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Subscription Websites and How to Make Money From Them

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Here’s a video of Anne Holland of Subscription Site Insider as she shares to the Fred Info Bootcamp attendees about Online Conversion Strategies: Awesome Paywall Pages.

A transcript of this video is available below.

Transcript follows:
Anne: …great.

Fred: Good, hey, thanks for customizing–thanks for customizing my affiliate link on that.

Anne: No problem.

Fred: Let me first–good, let me first introduce you to who’s here and then I’ve got a couple of–after you do your thing, I’ve got a couple questions. So let me just quickly tell you who’s in the room and then you can do your deal.

Anne: Great.

Fred: We have–I’ve got six people sitting around the table. This is my high-end event, the Fred Info Bootcamp, in which I have Urmil Patel. Urmil is an Internet marketing specialist from the U.K. I’ve Fez Versee, Urmil, and Fez Versee is from Botswana, and he’s a camping expert, and he is going to be starting a TV show in Botswana. I then have…

Anne: Great.

Fred: Yeah, I then have a guy named Branch Whitney. He owns a premier hiking site and is the premier hiking expert in Southern Nevada. He owns

Anne: Okay.

Fred: Which if you’re not aware, there are–there’s great hiking within an hour of the strip here that he can tell you all about. I then have next to Branch, Bob Cesca, and just to show you how diverse our group is, Bob for many years, over 30 years has been a master plumber. He is going to be showing you how to do your own plumbing repairs with videos that he’s going to be producing.

Anne: Okay.

Bob: Hi, Anne.

Fred: And yeah, next to him we’ve got a couple, Mindy and Kevin Dawson, who are starting a site called, because they’ve got two kids that have Asperger’s, and they’re going to show that community some things and become, you know, be the gateway to show them all the different, latest information to help them survive as parents, so it’s geared to the parents of Asperger–kids with Asperger.

Anne: Mm hmm.

Fred: So, there you have it.

Anne: Oh, that’s great. I’m sorry; I forgot what Urmil’s company is doing.

Fred: Urmil is doing Internet marketing.

Anne: Okay. Great, well, great to meet all of you guys. You sound like a great group and you all sound you’ve got good niches to be in or certainly have friends or as I achieve studies and involve these niches, so that’s nice.

Today I’m going to talk about–my presentation, it’ll be probably about 20 minutes, but it’s–25 minutes, it’s very focused specifically on paywall. After that we can talk about things that are a little more…

Fred: Memberships and…

Anne: …baseline in terms of, you know, how would you decide whether or not you should do a membership site or a constant continuity site or whether you should do something for free. For example, I’m sure Bob Cesca is aware of

Bob: Mm hmm, I am.

Fred: He is.

Anne: Had started out as a free site, eBook sales, and then became an AdWords site, and then he actually went over and tried the subscription site for about 6 months and then went back to being mainly AdWords. So there’s all sorts of interesting things there to talk about. In terms of HikingLasVegas, I can’t tell you I’ve done a study on Las Vegas,, and there I know the main thing people wanted to know was should it be mobile-ready or not–that site, and in fact, they did tests and found that anybody that was interested in Las Vegas, in general, greatly preferred a mobile site as opposed to a full website. So a mobile layout works better for that marketplace.

Camping sites and travel sites are becoming very popular, in fact, the full-time editor of our Subscription Site Insider product, I’m actually the publisher, the editor, Kathy McCabe, is actually traveling right now. She’s giving a speech in Washington D.C. at a publisher’s convention this morning. But she also is the publisher as a hobby of a travel site called, which is a subscription site, a membership site for people who want to learn where to travel in Italy, so we give some background there.

And for Internet Marketing, I guess Urmil probably knows a lot of good people in that, and we have a lot of content around that, mostly around how do you make money with that kind of specialty content. So it’s a nice group and certainly a good group for this topic, and of course, my specialty topic would be subscription websites and how to make money with them and how to decide whether or not you should be a subscription website or not.

In particular, for this presentation, I’m going to be talking about paywall pages. Now the paywall page is the page on a website if you’ve already decided it’s going to be paid. In other words, they can’t get in unless they pay some money. What does the paywall page look like so that you make as much money as possible, and people don’t come and they go, “Oh, it’s not free?” And they just leave. As you know, most people will look at it and go, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want it. I don’t want to pay for that.” How do you get them to pay for content?

So I’m going to show you some steps that are test results from real-live publishers who do have paywall pages and what they’ve learned from it and then we can talk more about the basics after that. And that’s it.

Fred: Perfect.

Anne: Okay. First of all, there is a real bias to this, which is nice to know. By the way, Urmil, just so you know, and probably the rest of you as well, there’s a lot of instructional material out there about how to start a paywall site specifically in the Internet marketing niche. And a lot of the Internet marketing gurus now talk about how to start a membership site. I want you to bear in mind that a lot of the Internet marketing gurus, unless they have published a paywall say in a different marketplace or separately, often the advice they give you may not be right for other markets and they don’t know that because what they know is what works for them. So you can make millions of dollars, you know, selling information on Internet marketing and they just make the assumption that those marketing tactics and those paywall tactics will work for every niche. They will not work necessarily.

So, the rest of you don’t say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to follow these Internet marketing gurus and do everything they say about membership sites.” It may not be the case. You’ve got to take it with a grain of salt and you’ve got to test it, and then you’ve got to look for other best practices.

So what we do at my company, Subscription Site Insider is we look for what are the best practices across many, many niches. We cover every niche there is practically and say, “Okay, what is the science here?” What does tend to work–and let me show you today.

