Hi Eric, please introduce yourself…
I’m Eric Turnnessen, founder of MemberMouse. I started the company back in 2009 and my background in software engineering. The original impetus to start this product was because I was running a website myself selling an eBook. I needed a membership site to go with that website.
I didn’t like any of the options out there, so I just built my own.
From their people started using it and we adapted the software based on the needs of the people who are using it. Ten years later we’re basically still doing the same thing, but on a much bigger scale. It’s me - I don’t do so much development these days - but then there’s my CTO Ben Daughtry who’s been with me for seven years and we have two software engineers who work on the product. Then we have a few people who work on our sales and marketing team and then we have a few people who work on our support team making sure our customers are taken care of.
And are you all working in the same location?
No, it’s all virtual. It’s always a funny thing because Ben and I have been working together for seven years, but yet we’ve never actually met in person.
There’s really been no barriers to us working well together and producing what needs to be done.
There’re no physical offices for MemberMouse. It’s a virtual company.
How would you describe MemberMouse to somebody who’s perhaps a marketer or a or community manager by profession, but hasn’t come across you yet?
I’m not a big fan of elevator pitches because I like to understand who I’m talking to first. Then if MemberMouse is something that makes sense to them, then I’ll tell them something about it.
With that said, the kind of primary, or lowest-level way I can talk about MemberMouse is: it’s a membership solution for WordPress that helps people deliver protected content. If you want to sell courses, if you want to sell training online, MemberMouse facilitates collecting payment for those things and making sure access is only granted to the appropriate people based on them having paid you. There’s a ton of other things that it does, but that’s the basics.
You've mentioned that you’re a software engineer. I’m probably at the other end of the technical spectrum. Who’s your target market?
We have two primary target markets. The first one are these internet marketers and entrepreneurs who are running very large membership sites. It’s a large range, but I would say basically it’s 5,000 active members to 100,000 active members. For communities less than 5,000-strong, there are a lot of membership solutions out there, where there’s very little strain on your software.
The bigger your membership, the greater the need for certain day-to-day business operations tools that will lower the support costs of your actual business. This is the bread and butter of MemberMouse are these larger businesses.
These are the businesses that in the first six years of the company that I was personally working with of one-on-one basis and the problems that they were running into became features in the software that addressed those problems.
The other market is - I would say a ‘beginner market.’ There of course is a range here, bit it’s people who may not have a team of developers. They likely haven’t run a membership site of any kind before. Their needs are a lot less technical centric.
We’re attempting to help that market is by making it easier and less daunting to get into and use our product.
How do you satisfy those two completely different users?
One of the main benefits of MemberMouse is the fact that it can power a hundred-person membership site and it can power a hundred-thousand-person membership site.
When you start with MemberMouse you can grow with it very easily.
You’re not going to have to switch platforms at some point because you’ve outgrown it.
We have a lot of people who come to us who have started out on competing products. Those products weren’t designed from a technical standpoint to withstand certain volumes. So, at a certain point, maybe around a thousand members, the holes and the cracks in the ships start getting enough pressure on them that the water starts leaking in and those pain points become enough that people have to switch.
That switching is not a fun thing to do so we built something you can grow into.Eric Turnnessen, MemberMouse
MemberMouse does an awful lot. Is there any one feature that you are really proud of that you think really sets you apart?
I think one of our biggest strengths is its flexibility in terms of how you can put your content in front of your audience. We have different ways that you can price things. So, you can actually sell things at different price points or protect content.
The other strong suit that comes mind is our SmartTag technology, which is essentially a way that you can have a personalised conversation with your members through the use of our proprietary language so you can enter it right into the WordPress content editor. It doesn’t require coding. One of the use cases of this is that you can dynamically show or hide content to somebody who’s looking at a certain page based on their purchase history.
I came across MemberMouse at ATOMICON and I believe they use your service. Can you explain what they're doing with it?
Yeah, let me think about this for a second. I actually don’t think it’s that unusual in terms of what they’re doing - that they’re running a conference and also running their membership site because at its heart both of them are about community. When you’re having a membership site you’re tapping into that human need for people to belong to something. That’s something that Andrew and Pete do really well.
They use MemberMouse specifically because they deliver online courses. They call them shows. When you log into their backend it looks like Netflix, but for marketing content because they have all these different shows that you can click into and then there are multiple episodes within each show - relating to the topic of the show. For example, ‘Monetizing a YouTube Channel,’ ‘Marketing Concepts in General,’ ‘ChatBox,’ etc.
