal feedback.
Mike Morrison: Yeah. That’s another thing that we offer and we don’t push too much on the sales page. We actually have a section of our forum that’s completely private. That if you put something in there, only you, myself and Callie can see. We actually use that for private coaching. There is the ability to get a little bit of personal two on one feedback and coaching and advice outside of the rest of the community being able to actually see it. That’s something we started trialing about six months ago because obviously we’ve got a couple of thousand members. We didn’t know whether we’re just going to be inundated with everyone certainly like just needing our time and our input, but it’s gone on really well.
Mike Morrison: Members have really enjoyed it. It’s really, really manageable for us as well. Yeah, that’s another thing that we do. We do a lot which means that we’ve had to very meticulously craft the member experience so that you don’t join the site and suddenly you’re looking at like hundreds of things and thinking what the hell do I do. Our whole onboarding series is designed to kind of get people to what they need and to steer them away from stuff that is not relevant for them right now.
Mike Morrison: Yeah, that’s obviously a key part in making sure that you kind of stay on the right side of delivering lots of value and having people’s backs at every stage of their journey, but also not weighing them down with too much stuff that they don’t need at the point that they’re currently are.
Chris Badgett: What’s your strategy or method for deciding what to add to the membership next?
Mike Morrison: It’s changing. It really is changing. It started off where we mapped out the entire journey. This is the thing again with memberships, so many people focus on just that beginning part where the journey is getting your membership up and running. We want people with us for decades, you know? We have to think about …
Chris Badgett: I like to say the launch is the starting line, not the finish line.
Mike Morrison: It is. It is. It’s absolutely true. We kind of had to think about okay, if someone who’s had a membership for 10 years, what do they need? We’ve had to kind of ambition that entire journey and obviously our own experience working with clients has helped us greatly with that. To begin with, it was largely just about covering all aspects of that journey and covering all the bases and filling in any gaps and stuff like that. It’s changing a bit really because as far as content goes, we’ve got pretty much everything covered. We regularly kind of order that content, so there’s a lot about keeping it up to date, but also we ask members what they want. Is there anything they want us to go deeper into?
Mike Morrison: Is there anything we actually haven’t covered or we haven’t thought off? We regularly pull our members. We encourage them to suggest courses and content and stuff like that. We use that as kind of our guiding star for what content we’re going to create. Our focus has really within the last 12 months has shifted to be more about the community and the coaching side of things. Like I said, stepping things up on the Q and A’s. Getting on camera, adding that personal presence and that personal touch, which makes the calls a lot more fun. They are so much more fun. The energy in the chatroom, if there is such a thing, is better. People are talking more. They’re asking more questions.
Mike Morrison: More people are coming. Again, it’s not content. It’s the community and coaching side, but that’s really stepping up and then things like the private coaching as well is stepping up. We’re very much into that stage of community and coaching, what more can we do on that, but also on the content side. It’s more of a refinement than okay, well, next month’s topic is this, next month’s topic is that. Because we’ve been around for three years, more than three years now, in the academy adding content on a regular basis. There’s only so much you can actually say before you get upon where you’re just creating content for the sake of creating content.
Mike Morrison: I mentioned before email swipe files. Again, we’ve got stuff that tells people, “This is the emails in your series.” We got something that tells people, “This is what your onboarding series should look like. This is what your sales series should look like. These are the types of things you should put in there.” The content we’re creating now is actually okay, well, what else do you need that will make that a shorter journey for you to get stuff done. We taught you want you need. Okay. We’ll just write this stuff for you and give you that.
Mike Morrison: That means instead of watching our training and then getting the knowledge that you then go in and implement, you do that and also here’s this thing that’s going to cut down the actual implementation time by 80% of whatever. That’s sort of where we are in terms of how we approach creating new content.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Templates are not just for building websites. If you can create templates for your people to be successful where they can fill in the blanks and personalize, that can be super helpful.
Mike Morrison: Definitely.
Chris Badgett: If I may recommend an episode, I can’t remember if it’s yours or Callie’s podcast with Scott’s Bass Lessons? Is that right?
Mike Morrison: Yeah. That’s Callie’s podcast. Everybody loves Callie’s podcasts.
Chris Badgett: Okay. That was a good one. I don’t know if that’s who you’re talking about who had been in membership for a long time. I think he’s been in it for awhile.
