What is a community-led membership?

Communities are a trend these days. Everyone uses the word to represent different things because many feel ‘cool’ talking about ‘community’.

However, serious companies and businesses are following the Community-Led Growth approach to scale their revenue and boost their sales. Let’s talk about it!

A quick intro to the Community-Led approach

Having a community for your business is not new at all. For many years, the community has played a crucial part via in-person events, old school forums, and now moving towards 100% online.

What are the reasons that can motivate membership owners to switch from a content-led strategy to a community-led instead?

Let’s state a few interesting facts to see the complete picture before deciding if community-led is the best approach for you.

The Facts:

  1. The current Ads campaigns used to power demand generation these days keep becoming expensive while the way is less effective in helping you grow.
  2. There is a massive migration from social media, with millions daily abandoning platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, decreasing the value of investing heavily in these platforms to build your business relying on them.
  3. People need to trust your business to build a relationship with you or your brand and generate affinity.
  4. Building a sustainable community takes time; perceiving the ROI can take a long time. That’s the main challenge of committing to build a place to be maintained in the long run to provide a place where you and your customers can receive unique benefits.

What does it mean to be Community-Led?

Having a membership business guided using the Community-Led approach is way more than having a community for your membership.

The idea is that you are putting your community as the heart of your business and learning from that community how your membership should move forward.

When a community-led membership is well managed, it becomes a source of knowledge, content ideas, feedback, and an endless source of revenue.

What is the typical type of community that a membership business should have?

Based on my experience, I can undoubtedly say that communities of practice have been powering memberships for a long time.

Let’s outline what these types of communities involve and the goals, benefits and outcomes expected from members who joined them.

Community of practice – Definition
Communities that revolve around a shared profession, skill, or space are usually broader than just a single product. These communities can contain a community of products within them. (We will learn about the community of the product later on)

Member goals: Become better or more knowledgeable on a subject, support others as they learn/grow

Business Goals (your business!): Drive thought leadership, find ideal customers, increase affinity

Good examples of communities of practice

I have listed eight fantastic examples of communities of practice where a membership is required to join them. Most of them share a skill or one specific outcome expected that drives the interaction between members.

SPI Pro by Patt Flynn
Inside SPI Pro, entrepreneurs like you come together to meet and support one another, get answers to burning questions, learn from experts, participate in growth challenges, and more.

💡If you want to learn more click here

GrowthHackers Community
GrowthHackers Community was founded by Sean Ellis, who coined the term “hacking growth”, and is a gathering point for growth, marketing, product, and experimentation professionals who test out-of-the-box ideas to grow their businesses in a startup or SMB environment. It is a place to learn with other community members and exchange experiences.

Brand Affinity Marketing Community by Wistia
Brand affinity is the ideal place for anyone interested in learning or improving Brand Affinity Marketing and expanding their core skills using video marketing as one of the tools to achieve significant results.

Adleaks: Digital Marketing Community
They offer courses, training, deals and a network of thousands of members to engage, learn, ask and improve your digital marketing skills.

Lemlist Family for Email Outreach and Growth Marketing
My favourite from this list is that they leverage a fantastic community powered by courses, discussions, live events and fully engaged members looking to scale their online businesses.

Content is essential in this community since most people joining are looking for tips, best practices and more to speed up their outreach outcome.

My kudos to Lemlist!

The Copy Club
Copy Club is a community for marketers who want to help each other do great things. With daily chat on Slack and regular online and IRL events, your only regret will be not finding us sooner.

Mobile Heroes by Liftoff
Mobile Heroes initially began as a peer-driven platform to help educate marketers on best practices in in-app marketing. Mobile Heroes has since grown into a global community of over 3600 app marketers, monetization experts, and game developers across the ecosystem, connecting, learning and sharing their knowledge to advance the mobile marketing industry.

No Code Founders
No Code Founders is a no-code community of founders, freelancers, agencies, marketers, product people, intrapreneurs, developers, makers and no-code enthusiasts who use no-code tools to build their businesses or projects.

HR SuperStars
Join the movement to equip and elevate strategic HR leaders
Get timely resources, connect with peers and experts, and continue growing to create an impact at your organization.

The trap of content-led memberships: The content hamster wheel

The main challenge of content-led membership is that it becomes a burden for the individual or team leading the charge after some time. Since a promise of new fresh content every month has been part of the value proposition of the membership, members eagerly wait every month for something new or exciting.

There is tied deadliness and, many times, not enough resources to keep delivering fresh content every week that will ‘justify’ the monthly recurring payment members are doing and keep your business alive.

A content-led strategy is a non-sustainable way to run a membership these days unless you have a seven or more figures membership and a full-time team supporting you.

Now. let’s explore the new way of running a membership while keeping content as one of the core elements of the value for members.

What is a community-led membership strategy?

Essentially, it is a holistic approach towards how you run your business.

The focus of every decision is based on your customers’ or members’ feedback, and you’ll rely on their input to shape the direction of your business, your content, your planning and your overall strategy aiming to serve them in the best way, delivering a unique experience.

