The right way to market a membership site

Imagine for a moment that you went into a hardware store in search of a new hammer and some picture hangers. You’re looking to spruce up your walls and just need a couple of things, but you’re also thinking about picking up some paint chips — maybe repaint the bedroom — and who knows what else you might find out about while you’re in there?

So you go into the store, are greeted warmly by the person at the front desk. You find the picture hangers and grab a couple of different sizes, and then you go to the paint aisle for those chips.

no-entryThe aisle is blocked by bright yellow tape and a notice: “Members Only. Do Not Enter.”

Stunned, you ask a blue-coated associate, “What the heck is going on?”

He answers cheerfully, “Oh! We have a membership plan now. Some of our low-cost items are available to anyone, but if you want a higher-end product, you’ll have to join our membership program. It’s only $99 a year. Shall I sign you up?” He grabs a clipboard and pen, looking at you expectantly.

You’d head for the door — after pushing the picture hangers into his hand — right?

Of course you would.

Now imagine this.

Recently someone on Facebook posted about an interview they just did with a person I have heard about. I was interested. I clicked through to the site. There’s the video. I clicked on it and it started to play.

45 seconds in, the video stopped and displayed a notice saying that you must sign up as a paid member in order to see the rest of the interview.


How can anyone think that this is a reasonable way to get members to sign up?

Here’s a better way.

I subscribe to a newsletter from a company called Mind Tools (not an affiliate link). They have a paid membership program, but they also send out weekly marketing emails with a twist I haven’t seen anywhere else.

mindtoolsThey show color-coded links to recent posts.

The first section, “Featured Resources at MindTools,” has linked titles in orange. These are free, and the first article is included in its entirety in the email itself.

The second section, “From the Mind Tools Club,” has linked titles in blue. These are inside the members’ area.

Easy. Elegant. Simple. You know at a glance what’s free and what isn’t. And you get a quick taste of the goodies inside the pay area.

Brilliant marketing. Am I a member of MindTools? You bet.

How can you adapt this idea to your marketing today?