One thing I’ve seen an explosion of recently is membership sites and with that comes the question how do you go about pricing your membership site. It can feel tricky. Often people use membership sites early on as a tool to create a community who’s then later a “captive audience” for upselling – you can then sell them higher value offers.
In the end pricing for membership sites will always come down to who am I targeting, what’s the value I’m offering and how am I using this offer – like where does it fit in the customer journey.
Like many people, Sarah Santacroce started her membership site to create community. This sprung from her Hippie background – she just wanted to be there to serve people. She wasn’t really thinking about it from the perspective of a business owner. And that’s part of what led to her under pricing the offer and consequent burn out.
In This Episode
I sit down with Sarah to talk about her journey and understand the do’s and don’ts from her experience of setting prices for a membership site. After over a decade of running a successful LinkedIn Consulting business, she was inspired to create a global movement that encourages people to bring more empathy and kindness to business & marketing.
As a ‘Hippie turned Business Coach’, Sarah has written two books, hosts the Humane Marketing podcast and works with heart-centered entrepreneurs to question their assumptions when it comes to marketing & give them permission to market their business their way, the gentle way!
Sarah shares with us her own pricing journey as well as how she approached pricing for her membership site and tips from her experience. If you’ve thought about having such a site and are curious about one woman’s experience, then this episode is definitely for you.
Podcast Episode Highlights
- 0:00 Intro
- 2:03 Getting to Know Sarah
- 6:00 The Value Sarah Brings to Clients
- 7:01 Pricing at the Beginning
- 10:02 Burnout Changed Things
- 13:10 Be there and Discuss
- 19:07 Different Platforms
- 21:01 Takeaway from Discussion
- 23:50 Wrapping It Up
“The lowest prices may feel like the right thing at the time, for many it does. But it does feed your business with profit – it’s hard to have a healthy business.” Janene
“Realizing that you can’t actually have a valuable income with just seven or $17 offers, that’s kind of what led to the change, right? Because we don’t change until things just don’t work anymore, right?” Sarah
“Growing confidence & learning as you go – It’s a natural progression for most entrepreneurs. When they start out they’re just trying to understand the value of their offer, who they’re targeting and what they’re willing to pay. It’s part of the journey.” Janene
“When you look at the membership site space, there are different prices, ranging from $10 a month to 200 or 300 or even more per month. And you have to figure out, What’s the value that I’m bringing? …and then coming up with the right price for it.” Sarah
How to Connect with Sarah
The One Page Marketing Plan: humane.marketing/1page
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Janene: Hello everyone, and welcome to Live with the Pricing Lady, The Podcast. I am Janene Liston, your hostess. This show is all about helping small businesses like yours get better at pricing so you can be more sustainably profitable. Welcome everyone, and welcome to today’s guest, Sarah Santacroce. Hello Sarah.
Sarah: Hi Janene.
Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited for this conversation. My peeps are always like, Can we talk more about pricing?
Janene: We’re excited to have you here with us today and welcome to everybody who is watching us. And those of you who are listening later, if you’re watching live and you have questions, be sure to pop them in the chat.
Sarah, first of all, why don’t we start with a few rapid fire questions, and the first one is, where are you joining us from today?
Getting to Know Sarah
Sarah: I am in Switzerland and the French part of Switzerland. Same country as you, but I’m from the French part.
Janene: Right, and you’re from Origin, From Bern? Yeah. Originally from Bern.
Oh, I thought you were from North America. How did I not already know that?
Sarah: I’m just a copycat with accents, and people usually assume that, but no, I grown up in Bern
Janene: That’s so funny. You learn something new every day.
Excellent. Okay, here’s another question for you. What is your superpower professionally or personally? And how would you describe it?
Sarah: I think my superpower is to help people love marketing again. I kind of look at it that way. If I feel like there’s so many people come to me and they say I hate marketing and humane, The humane marketing revolution, That’s what this is all about, To make it humane and kind again.
In a way, I feel like I help them love marketing.
Janene: Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah it’s really easy to see how people have a sort of a love hate relationship with it. And that’s great when you can bring that joy back into doing it.
Sarah: Cause I guess similar to pricing, right? It’s like people, it is also a topic where people are like, Yeah.
Janene: I mean, these business topics are not why people started their businesses general, unless you’re a marketing professional, you didn’t go into business to do marketing stuff. These are kind of the things that you need to do in order to have that thriving business, but not necessarily the places you wanna be spending all your time.
What Most People Don’t Know About Sarah
Janene: Cool. What’s one interesting thing that most people don’t know about?
Sarah: I guess the Switzerland thing, that’s one of them. I do also speak five languages fluently. When I think about my daily interactions, some of them are in French, some of them are in English, some of them are in Italian because I manage our Airbnb in Sicily.
