065: Creating a website for a membership business from scratch – with Aaron De Jong

Starting a website for your membership from scratch can be challenging. In this episode, Aaron De Jong, Founder of Movement108, joins us to explain why he chose MemberSpace to convert his fitness business into an online membership site.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler: Aaron. Hey, welcome to the Membership Maker.

Aaron De Jong: Thanks Ward. Excited to be here and to have a nice chat with you.

Ward Sandler: Yeah, definitely. All right, so let’s just kick things off. Let folks know who are you, and what is the membership business that we’re going to be talking about today?

Aaron De Jong: I’m Aaron De Jong. I am the founder, owner, operator, head trainer at a studio, in Vancouver, called Movement108. It was an in-person studio for six and a half years, and then this year, we flipped it over into an on-demand membership platform, where we film our classes or our workouts, and we post them for our members and that lives in our membership space.

Ward Sandler: And to give folks an idea, roughly how large was the in-person studio, in terms of customers or clients you had come in in a weekly basis or something like that.

Aaron De Jong: Yeah, I mean it fluctuated. I started super small and then we went into a bigger space. Our space was 2000 square feet. We had a second space, and still have a second space, where we do our filming, which is another 1500 square feet. So at our peak, we had 12 trainers, we had like 2,500 people through a month, that’s 2,500 visits, probably about 800 unique people. Our class sizes were anywhere from 3 to 15 people, and we had seven classes a day throughout the week, and then we specialize in personal training as well. So it was a pretty robust community. It was a really fun space and then converting it over into something more digital-focused it’s quite a trip.

Ward Sandler: So, how did you make a website that was, in your words, completely hands-off? First of all, what does that mean? And when you say making a website, was this something you did all by yourself or did someone else help you with this?

Aaron De Jong: No, I would say that I have a fairly okay brain when it comes to technical aspects. I’m, I’m the founder of an app. I was telling you just about just before we set a recording. So the reason that’s important is that I love talking about technology and figuring out how to build stuff, but I don’t know how to do any of that. So traditionally, in the past, I’ve managed and built out Squarespace websites, but that’s all very user-friendly functionality, but it limits you in what you’re able to do on your site if you’re building out alone. So with my other company, Movr, we had contracted a web developer and designer to build out our website. This was two years ago. She did a great job. She was a very clear, good communicator. And I just called her up this summer. I was like, Hey, are you free? And she had some availability in September. So we chatted for about 45 minutes. I told her exactly what I wanted. It was like we’re totally rebranding. We’re shifting; we’re looking at how we change the view of the experience of movement, we want to change from an in-person to an online platform, how we want the videos to live. Very simple to use for people coming in to sign in, to access them and categorize them, and she’d never built an exercise-related website, and she was just like, I’m not going to say yes, but I’m gonna go do a bunch of research, and I’m gonna come back with plugins with the website builder that I think we should use. And she came back like two days later, and she was so fired up! She was like, Hey, I think we could do something really cool here, and my whole goal from the get-go was I would like to make it so there’s very little work that I need to do once it’s up and running. So it’s like basically just upload the video, then everyone has access. It’s good because really I was managing the Dropbox links, the emails, trying to match who’s got access to the Dropbox to there, payment dashboard. Some people would like to stop paying, and I wouldn’t be able to close off the link to them. There are just so many aspects that I couldn’t control, and be having to do so much email work wasn’t like less work for me. It was actually a lot more than when I was in the studio.

Ward Sandler: And so what did the, what did this developer you’re working with, the designer you’re working with, what did she end up recommending in terms of the tools to use to launch?

Aaron De Jong: Yeah, We had built our other website on WordPress, so she’s very familiar with that. So we went over to WordPress, which has a lot more functionality; it’s a little less user-friendly; if you’re sort of like a layman’s person like me, then maybe a Squarespace, but she set up a really nice template. We got some new photos, a friend of mine came into did some photos for us that were really beautiful. And then she just said, plugins, we decided to use Vimeo over YouTube because it was way more user-friendly. We looked at MemberSpace, we looked at another platform called Memberful, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, and she was just like looking at all this, and we looked at ConvertKit and MailChimp. We just kind of had like all the sort of main competitors, and we chose the ones that were simplest for me to understand, and that’s how we went! So it was like, here’s a list of functionality, and then can Aaron do this without web developers help to hand-hold the rest of my life? And that’s where we came to obviously MemberSpace and then some of the other plugins that we decided to go with.

