Monday, May 12, 2008

Copywriting for Membership Sites

These are notes I've taken for the webinar from Jim Edwards with Michel Fortin on Copywriting for Membership Sites.

• Direct response: when you’re asking people to do something, e.g. subscribe to membership site, buy something, click something, or even read more.

• All great copywriters are great story tellers.
o What causes you to read the copy
o What causes you to stay on the copy
o What causes you to take action

Writing for a membership site is still similar to other copywriting
The difference is in the value proposition. When you buy an info product, you get a tangible thing. With a membership site, there is lack of tangibility. Selling an intangible can be easier because you have more leverage in how you can position your copy, but you need to make the intangible tangible.
There is also the perpetuity of it, in that the person could be paying forever. There are membership sites that are one-time fee, but most membership sites are recurring payments. So you have to build really strong prepositions why someone should become a member and should stay as a member. Why they should join, and why they should stay.

Types of products: 1) Physical information product, 2) the client-based digital product (you can up-sell by giving them a CD in the mail, for if the soft copy was lost or destroyed), 3) server-based digital product e.g. a membership site (user doesn't download the information, user accesses the information, so what happens if the servers aren’t working or if the company closes. The concern is what if the membership site closes, the user is concerned that they will no longer have access to this information that they paid for.)

Writing for a membership site, it’s more important to build 1) value proposition and 2) proof

• The 3 biggest benefits of joining a membership site
o Fresh content
o More content
o Instant access

• If someone is writing a book, they need to make it too general so that the information is still applicable 5 years from now. If they write it too specific, they might not be able to sell anymore of it after a while.
• With a membership site, you can be specific because the information is constantly being updated. Bring that up in your sales letter.

• 3 Smaller benefits
o The information can be user-centric. The user is given a way to select to absorb the information in whatever order they want.
o Interactive: some membership sites test you, or give you software, video, forum
I use a blogging software to deliver content, because that allows me to get specific feedback on that piece alone.

• The way you communicate these benefits depends on what type of membership site you have. For example: a product about making money vs. a product about how to grow bigger tomatoes.
• If you’re in a not so competitive market, you can get away with just telling a story and having bullets, etc. but if you’re in a competitive market, have a competitive analysis comparing you to the competition.

• Multimedia in copy: the more you engage the senses and the more senses you engage, you get higher comprehension and retention, and even higher credibility, and of course more sales.
• Attention: some people use multimedia at the beginning of their sales letters to get people to get their attention and get them started reading the sales letter. You can end the multimedia with a call to action.
• Interest: you can use the multimedia to pique their interest e.g. by having a video site tour.
• Desire: you can use videos for testimonials, or a guarantee, or actually showing them the product.
• Action: you can use video to get them to take action.

With a physical product, you can get a picture of your product to increase the level of proof or credibility. With a server-based product, take screen shots.

• Sample:
• Once you hit Enroll Now, it takes you to another page, and has an auto-play voice message. The video reduced my shopping cart abandonment.

• Why are you doing a yearly membership?
• This is a personal preference of mine because there are months that I upload 3 critiques all at once, and other months where I don’t upload anything at all.

• How can you prove the results from a membership site, and/or what kind of proof elements would you use (taking into consideration that people have to pay perpetually, in some cases)?
• Competitive analyses, adding multimedia, those help a lot.
• Tools, trials, and testimonials. These will increase joining.

• Testimonials: I use case studies. Get information about people before they joined, and hopefully they will give you feedback after they joined. Use this before and after as an instant measurement process. They can see the difference that was created by becoming a member of your membership site.

• How to get those case studies:
1) You can ask people for feedback through a form.
2) Have a contest: who has the best case study of implementing this particular part of the membership site. Use their case study as feedback.
3) To pay them outright. Ask them for their results, and use those results as testimonials. Don't pay for testimonials or they become paid testimonials. Pay for their results and use those as testimonials.

• Trials: give them full or partial access to the site for a limited time. Guarantees are very important. You can let people go at it and download everything including the bonuses, and if they’re not happy, you can refund them.

• Tools: you can have web-based tools or standalone software that can lock itself after that many trials. There’s also software that you get while a subscriber, but if you stop being a subscriber, the software stops working, or software gives them half the results but asks them to subscribe to the site to get the rest of the information.

• Credentialization:
• As a publisher, explain the effort you went through to gather the information, check them, update them, etc. The value is the convenience they get by finding all the information in one place. The value could be based on the hours it took you or your staff to find and collect that information.

• You can use premiums and bonuses, which work well, because of the perceived value of having a separate item. e.g. a 22-chapter book with the first 2 chapter on introductory information could be divided to chapters 1-2 as an intro bonus + the 20-chapter book.
• On your membership site, you would add a section that says: immediate bonuses. “First time here, click here” and these are bonuses, they can be sold as bonuses.

