Add A Subscription Revenue Stream To Your Business with Clair Whitmer



Have you ever typed something like “How to make…” or “How to build…” into a search engine? If you have, you’ve probably come across a video, blog post, or tutorial from Make.co. Make is and has been at the center of the DIY ‘Maker Movement‘ since 2005. They started out as a print magazine and have since exploded into a worldwide organization that put’s on over 200 Maker Faires across North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Now they’re on a mission to empower people of all ages to explore their creativity, build innovative communities, and to have fun in the process of making things. Their YouTube channel has over 1.5 million subscribers and can teach you how to build anything from a wooden spoon to a mp3 music box.

On this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Clair Whitmer. She’s the head of Digital & Product Strategy for Make. In 2018, she helped Make launch their very first online membership program. Clair shares with us very transparently some of the challenges they faced and lessons learned a year after launching their online membership program. She also reveals some of the illuminating insights the Maker Media team gained over the last year getting their membership site up and running. If you’re working on your own membership site or are thinking about starting one, this episode of the podcast is for you.

This is a macro trend in publishing. The most important thing you have to do when you are starting is be able to articulate the benefits of membership from the point of view of your customer. Not the point of view of your company.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Clair became the head of Digital & Product Strategy for Maker Media [1:48]
  • Clair shares her approach to digital marketing & strategy [3:56]
  • How to monetize your content [5:40]
  • Why launch an online membership? [7:09]
  • The critical importance of clearly articulating your value offering (and how to do it!) [12:02]
  • What to expect when you introduce a paywall for the first time [12:57]
  • How to incorporate both user generated & proprietary content  in your membership [16:35]
  • Why you must understand each step of your customer’s journey [17:10]
  • The difference between selling a print magazine vs. digital content [20:06]
  • Why talking to your customers face to face is critical to membership marketing [22:40]
  • Clair reveals her “Homer Simpson” moment in business [24:02]
  • Clair outlines Maker Media’s plans for their membership in 2019 [30:02]
  • Clair shares her advice for launching a membership [36:26]
  • Why “freemium” content actually lowers your customer acquisition cost [37:40]
  • How to create downloadable membership cards for your business [41:42]
  • Why Clair chose MemberMouse as Make’s membership plugin [42:50]

Bonus Video: 

Did you know that our very own Eric Turnnessen — the Founder & CEO of MemberMouse — composed the theme song for the Subscription Entrepreneur Podcast? Here’s the standard opening:


And if you’ve listened to this episode, you’ll know that he created a special holiday themed version of the music. Here’s that version:


So, in the spirit of “making” and the creative process, Eric recorded a video where he describes his process for composing music and shows you exactly how he created the Christmas themed Subscription Entrepreneur Podcast music.

Watch the video here!

 

Resources Mentioned:

Thanks for Listening!

Do you have any thoughts, insights, or questions about landing page design or customer acquisition channels? Join our discussion and add a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Full Transcript: 

Download the show’s transcript here

“This is a macro trend in publishing. Everybody is going membership. I think that the most important thing you have to do when you are starting is be able to articulate the benefits of membership from the point of view of your customer. Not from the point of view of your company. If your asking people to spend their time and energy to A. Pay attention to you and B. Whip out their credit card and give you money for it, then you have to be able to articulate the benefits from their point of view. And that is not as easy as you think it’s going to be…”

INTRO:

You’re listening to our special guest today, Clair Whitmer. She’s the director of digital and product strategy for Make.co. They empower people of all ages around the world to explore their creativity, build innovative communities, and to have fun in the process of making things. Their YouTube channel with over 1.5 million subscribers can show you how to make anything from a wooden spoon to a mp3 music box.

Clair joins us on the podcast today to share the process Make.co went through in adding a membership component to their business. We can always learn something from someone else’s experience and Clair shares with us very transparently some of the challenges they faced and also some illuminating insights gained over the last year getting their membership site up and running. So, if you’re working on your own membership site or are thinking about starting one, this information is for you.

Thanks for joining us for episode 111 of the Subscription Entrepreneur Podcast. I’m your host, Eric Turnnessen. 

Eric:  Hey Clair, welcome to the show.

Clair:  Thank you so much. Glad to be here.

Eric:  Just to get started, can you tell me a little bit about your background?