Ward Sandler: Yeah, it’s interesting you mention that because we’ve done a product-market fit survey for MemberSpace, and that was like the number one thing, it’s the ease of use and not to say we have a lot of things we can still make even easier! But that’s kind of our big focus, and it’s good to hear that is what resonated with you, but sorry. Did you have something to add in there?

Aaron De Jong: I was just going to say it’s, it’s totally true! Like I go onto the website now, and I love how simple it is. There’s like four buttons for me to click into, and obviously, if you expand, you can go down portals of offerings and things that you guys have done, but it’s been super pleasant to be working with. And like I said, I can go and create a cheeky coupon code, which I know sounds basic and easy, but it’s actually super valuable for me to go and do that and then offer it to somebody. It’s made managing the website the business super hands-off experience for me while people are still enjoying the product.

Ward Sandler: Yeah, no, I think that’s key because at the end of the day like you were saying, you duct tape together solution with Dropbox, right? And you still had people coming to you. So what does that say? You weren’t successful because you’re on MemberSpace. Now you were successful because of your content, and you obviously have a good network; you have a community and an audience and that kind of thing, so the platform can certainly help or hinder you, and certainly, it can help you grow. But the core of what’s going to make you successful it’s not which platform you choose, right? It’s the content you’re providing, how you’re offering it, what your pricing is, which if you’re listening to your customers, which it sounds like you’re doing all that stuff! And so that’s really great to hear that all kind of came together for you.

Aaron De Jong: I think like without trying to plug MemberSpace, cause what you said is so true, I’m sure that I could have gone to another plug of our platform and got to know it and used it really efficiently and well, but I think ultimately, we only have a finite amount of time, I only have a finite amount of time and energy that I wanted to continue giving to this sort of like online experience. I didn’t want to be emailing out Dropbox links for the rest of my life. Once I set this up, and I was able to learn really quickly how to use the platform, it allowed me to focus on other things, which was business growth, which is connecting with community members. It’s not needing to go in and make sure everyone’s got the links or listening to issues, email them and be like, where’s my video? Or how do I get access? Or how do I get behind the paywall, all that stuff! So it did allow me to focus my energy and efforts elsewhere, which ultimately serve the business, right?

Ward Sandler: Yeah. I mean, I feel like that’s the goal of any platform, just get out of the way and let them run their business as easily as possible. It sounds so simple and obvious, but most software doesn’t do that. It’s just like the business owner doesn’t care about the software; they want to solve the business problem and make it as easy as you can for them!

Aaron De Jong: Typically, complex problems have very simple solves; that’s when you can use simple solves exponentially, and I think that it sounds so simple to be a wall and behind the wall is our content. But I’m like, how do we build that? And fortunately, we came across your platform, and that’s been provided so seamlessly!

Ward Sandler:Yeah, cool, Aaron. So I think that’s a really great stuff. Why don’t we wrap up here and if you could just share your website or anything else you want to kind of plug, any social media or anything like that?

Aaron De Jong: Yeah, sure. I mean, Check out the platform obviously at Movement108, it’s pretty self-explanatory. We try to make it as simple as possible. You can learn a lot about what the what’s special or the workouts, the balanced offering that you get every week in terms of mobility, some strengths and weight stuff, and kettlebell workouts, social media, is the same on Instagram. We do every so often Instagram live workouts, so you can kind of get to know conversationally the trainers myself and the other trainers I work with. And then I’ve got another project, check out the Movr app, in the app store. That’s a different offering, but something I’m super passionate about. So lots of ways you can find me and move your bodies with me.

Ward Sandler: Awesome. Thanks, Aaron. That’s great stuff. Thanks very much for the time, we appreciate it.