• 3 types of bonuses:
o Time-sensitive bonuses
o Quantity-sensitive bonus: 50 new memberships only every month, etc.
o Bonuses in the offer: if you can get third-party bonuses because they sound more like a bonus than you having your own bonus. Also you can manipulate the quantity available that way without sounding like you're marketing.
o You can say: I can only guarantee this membership with this particular offer at this particular price until this particular date, and then you can extend the date. But if you say: this price is available only until this date, then you’re screwed when that date comes around if you extend it because people know you're lying.

• What about a free or low-cost introductory month or two?
• Test, because it depends on the type of market and the type of content that you have.

• Your sales letter is a pull, but once they become a member, you have to push them into the site.

Member retention:
• Give them a quick-start guide.
• Do contests or surveys or polls that force people to go into the content.
• Have a stick or thank you letter after they sign-in. Send them emails that contain their user id and password to make it easy for them to log in.
• Put them on autoresponder letters and discuss material from the membership site with links and user id and password. This is useful for those who are inactive, because it encourages them to re-join.
• You can also bring user comments form the membership site into the emails, to encourage the readers to re-visit the site and use it.

Tips on hiring a copywriter to write your sales letter for you
• Get them to join your site to see it from the eyes of your members.
• Give the copywriter a live tour of your site through a webinar.
• Do some work to gather testimonials and success stories.
• Even have the copywriter interview and ask questions from your membership. Maybe if you have a contest to gather feedback and results, the copywriter could pick the ball and run with it and maybe get in touch with some of these people.

• Look at their previous examples.
• The really cheap copywriters often copy/paste.
• You can 1) have a high-pay copywriter write it from scratch, or 2) low-pay copywriter write it and critiqued by high-paid copywriter. board put up by Fortin a while back.
o You can post your requirements and have copywriters bid on your job
o You can go to the critique section where copywriters critique sales letter, and watch for the ones who know what they're talking about.

Recommendations for beginning copywriters:
• Breakthrough advertising by Eugene Schwartz. On Amazon it’s $200-300, but you can also get it from or
• Influence: the psychology of persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini. He has a CD set that hit the highlights of this book.
• Robert Collier Letter Book
• Stephen King on Writing.
• Harry Beckwith: Selling the Invisible. Good book because it's about selling the experience, and that’s what a membership site is.

• If you write a long letter that’s interesting and makes people want to continue to read, it’s not long. A letter is long when it starts to bore people.

Order of writing the sales letter:
• QUEST: Qualify, Understand, Educate, Stimulate, Transition
• I write the bullets first, and I write the headline early as well, but I always re-write the headline last because I get new ideas. The headline’s only purpose is to get people to start reading.
• People tend to get wordy and excessive with their headlines because they want to cover all the points, but that’s not the point. Others will try to summarize their entire sales letter like the title of a book, and again that’s wrong.

• Sell the core training as a product and include the membership site with it?
• Reward your members in ways that they won't get if they bought a similar book from the bookstore. With a membership site, if you have a specific situation, you can ask others, whereas a book this isn't an option. So the ability to have access to other people in the know is important.
• So the rewards, access to others like them, and because they’re paying they’re more inclined to put the information into action, and the people in there are serious as well unlike the knuckle heads that are just trolling the boards and are trying to waste everybody’s time.

• Samples of these membership sites sales letters: Agora publishing does a lot of financial and alternative health membership websites.

• My site
• WordPress – CMS
• aMember - membership script
• PayPal and 2Checkout.

• How about larger fee for first month, and then lower it?
• I’m going to be testing that.
• There’s something else that I’m testing. The whole sales letter pitches one thing: a 1-year membership site for $497. When they get to the order form, they’re offered 2 options: a discounted membership $200 off for $297 for 6-months only, which was the winner. I'm now testing a life-time membership for $997.

• %: The copywriter takes a percentage of the increase in earnings, until they reach the cost? Yes, this isn’t new. But online it’s trickier, because I have no way of knowing how you drive the traffic, where traffic is coming from, if you’re going to do your part of the whole game. So when you hire someone for the first time, it’s less likely that they’ll give you a royalty arrangement, and if they do, run, because that tells me that the copywriter isn’t competent.

• For split testing, Split Test Gold by Marty Foley from Convert More does A/B split testing, and for the more complicated stuff: Google Website Optimizer or Kaizen Tracks

• When starting a membership site, like software, you need to beta test. So offer free memberships in exchange for people giving you feedback. Find those beta testers on the forums, etc.

• do you have all your content right there when they subscribe or do you give it to them month 1, month 2, etc.?
• I have everything there, and it’s for the reason that I may not add content every month. Maybe they can access the last 6 months, and they need to pay more if they want to access archives. But that depends on the type of membership site, the type of content you have, how often do you update it, and what kind of market you have. If your market has a tendency for people ripping off the content, then I would give them month after month. Having an annual membership takes the pressure off of you and them to evaluate whether they should stay a member or not.

• Is having a forum a good selling point to mention in your copy?
• If you offer your book product as a membership site, having a forum will make you more prone to the herd mentality: this information is no good, etc. So have no discussion forum, or have 1-way discussion where they can only comment of content you posted. But if you have good value, good content, with constant updates, a discussion is a very powerful tool. Whenever you post content, there will be discussion because of this new content that you posted.

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