Clair:  My background is that I’ve been at Maker Media for four years as head of the digital product. Before that, I worked in a lot of digital communities including Slashdot and going back to the launch of CNET News in 1999. I was the founding news editor there. I have a long background in the technology industry coverage. I worked for Ziph and IDG in their hay day. Then transitioned through CNET to the internet and then also to product management, which is what I’ve been doing ever since.

Eric:  What was the transition like? How did you come to be introduced to Maker Media? Why did you end up working for them?

Clair:  Honestly, I called myself a maker mama. I had a son who was 14 at the time. A girlfriend of mine said “let’s go to this thing called Maker Faire.” I was like “what’s a Maker Faire?” We went to it and my son fell in love with the community and the experience, but so did I. I just had a stroke of luck. A friend of a friend knew a friend of a friend and I got a personal connection to Dale Dougherty, our founder. I interviewed at a Maker Faire and got the job and it was a very happy day. I’ve had three opportunities in my career where I really felt like it wasn’t just a job, it was something more important than the position itself. This is one of them. Everyone who works at Make really feels like we are part of the mission. We are true believers.

Eric:  That’s great. You guys are making a company together?

Clair:  Exactly.

Eric:  Talk a little bit about Maker Media and what it does. Also, at the same time tell us a little bit about that conversation with Dale. What was it that so inspired both of you? What area was he looking for help in and where were you saying, “well that’s what I do, that’s what I can assist with.”

Clair:  That part has morphed over the course of the four years. I think my main focus and my main contribution as an employee is really trying to focus on analytics and the customer information in a way that will make Make more effective to our mission. Which is, Making more makers. We support and facilitate the growth of the maker community, that’s our mission. We do that by helping makers learn, connect and share. The history of the company goes back 13 years to a time where it was very DIY. That is of course what we do in the community that we support. As we’ve grown our two rolls in specifically data analytics and customer acquisition have not necessarily evolved with the growth of the community. I think that that’s what I focus on bringing, so that we are more effective. The mission hasn’t changed, but our ability to execute on that has.

Eric:  I imagine as far as a digital arena goes, outreach is a huge area for you to look at:  how do we reach more people, how do we engage people? Are those the kinds of things you’ve been looking at?

Clair:  Absolutely. I work on digital platforms and it’s always about reach and what I refer to as the “eyeballs.” Specifically, in our case, and this reflects directly to the membership program that we launched last year, is about monetizing the content in appropriate ways. Our relationship with the community that we have supported them in very direct ways. For example, makers don’t necessarily pay to come to Makers Faire. They pay for their travel expenses and their projects, but they don’t pay for booth space like they would for a traditional trade show. That’s our relationship with them in terms of producing Maker Faire. In terms of producing the content, we likewise have expenses that we support including principally the physical printing of a magazine and learning how to amortize those costs in community appropriate ways has been a big part of these discussions.

Eric:  It sounded like for a while the business was engaging with customers in a certain way and part of your job when you came in, like you said, you launched an online membership a year ago and one of the conversations you had to have was how are we going to present this content? How are we going to cover our costs and at the same time, make sure that we are not ruffling the feathers or getting in the in the way of the community growing and being satisfied. Let’s start with how you approached it in the beginning when you first decided to start an online membership. What were the components of that decision? Why did you think that was going to be something that would help in achieving your goals?

Clair:  To be honest I’m not sure that our thinking was that sophisticated in the beginning other than to observe that this is a macro trend in publishing. Everyone is going membership. We had lost traction on selling digital ads in the era of Facebook and Google. Obviously, those are macro trends and all media companies are struggling with these questions in the modern era. Again, as opposed to maybe some of your other customers, our brand goes back 13 years. The media landscape was very materially different when we started our brand. We make an observation that this is an industry trend and we want to incorporate it into our strategy. I don’t think we quite understood how fundamental the conflict was over monetization of digital content. I’m not sure that we asked all the right questions at the beginning. Although, I think we’ve come to really understand the space better.

Eric:  And what have you come to? What have you seen over the year that – like you said in the beginning maybe wasn’t even on your radar, this monetization versus not. Can you go into a little bit more about what you’ve actually seen and how you perceive that?

Clair:  I think that in the beginning our approach was very much about recruiting our community to support the maker movement through a membership program. Support making equals support Make. Honestly, I’m not sure that was the right method. I think it confused people. Because we’re not a nonprofit and also, I think that it meant that we under sold the content component of it. I think we were a little reticent about just being very upfront about selling membership benefits. We were a little uncomfortable with that in the beginning. I think that that is both a learning curve, but also an emotional journey that we have had to transverse this past year.