Members feel heard when membership is community-led. They can tell their needs are being covered (Based on your unique value proposition), and things are set with the right expectations.

What are the benefits of a community-led strategy for your membership?

1.- Directory Access and Networking Opportunities 📖

A directory of members with similar interests and objectives provides fantastic opportunities for individuals to network, build relationships, and learn from one another. The closer members feel to each other, and the more valuable the community becomes to everyone involved.

Members can connect and learn from one another through a range of interactions: professional opportunities, mentoring, partnerships and collaborations, or perhaps reconnecting with old friends and associates.

2.- Industry-Specific Events, Discounts and Offers 📅

Another great advantage of participating in a community (and hinted at in other areas of this post) is exclusive access and opportunities to its members. You provide a clear and tangible benefit when you offer your members something they can’t get elsewhere. Best of all, they’ll feel part of something special and be anxious to share with others, creating buzz again.

Think about things like hosting events involving top influencers in your community. Perhaps you may partner with fellow businesses offering member discounts on products and services. The key is demonstrating that your community offers relevant advantages to its stakeholders that are available nowhere else.

3.- Boost your Word-of-Mouth Marketing 🤑

If your members are having fun and improving themselves by being part of your community, they will start spreading the word without you even asking for it.

They will become your advocates, and whoever they feel a good fit with will share your membership. It also generates a possibility to deploy advocates or affiliate programs where your members can be rewarded in many ways whenever they bring someone new in.

4.- Unique Insights to improve your content strategy 🤯

I know! We just mentioned the trap of the content-led membership, and now you tell me I can improve my strategy by learning from my members. Exactly!

Even though a community-led membership does not have as its primary focus the content as the one leading the discussions and the conversations, it is essential to have open conversations on the matters that your members are interested in and the primary motivation that pushed them to join your membership.

Listening to your members will be critical to determine how to open new topics every week for everyone to discuss. You can also learn from comments and the degree of engagement what topics matter to your members; consequently, you’ll be able to bring the right resources for them to the table. (Resources usually can be delivered via Live Events, MasterClasses, or any format that can be reused later to curate the best and keep distributing content to your community).

Content will be required as one of the many components of your community-led membership. Just reinforcing this: Content is not the primary focus but the connection between members and the possibility for them to build relationships as part of your membership benefits.

5.- Members can build relationships and communicate with each other without you being involved in the process 🤝

A big one! Your community-led membership can have immense activity happening without your intervention.

Members can chat with each other, meet, connect and help each other while you are sleeping or walking your dog! How cool is that?

Members get value from each other. If your users enjoy lively discussions or appreciate that others have similar tastes, they may feel inspired to continue as part of your community for a longer time.

6.- Member data and Member Trends 📊

Bringing your members together in one online community adds fuel to your programs or courses. That’s because an online member community provides a wealth of data at your fingertips.

Every conversation, activity, like, search, and login can tell you valuable information about what programming resonates with them and what additional resources or information they want to see. While Facebook or LinkedIn might seem like a good place for your community, you’ll miss out on all the behind-the-scenes information that makes the community a strategy that can achieve your membership, retention, and revenue goals.

The more community conversations, the more insight you have into trends and the issues their entire member base faces, so your members’ needs can truly drive your work. Even smaller communities thrive – they have more conversations per active user than larger communities. You get to listen to tons of conversations, observe the topics that interest them, hear their concerns and feedback, and act on that data.

7.- Identify SuperUsers or Advocate Volunteers 💕

SuperUsers are your heroes. They will advocate for you, reply to other members’ posts and answer any questions before everyone else.

Social Media Channels do not always allow you to identify who your SuperUsers are, but having your people together in a single place, can make things brighter for you and encourage participation.

Most of the time, there are simple ways to reward your advocates or SuperUsers, such as an exclusive channel with access to you, swag, a special badge in the members’ directory and so on.

They love recognition and the sense that they are linked deeply with you as their leader, coach, or mentor.  

8.- Sustainability and Growth 🌱

Communities offer a unique opportunity to be one 1-click away from every one of your customers/members. The opportunities that direct contact can give you in the sense of coaching, 1-1 sessions, new program ideas and upsells are endless.

And the best part, everything will be validated beforehand by your members.

Such a relief for you as a membership owner!

What’s next for you as a membership owner or one planning to launch a membership soon?

Firstly, subscribe to our Strivers Newsletter to stay in the loop of the latest trends on the community-led membership strategy.

Second, go back to your pillow and think of the possibilities that having a well-guided community can open for your personal development and your business.

Have you got questions or ideas? Use the comments and let me know! If you need help launching a community-led membership, book some time with me HERE.

Francisco Opazo
Francisco Opazo

Husband, Father, Growth Marketer, Community Architect and WordPress Creator. DEIB Advocate.

CMX Communiteer and part of the Leadership team for the CMX London Chapter.

Founder @ Led by Community

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