All right, so these are the top 5 rules for paywall from our research that we’ve conducted. First of all, when you have a paywall page, you need to remove the clutter. This is incredibly difficult, especially for a content entrepreneur and someone who’s very, very proud of their content. The only thing you’re going to be so proud of–all of the amazing content that you put on your site, I’ve got videos on this, I’ve got articles on that. I’ve got tips on the other things, but you want to put a little bit of that on the homepage. So you want to put, like, a million different things on the homepage hoping that somebody will see something there that appeals to them so they’ll continue to click through.

Also, a lot of the membership sites templates, if you’re using a company such as MemberGate or Subhub or some of the other companies that they’ll kind of give you a membership site in a can. Often their homepage template will have, the content management system will have a bunch of areas for you with a bunch of different information on it, so it will tempt you to put a bunch of different information on your site.

What we have learned is that it doesn’t always work for everybody. It works for some people. If you go to the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, you’ll see a whole bunch of different pieces of content on there. On my site, it is currently working for me and we are testing other methods as well, but you won’t see my site homepage change dramatically over the month.

For this site, this is eNanny Source, people signed up, parents signed up to try to search in the database for a nanny, a professional nanny, who is listed there. They found that the page–they tried two different pages and if you see one on the left has got all sorts of little bullet points and lots of useful information and it’s like, “Wow! Look at all this stuff.” And the other one is much, much more simple. It’s just like, “Here, search for the nanny.” And they try to get you immediately involved, much less stuff.

The page with much less stuff got a 40% lift. What that means is out of every 100 parents that came, 40% more were likely to sign up. So this is 40% more signups with the exactly same traffic. They didn’t have to go out and get more traffic. They made more money with their existing traffic and that’s what optimizing your paywall is all about. You know, you spend so much money and time trying to get a lot of traffic, but what really matters is can you convert that traffic when it comes?

One of the nice things to bear in mind here is that they use Google website optimizer to run this test. Google website optimizer is a free tool. I’m not total geek so I don’t find it incredibly easy to use, but there’s a lot of video tutorials on the Web that are free. They’re actually from Google. There’s a lot of help on the Web that’s free from Google about how to use it. You can do this yourself or you can hire a consultant who specializes in this. We’ve actually got a whole list of those people. And they can run these tests. And again, you can make more money with your current traffic.

We don’t really invest in a lot of traffic driving unless you know that you can convert it. Here’s another page. What a lot of membership sites do is they have a paywall page for each piece of content. So let’s say you had 15 different videos on plumbing, for example, each one might be a different kind of plumbing problem. You’d probably end up with a site where you had a paywall page for each one of those things. Oh, if you want to learn how to do this, you know, come on in. If you want to learn how to do that, come on in.

It’s the same thing as a newspaper paywall page where you may click on a particular headline and it comes to the headline page and it shows you a little summary of the story or the beginning of the story and it says, “Oh, if you want to keep on reading, you’re going to have to be a member. You’re going to have to pay.” Well, those individual paywall pages are what this place, Write Work, with trying to optimize, trying to get more conversions from.

In this case, they had a particular page just for the lectures, notes, and thoughts on the movie, Frankenstein. They also had a paywall page for a billion other things, but they had, like, you know, 10,000 of these different pages for each piece of content in their site.

Now if you’re using a WordPress backend, let’s say you’ve got a WordPress site and you decide to stick a paywall on it, you can do this so that each different page of content in WordPress has its own, unique paywall page. That is something–it’s a pretty, easy, basic thing to do and most of the WordPress plug-ins will help you do that. So this is something you can do as an entrepreneur can do.

The key that they wanted to test here was should they just have the headline and the information about the story along with, “Hey, you know, you’ve got to sign in to do the rest of this.” Or, should they have a little sales information at the top of the page, as you see up here, that then describes the place as a whole. So over here the focus is on just a piece of content the person was trying to get to. Over here, they still have that, but they have a header saying, “Hey, by the way, this is what this site is all about.” And they wanted to see which would get better conversions.

And what they learned here was they got–it’s amazing, 142.7% lift in clicks, so the call-to-action clicks, in other words, people who clicked on a button that got them further into the site. And it was about a 50% lift in sales. That’s a huge difference. Think about it, to get, you know, this got 50% more sales than this. I mean and they’re both–they both look like pretty good pages, you know, and they don’t look bad. So having that headline at the top, having that, “Hey, this is what this is all about.” made a difference further on as this person went through the sales process.

Now here’s something that a lot of sites do. What–they’ll have a paywall page and on the paywall page they’ll have this big box saying, “Members, sign in here.” You’ve probably been to websites where they had that big box to sign in versus some sites just have a little, tiny link, usually it’s actually located right up at the very top of the page, like, “Hello.” A tiny, little thing and the rest of the page is just all about why you should buy.

Now a lot of site owners debate this. They say, “Well, you know, my members need to know how to sign in. They’re the people who paid for it. I’ve got to be nice to them. I’ve got to give them the easiest possible usability to get them in there, you know, or they’re not going to keep on paying. They’re not going to be happy.” Well, I’ve got to tell you that the data shows that you should have a tiny, little member sign in box. This is actually the homepage of Netflix.