Mike Morrison: Yes. SBL, the membership side of it, is, man, four or five years now I think. We helped him get that up and running. What year is it now? 2018. Man, it might actually be longer. Five or six, possibly verging on seven. I’m getting old. But yeah, I mean we’ve got people on our community. There’s a website called Teaching Packs, which is essentially a membership that sells pre-created packs of teaching materials to teachers. People who are kind of primary school teachers and stuff like that.
Chris Badgett: It makes curriculum as like the thing.
Mike Morrison: Here’s everything done for you. You don’t need to prep activities and this, that and the other thing. That membership has been around for close to a decade now I think. We’ve got a bunch of other people on our community who are kind of membership veterans. It’s quite cool because a lot of these guys are people who actually joined our site like right at the beginning. We’ve kind of seen what they do when they already got a successful membership, but their focus is on going beyond just making money and attracting members. They’re looking at okay, well, how do I build out my team, and how do I get organized, and how do I work less, but achieve the same or achieve more?
Mike Morrison: That kind of keeps us on our toes as well in terms of the challenges that we have to address for our members.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I remember an episode from your podcast a while ago I just want to check in on since I know you follow the industry so well, which was it had to do with Amazon …
Mike Morrison: Oh, dude. Don’t. Don’t.
Chris Badgett: What?
Mike Morrison: You know what? I never, never do episodes about developments in the industry. I try not to because I should know better.
Chris Badgett: Because it changes.
Mike Morrison: Because it changes. It’s not evergreen content. Every episode in my podcast bar to are totally evergreen.
Chris Badgett: Right. Isn’t that one of them?
Mike Morrison: That’s one of them.
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Mike Morrison: I fought the better demons to …
Chris Badgett: You did some reporting on the news.
Mike Morrison: I did it. I did it. You know what? They turned around like three months later and decided that they just didn’t want to offer that as an option for kind of memberships and stuff like that. They just canned it quietly.
Chris Badgett: Which goes back to the value of owning your platform like keeping …
Mike Morrison: Yes.
Chris Badgett: There are times to outsource to like Vimeo Live. You don’t want to build a live streaming service. Trust me. As much as you can keep under your own hood the better.
Mike Morrison: Definitely. Also, it’s a cautionary tale about kind of jumping on bandwagons when stuff’s new. We kind of wind up … Do you guys in the States have that phrase? To be wound up? To get winded up?
Chris Badgett: We can understand 95% of what you say.
Mike Morrison: Yeah. Okay. Okay. I think we wind up a lot of people in the tech space for memberships when they bring out a new tool or a new platform or a new plugin. Because we do have a fairly sizable audience in the membership space, they obviously want to get some exposure through our platforms. They very excitedly email us to announce, “We just launched this new thing. Would you like to review it? Would you like to be an affiliate? We’ll pay you this money,” and all that sort of stuff. We’re now like, “No. Come back in a year,” because the tech industry, I’m preaching to the choir here, it’s so transient. So many new platforms come and then fall within months.
Mike Morrison: I have no interest in being that person who every other month says to our audience, “Hey, check out this brand new software, this brand new membership plugin, this brand new that,” because that’s going to erode the trust they have in me when every new thing I talk about just isn’t here in 12 months time. When someone comes and says, “Hey, what happened with Amazon subscription that you recommended we look into,” we’re like, “Yeah, that was a bust.” That episode, I don’t regret recording it, but it was very much a, “Ah, yes. This is why I don’t report on news.”
Mike Morrison: However, it still kind of stands as an important thing because the very fact that Amazon were even considering doing what they did and dedicated time and resources to it is-
Chris Badgett: It’s a signal.
Mike Morrison: It is a signal, but they’re signals as well. I almost did the same thing about Patreon, which is moving … It’s making moves in a big way into the membership space, but I’m not doing an episode about that.
Chris Badgett: I think Facebook also recently allowed booking independents for groups or something. I don’t know that’s something new or not.
Mike Morrison: I have done an episode on that, but from a different angle. I used that as an opportunity to kind of quell the rush of people to be like, “Oh, I’m going to sell my membership on Facebook.” I almost used that as a, “Okay. Pump the brakes. This is what we know. This is what we don’t know and actually all those bad things about using a Facebook group for a paid membership, they’re still relevant. Calm down.” There’s a lot of signals that the membership space is being taken very, very seriously by some pretty big players. It’s going to be an interesting time period.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s really awesome. I really want to get to the event. We can talk for hours on this stuff.
