How to Validate Your Idea for a Membership or Subscription Site

You’ve had an amazing idea. The idea is for a membership site, and it’s going to be brilliant. Everyone will want to join. You can charge what you like for it. You’re going to be a millionaire.

But then that initial wave of giddy optimism fades. You start thinking rationally. Is it actually a good idea? How do you know?

Unfortunately, you can’t really trust your own judgment because of your inherent bias toward yourself. The next worst people to judge your idea is your friends and family. All being well in your household and among your group of friends, they should be biased towards you as well.

So how can we get an objective analysis of our ideas? How can we validate them?

Does it already exist?


Many people think that if their bright idea already exists, it’s an opportunity missed.

Other people would see it as a validation of the concept. There may be competition, but now you know a need for your idea exists.

There are few completely original ideas in a world of seven billion people. There are more gaps in markets.

If the market doesn’t exist, then it is less likely your idea has an audience. If there is demand, sooner or later someone will attempt to address it. Hopefully, your idea came at the right time, and that someone is you.

Does it exist in a different form?

Idea List
Idea List

You might be shaking your head on the prior point. The most successful ideas in history were wholly original, right?

As the famous Henry Ford quote that he probably never actually said goes, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

And while a car was an original innovation, the need it met was not. Cars are a means of transportation, the same way horses were. Cars were just a faster, more comfortable means of transport.

So while your idea may exist in one form, could it also be successful in another? There may not be other membership sites out there like yours, but there may be an online course or ebook that conveys similar information. The success of these products and services can be a validation of your idea.

If it doesn’t exist

New Idea
New Idea

If nothing like your idea exists, it’s time to find out if the demand for it does.

Tim Ferris, author of best selling book ‘The Four-Hour Work Week’, tested the appeal of his products by creating landing pages for them. He would do this before even creating a prototype. He would pay for ads for his landing pages on Google, and measure the click through and conversion rates. He wanted to know how many people were interested enough to press the buy button, even if he didn’t have a product to deliver to them.

Justin Ferriman, the founder of LearnDash, blogged about his idea of a Learning Management System (LMS) for WordPress before developing the product. When the product was first released a year later, he had thousands of email leads from people who had registered their interest in the idea. This not only validated his idea, but gave him useful marketing leads to start his business with.

But if you’re not ready to commit to spending time and/or money on blogs or landing pages, there are simpler first steps towards validating your idea.

Are people asking questions?

New Idea
New Idea

Question and answer sites like Quora are a great place to find out if people are looking for a service like your proposed idea. If no relevant questions exist, you can ask them yourself.

Forums like Reddit or others specialized in your niche can also help you determine if there is interest in your product.

The acid test

The Acid Test
The Acid Test

Ultimately, you want to know if someone would pay to be a member of your site. Having friends say they would pay for it is not enough. Can you actually get a person unconnected to you to part with cash for your service?

Creating a full membership site involves a lot of work and cost. A scaled-down version of your service, a minimum viable product (MVP), is an excellent way to validate your idea.

So if your idea is to run a membership site that helps people lose weight, your MVP could be a one-hour fitness class. Can you get people to book one on one classes with you? It is a lot easier to prepare a one-hour class for one person than it is to run a site for many people. But it is still evidence that people want to lose weight, and of the credibility of your services in helping them achieve that goal.

Your great idea is unlikely to be original. In some form or another, it probably already exists, which is good: it shows demand for your idea exists. If it doesn’t exist, work out what need it addresses and whether people are looking for a solution like yours. And if you can prove that they are prepared to pay for your solution, well maybe it actually is an amazing idea.

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