Netflix has multi-varied and AV tested the living daylights out of their homepage. To see this homepage, you do have to sign up, but if you’re already a member, Netflix, when you’re signed in, you can sign out and you can go over and look at the regular page that people who are not members would see. And what they’ll notice here is their entire page is dedicated towards converting a newbie. The only thing that you see if you’re not–if you’re a member to sign in is this little tiny thing in the upper right corner. I hit the other test from people like video game sites, all sorts of different sites where they had a big, giant member sign in box, you know, cluttering part of the page. They got rid of it. They moved it to a tiny little link up here, and it increased the selling power of that page exponentially. They made more money because, I think, frankly because newbies weren’t distracted by the member box and you weren’t wasting your real estate. I mean this is called real estate. This is the amount of the rent that you can see above the fold on, like, a typical computer. Not much space, there’s not much space there to sell. So you’ve got to make the most of it and really use it super effectively, and if you’re wasting part of that space with a big, giant, clunky member login box, well, you’re just kind of, you know, you’re wasting your ability to sell. Those are very valuable pixels. You don’t want to waste them.

All right, the next thing. How big can you button be? I have seen countless tests where if the website had a button to act on something, you know, buy this eBook, subscribe now, click to enter, anything where you were trying to get them to take action. If the button was bigger, generally more people took action. It’s the dumbest thing. I mean a lot of people will say, “Oh, you know, what color should my button be? I’ll do all these button color tests.” They’ll do all different tests around that, which always made me laugh. I’m like, really generally it’s not about the color, although usually a tiny, gray button doesn’t do very well.

The wording of the button really matters. You can do button wording tests that show a difference, usually submit and clearly reset or you know, clear form are bad words. So what could you do to make the button more exciting? Maybe it can match the offer in your headline, maybe it can match the offer, extend your offer, you know, start your trial now and went back. But does the value of the button matter? Often a designer will kind of use a routine button. They’ll kind of stick something in that just, you know, okay, this is good enough, and you have to really push your designer and say, “Can we double that size? Can we make it bigger?”

Honest to God, this will make you more money. It’s a dumb, little thing, but make the damn thing bigger. This is actually a test. This is a website. It was targeting teenage girls who were hoping to improve their personal pages on the Internet. I think you see it from My Space page, and this was their original page.

Fred: On the left.

Anne: So this is their offer page. So you can just click here to download. That’s a pretty big button. I mean that’s pretty big and shiny. I mean it’s bigger, I bet you, than most buttons on most sites. I mean I rarely see a button that nice and big, and yet when they tested it with this gargantuan button, it was huge, they found they got these results with the bigger button. Look at that. That bigger button got 135% more people to click and they ended up buying more, so they got 51% higher earnings per click.

Now the wording on the buttons was different. The background color was different. I mean there was a lot of differences, but in general, they have the same image, they had the same offer. It wasn’t, you know, a different price or anything so there was a lot of similarities. They actually did this in 45 different tests. This was the winning page, though. So this was the winning one that did the best. How big can your button be? I would look at my homepage and say, “I’m going to make my button even bigger.”

Lastly, when you’re having an order form, what often happens, and this happens a lot with the WordPress plug-in software too, you’ll have a paywall page. This is an example, actually, of a paywall page from my own site where, you know, it got a, you know, in case someone clicked through and they wanted to learn about this bootcamp, and we had a little summary of it, and we’ve got our little, tiny, you know, tiny member login, not a big thing, mostly were like a–you know, a big, shiny button, get started, get started, little sales information about why you’d want to join.

Usually what happens though with these pages is on most sites, great to get a paywall page, you get them started and then often the next page is a generic order form. So it doesn’t refer to anything. It just says, “You know, here are your prices, fill in your credit card, blah, blah, blah.” We have seen data from several places that have tested this, including showing that it is much more effective if on the next page, I call it the barrier. This is your paywall one page and then your next page that you go to where they’re actually ordering, you have to include that information they were trying to get to again.

Now this is fairly simple programming. This is not, you know, really complex programming. You can sort of dynamically insert at the headline. We had a programmer do this. This is not difficult. It didn’t cost us a lot of money, but just inserting the headline instead of just having a generic order form that just everybody got to, made a difference in our sales. So we’re continuing that–because we’re continuing–this is the information you were trying to get to, remember, you were dying for this. Here you go. Here you go, continuing to remind them of why they wanted to order. So no generic order forms if they’re coming from someplace.

Okay, here’s a little quiz. Now I’ve just shared the rules with you. What’s wrong–this is an actual real-life paywall from an information site. What’s wrong with this paywall? Would somebody like to shout out something?

Fred: First off, you’ve got a big thing for the members sign in, which we shouldn’t have. It should be small. Other ideas?

Anne: Exactly.

Fred: There’s no big join here now button. There’s–it’s not a big button to, like, how do I get in.

Anne: That’s right. There’s this little, tiny subscribe now. It’s not even a button. It’s just a link.

Fred: Yeah. What else? It looks like it’s pretty heavily–there’s a lot of copy. It’s not clean. It’s not–it could be a lot simpler.

Mindy: Too much clutter.

Anne: Yeah, I think having an ad here is certainly distracting, why you would want–what if, you know, someone’s going to click on the ad, they’re certainly not going to go ahead and subscribe. They’re going to get lost.

Fred: Yep.

Male: I don’t even know what they’re trying to sell.

Fred: He doesn’t even know what they’re trying to sell.

Anne: Good point. Yeah, what they’re saying here is well, you get this one story, but they’re not saying, in general, beyond the story what else you’re getting.

Fred: Yeah, give me a summary like that other page did of what I’m getting.

Anne: Yeah, give a reason to continue clicking.