Mike Morrison: Yeah, dude. I knew this would happen. This happened the last time as well I think. I don’t mind. I love talking about this stuff.
Chris Badgett: Before we go to the event, there’s one more question I have. You and I have a shared mission to remove friction and help these people achieve not only launch, but grow and enjoy a membership site and not waste time and avoid as much stress and headache and bad decisions as possible. We’re 100% in alignment on that.
Mike Morrison: Definitely.
Chris Badgett: One of the things I noticed that you do in the Member Site Academy and also just I’m asking you because you’ve had optics into a lot of other membership sites is of people not doing it alone. Like bringing in other people to create content. Like for example, you have a partnership with Callie. You have guests. People come in and you see this inside other memberships. What advice do you have around not going it alone?
Mike Morrison: Especially when it comes to bringing guest experts into your membership in particular, it’s a no brainer. It’s just a win, win, win, win, win right across the board. I’m going to steal a saying from a friend of mine, Chris Ducker, who will often say, “Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas.” If you think that you’re the only person who can help or teach your members, then you’re wrong. If you think that you’re the only viewpoint that your members should hear, then you’re wrong. If you try to be all things to your members, you end up being nothing to them. There are people out there with complimentary skillsets, complimentary knowledge that your members would benefit from hearing from.
Mike Morrison: Go out and bring them into your membership. Ask them to do a little training webinar. Ask them to do a joint Q and A. It doesn’t even have to be just for your members. Ask them if they’ll contribute an article to your blog or come on and do a podcast interview. You know? Unless you are completely just self-interested and you are threatened by the idea that your members might think that somebody else out there have some smarts, then there’s no reason to not expose them to other things that are relevant to the journey they’re on or the goal they’re trying to achieve.
Mike Morrison: If you know that hearing from an expert on search engine optimizing that you’re not an expert on or even if you are an expert, hearing someone else’s opinion or experience on that topic, if you know that’s going to help them out, why would you hinder them? It just totally makes sense from a content perspective of bringing other people in to your membership. In fact, there’s lot of memberships, music instruction in particular, where that is what the membership is. It’s a faculty of guest experts. It’s a multitude of different teachers. You mentioned Scott’s Bass Lessons before. They have a faculty of some of the most respected bass educators in the world.
Mike Morrison: These guys don’t have their own membership site. They don’t want their own membership site, but they come in and they do regular seminars and workshops for Scott’s students. Everyone loves it. They’re happy. Scott’s happy. Win, win, win. Definitely. Having people involved in your business, obviously the business relationship with Callie is an actual relationship as well. I kind of couldn’t do this without him. I try not to admit that too often. That’s a different kettle of fish. You don’t just go out there and kind of say, “Hey, do you want to just come and run my business with me?”
Mike Morrison: That’s where preexisting relationships will actually save you a bit of time to think about what type of business do you want to run long-term, five years, 10 years down the line, and what people do you need in place to achieve that goal, and is any of those people someone who is a partner or a major player or they’re just staff and team and stuff like that. But from a content point of view in bringing people in, it just makes sense.
Chris Badgett: That’s great. As we transition to events, you’re adding an event called Retain to your stack. You mentioned Chris Ducker. He just has done his live event. What’s it called? Youpreneur?
Mike Morrison: Youpreneur Summit. It’s the second time he’s done it here in the UK.
Chris Badgett: You were a speaker there I believe?
Mike Morrison: Last year, yes. I spoke at two of his events last year actually because Chris used to live in The Philippines and he run an event called Tropical Think Tank. I spoke there earlier in the year and then I spoke at Youpreneur Summit last November.
Chris Badgett: As an expert, which the topic happens to be membership sites which is a little meta, but as an expert, you’re a speaker. You have a really solid membership site. Now you’re creating an event. Just speak at a high level to what … I’m sure there’s more. I mean you’re also an author and a publisher. You got all these things going on.
Mike Morrison: Busy dude.
Chris Badgett: First of all, do you have a four hour work week?
Mike Morrison: Not a four hour work week and the guy who wrote the The 4-Hour Workweek doesn’t have a four hour work week. It’s nonsense, but I work probably less than people think. We generally only work four days a week. Usually maybe five or six hours a day.
Chris Badgett: That’s great.