Eric:  It’s interesting because the thing that just came to mind – is it sounds like the artist challenge. The artist you are more about the art and the creation and artists typically have a challenge in putting a monetary value on what they do. Not that it doesn’t have a monetary value, but that seems, not a contradiction, but there’s a little bit of friction there. It may be because of the intense creative environment of what Maker Media is. It sounds like everyone who works there, maybe not everybody, but a lot of you are also makers. You have a passion for it. There’s a very artistic and creative component and sometimes it’s hard to put a value on that and sell It, but ultimately, it’s necessary.

Clair:  I think that’s right. We all perceive ourselves as members of the community as well as, employees of the company. I think that’s a strength, but I think it may be – I don’t want to say it’s a conflict, but I think that sometimes it means that we have to really separate those thinking processes. When we’re approaching a project like this, we have to be very clear about which goals we are speaking to for any given decision. I think that was not so clear for us when we first launched.

Eric:  That makes a lot of sense. In a sense I think my journey with MemberMouse has been similar. We use MemberMouse on membermouse.com so I am also a member of the community. The profit motive isn’t the first motive. The first motive is we want to deliver something that is of value to people. But, interestingly enough the thing that is being created too is the business. I had to come to this too. The business becomes an entity of its own. You can’t starve it. I spend a lot of time just focusing on the product because I was really passionate about that. At some point, many points, the business well will say “hey you’re neglecting and ignoring the needs that I have as I grow. There’s a community that needs to be supported. There are outreach things that need to be happened. We need to share that what’s been done.” Those to me have been some of the hardest lessons to learn.

Clair:  I think that’s absolutely right. That’s the perfect description of the process that I’m talking about. There’s also the step of being able to articulate it. In our case, again, where we have long established customer relationships and we want to make changes about how we monetize and deliver our content. We have to be confident enough about those decisions to be able to articulate them clearly and a fair way back to that community. That is the number one imperative in managing a community, is transparent communication. Sometimes you end up doing things that are not popular with everybody.

Eric:  What do you do in that case? How do you handle that?

Clair:  In this case, I don’t necessarily think our membership program is an example of that. Although, moving forward we will deliver content in a, in a different way where the paywall is more apparent. We have a membership newsletter where our tagline is how makers live, learn and earn. We need to be able to talk about ourselves as part of that.

Eric:  When you say the paywall is more apparent, can you give specifics about that in your situation? What was it before that and what is it that you’re moving towards now?

Clair:  We had our content delivery, the flagship website was Make Zine and is still makezine.com. We would like to move away from that URL. Again, zines were cool 13 years ago, but less so now. In the meantime, we have obtained a new URL, make.co, which we would like to consolidate all of our content assets under a single URL. That’s just it. A digital strategy that has nothing particularly to do with membership. Although, it allows us to drip content in a way that we have not before. Right now, we have not implemented those features. We rolled out MemberMouse on make.co as the URL, but there’s no other content on make.co right now. In the future there will be and we’ll be able to say this is gated content, this is free content, which is exactly what MemberMouse is designed to support. That is the new technique that has never been put in front of our readership before. As we implement that people are going to notice, oh hey I can’t get to this particular kind of content or piece of content unless I become a member. We hopefully will do a good job in articulating the benefit to that content so that is a very easy decision for them to make – to make that investment. We are making an ask that we haven’t made before. That’s what I mean when I say make the paywall more apparent.

Eric:  I see. You have a unique situation because like you said, you guys were in business for 13 years. You had an existing community. That’s a much different proposition than starting a new business. In a lot of ways, a lot more challenging because you have people who have become comfortable with the way things were. You want to change things and not only do you have to consider – what is the ultimate best strategy, but how do you get from here to that new strategy in steps and transitions that aren’t going to be so traumatic – that we don’t allow people to come with us.

Clair:  That’s exactly right. A membership program for a brand such as ours is a much more incremental process than it would be for a brand-new publisher coming out of the gate. There are things that maybe I would have phased-in sequenced-in in a different order. It has been a learning process for us, but I think that incremental rollout would not have changed.