Urmil: Too much clutter.

Anne: Well, I’ve got to tell you, this is actually one of the better paywalls that I’ve seen too. That’s the sad fact. So when people say you can’t sell subscriptions from the Internet, this year we’re estimating $15 billion to $16 billion in the U.S. will be spent on information subscriptions on the Internet. So it’s a big industry. It’s not tiny. But–and that’s $15 billion to $16 billion being spent on super crappy paywall pages, so if they just improved things, can you imagine how much money they’d make?

Fred: And how.

Anne: Yeah. Now here’s one final tip. You can try adding a video testimonial to your paywall page. So they’ve already seen on this page, this is Demand Metric, this is a site for professional marketers in the corporate side. And people who come to this page have already–they’ve already been to the kind of Demand Metric homepage and then clicked through and looked at a little bit of the content and said, “Ooh, that’s looks interesting.”

But what I think is interesting is they did–unfortunately they did something sort of generically. So you’d say, you know, where you came from, that doesn’t say, “Oh.” and after your promotion, getting your whatever, fill out the page–fill out the form, but it did include a customer testimonial. And I bet that that makes the difference. It also, of course, gives you some logos of people who are members and a very fun thing.

So on the right here, they’ve done a very nice job of kind of saying, “We’re trustworthy. We’re real. These are real people.” And we actually do have a special report on how do you get someone to give you these video testimonials and how do you do it really easily because there are super easy tools for that.

So they’re doing some things right here. One thing I wouldn’t do is the Cancel button, obviously, mistake. Why you’d want a cancel button is beyond me. So they do some smart stuff on here and I would definitely go check out Demand Metric and see how they’re doing things.

Here’s another example of a video testimonial. This is actually a site for doctors and they got real-life doctors to actually do the videos, talking–these are real-life paying members talking about how they like the site and they actually even do a little transcript of what the guy said going, in case there’s somebody who was more of a reader than a video watcher, which I’m definitely a reader, not a video watcher. I really like this, how I could see the real-live testimonial.

So testimonials are–especially if you’re not a really famous name, you’re not PT Mark Forester, or The Wall Street Journal, this sort of thing can make a difference for your sales. It just–people believe in you.

All right, and that’s the end of my presentation. I did want to let you know that we do have a special 1-hour tutorial coming up on June 28th specifically about WordPress plug-ins. So if you’re going to build on WordPress backend, or content management system, or you already have a WordPress site and you want to turn it into a paywall site, start making membership money, we are going to talk to all the different companies, what to look for, what not to look for, there are some pretty famous plug-ins that actually aren’t that great. We’re actually testing this ourselves at our own site and we’re not using the same plug-in. We’re using a less famous one.

So we’re going to talk you through all of that. All you have to do is join and become a member of our site before June 28th and you’ll get free access to this hour-long webinar with Q&A, and you–this is the special URL we have here for Fred Gleeck, so when you join you definitely want to use this URL so he’ll get credit and just to be open about this, we are a membership by ourselves. You can join for $57 or less per month and it does include our complete case study library. We’ve got about almost 50 case studies, all different sites and what they did and what worked for them, pricing, marketing, everything, and spreadsheets, how to pick what your price will be, how to do your marketing, all that sort of thing. So it’s a complete tutorial site on everything you’re ever going to need to know to run a subscription site.

Fred: Hey, Anne?

Anne: Here we go.

Fred: Yeah, well, excellent. Thank you very much. Here’s my quick comment, which is that I, you know, and everybody who’s watching or listening to this, and by the way, I’m recording the presentation and it’ll be up on the site as well. I am very, very interested, obviously, in the June 28th date because myself and all the people I’m partnered with–I was about–before I met Anne, which is about a month ago, I was about to make a decision on which WordPress plug-in paywall solution I was going to use and she said, “No, no, no! Wait, wait, wait, don’t do anything yet until you come to the June 28th.” I think this is a very–and I’m doing that because I think she knows what the heck she’s talking about, and so I want to make sure to not do anything until I hear all of her information on this topic.

And the thing that I pointed to, just so you know, Anne, and I’ve got a couple quick questions for you, but I just want to say this. One of the things that I most like about you and the folks in this room have seen the actual sign that used to hang in my garage that I brought inside. It’s a big, yellow, plasticized sign that says, “Measurement eliminates argument.”

Anne: Yep.

Fred: One of the reasons why you and I, I think get along so well is that you , like me, are concerned not with what we think or what we like or what we feel, but the data and what it shows.

Anne: Yes.

Fred: I mean all of that other stuff is nice and fuzzy, but it doesn’t really give us actual results. I got a couple quick questions for you here. Number one, your offer, when I go to your site and I did so initially, it’s 10 days for a buck and then you convert to a $57 a month. When I…

Anne: Actually, we only–that’s a private offer. We use it occasionally.

Fred: Ah, oh.

Anne: Our official offer is $57 or less a month.

Fred: Got it.

Anne: But we do–sometimes do a private offer. You know, you have to have all different marketing offers and measure them.

Fred: Yeah.

Anne: And reports, we also, for a while, ran a completely free offer. We did 10 days for zero and we tested that as well. So we’ve tested all different things. We also tested doing a–you had to pay $197 up front as an initiation fee and then move into the $57 a month. So we’ve tested all different sorts of things.

Fred: Let me, let me…

Anne: Trying to get the data.

