HBR: How to Create an Online Community That People Will Pay For

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This article resonates with us because at AAPN we've created a network that people will pay for – and have since we went online in 1994. That's the year that Sue Strickland, working alone before I joined her, completed a project with Clemson Apparel Research Center to create an online member database, which was private and dial up. When I joined in 1995 and the internet came along at about the same time, we truly went online – first apparel industry online internet database; first apparel industry website; first standardized member information web pages; first sourcing email broadcasts; and more. 

In 1997, we changed our name from the American Apparel Contractors Association to the American Apparel Producers Network. Without knowing there was a list like the one below, we essentially did the list. Today, this broadcast goes to over 1,600 industry professionals. And today our network incorporates the massive collective staffs of 200 industry organizations. We have one more event this year, and 6 planned for next year – but we 'meet' every day online just like this. 

If you're considering doing more online, which you best be doing, we can wrap an entire gathering around a discussion of best practices for every link in the chain. Just ask……Mike

How to Create an Online Community That People Will Pay For
Dorie Clark, HBR: SEPTEMBER 25, 2019

Companies have long valued the customer insights that online communities can provide, and some, such as Harley-Davidson, have even turned them into a revenue source by charging membership fees. But it’s not just companies that are tapping into this business model.

More and more individuals are launching their own membership communities, aiming to bring people together around a shared interest. These aren’t just hobbyists. By charging fees, typically $20–$100 per month, entrepreneurs have created six-figure businesses around topics as varied as growing succulents, memory improvement techniques, guitar instruction, and food blogging.

But ensuring the success of online membership communities can be a challenge. You have to attract enough participants to create a dynamic community and, far more challenging, create a high-quality user experience that keeps your participants engaged — and willing to keep paying — over time.

Since 2016 I’ve run an online community for members of my Recognized Expert course, and I’ve written extensively about building online revenue streams. If you or your company is considering launching an online membership site, here are six principles I’ve identified to maximize the benefit to your members and ensure they view your site as something worth paying for. Read More