What if you could create a community for your readers, subscribers and customers where you could not only provide them with great content and information, but also market to them as well, all while increasing your trust, rapport, expertise and profits? Well, read on, because as we dive into membership sites this will all become much clearer.
Getting the word out about new products and services takes time and one drawback is that products or services will need to sell on a regular basis, and in sufficient quantity, to keep cash flow going. What would be easier, though, is bringing in a regular flow of income from the same customer base and this is something that membership sites can do with relative ease. They can be a recurring source of income, if built, maintained and marketed properly – something that anyone in any business can certainly appreciate.
What we will do now is take a deeper look at membership sites and see what makes them such a unique and practical way to earn money. It turns out there are a lot of advantages to this model and that building membership sites is easier to do than a lot of people might actually think. Once you see just what is involved, you will be better prepared to decide if a membership site might be a smart way for you to build a business or expand one you are already involved in.
The Definition of a Membership Site
Membership sites are those sites which require a person to sign up or register, creating a login name and password, before they can use the site. In many instances, the user will also fill out a profile, describing themselves and including a photo or other image to represent themselves, so that they can socialize with other members although this is not always the case. How membership sites are set up and run does vary on a case by case basis, but the bottom line is that there are members who have voluntarily signed up to enjoy the content, features and anything else the site has to offer.
Some membership sites do not charge for becoming a member. They allows people access for free because they are using advertising or selling other products as a way to bring in income. Some sites offer a limited membership for free and charge for upgrades to the subscription that offer additional functionality, content or other bonuses. The formula will vary and should be set to meet the needs of both the site owner and the membership.
Purpose of membership site?
There are many kinds of membership sites across the web and each is built for a different purpose and in different ways. What ties them together is that they all bring people together who share an interest in a certain topic or niche. This creates the ideal target audience for marketers and provides extensive value to customers, too. In return for loyalty, members get the benefits they joined for and this dramatically reduces marketing costs for the site owner which is the core goal of having a membership site aside from its ability to bring in a continual flow of income.
It should be noted that membership sites can be set up by one individual marketer as a way to meet the needs of a niche audience or that they can be set up by a company that wants to have another stream of income. Both of these types of membership models can be very successful. Organizations, too, can sometimes benefit from membership sites that bring people together and foster a sense of community.
Features That Membership Sites Often Have
The core draw of a membership site is the features it has to offer. This is what will get people to sign up so it is an important part of planning one of these sites. In general, there are a huge range of different features a site could offer its membership – just about anything that could be dreamed up, really. What matters most is that those building the site take the time to develop features that will appeal to their niche audience.
One of the more obvious features that a membership site could include is written content. Articles covering topics of interest to members and perhaps offering insights that are not found elsewhere. Obviously, any written content will need to be extremely good and targeted directly to the needs of the members themselves. It should also be of the quality that would appear in a book. In other words, it should be information that would otherwise be paid for or is equally difficult to obtain. Some sites will also release easy to read on the go PDF or ebook files so that members do not have to stay logged in when they want to read the written content the site contains.
Audio and video
Audio and video are other attractive forms of content. Videos engage us and they can often be the reason we end up signing up for a site. Some sites release specific video and audio content on a monthly basis for their members exclusively and this often makes the cost of the membership worth it to those are signed up, especially if what’s covered in the content is of great interest to them. The video and audio do not necessarily have to be of top-notch professional quality, depending on the niche, but they should definitely be of the best quality in terms of meeting the audience’s need content-wise.
In some instances, having interactive software tools or apps could be a smart feature for a membership site. In this case, what is provided in terms of software should be uniquely useful to the members and also be related to the niche. An example could include an app members of a running site could access that would help them keep track of how many miles they run, set goals and update them with weather from their area. Another example might be an exclusive online database base where members of an aquarium hobbyist site could list rare fish they have to trade with other members from around the world. These are just examples, but they shed some light on just how much is possible with membership sites.
Webinars are another feature that some sites offer as a way to get everyone together for scheduled events that any member can participate in. Webinars can be video and audio, just audio or other arrangements. Doing what makes sense for the webinar is what is important rather than following a specific formula. During webinars, members can usually participate via chat or they can call in and listen or speak when called on during a question and answer session using their phones. People really seem to enjoy webinars and this is a great way to get them involved in what is going on with the site. In the right niche, these can be a feature that draws people effectively.
Social engagement is a very important part of most, but not all, membership sites. Users generally come because they want the content the site offers, but the reason they keep paying the subscription is because they are enjoying the community that has formed at the site. In order to facilitate the community building aspects of a site, a very good idea is to include a forum. This will allow members to interact with each other, something people enjoy on membership sites that are focused on niches they care about. It will also allow you to post messages and get feedback, even letting people post questions they have so that you can answer – something that’s very help for those who are experts looking to grow their reputation while serving the needs of their audience.