Fred: Got it, let me ask the question which is this, which is in one of the options where you allow and you just gave me two in which this would be the case, one where for a dollar I get access for 10 days and the other I get access for free for 10 days. What has been your experience with people–because what you do is you open up your entire site and all the various things. You allow people to come in and download stuff. So I remember that my initial reaction was, “You know what? I’m going to get involved in this site for a dollar. I’d better download everything because who knows, this might be crap, which it was not, but it might be, so let me just get everything I can right away to review it at my leisure in the event that blah, blah, blah.” So what have you found in the end? Let’s go back to the data of all the different offers that you make to people for your site. What has been the most effective and is it dependent on the group, etc., etc.?

Anne: It’s dependent on the group. It depends on the time of year. It’s dependent on a lot. What we have–and we’ve even got more offers than that, actually. I forgot a few. What we have found is that first of all, if you’re going to–there’s one rule, if you’re going to make a free offer, always, always, always get a credit card upfront. So you don’t do a free offer where they just enter their name and e-mail and they can get in. You have to get their credit card upfront and you have to ping that credit card to make sure that it’s good.

Now that’s where we push for the buck, so if we’re pinging for something to make sure–you can ping it for a little bit more, a pre-authorization, but then if some of it shows up on their account, they get all confused. So it’s better just to do it for the buck.

If you don’t get the credit card upfront, it’s much, much harder to get a credit card afterwards. People just are, you know, they’re lazy, inertia, they don’t get around to it, it’s a little harder to convince them. You know it’s like giving away the cow who gives us the milk, just–I mean give me a little milk. That’s all. To get the cow, you are keeping their credit card.

Now the other thing is that I have a full-time editorial staff on this product. So we have a continual flow of new content. Every single week we do a brand new case study. In fact, I can show you. This is like a list of some of the case studies that we’ve done. You can see it’s just a huge long list of case studies that every–most Tuesdays there’s a new–there’s a new case study. Most Thursdays we have a new how-to tool, a checklist, real-life samples and financial modeling spreadsheets. We’ve got all sorts of you know, so we’ve got a regular editorial schedule and full-time people that this is what they do is they create these checklists, they create these spreadsheets, they create these tools, vendor guys, you name it.

In addition, once a month we have that webinar I mentioned. It’s a different webinar every month. It’s a different topic. We shake things up a little bit because you never know what’s going to entice somebody, either to stay or to join. And so even if you join for 10 days, and then you bail because you thought you got all you needed, the chances that I’m going to come up with a case study in the next few months maybe on your direct competitor, and you’re going to be like, “Oh my golly, I’ve got to get that too.” You know, or maybe next month’s webinar, maybe you don’t even care about WordPress, but you really care about, you know, payment processing tips or legal stuff that you have to know or new marketing, you know, how to do Facebook advertising for subscriptions, we do studies just on that, I mean we’re going to come up with a continual flow of content that brings you that. You’re going to be like, oh my gosh I need that tool, oh my gosh I need that tool.

We also have a member forum that launches shortly, and that makes a difference, because people don’t join for forums, they don’t necessarily, they join because they want that one piece of content that can help their pay point right now, but they’ll stick around because their a member of a forum, and they can ask a question anytime, they can email, they make connections, they make friends, so they stick around for the other members. The key is I have continual flow of new information of new sexy stuff that their like oh no I want that too, you hook them. Um, we do have some people who come in, and they, they’ll even say for sure I’m only coming for one month, and they’ll even be like please turn off my subscription after the thirty day period and we’re like sure, and then they’ll call up before hand and be like, uh, could you keep it going. Um, we had one guy who called up, actually several who called up and canceled their subscription only to have people in other departments of their company say, what did you do you idiot, oh my god turn it on.

We had people who literally had an individual subscription for $57.00 a month and they canceled it, they called back a few days later and said oh, I got in trouble we need a companywide subscription and we ended up selling it for a thousand dollars a year. Because, you know, everyone else ended up having a piece of it and went oh no we need this. So you just have to show great to keep that money flowing in, it be so great to catch some and keep them.

Fred Let me ask you one, one sort, sort of fairly typically interview-ish question here, um, knowing what you know now versus what you knew when you first got started, the three biggest things that will have the greatest impact on anyone who does a membership site, what would those three things be?

Anne Um, I’m trying to think, I hate to say it, but what do you mean when I first started because I’ve been doing this like something since 1995?

Fred In other words, what you, what, three most important elements to generating more revenue, that you know now that you didn’t know whenever, go back to 1980 if you want, whatever time frame, the three most important things that you’ve learned that can have an impact on our sites if we do a membership or payroll, uh, paywall site.

Anne Sure, well I mean number one, uh, it really having that outbound marketing is super critical and most information publishers, especially people who are working entrepreneurs and their often, you know, if your an expert and your publishing something on your area of expertise, you know, I know all about hiking in Las Vegas, uh tend to focus on the content, because that’s their love, they got into this because they love sharing this information, they know this information, their so excited and they sort of very passively market.

They sort of go well, you know, I guess I’ll just have great content and the search engines will find me and I’ll get lots of traffic. You know, maybe they do a little bit of AdWords pay per click, they don’t really put a marketing plan forward and really actively, aggressively market themselves, line up all different types of partnerships, I mean you have to do a lot of different types of marketing you can’t do just one kind of marketing. Um, so if they’re not spending at least 30% of their time that they spend on the site on active marketing, I’m talking about getting the word out there, they’re not going to get the traffic they deserve.