When I speak to my parents is in Swiss German. I do feel like I become a different person. When you grow up with your home language well is different than your business language. I feel like certain words, I don’t know them in Swiss German, and I kind of still use those childish words that I grew up with.
I do say that every now and then, but a lot of people seem to forget that I have this kind of multicultural back.
Janene: I never thought I’d could really learn a second language, but it was one of the three main reasons I decided to move to Switzerland when the opportunity came up, was to have that chance.
I always found it funny how people’s personality changed depending on which language they were speaking. I try to find a way to still be bubbly and German, but it’s not necessarily what you would think of.
Sarah: It’s not the bubbly language, that’s for sure.
Janene: Languages are interesting. Thank you for sharing that.
The Value Sarah Brings to Clients
Janene: Last question before we get into the details is what value do you ultimately bring your clients?
Sarah: We’re gonna talk about a specific offer in the pricing conversation, the Humane Marketing Circle. And I really feel like with that offering I bring community, which is part of my hippie upbringing.
Maybe we, that comes up in that conversation. But I have a hippie upbringing. And so community, And then knowing what works and sharing that with others and, understanding from them also what works. So really this community aspect to doing business that we kind of lost over the last 10 years or so.
That’s what I feel like is the main value of the Humane Marketing Circle.
Janene: Super. Excellent. I’d love to hear that. All right, Sarah. I’d like to dig into your pricing journey a bit.
Pricing at the Beginning
Janene: Why don’t you go back to the beginning when you first started your business, what was that experience like for you when you first had to like, come up with a price or something?
Sarah: I’m sure you heard that a million times. It was just, super easy. We just, put a $2,000 price. No, obviously it was really difficult. It was really, really difficult. Most of us have some kind of corporate experience before that, and so we never had to put a price on something that we provide.
Sometimes you have these conversations with people in a corporate setting. They’re like, “Oh yeah, this is gonna be easy. I’m just gonna use my daily rate.” And you’re like, Yeah, it’s not gonna be that easy. It just isn’t to ask for money and then actually understand the value that you are bringing to the table.
When you ask me about the early days, oh my God, I was underpricing myself like really badly. I write about that in my marketing, like we’re human book like this. Experiencing experience of undervaluing and underpricing yourself, that then kind of led to a burnout. Because I came with, and we all come with certain money stories in our heads to business. For me, like I kind of quickly mentioned before, I grew up in a hippie commune, in a small hippie commune where community was a big piece. Collaboration was kind of like hippies word.
It was not about capitalism. Money was not like the main driving thing. Having to deal with money and now being in this business position where you have to ask for money was extremely difficult. What I wanted to do is just serve and be of service and yeah, kind of create the community.
I Always Went for the Lowest Price Possible
Sarah: I always went for the lowest price possible. I thought that was a good pricing strategy. But then, I ended up burning out because I ended up being so frustrated by not being able to have a business if I had these low prices, it was really difficult. I remember like one thing, I was pricing at like seven bucks or 17 bucks for something that was like, back in the days I had a LinkedIn consulting agency that I grew and something like valuable, like a LinkedIn profile review. I was charging 17 bucks for it. Because yeah, like lack of confidence I think as well.
Yeah, that’s about.
Janene: Well, at that time it felt right on some level, right? No, it felt like something you could handle, but it wasn’t necessarily feeding your business in the way that you wanted to.
Cause I often talk about how pricing is to profit. Like iron is to blood. You’ve never been iron deficient then, you know what I mean? Like that. It may have felt like the right thing at the time, however, it wasn’t really feeding the health and the status of your business.
What changed things for you? How did you shift that?
Burnout Changed Things
Sarah: Well, I guess that burnout changed things. Realizing that, not being able to serve anymore because, prices were too low or maybe also attracting, the wrong kind of people with those low prices because it then became this vicious circle where you just people keep expecting more because you offered this at such a low rate that people want more for free or for equally low price. And back in the days, I started my first online business in 2007, 2008. It was also kind of this frenzy of offering these low priced items, and then you’ll see you’ll grow a huge online business out of that.
But that worked for some gurus, out of Silicon Valley maybe, but it didn’t work for the most human beings. Realizing that you can’t actually have a valuable income with just seven or $17 offers, that’s kind of what led to the change, right? Because we don’t change until things just don’t work anymore, right?
A big part was the burnout, but then also growing in confidence and seeing, Oh, people actually do find it valuable, and so, you slowly raising the prices.
Janene: Cool. I think it’s a natural progression to go through, especially for most people when they start out they’re just trying to understand even the value of their own offer.