You may also want to consider adding chat features that will let people be able to talk with each other live. Incorporating video and audio chat features could further enhance socializing, but this may be further than some membership sites want to go. The core goal here is to come up with the smartest, most effective way to meet the needs of the audience when it comes to giving them a sense of community and enhancing the appeal of your site.
Why Membership Sites Are a Smart Idea for Entrepreneurs
For anyone that wants to build their own successful enterprise online, membership sites offer major advantages. For one thing, having a site that is open to the public means sending a lot of traffic and hoping for sales. Each of those sales may occur just once and then the income dries up. This can work, of course, and it does for a great many entrepreneurs, but if you can build something stable that gives you income each and every month – or at least on a consistent basis – then you can plan your marketing a lot better.
Meeting the needs of the general public is difficult and even sites in a specific niche may find that a lot of their traffic is simply those ‘kicking tires’, so to speak, who never buy anything and may never return. That’s a lot of wasted bandwidth that doesn’t need to happen. Membership sites focus on people who have purchased a membership or at least signed up for a free membership wherein they have given their email address that can be used to build a list if they’ve given their consent to be part of that list. This allows you to build a loyal following a lot quicker and it’s always easier to serve an audience that is loyal and bringing you income.
Members of your site can be easier to create content for, too, because you have a good understanding of what they are looking for and if your site includes socializing areas such as forums, you can keep tabs on how they feel about what the site is offering them. This gives you a lot of advantages that a free-standing website is simply not going to have. Any entrepreneur can thrive more quickly just with these advantages alone and that is important to remember when starting any venture.
Continuity income, for those sites that charge monthly or otherwise bill regularly, helps you plan out how you approach everything about your business. You have a much better idea of your budget over the long-term so you can make more informed choices about how you invest your time, energy and money. The real advantage here is that you spend a lot less time focusing on the things that aren’t essential to pleasing your audience and that is going to give much better results.
While there are certainly exceptions, most membership sites do not charge high monthly subscription fees. Even if you charge a very low subscription price such as $40 a month, once you have 200 people who is $8,000 per month in income – nothing to sneeze at for most entrepreneurs who want to run their own home based business. This is merely an example, but it goes to show how even with a small, tightly focused membership you could pull in substantial cash without doing nearly the work you’d need to do if you relied on one time sales for cash flow.
Another noted advantage of membership sites for entrepreneurs is that they are relatively low cost in terms of starting them up, in most cases. Open source software can be used which lowers the amount you have to pay to set up the site. Marketing can be done via social networks if you are on a shoestring budget, too. As long as you are committed to providing the quality content your members want then it will be a great deal easier to get started with less money and use whatever it is you bring to the table – be that specialized knowledge, skills or experience – to grow a membership site that earns you a respectable income.
Questions about membership sites
Can Membership Sites Work for Companies
For businesses, a membership site can be a great way to build community around a brand in a way that even a great social media presence isn’t going to be able to do. Each company will have to think about the market it serves and how a membership site can best meet the needs of that market, but usually a site of this kind will be a relatively small investment. It gives that business a way to keep tabs on their core customer base and make sure they are meeting all of their needs effectively, even giving them a way to engage in dialogue or host special events that get people together and focused on what the company offers.
Businesses should of course carefully plan a membership site and thoroughly test it out prior to launch, but if done correctly it can be a great way to provide extra value to consumers. These sites can be used by any business in any market and they can pull in extra revenue or they can merely be a way to meet the needs of the customer base without charging them anything.
Ways to Promote Membership Sites
One thing that makes sense for almost all membership sites is content marketing. With this strategy, you will create (or outsource) quality content that you can then release online as a way of reaching out to potential customers within your niche. You can use written content like guest blog posts or articles or you can use video content – the options are only limited by your creativity. The good thing about content marketing is that it usually costs less to do and, if the content really is well made, it can pull in a lot of people who may buy a membership due to the content itself. This is a very common way to promote membership sites because it allows them to give a taste of what lies in store for those who become members.
Ads are another great way to let people know about your membership site. There are many different ways you can approach this. For instance, pay per click (PPC) ads that target search engine users who are looking for content related to your niche can be a great idea. You will want to fine tune any campaign you run to make sure the costs make sense, but this can be a good way to go.