We’ve done case studies about a lot of these people and it’s just remarkable how there’s this amazing the content and its dribble drabble traffic. Um, the folks from the internet marketing world, tend to have the same problem because they tend to rely very heavily on the same tactics that everybody else uses, which is generally just affiliate marketing and partnership marketing, maybe a little pay per click. Um, they’re not doing the aggressive broad range of marketing tactics that they need to do. You need to be doing member referral marketing, we did a case study on about a website recently, where the guy gets 16% of his total members just through other members referring their friends, you have to have a really aggressive referral campaign for that.

You obviously need affiliate marketing, that should be about 15% of your sales , yes pay per click, but are you doing pay per click on Facebook, which is actually producing better than pay per click Google for a lot of information sites. Are you doing pay per click on LinkedIn, could be fantastic, depends on the site there’s different types of pay per click you could be doing. Are you doing heavy social marketing? Social marketing is difficult, I’m talking Twitter, Facebook notes, Facebook fan pages, all sorts of blogging etc. etc. it can suck up all your time, especially if you’re not comfortable with it, so are you measuring it, are you making sure you’re not spending too much time on it, just enough, that’s actually the biggest challenge of it. You know a lot of people will twitter all day and don’t make a dime from of it.

Fred You’re done with number one, how about number two?

Anne Number one was the marketing, uh, number two is do you have someone either on your team or a freelancer or a friend or you yourself who is glib and fluid with slapping up webpages.

I mean, for me it’s the tack has always been the biggest problem I mean I didn’t have time, I was too busy creating the content or doing marketing deals I didn’t have time to make my homepage pretty. You know I didn’t have time to swap out that picture, I mean usually its very simple HTML but it’s like whose got time, oh we’ve got to throw up a form for the webinar, oh we’ve got to you know this or that, oh we’ve got to do an AV test you know with this page, and if you don’t have that tech love in house you’re in trouble. And I happen to know Tim Carter of Ask The Builder really well, has been a friend of mine for probably a decade and you know he had the neighbors teenage son, that was his tech department for years. Um, but that made a difference, that he had somebody who could throw stuff up and who was very comfortable, it usually was very technical stuff, it wasn’t very hard, but it just having that person at your fingertips to be able to look up and do stuff for you.

Fred Yeah we have a guy here that we recommend named Dave Hamilton what I refer to as, I refer to him as the web marketing magician, but I can send you an email he happens to be one of those good guys that does that.

Anne That’s great, um you really just also want to be able to develop the ability in house, can you whip up a landing page, can you whip up a form on your site, you know, if you suddenly in the middle of the night come up with this great idea, you know ten tips for hiking you know outside Las Vegas and slam it up as a free offer, can you whip up a .pdf of that, can you stick of the signing form, can you hook it to your email provider, can you whip up a book, you know if you’re going to wait three weeks for him to get to it, and you’re going to pay money for it and what if it doesn’t work. You need to be able to get tools, where you can do it yourself and you can train yourself or have someone who loves tinkering around in systems.

Most of the systems are super easy to use, but it’s the tinkering that it just takes time and energy. So that’s important for example on our blog, it’s the Paywall times, you know, can you whip up a free offer, right now this little free offer, seven proven secrets, that’s, that’s driving probably 70% of the opt-ins we get from this blog, but do you have the ability to whip this up yourself on your blog, I mean I do because I make sure my blog was built in such a way that I could. You need to be able to do it yourself, I don’t have time to call somebody and go wait could you do this and you need to find a place where you can do it yourself.

Fred Outbound marketing number one, be able to have tech yourself or do it yourself or have someone else at your fingertips, whets number three?

Anne Number three is payment processing, um, it officially it is super easy to get a merchant account, its super easy to get, you know, authorized note or something to be running your payments through for you, but right now an average of 30% of the payments that you’re going to be processing are going to be denied.

That’s huge, in 1998 it was 5%, it has rocketed upward, and that’s because, not just because people’s credit cards expire, sometimes they hit their limit, especially these days, almost 40% of Americans who buy subscriptions on the internet are using a debit card instead of a credit card to buy that subscription and they hit that limit awfully quickly because it’s their bank account not their credit card line and you won’t know it’s a debit card, you’ll think it’s a Visa card or something. Um, you also have a lot of fraud, the amount of fraud is rocketing upwards as well, where people are stealing cards, you know the whole Sony break through, you know, banks are calling you or sending you a new card and saying cut up the old one you got a new card now because we had a fraud problem, I mean you know how that happens.

People are getting rid of cards and switching to new cards with cheaper rates, the cards that people use to sign up for your recurring billing you know are constantly in a state of flux, and if you’re counting on that revenue coming in every month, but 30% of the cards are failing for some reason I mean that’s your profit and its all operational, there are ways to manage it but you have to really pay attention to it and again a lot of, you know, entrepreneurs, you know you might be good at code, you might be good at content, but you don’t want to fuss around in the back of authorizing that you don’t want to sit there and figure out expiration dates.

You don’t want to have to figure it out like that, but, you are going to have to. And we do have a lot of tools on our website that help with that, but that is going to be super critical to your bottom line topic. How do you manage those credit card payments. By the way, do not take what you think is the easy way out and just let one of the other…or…

Fred: Paypal.

Anne: One of the other…Don’t use Paypal. Unless you are planning to Paypal instantly at the time and you are planning to never, ever, ever sell your site, but if you are thinking about maybe someday selling your business, can’t be on Paypal. Because Paypal will not hand over those reoccurring billing accounts to a new owner. They won’t. They’ll refuse.

Fred: Interesting. Interesting. Hey, Anne, thank you so much for your time thus far. Do you mind taking a few questions from the group?

