Inside a Premium Community Business
5 min read

Inside a Premium Community Business

How the The Upside built a $2K+ a year membership and what you can learn from them.
Inside a Premium Community Business

A community I often reference when encouraging founders to charge what they’re worth is The Upside. It is a community for independent consultants who are growing their businesses.  I’m both a member of The Upside and I’ve worked with the team in migrating their community from Facebook to Circle last year.

When a community moves from a public platform (like Facebook) to a private one like Circle, there’s fear that engagement will decrease. The opposite was the case for The Upside. It’s a very active community with zero engagement gimmicks.

They charge $189/month, which is over $2K a year for membership. This is on the high end of membership communities, yet they never get complaints about pricing. They have very low cancellation rates and every quarter members proudly share their experience and recruit others to join.

So what are they doing right? Here’s what you can learn from them.

Target members on similar growth journeys

What makes a community “sticky” is the alignment between the growth journeys of the members in it. The more members have a growth journey in common, the more reasons they’ll have to come back to the community to find others to connect with.

The Upside is what I call a very sticky community. This is because they serve members who are on very similar growth journeys. In their case, it is people who are growing their consulting practices by serving bigger clients, raising their prices and scaling their offerings. Because members are working towards similar goals, they have a lot to connect over.

Have a clear reason to connect

Before helping migrate a community from Facebook to Circle, I always have a talk with the founders, sharing that at first, engagement might drop as members get used to the new platform. That is not what ended up happening with The Upside. As soon as they moved over, the number of posts, comments and connections increased significantly and has continued steadily.

Why did that happen? Because Upside members have very specific and very clear reasons to connect with each other and the new platform made that crystal clear.

Members are all independent consultants who specialize in something specific like marketing strategy, design, executive coaching or financial strategy. Because they often work with similar clients but serve different needs, they often need others to collaborate with or recommend to clients.

Everyone runs similar businesses but are experts in different pieces, so the legal expert can advise the design agency owner on their contracts. While the designer can give feedback on the fractional CFO’s website and on and on.

The Upside team expertly facilitates these connections both at weekly Upside Office Hours and on the community platform by tagging in the right experts for each question. Everyone has something to offer and something to gain from the group.

Connect members in small groups

I’ve written before about the importance of considering community experience at 3 different levels: big group, small group and 1:1. The small groups are perhaps the most important because they help members not just meet, but get to know each other over time.

The Upside organizes members in small groups in several different ways. They run industry “pods” so that members in similar industries can meet each other and stay in touch over a quarter. They also host masterminds where members are split into small groups to help each other with a specific challenge. And they host Think Tanks on general topics like business development so that members can learn from each other across industries.

All of these small group opportunities make it so that members get to see each other over and over again, which builds trust over time. When they’re ready to collaborate on a project or connect 1:1, they already have a sense of each other.

Empower members to lead

Even a smaller, premium community will not work if it requires that all connections initiate with the community leader. Members should feel ownership for the community and be willing to lead and contribute.

The Upside has scaled leadership in several meaningful ways. For example, each industry pod is assigned 2 leaders who are charged with making sure all members are being heard and understand how to connect.

They’ve also involved members in their “Open Houses” which are events run to give potential new members a sense of the community. On the live event, an existing member facilitates a breakout room where potential members can ask questions and get to know the vibe of the community before deciding if it’s for them.

We are often afraid to ask members for too much, but in both of these cases Upside members are more than willing to help and report having had a great experience participating in this way.

Facilitate 1:1 connections

One of the best parts of running a premium community is that you’re able to stay small, while bringing in significant revenue. One of the benefits members get from the community staying small is a more human touch in all parts of the community.

Erin Halper, the founder of The Upside still hand picks 1:1 member connections.

Because the community has grown steadily, she’s able to get to know every member and curate connections that will most help them. This feels different from a community that is growing at all costs and using only automated systems to generate connection. The context Erin is able to tap into to connect members is what makes the experience magical.

There’s so much more I can share about The Upside and what they do right. Their operations system, their expert talks, Erin’s weekly Office Hours, how comfortable members are being vulnerable with each other, their member features on social media and blogs. They do a lot right.

If you’re an independent consultant who wants to advance your business in community with others, The Upside is taking applications for next quarter. Check them out and apply here →

If you’re building a community business, there’s one point I hope you takeaway from this. Many of the common problems in paid community businesses can be helped by charging more for membership.

Not enough engagement in the community? Members who make a bigger investment upfront, tend to show up more.

Burning out from being pulled in too many directions? Premium communities usually serve one very specific member journey, which clarifies the community leader’s role.

Feeling disconnected from your members? Charging enough allows you to stay small enough to get to know your people.

If you’re ready to charge more and could use a clear roadmap + a supportive community as you build, I hope you’ll consider applying to join us for Build a Community Business.

BACB is a course and one-year community experience for community founders who want to build a profitable business without sacrificing their values.

You can apply to join anytime and by joining now, before our October cohort, you get a bonus 6+ weeks in the community for a total of 13+ months access to the content, coaching and community.

Learn more and apply here. You’ll hear from us within 48 hours.

Subscribe and build a more successful community business →