Mike Morrison: I refuse to even get out of bed before 9 AM. That for me is my victory. It’s my personal protest against the former life of commuting and working a 9:00 until 5:00. I don’t even wake up until 9:00 at the very earliest and usually finish 3-4 PM. That said, there’s two of us in the business. That does lighten the load. We do have a team in place as well. We have a community manager. We have admin stack. We’ve got some tech support there as well. It’s not just me living the laptop lifestyle. There’s a lot of stuff where technically it is work like checking in on the forum and replying to stuff in our member forum. I kind of check in on that in the same way I check in on social media.
Mike Morrison: I enjoy talking about memberships, so I don’t think of it as work. I’m just kind of doing it casually, you know, in the kind of commercial breaks when I’m watching The Walking Dead. I’ll just pop up. Such and such has asked this thing and I’ll quickly reply. If you were to add up all that time, then I’m sure my working hours would be a bit longer, but I’ve got a fairly stress-free kind of work life and it’s designed to be that way as well. I used to run a web agency. I’ve done the whole burnout crazy hours kind of thing. It wasn’t good, you know? Actually my business had become more successful the less I’ve done that kind of stuff.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, the more systems you build. I think it’s really important that you said the topic as an expert is something you love. If you check in on the forum, you enjoy it.
Mike Morrison: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: That’s sustainable. What kind of playbook or business model or maybe person or several people or books inspired you or helped guide you to create this multifaceted expert business, speaker of membership site, now event creator?
Mike Morrison: I don’t know. It was never kind of a … When we started with The Membership Guys, we knew there were certain things we wanted to do longer term. We knew that we wanted to write a book. I’d already written one a while back, and I knew we wanted to write a book. We always talked about from day one we’d love to do a big event and some workshops and mastermind ideas and stuff, which we’ve also done, but it was never a case of okay, here’s this business over there that we want to emulate. For us, the membership was always the centerpiece still to this day. Even though we have multiple revenue streams, I still consider our business to be the membership. Everything else is kind of a satellite to that.
Chris Badgett: Even if you get paid to speak, that’s just a … Speaking is a satellite.
Mike Morrison: Yeah, it’s bonus money. I really hate saying stuff like that because it suggests some mindset towards making money. That is not for me to say, “It’s just bonus money. It’s gravy.” I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t care if I get paid to speak. I care if you got 10 speakers and you pay all the other guys and not me. I want to get paid if you are paying speakers. But also, if it’s the right event, the right crowd, the right place, if it’s somewhere I want to travel to, I’ll speak for free as long as everyone else is speaking for free, right? Getting paid for me isn’t a, “Oh, this is a great new revenue stream.”
Mike Morrison: Because honestly even some of the top speakers in the online business game, they’re still sort of making mid-four figures per gig. Some other stretch on getting five figures, but they have to work on it as a business. That’s not something I want to do. Again, it’s something that I consider an activity that I do to grow my main business, which is the membership site. Of course, every speaking opportunity I get them to give me the recording. If it’s different, if it’s a different talk from other stack and elsewhere, I’ll put that recording inside our membership. It’s content creation.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, you made it to the lightning round.
Mike Morrison: All right.
Chris Badgett: Since we’re doing a podcast about events and we’ve only got about 12 minutes left, the rules of engagement, I’m going to do a bunch of rapid fire questions about the event. You have 30 seconds or less for each answer.
Mike Morrison: Dude.
Chris Badgett: All right. Where is Retain and why did you choose that location?
Mike Morrison: It’s in Newcastle upon Tyne. I chose that location because it’s my hometown. We considered London because there’s this adage that people won’t travel outside of London. It’s nonsense. Also, it’s just easier for us to organize. Newcastle’s an awesome city. It’s a cheap city for visitors to come to for hotels and stuff like that as well. The drinks are cheap. The meals are cheap. The location’s awesome, and it’s my hometown.
Chris Badgett: It’s your event.
Mike Morrison: It’s my event, and I’m keen to encourage more UK based events that aren’t just settled around London because there’s a big country outside London. There’s a lot happening in the northeast.
Chris Badgett: In terms of validation or just making the decision and feeling comfortable of like putting this out there, what gave you the confidence that like, “Okay. My business or whatever, I can attract … This is going to work.”
Mike Morrison: We’ve done some smaller events before, but they’ve predominantly been-
Chris Badgett: Like mastermind events?