Eric:  Makes sense. In terms of your business model for whatever is going to be monetized. It’s mostly the content, right? Is the Maker Faire component staying the same way that it has been?

Clair:  For Maker Faire we sell tickets to our owned and operated fairs and we sell licensing rights to the 200+ Maker Faires around the world that use our brand, bit are operated by other teams. That is not going to change. We also have user-generated content. We would never attempt to monetize that. That is content that has been contributed to us. I’m talking about monetization of original content for which we pay for the creation and production of that content. Those are the formulas that we looking at and trying to recalculate our ROI.

Eric:  How are you making decisions about what content you are going to bring to the table as a company that people are willing to pay for?

Clair:  We are examining the maker’s journey from the point that they first have contact with our brand. Frequently, they attend a Maker Faire first. Although, not always. We don’t have Maker’s Faire’s everywhere in the world, although, that’s the mission. What we want as a result of that brand interaction is for them to start having hands-on experiences, making things, telling those stories and getting to that point where they are ready to declare “I’m a maker too!” That’s our job. Then they start integrating themselves in the community in more and more profound ways. They may come to Maker Faires as participants at some point in that journey or they may create a Makerspace at some point. They might prototype, fund and create a product. Our job is to look at the content that supports that entire narrative – that entire spectrum and look at which parts of that, which pieces of that content are appropriate for us to say “okay this is expensive for us to produce, it has a high value to the customer, this is something that we can monetize.” It’s all ad hoc. We are making decisions on that template by template by template.

Eric:  I really appreciate that approach because to me, it’s like a crowdsourcing. You as the leadership of the company and the decision-makers are keeping your ear to the ground, listening to what people need and support of their Journey. Do the things that you could only do. We recognize as a large group of people that are interested in these things, we have the funding where we can go and produce something that would help. IN exchange those people crowdsource it by paying with their dollar, saying “yes this is valuable to me and it’s valuable for me to pay for and whatever value I get out of it will far exceed the dollar that I’m giving you.”

Clair:  That’s exactly right. I think that, just going back to bed earlier point in our conversation, we were reluctant to make that nexus very clear. Saying that to a readership, look we are a publishing company and publishing companies sell content. that was a little uncomfortable for us in the beginning and I think this year has been about getting over that. Specifically, in the digital realm. We never felt embarrassed about charging for our magazine, but somehow that was not true on the digital platforms. Making the right trade-offs between what I refer to as premium content, which draws people to your brand and then choosing the right moments at which you say here is the payroll. Here it is! And here is why you should cross that. That’s our task.

Eric:  Something that’s personally really interesting to me is the organizational aspects of it. You mentioned at the discomfort and this isn’t just Clair and make her media. There’s people, different levels in the company just like the community the people working at the company can get used to the way things are. So, when something’s uncomfortable sometimes there are challenges and obstacles internally that can arise that keep things from moving forward. Was there anything like that that you experience? If so, how did you get past it and how did everybody end up getting on board to actually make this journey, although it is uncomfortable?

Clair:  That has really been where a lot of energy has gone this year. Is talking through as a leadership team where those lines were and how to approach them. We also reached out for some external feedback from different Consultants. That really helped to validate some of the discussion, internal discussions is getting a third-party point of view. Not necessarily to tell us something that we hadn’t discussed or hadn’t thought about before, but to be a sounding board for those internal discussions. I wouldn’t say necessarily that it was conflictual, but it was a process.

Eric:  That makes sense. If you want to do something new and different, we can get into echo chambers within our own teams.

Clair: Exactly.

Eric:  We can either be “rah, rah rah!” for it, or “boo, boo, boo” for it. So, if you get some external perspective to come in and validate then that can make all the difference because then it’s not just you anymore.

Clair:  That’s exactly right. Some of that external perspective was from the customers. This is really valuable to me and this is part of our company culture is that everyone works at Maker Faire. I am the head of digital product, but I’m also in the booth selling memberships and subscriptions at Maker Faire. We got our brand and the cover of our magazine right there at our booth.  I am actually face-to-face with our customers trying to sell our membership program at Bay Area and New York for the past year. Having those customer conversations about what is clicking, and you can see it in their face. You don’t get this when you’re selling online, but when you’re in a booth and you can see the person looking at you, you know what was the moment – what was the moment that I got that person to understand the value proposition here.

