How to Compete With FREE
You could make some pretty good money if weren’t for all of the free articles, videos, webinars and cheap alternatives hogging your audience’s attention, right? Today, let’s talk about how you survive the never ending competition of Free and Cheap.
Part of today’s lesson actually comes straight from our book, Member Up.
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It is a thrill to be able to grow your own business around doing what you love. That is a privilege that not many people in this world can claim. In fact, very few can make the leap from a hobby to a full-fledged business.
Most of us just don’t have the financial headroom to survive the chasm in between. You need to make money now. That’s where it becomes so maddening to see your competition giving things away for free.
We’ve all been there. You’re trying to get something going, but then:
- You see hundreds of free videos on YouTube with similar content to what you’re trying sell subscriptions for
- There are endless free articles, tutorials and walkthroughs at the end of a simple Google search
- A whole catalog of cheap substitutes can be bought with 1-Click™ on Amazon and delivered to their door
the nextthe same day
How are these people able to do this? Either they have enough time on their hands to create that free content just to build an audience, or they’ve been doing it for so long that they are able to monetize their audience on sponsorships or auxiliary products.
Now you feel at a total disadvantage because you have other responsibilities (family, another job) and because you haven’t been building this slowly for the last 5 years.
You’ve got a great product. It solves a real need. But it’s so hard to get your customer’s attention when FREE is everywhere for them.
If you’ve been nodding along for the past 250 words, then I am very excited to get into how you overcome this issue. Let’s start first with the elephant in the room for membership products.
That elephant over there is staring at me
For a majority of online products, people don’t need much to convince them to buy. If they are ready to part with their money, the perceived value is there and you’ve eliminated the risk, most people will happily become customers.
They pay. They own the product. It’s done.
For membership sites, you’re setting in front of people a “perpetual transaction” – you pay to be a part of this until you don’t want to anymore.
This is a much different sell than a “buy once to own” transaction. You’re asking people to join and be a part of something with no defined end in sight.
Because of that, you need to make a much stronger connection with them up front before they will be ready to say yes to that kind of invitation.
The question on everyone’s mind when considering a membership product
The first question that you have to answer for people is why is it in my best interest for me to have to pay monthly for this?
So in other words:
“Why should I pay to be a member of this business development site when I could just buy a handful of ebooks and consume the thousands of free articles, podcasts and webinars available to me?”
“Why should I become a member of this site that will teach me how play the drums, when I could just buy a training video off of Amazon?”
“Why should I pay monthly for access to this library of licensed photography, when I could just buy what I need a la carte?”
Your answer to that question may be obvious to you (better content, the community, more cost effective, etc.), but it is imperative that it be just as obvious to the people coming to your site. Be crystal clear why the perpetual transaction is beneficial to them.
If that’s not communicated to your audience throughout your sales process, then they have no reason to consider you over Free and Cheap.
What is your hook?
As a part of answering that question, you also have to prove to them how you are different – not in a what makes you a special snowflake kind of way, but in a what can you do for me context. So what I’m really asking here when I pose the question “What is your hook?” is what one thing do you want your members to be successful at when using your product?
This should serve as the hook for your business – like a really catchy melody in the chorus of a song. You know when you just can’t get that part of a song out of your head all day? Having that hook makes the song more enjoyable to sing along to and much more memorable once you’ve heard it.
We’ll look at it this way: Let’s take a look at our friend, Amy. She is a dietician who has been helping people adopt better eating habits for years. As you would expect, most of her customers are coming to her because they want to lose weight.
Now Amy wants to roll her program out as a membership site, so that she can reach a larger customer base. But then she looks out at the landscape of online weight loss programs and quickly feels disheartened.
That is an extremely crowded market. How on earth is she going to differentiate herself from the thousands of competitors (both free and paid)?
The first piece of good news for Amy is that a good portion of online weight loss programs are selling snake oil. Secondly, there is still a real opportunity for her to thrive in that space by basing her product on solving one unique problem.
So Amy digs a little deeper. She begins to look at what symptoms her clients typically mention, and she realizes that one of the most common struggles is craving sweets.
Now she has something compelling. Instead of her program having to shout over the thousands of other sites that promise to help people lose weight, she can key in on a specific problem to differentiate herself.
“Losing the battle against sugar? My program will show you how to reboot your system and eliminate your cravings for sweets so that you can get back to a healthy weight and stay there. Unlike other weight loss programs, mine focuses entirely on eliminating sugar cravings.”
Instead of her audience asking themselves, “how is this any different from the other futile weight loss programs that I’ve tried?“, their response is “wow, fighting sugar cravings in the evening has always been the toughest part of dieting for me. I need to look into this now.“
Our friend Amy has that uniqueness now. There are tens of thousands of online weight loss programs, but Amy flies the banner of “take sugar cravings to the woodshed“.
It is the core of all her marketing – her landing pages, her emails to customers, her posts on social media, and the way she shares her passion with people. It has become the single hook for her membership site that grabs peoples’ attention and sticks in their heads.
Know that your hook should be specific (“we create delightful experiences” is not going to cut it) and it should relate to the unique problem that you are solving.
How to find your hook in a crowded industry
Finding a unique hook to differentiate your business is not always so straightforward. You may be in a competitive field and are elbow to elbow with several businesses that offer something similar (and often for free. hmph.).
If that is your reality, establishing a hook is even more imperative for you, but it can often be more difficult to do.
Here are some questions for you to look at, whether you’re in a crowded industry or not:
- How are your competitors trying to position themselves? What do they say about their product that makes it unique?
- What are your competitors not doing in solving the problem from Question 2 that you can step in and provide your members with?
- What one thing do you want your members to be successful at when using your product?
- What experience or expertise do you have that your competitors don’t?
Let’s look at another membership site that teaches photoshop for advanced photo editing. The competition in that space are sites like Lynda.com and the thousands of free tutorials on YouTube and various other sites.
It turns out that Tim, the owner of this site, has worked at a professional photography studio in New York City. He has a very unique expertise over 98% of his competition.
From that experience, Tim knows a lot of the ins and outs of what big time studios look for to find elite photographers. He knows the nuances that make a piece of art stand out to collectors and sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
So right there, Tim has his hook just by looking at his own expertise and narrowing down significantly from a wide subject matter.
He’s no longer marching alongside the countless other offers to “become great at editing photos”. He has started his own path that offers a unique and valuable outcome – “how to edit your photography so that it gets featured in a professional studio.”
That is catchy.
Narrowing your market and why that is OK
Yes, positioning around your hook often narrows the field of who is going to be drawn to your product, but the idea that this limits your profitability is a giant myth.
Now the people that are drawn to your site are really drawn to it. Now your offering looks the part of a no-brainer investment.
I can guarantee with 100% certainty that Tim will be many times more successful with using his hook. It sets him apart from the obese amount of free options, and it helps his customers identify with his solution so strongly that they have no problem jumping on board.
By figuring out what your hook is, you will have more confidence to make the right moves for your business. Your marketing will be more focused, your products will be stronger and your members will be better off because of it.
Free and Cheap are going to have a hard time competing with that.