Anne: Sure, I’ve got…go on, we’re fine.

Fred: Ok.

Anne: Next meeting is two o’clock.

Fred: Ok, super.

Anne: So, let’s see…Anybody have a question for Anne…Branch does. This is Branch Whitney, Hiking Las Vegas, who was nodding his head vigorously when you were saying some things. Branch, speak clearly so she can hear you.

Branch: Hi Anne, great presentation, you…

Anne: Hi Branch.

Branch: I am guilty as charged about have a membership site, I have had for over ten years, but not for marketing now. My first question is, which membership software allows a trial membership that limits the number of downloads. Not a time period, but the number of downloads.

Anne: Most membership softwares, these include a level of membership. So what you are going to do is, you are not going to necessary limit the number of downloads, but what you are going to say is, as a trial, you get level one. Level one includes these particular content items, but not the rest.

Fred: Anything…

Anne: Usually it is tied to a particular piece of content.

Fred: And again, he should come to the June 28th to figure out which one to select, right?

Anne: Yup. We are also going to be doing a PDF report too, because some people prefer reading. I know I do.

Fred: Got it. Did you have a follow-up Branch?

Branch: Yeah. How do you encounter the person things well. I can just find this information on the internet, so I don’t need to join your site.

Anne: Exactly, that is a really good counter. First of all, you come up with something that is unbearably ranked in information, where they are going to have to look really hard to find it and second of all, you might have a member testimonial sitting right there with the guy saying, “This is better than anything I can ever find for free.” This is totally worth paying for. I mean. Try to get a member who sustained something that is like that. A third thing to do is to invent a premium. A premium is something like, ‘You get a free gift with your order,’ and that gift is something that people might recognize as something being worth money. So you might say, you get a free hiking map with your order and they are like, “Oh my, I get a hiking map”.

Now you may deliver that in PDF format. You may deliver that in print. There is a lot of different considerations. You might say, ‘Oh, there is something to push them over the edge.’ So you have killer content that really gives better than what they can get for free, which is often more niche, more pointed. Most of the free stuff are a little fuzzy. You have testimonial same thing, saying, this really is worth it, saying, ‘Oh my god, this is how I solved my pain point, if nothing else did.’ And then you enhance the value, you make it seem more and more valuable. You are like, ‘Wow, this is worth one hundred and ninety-nine million dollars and I’m only like getting it for $19.00, whatever.

Fred: Perfect. Another question…anyone? Ok, Fez has a question.

Fez: Hi Anne, just want to ask…

Anne: Hi Fez

Fez: If I am doing on my camping website, providing information on let’s say a topic called, ‘Off Road Driving Skills’ and that is a very big topic. If I did one product, it would be a three hour DVD. Would it be better to break that up into smaller topics and sell it as a membership information?

Anne: Yes. That is exactly what you do.

Fez: Ok.

Anne: You can call it, ‘The Off Road Driving Course’ and you break it up into different pieces. There is a website called and they give classes and internet marketing, things like that. And what they found is the average course time that works the best is ten minutes to fifteen minutes.

Fred: Excellent. Questions

Question, Kevin Joslin, Asbergers Authority.

Kevin: I’ve got a couple of questions in regards to conversion strategies. First of all, do these change over time?

Anne: Can you speak up Kevin. I can’t hear you.

Kevin: I’m sorry. I had a question in regards to a lot of the conversion strategies that you are offering that you are telling us about. First of all, they do apply for most building and for sales too, as well…right?

Anne: Yup.

Kevin: And would you say that they change over time or are they evergreen?

Anne: This is fairly evergreen in remission. Now there may be a specific offer that may work for your site to be different. I mean, you may find that the top ten hits for parents works the best for a little while and maybe there are some Federal Law or something that you can refer to that, like the parents guide to Obama’s new As Berger law…who knows…I mean, you may come up with something that is more timely. There may be some new pinpoint or some new drug or something interesting. You can have educated Asbergers take the quiz. There are all kinds of different things that you are going to test in the new generation.

Kevin: And finally. We were discussing this last night. What do you think about the New York Times model, where you read most of it, but then you have to opt to read the rest. I mean, maybe just for a free site even. By using a free site, a free membership site, that’s an additional vehicle to capture their e-mails and things. So they get to read the total…

Anne: Yeah.

Kevin: Do you think that is a good model?

Anne: Yeah. I understand. The key near plants have an enormous amount of data, visitor data, traffic data, user ship data….before they launched their paywall. I am not saying they launched their paywall properly, but you’ve got to let them take it there. But, they knew that people were being driven in multiple times for months, no matter what. They were coming in from a million different places. So, they knew that traffic was going to keep on coming when they hit the paywall. Sooner or later they were hopefully going to have to pay. They all ready had data on that. You don’t, necessarily. You don’t have that return traffic necessarily.

So I wouldn’t copy with the New York Times says. They are a really different concept. Second of all, every single case study that we’ve done and I have done them for ions, has shown that the more free content you give away, the lower the conversion rate on your paywall. If people know that they can get some stuff free, they make the assumption that the rest of it may be free too or why bother paying because they are going to get it for free. That’s why, what we advise people to do, is to make their membership site like one hundred percent pay. They can come and they can see a paywall page, they can see a summary page and that’s it. They got to sign up to get anywhere. Really put that barrier as close to the front page as possible. Now, if you want more content and lee generation and this and that to get e-mail and all of that, great. That’s why you have a separate block.

