Paid Communities: Membership Tools, Hyperniche Communities, Lowering Churn

This is the free version of Trends PRO #0014 — Paid Communities

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🔍 Problem

Free communities tend to be noisy without a barrier to entry.

💡 Solution

Paid communities have requirements, financial or otherwise.

As Derek Sivers says, the higher the price, the more they value it. 

Barriers change these groups. Members are more engaged. They aim to justify their investments. Not fuck around or troll.

🏁 Players

Paid Communities

Membership Tools


🔮 Predictions

  • Tools like will make it easy to pirate paid newsletters. This will accelerate the move towards content-based communities.
  • Communities will be built on exhaust data. Fitbit leaderboards track your steps and update your friends in the background. Open Startup dashboards track revenue and update the world. What’s next? A community built on continuous glucose monitors? A business community tracking Stripe, Google Analytics and ConvertKit dashboards for signs that you need help?
  • Hyperniche media companies will be best positioned for paid communities. Social networks have network effects. Paid communities have reverse network effects. Think Farnam Street versus Facebook. 

☁️ Opportunities

  • Don’t use money as the only filter for your paid community. Price is more than money. It’s time, risk, sacrifice.
    • eCommerceFuel is $99 per month. Members must own a 7-figure eCommerce business and have “deep operational experience.”
    • Everything Marketplaces is $49 per month. Members must “actually operate & know marketplaces.”
    • Makerpad is $600 for lifetime membership. Membership is invite-only and a max of 30 invites are sent each Friday.
  • Build a paid community from your blog, podcast or newsletter audience. The founders of Traffic Think Tank and Web Smith (founder of 2pm) used this strategy to build paid communities. We discussed the content-to-community playbook in Trends #0011 — Paid Newsletters.
  • Add gamification to boost engagement and lower churn. Moz Community rewards members with MozPoints. These are redeemed for profile upgrades, t-shirts, tickets to MozCon and more.
  • Have a founding member launch. Use the launch to shape the culture of your community. Offer early members great prices. The Visualize Value community was $19 for lifetime membership. Now it’s $99 per year.
  • Track the NPS and KPIs for your community. Diana Tower spoke with James Schramko about the importance of collecting qualitative and quantitative feedback from community members.
  • Host guest AMA sessions. Online Geniuses featured Courtland Allen, Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Kawasaki.
  • Think twice before building a paid community with Facebook groups. We discussed platform risk in Trends #0012 — Micro Private Equity.
  • Have shared struggles. Members will justify the struggle (price) to themselves. See fraternity initiation and military bootcamps. Look into commitment and consistency bias.
  • Create a group identity. Give your community a name, develop a language and have swag. Pat Flynn has Team Flynn. Their slogan is “Team Flynn for the win.” And you can buy a shirt with the slogan.
  • Have a questionnaire for new members. Use this to learn more about your members and create an intro for them. You can eventually trace member success back to patterns in the questionnaire. Superhuman engineered product-market fit with questionnaires. You can engineer community-member fit.

😠 Haters

“All paid communities are not online.”
Sure. WeWork Labs, Switchyards and Renzo Gracie Academy are offline paid communities.

🔗 Links

  1. How to Build and Profit from a Hyperlocal Community SiteKaty Katz and Sean Jackson talk about the power of hyperlocal (or hyperniche) communities and how to build them.
  2. Come for the tool, stay for the networkChris Dixon explains how networks like Delicious and Instagram were built on single-player tools. This is reminiscent Stu McLaren‘s saying that people come for the content and stay for the community. Single-player tools can become multiplayer networks.
  3. From Audiences to CommunitiesWeb Smith tracks his journey from newsletter to community. This intersects with insights from Chris and Stu.
  4. The Rise of Private CommunitiesSteve Pavlina explains why we should opt for paid communities. He notes that they are full of engaged doers. This is an excellent, in-depth piece. Take into account: He has a paid community.
  5. My Paid Mastermind Experiment. Is It Worth It?Omar Zenhom echos Steve Pavlina in this episode in 1211 of $100 MBA. He compares his experience in free masterminds to his experience in paid masterminds. Omar also has a paid community.