And then as time goes by, you do things that affect the value of that offer. It makes sense. One of the things I wanted to ask you about was your membership site.
Pricing Your Membership Site
Janene: Tell us more about pricing your membership site and what pricing it was like for you.
Sarah: Membership sites kind of seem the latest thing, right? Like everybody wants to have a membership site because it seems like, an easy offer. You can have a lower price. It’s scalable. It’s like, you invest the same amount of time, but make more money because you have more people.
The question was, well, how do you price that? And then what kind of value do you give for that price. When you go out there and look, well, there’s all kinds of different offers of prices, ranging from $10 a month to 200 or 300 or even more per month. And then obviously you have to figure out, What’s the value that I’m bringing?
Do I want to create lots of new content every week for this offer? In my humane marketing circle? Like I said, it’s more the community and the exchange with others. Then figuring out what works price-wise. That is the value and understanding that is valuable to people and important to pricing.
It took me some time to understand that.
Be There and Discuss
Sarah: Realizing, knowing what people want is not just more information and content where in an information overload already. Yeah. What they want is to have other people who are on the same path.
Be there and discuss, well, this works or this doesn’t. And how are we different and how are we the same? Oh, we’re the same in this way, this might work for me. Understanding the value that you are offering with this membership site. It could be community, it could be content.
It could be teaching, there’s all kind of different membership sites or communities and figuring that out and then coming up with a price for it. Again, this is gonna be a monthly subscription where people pay on a monthly basis. Depending of course on your audience, are they corporate people?
They have a different budget than, entrepreneurs. Are they entrepreneurs who are already have already 10, 20 years in business. Well you’re gonna price it differently. My people are kind of like all over the place. I said, Okay, I’m gonna start it at a very low price.
And then, kind of over the months as the value also grows because in a community, part of the value is also the other participants members, right? If you’re in a community and the membership and they tell you, this is a community and there’s two people and obviously. You’re like, Well, I’m not gonna pay for that if there’s,
Slowly Figuring Out
Sarah: Slowly figuring out that when pricing your membership site you can start with one rate. Then what I did is kind of beta test the rate This is the low entry rate and was 20 bucks at the time, and that was during the pandemic years. And so that I think is a really good approach because then you have a community of loyal fans who are like, Okay, we got a great deal. They start to know each other. They’re there and they’re grandfathered in for that price. And then as you grow, you start to raise the price.
As I said, the value grows because you have more members and you have also recordings from the calls and things like that. That’s what I was doing actually before that even I started out with the pay what you want or pay. That pay what you want scheme. Like that slight and say, and that it was an experiment. I always do everything as an experiment and I think it’s a good way to present such things. If you just wanna find out, look, is this gonna work? And it didn’t work right. People were always like, I had two different prices and people just always pick the bare minimum price, right? I’m like, Well, that’s not gonna work for me. I can’t, it’s not sustainable.
Later I switched it to just one price for everybody. And I just saw another friend who did the same thing with her membership. She’s like, I had a few prices, one really low and one higher. And she’s like, It didn’t work because,
Janene: Was there no difference in the two? Like what they bought for the two prices, was it exactly the same?
Two Different Offers
Sarah: Yeah, in my case it was exactly the same. I said, if you have a lower budget, pick this one. If you can afford it, pick the other one. In her case, there were actually two different offers. And that really complicated things for her. At the end, there was like three or however many who picked who had the higher rate.
But she had to create all this content for them and then all the other ones were on the lower ones. She’s like, what? Simplify And just now she just has this one rate. It’s all these considerations to think of when you start out trying to price your membership site. I think it’s a good idea to start with a lower rate for a membership and then kind of engage as you grow.
Janene: If I summarize, there were three things that you mentioned really influence or could drive the pricing of your membership site. One was your intention behind the membership site. Is that the main thing you’re selling? Is that a gateway to selling something else?
Sort of that intention behind it, the value that your clients get and who you’re targeting, your audience. Yeah, those are kind of the three main things that drove how you chose to select your price. Is that correct? Did I miss something?
Intention Behind It
Sarah: I think you’re right about the intention, is this and probably what I would add also is How much energy are you gonna have to put into that, right?
Because, when you hear some people talk about their membership site, sites or whatever, they’re like, again, it’s this whole content creation and they’re like hustling a lot for just that one offer, right? Think about how much do I want to put into energy and work and hours into that offer?
And then reflect on what? On how you’re gonna price it.
Janene: I’ve thought of starting a membership site in the past myself, but I was concerned about the amount of content that would need to be fed to deliver it. And I guess you can, there’s ranges of that. You can keep it very simple or make it much more complex, depending on what your audience really is looking for.