Eric:  That is so much of the process of figuring things out. It seems so simple, but ultimately these are the people that we are working for an hour jobs. Sometimes it can be very easy with a the digital companies to forget that. To forget the value that just a 10-minute conversation that can have because they tell you everything if you listen.

Clair:  Yeah, they do tell you everything. You get it right away. I will tell you that -I am now referring to this as the Homer Simpson moment, just meaning like “duh.” We did user interviews at Maker Faire New York and across a bunch of different subjects, not just membership. Specifically, membership though. Our question is “why would you want to become a member?” Obviously, that’s the question. The moment was where we had a lot of users say “oh well I’m already a member, I’ve been a member for years.” I’m like, how have you been a member for years we just launched his program in May. They were confused between the difference of our membership program, which is in our minds a specific digital effort and a subscription the magazine. Now that I explained this – it seems so obvious – that goes back to the echo chamber that you referred to earlier. Our business objectives were so clear and our minds that it never occurred to us that this would be as significant a source of confusion as it was. I think that that was probably the biggest mistake that we made. That wouldn’t apply to all membership publishers, who are only digital, but with us with an established print brand – that was the number one mistake we made this year.

Eric:  I think that does highlight a very critical point about the value of listening and talking to customers. Words are so important. You may be using a word such as “member internally,” but if a community uses it differently, as in “Oh I am a member” – meaning, they were probably talking about I am already an inclusive part of this community. I belong here. That’s how they have packed this word. If you start using this word in some different way, in your marketing, it’s going to cause confusion. That’s true for us all whenever we write copy. Dan Caron was on with us recently and I’ve learned a lot from him. One of the things that’s so simple is when you talk to your customers, listen to the exact words they use because they tell you how they want to be spoken to.

Clair:  That’s exactly right. If we had done that user-testing prior to the launch of the magazine, we almost would have surely changed the wording in the messaging. Not necessarily the offer, but the marketing around it. In our case it also applied to other technical systems like, the backend workflow that does not necessarily again apply to a digital-only experience. That fulfillment of the magazine is done in a fundamentally different way. If I were to go back I would say, we need to invest in really combining the sales funnels – making it a bundle opportunity from the very beginning. That would have delayed our launch by white by quite a bit because there were some technical challenges to doing that. Honestly if I had understood all of this, what I have changed the decision-making? That would be disingenuous to Monday morning Quarterback. That is what I understand now.

Eric:  Yeah, of course. I really appreciate the maker spirit and all of this. You just get started and when the Prototype gets to a point where it’s no longer functioning, you throw it on the floor and you start all over again in a sense – with the lessons you’ve learned. There’s different approaches. You can analyze, plan and design before you do anything for a long time, then get started. That’s a valid approach to. It’s just what is the personality type given what your company is about? It’s not a surprise that it’s the approach that you took. Let’s do it, let’s get the ball rolling and we’ll deal with whatever comes and keep moving.

Clair:  That is how I like to think about it. Partly because I don’t get to think about it and another way. This is the time and the resources that we have. I think that there is something healthy about that if you can perceive it as a learning and you don’t waste your energy on shoulda, woulda coulda and just keep moving.

Eric:  If you go back and listen to the first four episodes of this podcast, the first episode we didn’t even know it’s going to be a podcast, but by chance at the end of it I said hey we’re going to do interviews with other people. We got off the call and we were like wait we’re going to do interviews of other people? The next two or three podcast we were trying out different names. So, when you listen to these old podcasts we use different names in the podcast itself, in the recordings. It basically just formulated itself over time, which I love. Sometimes you can’t imagine things that from the beginning as good as they can be if they just organically happen.

Clair:  That’s exactly right. As long as you commit to those touch point with your customers. if you have time to do some of that before you launch a program than that’s great, it’s not going to hurt you. Really, it’s the commitment to the communication that is the important part, not the sequencing.

Eric:  Given everything that’s happened up to this point, what are your plans and things that you’re looking to accomplish over the next 6 months?

