Is a Membership Model Right for You?

Don’t assume a membership is for you.

Hey, what?

Look, we love memberships, and so do many companies across media, events, retail, business services, and so on. But implementing a membership simply because it’s trendy, without doing any analysis, runs completely counter to what we stand for!

While it’s true we usually end up working with clients to build a membership program, that’s only after the data and customers tell us one is needed.

There are also cases where membership is not the right option.

It’s time to take a huge step back. It’s time to ask a different question. Instead of asking, “Is a membership right for me?” we should be asking, “How can I listen to my best customers to identify strategies that will generate predictable growth?”

Chances are you’re seeking out fresh organic growth ideas. You’re looking for new products and services and trying to figure out how to enter new markets. You hope to optimize your sales and marketing processes to make more money with what you already have.

At the same time, you’re hearing this buzz about data and technology. These tools are supposed to help you make better decisions and get faster results. But your data is a mess—spread across a myriad of places—and you’re not fully utilizing all the technology you invested in.

So this is the real problem to solve.

We find a way to take all this technology and data and turn it into insights—insights we can act on to predictably grow your business through sales and marketing optimization, new products, and new markets.

And here’s the secret that we’ve been sharing with everyone: The group to study is your best customers. Use data to identify them and analyze their behavior. That’s the ticket to organic growth.

So while we’re going to continue to focus on memberships, we’re also going to be spending more time working with leaders who have taken a step back, asked the right questions of their data, and found phenomenal results.


Editor’s note: This article is updated from the original.


More about Rob: Rob Ristagno drives dramatic digital revenue growth for media companies. He is an award-winning speaker, author, and the CEO of The Sterling Woods Group, a firm that partners with publishers to refocus digital marketing efforts and to launch “start ups” from within.

Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors, which details the five forces proven to drive successful digital membership programs.
Prior to starting Sterling Woods, Rob was a senior executive at several niche media and e-commerce businesses, including America’s Test Kitchen, where he was COO. He started his career as a consultant at McKinsey. He lives outside Boston with his wife, Kate, daughter, Leni, and black lab, Royce.


Niche Media has the best events, education, and training in media! Our super niched-out events & content give target-audience publishers in the B2C, hobbyist, B2B, city & regional, and association markets the tools they need to build revenue, audience, and more.