But that I can imagine for a lot of people that it’s easy to get caught up in kind of treating it like a social media channel and trying to just generate content for it all the time as well.
Sarah: Yeah. And there’s kind of this mentality that you have to, Right? That’s what people expect because they’re paying a monthly fee.
What I’ve learned is like, Not necessarily because again, we’re already all in this information overload. I think it’s more about simplifying and if you can build the community piece into it. That right now is much more valuable to people than more content to consume.
Janene: Not to get off tag pick, but I am curious, what do you use as a platform for that?
Sarah: I have a Kajabi website. The recordings go in there. And then I have a simple Trello board actually for the communication between our members. I didn’t wanna make it complicated.
But I do realize that when we grow and as we grow, I think I might have to go to my Mighty Networks. That’s what everybody kinda,
Janene: Yeah, there are a lot of different tools out there now. Yeah, of course. Kudos to you for Trello cuz I find Trello. There’s something about Trello and my brain that to me, it’s completely illogical and I really, I’ve tried it a few times and it makes me feel very incompetent.
Sarah: But it, Yeah, that’s exactly, I think. Why we need to change, because I absolutely love it. And so do a few of the members, right? But then there’s the select few members who are like you.
They’re like, I’m just not getting this. And I’m like, let’s sort of like the right brain, left brain thing because it’s a very right brain kind of tool. It’s very visual. For some people it’s just like this is confusing. I think there’s gonna be another tool in the future.
Janene: I use something called Click up and you can put it into Trello format, but I never that.
This has been really interesting. Thank you so much for sharing about, how your own journey with this membership site. I’m sure that our listeners are going to get a lot out of that. I know quite a few people who are working on membership sites right now, I appreciate you sharing your experience and know-how with us.
Takeaway from Discussion
Janene: I do have a few wrap up questions for you. What’s one thing that you’d like people to take away from our discussion?
Sarah: I think to just be open and in conversation also with, especially if we’re talking about pricing and memberships. What I’m currently doing is I’m kind of going to retro prices. Because I’ve talked about the, economic situation right now, inflation and all that. I kind of spoke to a few of the members and I’m like, How are you handling this? And they’re like, We’re struggling. It’s, it’s difficult right now. I actually went out and said, Look, I’m going back to the price from, the last open door.
Anybody who’s already in there wants to change, I’ll change you back to that price. and the new, open door in September, they’re gonna get. The lowered price again. So kind of having these conversations like a human being and say, Look, it’s hard for everybody. I’m not suffering from inflation on this particular offer, but I want us to, you know, be in community and continue to be in community and not have you unsubscribe because you can’t pay your bills.
So kind of having this open approach to, to pricing and having a conversation, I think that’s important.
Best Business Advice
Janene: Very important. Thank you for that. What is the best business advice you’ve been given that you’d like to share with others?
Sarah: I don’t know about advice, but, well, I guess it is. My favorite business book of all times is, Essentialism by Greg McOwen.
And that really how we say, changed my life. It really did change my life. It changed the way I look at business. Really coming from this approach of an essentialist who focuses in on what’s essential, I do everything like that in business. And start always with saying, No. What can I say no to?
How can I simplify? What can I automate? How, what can I outsource? And then really only spending the hours that. Have to in business or otherwise, you know, spend them with clients. Yeah. That give me enjoy, but really kind of saying, Okay, how can I make this business thing just so efficient that I can use my time somewhere else where I like more needed.
Janene: Right. I love that. I haven’t, that’s not a book I’ve read yet. I’ll be sure to put that in the show notes for everyone with a link to it. You guys can check it out. I have to, I started using something called Blinkist, I think it’s called Blinkist, where you can get like, snippets, like a 10 minute audiobook snippet or an excerpt from different books.
Yeah. I’ll have to see if it, I’m sure it’s on there, so I’ll have to see. Awesome. Learn more about it. Cool. Thank you very much.
Connect with Sarah
Janene: How can people reach you if they’d like to find out more about you?
Sarah: Yeah, My website is humane.marketing. The other page that I’d like to mention is just, humane.marketing/1page, the number one and page if people want to find out more about, humane marketing and the, one page marketing plan in the form of a Mandala.
I’ll let you, It’d mandala is a creative process. And I basically took the seven piece of marketing and reshaped them in a form of a mandala because marketing is a creative process and I feel like if we start to market from within, then we can really find the joy back in marketing.
Thank you. We’ll put those links and all the links to reach out to Sarah in the show notes for you, ladies and gentlemen. If you’d like to get in, contact her or grab that one page marketing plan. Is that what you said? That’s right.
You can go and do that over at humane.marketing/1page.
Sarah, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your journey with.