Over the past 5 years, no less than 5 people have approached us with exactly the same idea; an exclusive online community for investors.
The concept is simple. Right now investors are getting advice from a mixture of reliable and unreliable places. It's a crapshoot. You can change this by getting the people that actually know what they're talking about in to the same place and charging them a fee for the service; say $100 per month.
If we only get 1000 top investors, we will have a $100,000 per month business. "That's $1.2m per year – how can you say you're not interested?"
A paying membership can be terrific. It can attract the best people, reduce lurking, increase the sense of community and earn you a good profit.
But it's not easy. You have to conquer the chicken and the egg problem, decide what you charge for (access to the platform, to participate, contact others, customist profile etc?), and set a price point that communicates value.
Some basic principles
- Start exclusive, charge the rest. Let the VIPs in for free. Get the community going. Charge the non-VIPs. This attracts both the VIPs and increases the value of the community. If there are no VIPs, then at least have an exclusive group.
- Offer more than the community shell. You have to sell more than the community shell. Paying members want something more tangible. At best you'll struggle to attract people, at worst a free rival community can poach your members. The CR Roundtable does a good job here. They don't just charge $30 a month to connect with others, they host regulars calls, events, reports and case studies.
- Don't charge for services that prohibit interaction. One community charges members a fee for features that include seeing if someone has posted on their profile. That's insane. It restricts interactions, which are the lifeblood of the community. What works for dating sites, wont work for most communities.
- Don't nickel and dime. Have a single, flat, fee. Don't use micro-payments or anything similar for a variety of different add-ons/extras.
- Reduce fees for great contributions or top members. The goal is to encourage people to participate as much as possible.
- Let members try for free. Let members have access for one month and plan out what they do an receive during this time. Ideally, you want to charge members automatically unless they decide they want to leave the community.
The competition to paid communities are free communities. If someone else can offer something that seems similar in value and survive on advertising income, they will do it. You need to establish a value proposition that includes the best people, best information/advice, best activities/events, and
The communities that make this work are highly profitable and well regarded…but it's not easy.