In episode 161 of our podcast, I chat with Evan Medeiros, founder of The Trade Risk. Evan runs a membership site that grew from an interest of his blog readers. He also sells downloadable products. As a back-end developer, he is a true do-it-yourselfer.
Creating and Running a Membership Site
Evan gets into his decision to start a membership site and how he has recently restructured it based on member feedback. We also talk about how content has played an important role in the growth of his site, how he has learned to manage and create content while still finding time for the membership side of the site, and the challenge of maintaining that content level.
The talk moves into his challenges of producing the content and marketing his memberships and products while being in an industry where there are limitations of what he can say— or even imply.
Lastly, I ask Evan to give us his own tips for starting a membership site based on his 5+ years of experience.
The Transition to a Membership Site
I had people start to reach out to me and say, Hey I like what you’re doing. What else do you do? Like, can I get more insights from you? Can I get X, Y, or Z? At that point I said, okay, this is kind of naturally turning into something here. That I think I have value. I have people asking me for something. And that’s really where my membership product came from.
It seemed natural at that point to go down the membership route. And the reason was because of the nature of the business and what I was doing is basically providing technical analysis or information about the stock market, doing pattern recognition. And looking at opportunities in the stock market.
When people reached out, the primary interest was can I get more from you on a day-to-day basis? Can I get more content? Can I get more real time? I don’t want to wait for you to publish a blog post at the end of the day. I want more instant access.
The membership model seemed to be the right fit. I didn’t think twice about it. In 2014 I had no real vision. I didn’t launch the blog to start a membership site or anything. So when someone started to come up and ask, Hey can I pay you for this content? I thought to myself, well, what do I charge them?
Changing your model
As of just this month, I’ve flattened the membership to just a single model. I’ve gotten rid of the tiers and I’ve run a monthly plan and an annual plan. It’s the same plan, but one membership. Part of that decision is that I’m not going to teach you how to trade anymore.
One of the things that I am working on now, when I was thinking about still keeping the two tiers, is the person who wants more. There’s always someone who wants more handholding or wants more access or wants more information. I’m going to do a standalone research report product which is going to be for people who want to know more about how the system was made.
Listening to your members
Getting feedback is important. Have a survey that goes out. I always survey everyone: either myself reaching out or a Google form that goes out shortly after they join, getting them to give me feedback on the features that I’m offering in the membership.
Some of the some of the features I was putting into the membership people didn’t really care about. I thought they cared about it and I was spending a lot of time on these certain things. I started to realize that I could probably kill this off tomorrow and I wouldn’t lose anyone, because nobody really cares about this. It would free up 10 hours a week for me.
Industry limitations and transparency
I’m not a financial advisor. I don’t have any designations, I’m not registered with the state of Washington or anything. You have to be very transparent and clear about that. There’s absolutely some things I’ve learned. The biggest thing? Common sense goes a long, long way here. Just operating with the right intentions goes a long way and people notice it. Don’t try to be slick or clever with your marketing or what your promises are.
I try to be very clear upfront on the signup page, on the footer of my website, basically anytime I’m transacting or selling anything, there are disclaimers out there and clear readable text that says, Hey, this isn’t some get-rich-quick scheme. You’re not going to be on the beach trading and making tons of money. It still requires work. You still need to do the homework.
The do it yourselfer
I’m a computer science grad, so I have some coding chops, although I was never a front-end guy. I was always a back-end systems developer. I’ve always hated the front-end and all the layers of trying to get things talking to one another. It still drives me nuts, but I can hack my way around.
I use Paid Memberships Pro and WooCommerce, I added late last year. Late 2018 is when I started selling individual digital download products, which I use WooCommerce for. Those are the two big ones. In terms of site look and feel, I’ve aligned myself with BeaverBuilder. I’m pretty happy with them. Outside of that, for email business, MailChimp.
Keeping content maintained
Over the past four months, as I was relaunching this membership site and finishing up the trading algorithm that people would be signing up for, I was dying to write content. I had so many ideas and too many things. I was going to some conferences, I was running into people and there were so many great blog posts or videos that I could do. I just didn’t have the time because the priority was getting the development of this new product in place.
I’m trying to support and run a business and support members, develop the products, maintain the website, all of that fun stuff. I try to schedule my time carefully to be able to leave room for fresh content coming out.
I do a lot of video now instead of blogging because I’m quicker with it. I can jump on and record something. The equivalent blog posts would probably take me three to four times as long in terms to produce. But for any of the big stuff, I always try to transcribe it and always hit blog posts and video because different people are searching in those different engines. It’s about carving out the time to generate your content and not spreading yourself too thin.
A few final thoughts
Some people that have been following me for a long time say, I’ve watched videos for 20, 30, 40 weeks on end. I didn’t even know you sold anything. I didn’t even know you had a product available there. Because I really don’t push the heavy marketing. Part of it’s the industry because I want to be careful and play within my wheelhouse, a financial center, and not make big promises or claims. But it’s also because I’m looking to be in this for the long term. I’m not looking to exchange short-term profits or trying to coerce anyone into buying something. When people are ready, they’ll find me.
Being able to adapt and look at the behavior of your members and your customers and listening to what they actually want is important. The example I gave about the part of my membership that was taking 10 or so hours per week that nobody really cared about, I thought was important. So adapt to your members and what they want.
There’s a lot of content that you need to make for memberships and you also have to think about content that you’re doing that is the top of funnel for everybody. That’s a lot of content. So have a plan to know what’s going in the membership and doing this right. Understand the amount of work and effort that goes into coming up with a real good value prop for people that will keep paying you every month.
Where to find Evan
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