Kevin: Got ya.

Anne: I mean, we certainty have a separate block on paywall time and that works very well for FDLA and everything else.

Fred: Yea, so in other words you got…Your membership site is not part of your general, “Authority Site” in which where you are trying to get SEO for one thing so you might then send them to another site that is specifically for paywall purposes and everything is paid.

Anne: Right. If your one hundred percent paid, you can’t beat a payment, really unless or you sign up in advance, you get a barrier, so you got to pay to get in.

Fred: I…

Anne: The paywall times is one hundred percent free block.

Fez: Ok. And that’s for SEO purposes. Ok, so here’s my question. Sort of a last question and it’s just because I lived in New York a long time, she is got limited time, so I am going to cut it off. I want to know the answer to this question, just as a New Yorker for twenty years. And you don’t have to answer to this if you don’t want to. Is the New York Times going to make it with their paywall concept?

Anne: You know, you would have to ask my editor that. I’ve got to tell you, I have not been tracking that very closely. I hate to say it, but I am not the right person for that one.

Fred: Ok so since that is

Anne: You know, we publish like four different…right now we are publishing five different titles and I just can’t be an expert in everything

Fred: That sounds good. So, since that question was so quick. Urmil had a question.

Urmil: Hi Anne. Thanks for the presentation. Great presentation. I am Urmil from the UK. I currently run a web marketing company in the UK, but what I am doing is kind of going online and setting up new business…this is the reason why I am here with Fred, providing information markets in the internet marketing industry from my experience over the last ten years consulting offline businesses and now, do you think, obviously with the, in the internet niche at the moment, it would be better to create info products or to start with a membership side?

Anne: Well…

Urmil: Does that, does that make sense? If I..

Anne: First of all you’re going to corporate America and not to the internet marketing, how to get rich quick group?

Fred: No he’s going to the get rich quick group.

Anne: Are you Urmil?

Urmil: Yeah, well basically I’m setting up a site called InternetMarketingTourist in about three months…

Fred: But who’s the target? The target is not corporate people, its entrepreneurs.

Urmil: Yes.

Anne: Okay, okay, different niche.

Urmil: It’s more information marketers.

Anne: But they’re really different niches. I’m sorry?

Urmil: It’s more targeting internet marketing for information marketers. People who want to make money using the internet as opposed to offline businesses who currently have some kind of offline presence. Would it be better…sorry.

Anne: There’s a couple of things that will have to be determined right away. Are you going to the wanna-be’s or the people who are already doing it? In the internet marketing space the gulf between the wanna-be’s and the people who already have a site, who are already kind of working on it, who are already making a bit of revenue is profound. I mean it’s the difference between an ant and an astronaut.

Urmil: Oh really?

Anne: So don’t think that you’re, yeah, you can’t use the same marketing, you can’t use the same affiliates, you can’t use the same headlines, you can’t use the same offers, pricing, everything is different.

Urmil: So what you’re saying is…

Anne: I don’t know if you knew but I used to be the publisher of something called MarketingSherpa.

Urmil: Oh really?

Fred: Oh really?

Urmil: Fantastic.

Anne: Yeah, I founded that in 2000 and sold it in 2007.

Fred: Wow.

Anne: At Marketing Sherpa we went to the corporate world. Our customers were all the corporate world. Then I was working for a short time, not working for, I was on the board for a company called StomperNet.

Urmil: Yes.

Fred: StomperNet?

Anne: Where the internet marketing was for the how to get rich quick people?

Urmil: Yes of course.

Anne: And it was founded by a really old friend of mine so I came on to help him out for a very short time, he was between executives and I was the advisory board. And it was fascinating for both of us because his market place and his people – I mean the price point was so different, everything was so different. And I even had StomperNet people at one point come and speak at a Marketing Sherpa show and I mean the people who were the corporate people were so, I can only use the word revolsed. They were so revolted by the – I mean they wanted to throw up. I mean they were just disgusted by the StomperNet people. You could not put them in the same room.

Urmil: So you – the marketing…

Fred: Let her finish.

Urmil: So Marketing Sherpa was targeting corporates while StomperNet was more the wanna-be internet marketer.

Anne: Yeah and now a third group, which is the entrepreneur with an ongoing business but it’s still kind of a mom and pop shop, maybe less than 10 employees, that’s who a lot of – we’ve done a lot of launches and most of our launches are targeting that marketplace. Again, really different then the wanna-be. The wanna-be is very difficult to make reoccurring revenue from, because wanna-be’s tend to not have much sticking power.

Urmil: Yes.

Anne: You know they’re desperate, they come on, they’re like, “yeah I can get rich, I’m desperate. I need money, oh my god!” And they sign up and they’ve got ADD, and two seconds later they’re going off and doing something else. They’re sort of like stock stickers. They will hop onto one stock and then they’ll hop on to the next market stock. They have no attention. If you’re going to sell to wanna-be’s make them information products, sell the crap out of it, make it a book, make it a one off, cause you’re not going to be able to get them to zing their credit card that many times in a row.

Fred: Hey Anne, thanks.

Anne: The ongoing in this business, then you can make it where it actually is reoccurring, but make sure that you have ongoing stuff for them.

Fred: Hey Anne, the information has been marvelous, thank you very, very much. I’m sure you’ll have many of these folks as subscribers. I know that’s I’ll continue to be one and let’s talk again real soon.

Anne: Have a great time. Bye guys.

Group: Thank you Anne!

Fred: Bye.


Fred: So there you have it.

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