Clair:  For the membership site there are really two an issue dates for 2019. I believe we mentioned both of them. One is moving our content to make that Co so that I can, not necessary change the nature of the content, but that can make these paywall delineations clear. Then start to introduce content that is specifically designed to be a part of a membership experience, like, our own podcast, for example and more video – which is a form that is really working for us. We have been very successful historically in our YouTube channel. It has a huge following. It is hard to monetize on YouTube, so where is the right delivery line between providing that and continuing to feed our YouTube subscribers and having some of that as monetized opportunity as well? For example, our Maker Faire presenters. One of the sells at Maker Faire is – you come to Maker Faire and we have absolutely mind-blowing presentations. Speaker content at Maker Faire is so rich and so diverse, but if you’re there as an attendee, getting to all the stages for all the speakers is impossible. We are now videotaping them and offering them online as a Maker Faire and to say, “if you missed something that you really wanted to hear, well you can become a member and have access to all of it.” Continuing along those lines is part of our initiative, but really in order to get there, where it is it effective and efficient for us to do that, we have to focus on delivering the content on a single domain which is going to be make.co. The second effort is really bundling in an appropriate way, the print opportunity and the digital opportunity. The biggest draw for our subscribers to our membership offerings is the digital library at Make. You are able to go on and browse the entire library of Make, which is again 13-14 years of issues. That is a very rich digital experience. Right now, you can’t add on a print subscription or you can’t gift a print subscription. We need to fix that.

Eric:  You are saying that the filming at the fair and making that an add-on for attendees, personally I wouldn’t consider myself a full-time maker, but I would be interested in attending a fair digitally, completely. Just buying attendance to the affair, not going physically at all, but being able to watch the videos.

Clair:  That is also available. You could become a member Eric and get that right now!

Eric:  Great! Speaking of which, how does that happen?

Clair:  Right now, we have behind the paywall on make.co. So, you come in and we have three tiers.  Everybody who becomes an authenticated user of any of our properties is given a basic membership. That puts them on a newsletter where I tell them about other opportunities. Also, I have the speakers come in to that. That gives the sense of identity to Make Membership. That’s the basic tier, a free tier. I do think that that’s the right way to approach it. Don’t put the paywall in front of everything. Give people a step-up opportunity. The upsell newsletter has really been effective for us. Then if you can advertise to those basic members things like – Maker Faire this happened would you like to see the video? We have a hands-on tier that gives you digital opportunities. Then our third tier, because again we are a tangible brand, we have the ‘all brand’ experience. We call that the Mastery Level. There we also give discounts against our other properties. This has been effective for us. There are families that plan their year around their attendance to Maker Faire. They know when they’re at Maker Faire New York this year, that they’re going to come back next year. We give them a discount on tickets, for example and I can quantify how much savings that will be for them if I buy a $99 membership and that’s worth $64 in Maker Faire tickets for a family of four. That is an effective sales line.

Eric:  What’s really clear to me is that there is so much opportunity. You are not in a position as a company where you are like go things aren’t going well we need to figure out how to get her head above water. No, the maker movement is growing and you guys are very well positioned. You’re identifying the opportunity, you’re asking the right questions, you have the energy and enthusiasm to do something about it. You are working through the challenges and all that. It’s going to be really cool to see where you guys are in a year.

Clair:  We think so too. Although, I have identified some of our stumble points because I think that’s why you invite speakers to come on and help other people learn. I do feel very enthusiastic about where we are landing at the end of this year. I feel like our learnings were positive. It helped make actionable decision for our strategy for next year. My experience of being in front of the customer, it really, being the salesperson and pitching our membership program was enormously positive.

Eric:  Speaking of Lessons Learned and how that can help others, you’ve already shared a number of them already, but as a final one – is there something you can share with somebody starting a membership or approaching a business that you could offer from your standpoint?

Clair:  I think the most important thing that you have to do when you’re starting is be able to articulate the benefits of membership from the point of view of your customer. Not from the point of view of the company. You know what the benefits are. It’s Revenue. That’s awesome for you. If you are asking people to spend their time and energy to a pay attention to you and be without their credit card and give you money for it then you have to be able to articulate the benefits from their point of view. That is not as easy as you think it’s going to be.

Eric:  I completely agree with that and there’s a lot of special sauce that goes into that. Ultimately, when you get that right it’s because there’s a pure harmony in between you and your understanding of your audience. Which is ultimately, and my estimation, what having any sort of offering is about. You are putting yourself in a position of offering something. Somebody’s in the position of receiving it. The best things happen when both are getting what they need out of the relationship.