MemberMouse facilitates protecting access to their membership area and making sure only those people who have paid them get access to the shows that they’re producing. It’s really easy thing to say - making sure people who have the appropriate access are the ones who’ve paid them, but MemberMouse facilitates that entire conversation.
There’s a lot of moving parts to actually. Integrating with different payment service providers like Stripe and PayPal. Making sure that you can accept payment from the people on your site and then making sure that if the payment goes through, that they get the appropriate access on your site. There’s a lot of new at nuance to that scenario.
Their live conferences are an extension of that. They did such a great job building their community within the membership site that people requested and we’re asking to meet up in person.
That’s a really good story and it was a great conference as well. They seem the kind of guys who are full of ideas. Great with trying to help their clients and their community grow their businesses, but don't want to get bogged down in the manual tasks related with running a community and that is where you come in.
Once you get MemberMouse configured and set up, it’s pretty much good to go.
Unless you want to add strategic elements to it and use more of the functionality that’s built into it. That’s one of the other benefits of it. There’s so much power in MemberMouse and so many things you can do with it.
If you’re just getting started there’s definitely a way that one could get overwhelmed thinking that I need to look at all this stuff that I can do, I need to do all this on day one.
It’s more important to get started, to get something simple up.
Don’t worry about everything else. Even the design of your website. Don’t go too crazy about your theme. Don’t go too crazy about diving deep into all these features of MemberMouse.
Primarily, what you’re doing is you’re starting in business. You’re starting a relationship with your audience. The bells and whistles can come later.
My message to anybody just getting started with MemberMouse is, just deliver the bare minimum so that you can start that conversation with your customer.Eric Turnnessen, MemberMouse
I think we’ve all been there where we have idea diarrhea and we just want to build everything at once.
I ran into that problem when I started MemberMouse. I didn’t even release something for a year-and-a-half because I was trying to do everything all at once.
Apart from MemberMouse, which I am a big fan of, what is your favorite digital tools? What else do you rely on?
For me personally, as CEO, it’s a lot about communication and management and making sure that everybody’s on the same page.
So, Slack, Monday.com (for project management) and I’m in and out of Freshdesk, our support and ticketing system. If a ticket gets escalated then I’m going in there.
How do people normally find out about MemberMouse?
Primarily, it’s word-of-mouth. Either from existing customers who are using the software or our affiliate network.
We really appreciate word-of-mouth referrals because we put a lot of focus and attention on the quality of the software.
By necessity these days I think we’re getting into more advertising. We actually haven’t done much traditional advertising in the past, but we started to do a little bit of targeted Facebook advertising with lookalike audiences.
We really appreciate getting in front of qualified leads and having a very direct conversation with them. Not too much of the shotgun approach marketing.
I’m sure at this point people are really keen to find out more. Where would you send them?
The best place to go is our website membermouse.com and peruse around there.
Or, attend one of the office hours that we do bi-weekly. You can find out about and register for by going to support.membermouse.com.
And any advice for those building a membership site?
For anybody building a membership community, it’s important to remember it’s a journey. I started this journey myself 10-12 years ago and it’s still unfolding.
Patience is a very important tool in the beginning because there’s so much choice.
These days in terms of picking solutions and implementing solutions it’s like going to the supermarket and there’s 20 different toothpastes. It’s less important about the difference between the toothpastes and more about choosing one and brushing your teeth.
Can you tell us about your podcast and where people can check it out?
Sure. It’s called Subscription Entrepreneur. It’s on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher. You could also go to subscriptionentrepreneur.com.
We interview people who are sometimes MemberMouse customers and sometimes not. It’s a loose model. We just talked about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and the different things that you can run into.
We get into tactics and certain conversations depending on guests. Like, Miles Beckler was one where we got super tactical and talked a lot about specifically how to do Facebook advertising. We had to guest where we talked about how to do a YouTube channel. We had a guest, David Sherry who started deathtostockphoto.com and grew that business to 1.5 million dollars. With him we talk more about you know how to differentiate yourself in this world right now where there’s so much noise. How to find your voice.
We just interviewed Robbie Kellman Baxter who’s the author of the Membership Economy.
I like having conversations with people who inspire me and who’ve accomplished something. I feel like anybody who’s gotten to a point of accomplishment, when they share their story, there’s something to be learned from that. I appreciate talking these people and I like to try and give them a platform where they can share those things so that hopefully other people can benefit from it.