Mike Morrison: We’ve done mastermind events. We’ve done workshops predominantly in the US. We’ve done a mastermind day in the UK. All of them will always subscribe. It was sold off just the first teaser email to just our members. There was a little validation there. We also surveyed our audience and we did a presale. We did a presale just for our members. We basically said to ourselves, “Okay. If we sell over 30 tickets during this presale,” in which we basically said, “If we’re going to do an event, it’s going to be about memberships and it’s going to be in 2019. This is how much it will cost.” We had no information and we sold more than our target. That was our basis to actually do this thing.
Mike Morrison: Had we not hit that target, we wouldn’t have done it. We’re just giving those guys their money back and we told them that.
Chris Badgett: Is the venue a hotel?
Mike Morrison: It is. It’s the …
Chris Badgett: How’d you pick a hotel? What are the characteristic and what is the business deal you worked out with the hotel?
Mike Morrison: I love on site hotel venue. I love it all being in the same building because …
Chris Badgett: It’s about community, right?
Mike Morrison: It’s about the community. You can kind of take over that building. It’s so easy for them. The best stuff at conferences happens at the bar and it happens at the local pick up meals that you have with a group of 15-20 strangers and you’re all friends afterwards. The content is great and all that sort of stuff, but it’s the socializing. That is where the real, real magic happens. That’s so much easier to do when it’s all at one location. It was actually the third place we went to. We did think it was maybe a little bit not out of our range financially, but just slightly bigger than we were shooting for initially. We had a venue locked down that was a lot smaller and they sort of screwed us a little bit.
Mike Morrison: We then looked at a couple of other places. We always said, “Year two or year three will be great to do with this place,” and then we just said, “Should we just do it at that place,” and then we locked it down. You agree expected numbers. They base the price on that expectation of how many people you’re going to need to pay for. You pay a deposit and then there’s points over the year at which you pay a little bit more. Then there’s a date that you need to have final numbers confirmed by. The remainder of what you got to pay them is based on those final confirmed numbers.
Chris Badgett: That was more than 30 seconds, but we’re going …
Mike Morrison: Sorry, dude.
Chris Badgett: As of this recording, this event is about 10 months out. It’s September 11th through 12th, 2019. Can you talk about the timing? It feels a little far in advance, but-
Mike Morrison: It is.
Chris Badgett: … I’m the guy who likes to plan myself and be strategic about the future and not stress myself out the last minute. I appreciate it. Can you speak to the timing?
Mike Morrison: The timing, it is quite far out. However, about 60% of our audience are based in the US and this is a UK event. We were confident that actually a lot of people would come from overseas, but we knew that we need to start telling these people about the event far enough in advance that they could actually make travel arrangements and they could get flights that didn’t cost the earth and stuff like that. That’s kind of born out because so far most the people who bought tickets aren’t from the UK. We know our UK people will buy tickets later because it’s a lot easier.
Chris Badgett: It’s like next door your event.
Mike Morrison: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But we’ve got people coming from Russia, from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, all over the place and I’m confident we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we didn’t have as much lead in time. Also, it’s just important to lock in the speakers. A lot of our speakers, they are on the speaking circuit and there are certain times a year that are traditionally conference season. We needed to lock those guys down before they got booked up by other people as well.
Chris Badgett: How’d you get your speakers?
Mike Morrison: Through relationships predominantly. Our actual speaker choices, our main criteria is this needs to be people who either already have memberships or they are in a key role for the membership businesses. Almost everyone on the stage actually runs their own membership. The two people who don’t they are big players in other successful memberships. That obviously narrows the field. A lot of the speakers are people we’ve already had relationships with or who we specifically wanted to get on stage, and so we started laying the foundations for relationships with them before we asked them to get on stage. We try to obviously feature a lot of UK based speakers as well. It’s a UK event.
Mike Morrison: I’ve been up and down the roads speaking myself at events, attending events, and a lot of the relationships are developed there. I’ve actually led into knowing the right people to get on our stage.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. If somebody is considering flying across the pond, whether that’s from the US, Canada, South America, Australia, Africa, wherever, what can people do around Newcastle upon Tyne like just for fun tourist stuff? What’s near there?
