Platform Conference Recap: 9/10 – Stu McLaren

This recap is the penultimate in my recap series on the Platform Conference held in February in Franklin, TN. In this 9th installment I cover the presentation delivered by Stu McLaren, co-founder of WishList Member, the most popular WordPress membership site platform, and a self-described tech entrepreneur. Stu, together with the next (and last) speaker, Pat Flynn, spoke on techniques to monetize the platform that you have created if you have followed the advice of the earlier speakers. The key in all this, though, is not to generate revenue for revenue sake. Instead it is about generating revenue to maximise the impact you have on your tribe. The mantra – “multiply your profits, multiply your impact.” For Stu, he gives back through World Teacher Aid. Read on to see his outline for ways you could develop your platform into a membership site.

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The focus of Stu’s talk was on the creation of a monthly (or similar) form of recurring subscription model for your internet outpost. Obviously content is king. You have to have something that others want to pay for before this even matters. However, before you get to that point, it is good to know the concepts so that you build content intentionally that supports the eventual monetization of your website or blog.

Why operate a subscription model versus a straight one-off sale model?

RECURRING REVENUE STREAM.

This concept is critical in any business and even more so in an internet business. Stu illustrated how it works through two examples:

  1. SALES MODEL – Assume that you have a product that you sell on your website using a straight one-off sale model. Assume you sell to 20 persons each month. In a year you have 240 sales transactions. The challenge is that most of these sales are non-recurring. The client has the item and they now have no more need for you or your site.
  2. RECURRING MODEL – Assume a recurring subscription. Assume that you have a fairly typical 70% monthly renewal rate. Assume you gain 20 new subscriptions per month. In a year you have 647 sales transactions. You also have a real monthly ‘permission based’ relationship with this larger tribe.

I can guarantee you that I know the model that most website owners would prefer. Its all in the numbers and the recurring model is the clear winner.

We often say it’s all about the numbers.  We seek more readers, anguish over SEO and the perfect headline.  Really though, it should be about the heart.  Developing your site for your platform, your tribe, should be about relationships. With that in mind, a one-off single transaction model demands you give a ton of love leading to and during the sale. Then, knowing that the key to growth success is another sale, the love typically fades rapidly. Your clients, your tribe, can start to feel like a number.  The recurring model demands of the site that it continually heaps heart and love on its subscribers as the relationship does not end at the transaction.  In this model the relationship is intended to survive into many more recurring transactions. This has a powerful psychological impact for the buyer.  They really feel that the seller cares for them after sale.  On the flip side, being aware of this impact on the buyer is a powerful motivator for the seller (you, the platform builder) to continually do better and offer more to your subscribers.

So, what are some of the models of recurring transactions? Stu outlined eight. They are:

  1. PUBLISHER – This model is just like its name implies. It is a magazine, a publication online that pushes out fresh new content, via regular updates with access to all. cbiclubhouse.com and herbmentor.com are two examples of a ‘publisher’ site.
  2. UPS – This one is named for the delivery service as it does just that. It is set up to deliver a package of information to its subscribers each month. There is no access to an archive. An example of this type of site would be ansuya.com.
  3. MODULAR – A modular publishing approach delivers a series of posts over a pre-set timeline, typically in some area of learning. Content is delivered weekly or monthly typically. Some examples here are webartacademy.com or schooloftennis.net.
  4. PROTECTED DOWNLOAD – This model offers subscribers access to varying levels of access to products.There is a central client experience that is enhanced with higher levels of member access. An example is probloggerbook.com.
  5. PROTECTED FORUM – Here the membership is to a user forum that is not accessible to the casual user of the website. Generous content is available on the website, but to access the community of users who can offer more feedback the user must pay a recurring fee. An example here is awayout.com.
  6. PRIVATE MEMBERS AREA – Here the site is created around a central users area that encourages a broad discussion of the tribe niche. Additional content in the form of downloads may be available here in addition to the protected forum. writetogive.com is a site set up along this model format.
  7. COACHING SITE – Here a site is set up with the deliberate intent of restricting access to a limited number of users. The number is limited so that the site owner can give personal tutoring directly and intensively. This of takes time hence the limited number of people you can engage with. Of course the subscription cost is higher here to compensate. Some examples of coaching sites would be myeyeshadowconsultant.com and ducttapeu.com.
  8. COMBO – As the name implies this is a combination of elements of the seven other models within one site. Clearly you cannot throw all into one site but two or three elements can often be run in concert with each other.

One of the first decisions for a beginning platform builder to consider is which model do they see as the best for their niche.  Once there is clarity around that you should start to construct around that goal. When you decide to take that plunge Stu’s advice was to make as your complete focus the first sale. There is nothing that will give you more confidence, more optimism, and more options for where to go next than the impact of the first sale from your platform.

What should your next steps be now that you have read this recap? Commit!  Pick a model. Start selling, or at least building to eventually sell.  Stu’s website, wishlistmember.com is a great starting point for you if you decide to take the next step.

What are your plans? Are you reading these recaps passively or have you read the series and come away from each as inspired with the possibilities as I was when I heard them live? Let me challenge you to take action steps. Write down your goals for starting and building your platform.  Mainly just START.

I welcome you to leave a comment on my blog with your thoughts on this recap, or perhaps experiences you may have had with developing a subscriber base for your niche.

I live in the Cayman Islands and I'm married to Christina. We have two incredible children. A serial entrepreneur, I own several businesses in Cayman. I'm currently chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority, and past president of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, and the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.

Please note: I moderate comments and reserve the right to delete or edit those that are offensive or off-topic.

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