Clair:  That’s absolutely right, which is why I would recommend my second most important learning. you may not agree with this Eric, but I am a big fan of the freemium tier. Where you have a correctly articulated level of commitment to what you are going to provide for free so that you are not over-spending on customer acquisition. That you have a channel into your membership program that is an extremely, has an extremely low bar. So, that you have a communication Channel with both you to them and them to you. In our welcome email we put a link to a survey, a monkey link that we have going all the time basically so that we are constantly getting feedback from new members. Have they heard about us? What was the number one benefit to them? I forget all the other questions it’s like only three or four questions. If you don’t create a very wide onboarding pad t you don’t get that kind of feedback.

Eric:  A hundred percent agree with you on the freemium model. Other guests that we’ve had on that show have mirrored the importance of that as well. Starting with offering value. Don’t expect someone coming to your door to have to do all the work to make the sale. Give them something. Show them that you are in it and committed. Show them that you have something that would be valuable to them. Take the rest because it does cost us something to offer something for free. But like you said, you have to balance it. You have to balance how much are you giving away and how much are you not. I think leaning towards giving away more because often times I think people can react to giving away things for free and get scared of it. Like, “oh well that’s all my stuff, then what am I going to charge people for?” Ultimately, that gets into mindset challenges.

Clair:  And, you do have to do the math. That supports that conversation on the articulation of benefits. What does it really cost me to give this away for free? You may not understand that completely when you first start the exercise. You need to be able to do that math in order to make these decisions. That’s work, but it’s going to pay off in the long run.

Eric:  I really appreciate you taking the time to come on with us Clair and share your experience. Being very open with us about the process, things that have worked and things that didn’t. It’s been super helpful. As a final thing, do you have any resources or links that you want to share If people want to learn more about Maker Media?

Clair:  The bulk of our content is on make seen. I’m always interested in feedback on the content itself. I membership program is launched right now and make.co. Any of your customers who are listening to me and have feedback, memberships are at makermedia.com. Drop me a line and let me know what you think. If I met Eric, it would be great if we could offer downloadable membership cards in our email. That would be our number one technology ask.

Eric:  Downloadable membership cards? What would that look like?

Clair:  In your email it would say welcome member here is your membership card with your membership number on it, which is your membership account, those are generated. For a brand like that’s where we have physical touch points, if people can show those at the gate, that would be great for us.

Eric:  I think we have that already.

Clair:  Great! Then you can teach me how.

Eric:  Unless I’m hearing you incorrectly. You can use Smart Tags in the welcome email. They’re basically variables that you can insert into the welcome email. For example, in that situation you would use the Member_Data Smart Tags that input their member ID. Then you would use the Member_Data Smart Tag that would put in their first name and last name, and whatever else you wanted to do. Of course, that would be surrounded by some design element – that has nothing to do with MemberMouse, that makes it look like a card etc. But, as far as the data that you need to make it dynamic for the person, that’s available using the Smart Tags.

Clair:  That’s awesome. My team will be thrilled to know that I’m going to create a new product ticket after this call.

Eric:  They should just go to support.membermouse.com and type in member data into the search field and they will get exactly what they need and instructions on how to do that. Moral of the story, ask and you shall receive. Thankfully, I could help you out with that in the short-term.

Clair:  This is one of the reasons that we went with MemberMouse is having the access to the knowledge base is not a feature of all of your competitors and it has been very useful to us.

Eric:  Speaking of freemium we do put a lot of effort into that and we do it with a similar intention that you do it – we want people to be successful. This is the kind of thing that it takes in order for that to happen. I appreciate you mentioning it and I’m glad that you find it useful. Again, Clair thank you so much for your time talking to us. I appreciate it.

Clair:  Thank you Eric and all your team.

OUTRO: 

Thank you all so much for listening to today’s episode and a BIG thank you to Clair for coming on and sharing her story. If you’d like to learn more about what Make.co is up to, head over to their website: make.co — the home of their digital content and membership. You can also check them out on Youtube.com/makemagazine.

For the complete show notes and a transcript of today’s episode please visit SubscriptionEntrepreneur.com/111. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher for more interviews with successful entrepreneurs.

Speaking of which, be sure to stay tuned for our next episode. We’ve got a special edition in store for you where we highlight the best of our last 10 episodes. See you all next time on the Subscription Entrepreneur Podcast.

 

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About Matt Brown

Matt is an enthusiastic Marketing Associate at MemberMouse. Originally from Chicago, Matt now resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and cat. He loves reading, writing and getting outdoors.