Mike Morrison: Newcastle is a party city. Generally, it’s where the rest of the UK comes for like bachelor weekends and stuff like that. It’s probably the smallest big city in the UK. There’s a lot of great restaurants, a lot of great bars if you just want to do that sort of thing. Newcastle was kind of the site … If you’re like a history buff for example, Newcastle was the site of a lot of the Roman developments when the Romans came into England. There’s a lot of historical stuff you can see on that front. You can see Hadrian’s Wall, which for any Game of Thrones fans, was the inspiration behind the wall in Game of Thrones. Emperor Hadrian built it to keep the Scottish riffraff out of England.
Mike Morrison: There’s a lot of that sort of stuff. There’s beaches. There’s sports teams. Not very good sports teams. There are sort of stuff you can do in cities basically, but with a lot of … There’s a lot of countryside. There’s a lot of beautiful beaches. There’s a lot of historical stuff nearby as well.
Chris Badgett: Can you describe the perfect like situation or who the event is for? The ideal attendee for Retain. Who is it?
Mike Morrison: The event is entirely focused on people who want to grow their membership. This isn’t somewhere we’re going to teach you the basics or we’re going to teach you how to build a membership. This is for people who have a membership and they want to grow it. They want to make more money. They want to keep hold of more of their members, but they also want to scale their systems and just get better at running their membership as a business. If you are thinking about starting a membership, you could still fill up on lots of awesome knowledge on growth strategies and stuff like that, but the ideal person is someone with a membership already, who’s kind of mastered the basics, and now they want to step things up.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. If this sounds like fun, go check out retainlive.com. You can also get to it from themembershipguys.com. I’m going to leave you with the last question. I’m going to give you a really hard one or one-
Mike Morrison: Dude, no.
Chris Badgett: .. that will be hard to pull off in 30 seconds-
Mike Morrison: No. Okay.
Chris Badgett: … which is if we look into the future based on what you’ve seen or being in the industry, what are some maybe counterintuitive predictions or something that you see like there’s a little wave, it might be a tsunami later that’s coming to the membership site industry or just some kind of change that’s happening in the industry? What’s something that you could share with the good people?
Mike Morrison: You know, I think some of the players that are circling around … I don’t think Amazon are done with subscriptions. I still think at some point we will see subscriptions sold on a more mainstream … Like membership subscriptions sold on more mainstream platforms. Patreon are probably going to be the biggest name that almost leads the initial charge because they are really doubling down on memberships. I think they’ll be that little lead into the more mainstream memberships. Otherwise, I don’t think a great deal is going to change. I think the tech might change.
Mike Morrison: The platforms might change, but for as long as there is expertise to be taught and for as long as there are people out there who want to learn and want to achieve things, then there’ll always be space for memberships. Honestly, I don’t think there’s going to be any major revolutions in the membership space. Maybe WordPress will lose its edge because they are tethering on the edge on completely alienating all their developers and all of their customers. But again, it’s not even the software change, there’s a platform change, the core principles for the type of memberships we work with, I don’t think they’re going to change in a big way. Maybe that’s counterintuitive-
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that is …
Mike Morrison: … because we’re going to see the same.
Chris Badgett: Would you say it’s still early days in terms of the industry or we’re kind of entering the majority or hitting …
Mike Morrison: Yeah, I think we’re really in the thick of it now. I’ve seen the membership bandwagon in terms of being flavor of the month for the internet marketers who want to make a quick buck. I’ve seen this bandwagon come around three or four times now in the last 15 years. That will continue. In five years time, there’ll be another guy with a $2,000 overpriced, overhead costs to sell who’s getting all of this friends to sell his rubbish for them. Those people will always be there. That’s never going to change, but the core of the industry I think is really in full swing, the people who are running them as businesses. We’re in the thick of it. I don’t think it’s the beginning. I think we’re in the thick of it.
Mike Morrison: It might tip up a little bit with platforms like Patreon kind of making it more accessible for kind of the more hobbyist or the creators who aren’t actually teaching stuff, but who will have a fandom. I think they’re going to be able to enter the membership market a lot easier, whereas currently I would say it’s more the realm of educators and authorities and influencers. I think the types of people who’ll be drawn to the model will expand a bit, but I do think that we’re in full swing with the market right now.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. Well, always a pleasure. That’s Mike Morrison from themembershipguys.com. Check out the event retainlive.com. Mike, thanks for coming on the show.
Mike Morrison: Thanks for having me on. That was fun.
Chris Badgett: That’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging, results-giving courses on the internet.