steven pressfield

Single Plan Site Membership

For membership sites, there’s a nice simplicity in having one membership plan at one price.

Sometimes life gets a bit too complicated, and you might have to find your underlying assumptions of what you need and what you want.

In his book, Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield said:

Life gets very simple when you turn pro.

Optimise for Profits, or for Customers’ Interests?

Offering multiple membership plans is an optimisation for profit. If you focus on profit at the expense of customers, understand that your customers won’t get all they could out of your offering.

In software development, there’s a similar decision of whether to optimise for performance:

Going back to performance [of software], we should be treating it as a feature and for the most part we shouldn’t place a higher premium on it than we would for other features. Unless performance needs to be a defining feature of our system for business reasons, we shouldn’t worry about ensuring that the system runs at top speed on all code paths. Doing so is bound to result in highly complex applications that are hard to maintain, debug, extend and justify.

From “Mastering Modular Javascript” by Nicolás Bevacqua, published by O’Reilly in 2018. Emphasis mine.

Example before: Bitesize Irish

Bitesize Irish started simple back in the day: one membership plan for one price. But you try to optimise, and “increase revenues”, and life gets more complicated.

In the end we had three membership plans, across three currencies, available both as monthly products and annual products. We were following the standard “SaaS” model. Advice out there is to offer a low-priced product that’s almost too simple, to cajole people onto the higher middle plan.

To be honest, the multiple plans were also holding us back from creating more value for our customers! They were actually getting in the way of the very reason that Bitesize exists!! For every new feature idea we had, questions immediately arose like: “What plan should we offer this feature to? What will we do about existing customers? How will we program this functionality in a way that doesn’t disrupt people on other plans?”

Not only were the plans holding us back from creating more value, they were inadvertently pissing customers off. For example, we invested a lot of energy into recording 40 video lessons for our Bitesize program. These were only offered to members who were at the top plan, but they were a part of the overall course. So customers on lower plans ended up not being able to “complete” their course because there were lessons they could not access. Would this have been fixable? Of course it would have, that is not the point here. The real point is that customers suffered because of our perceived need to have multiple membership plans. Having multiple plans was a benefit to the business, while being a pain to certain customers.

There were hidden costs too, including the need to tag customers based on their current membership plan in our email system, so that we could email only the right users about a certain feature. You get into complications such as membership metadata getting out of sync between the membership platform and the email platform.

Example after: Bitesize Irish

Life has gotten more simple: one membership plan.

I also took away a psychological “trick”. The signup page had said: “Not ready to spend $3,200 on a trip to Ireland?“. It was “making” the monthly prices seem smaller.

We’re also using a round price, not a psychological trick of $47 or $49.99.

We’re not offering annual plans, either. Despite reminder emails being sent to annual members, a disproportionate amount were put off by an unexpected subscription fee that they had forgotten they were still signed up for.

OK, it’s not all rosy. The one catch is that the membership plan is on the higher price end, because it includes so much. Our human instinct is to optimise, and try to break apart what we can offer, so that certain customers will sign up at a lower price. However, WE get to choose who to focus on who we want to help. Bitesize will never be a go-to answer for every body, so the theoretical customers we could have by offering a lower priced plan would not be best served (they would become second-class citizens within Bitesize), and it would come at the cost of all the added complexities I covered above. (For more on this, I recommend the book This is Marketing by Seth Godin).

Kitchen sink plan?

Business legend Zig Ziglar recommended in Secrets of Closing a Sale to offer a “kitchen sink” product, something that you throw all you can at offering things of use, so if people are really enthusiastic they can support you this way.

I’m not entirely against this idea, since it’s a way of asking “How could we help a person boost their Irish language learning, if costs were basically not an issue?”. My current answer is: let’s offer the kitchen sink plan as best we can on the single membership plan being offered. It will not allow us to do highly expensive services like one-to-one teaching, but that was never the business we were in, in any case.

The separate kitchen sing plan that might be a step too far right now. Time will tell.

See also: The single forum forum