Ads on related sites can be another smart move and there are plenty of sites around the web worth considering for most membership sites. You might even consider putting ads in newspapers or magazines if you have a membership site that could appeal to the audience of a specific publication. This can be a great way to bring people in that many membership sites never take advantage of. Costs can be high, but the smaller and more focused a publication is, the lower the price of its ad space usually is and that’s a powerful benefit to consider.
Of course, no marketing campaign for a membership site would be complete without mentioning social media.
You’re looking for people and social media has huge numbers of people that can be reached out to. If you take the time to build good profiles for your brand and you give away some content, reserving the rest for paid members, this can be a very powerful form of promotion. The costs are generally low and if you want to take it to the next level, then you can hire a social media professional or firm to help you reach out even more effectively.
How to Focus Tightly on a Niche is Key for Membership Sites
Membership sites can be built around just about any interest, hobby, industry or topic you can think of. This gives you a lot of freedom, but you should definitely try to make sure there is a market for any site you are considering building. You will be putting a lot of effort into building the site so you are definitely going to want to make sure that it is meeting a need people have. What can you give them that is not freely available? Can you offer personal expertise they could benefit from? Could you find a niche where you could pay experts to come in and talk to your members or create content for them? This has to be the way you think about building a membership site.
Some sites will offer special tools to help their members get things done that they would not find elsewhere or even a service that is part of being a member. You need to make sure that there is real value there and the more value you offer, provided it is value that your members really want, the more you can charge. Focusing on the needs of the niche, and not just desires, will help you create a membership site that has the right mix of features and value to draw in a full, profitable membership. Make this your goal from day one and you will wind up doing better.
how Community Building is Crucial for Membership Sites
Often, members are able to help each other out in ways your site might not have been able to do otherwise. The value of letting members talk to one another goes beyond them sharing an interest in whatever niche your site inhabits. The value comes through shared information. Think of a membership site for those who are involved in face to face salesmanship, for example. A site like that could have people sharing resources with each other and discussing strategies that work for them.
Your expertise and the experts you bring aboard can add to this. You can also get a sense for what members want by checking out what they talk about among themselves. This is purely a great way to build a loyal core audience you can continue to earn money from for years to come.
How to Create Additional Income with Membership Sites
You might also consider developing additional products you could sell to your members – perhaps even making those products available exclusively to members. When you have an inside look at what your audience needs, designing and developing products gets a great deal easier to do. Digital products are generally a smart idea because they can be downloaded instantly and used right away. You might be able to create products you can use as free gifts for new members, too. There are all kinds of opportunities to expand your income and bring in more profits over time and as long as you are better serving the needs of your members, everyone ends up winning.
how To Pair Physical Products with Membership Sites
Authors can sell a book, for example, on a niche topic and then include a free membership with each copy of their book sold. Readers might really enjoy the fellowship of others who enjoyed the same book and if there is additional content that ties into the book featured on the membership site then they are getting deeper into the niche. This kind of marketing is an excellent way to make a core audience even stronger and more loyal.
Not all physical products a company, or an entrepreneur, produces will be the right fit to include a membership to a site with, but if you have properly evaluated the option and found it’s a good idea, why not? Most of those marketing physical products do not think about how good even a free membership site can for their sales. They will have contact information for people who already bought something from them and that alone is worth quite a lot.
What Is The Importance of Having Excellent Customer Service
Confusion and frustration experienced by a member should get handled as quickly as possible. Support by email or phone is a very good idea and if you do not have time to offer support yourself because your site is growing too large, then it is most likely time to outsource what you need. There are many low cost services out there which can handle support and even services that will host your membership site and handle the technical support as well as issues regarding billing.
The way you handle your members’ problems speaks volumes about the quality of your site and what a membership to it is worth. You will want people to get more than their money’s worth because delighted members spread the word about your site faster, and at a lower cost, than just about any other kind of marketing. Word of mouth is often the best PR and you want to be mindful of that when setting up the best customer service you can. Remember, too, each member represents the potential to be there for years and over time that income ads up beautifully. Take good care of them and they can keep you in business for many years to come.
Seeking Out Training From Membership Site Experts and Networking
Learning to build and run the best membership site possible is something most people will need to study to do. There are a lot of factors involved, ranging from the software you choose to the way you market to your niche, that you will want to know about. There are many membership site owners who have succeeded in the past, pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars, every year from their subscriptions and sometimes additional products or services. Learning how this is done can be a smart idea.
There are courses available which can help you learn how to profit from membership sites and these are well worth considering, provided they are fairly recent and from someone trusted on the web. You may even be able to find a coach who knows about membership sites and can work with you to plan and develop a site that meets your members’ needs while providing a solid and steady income for you. Again, researching credentials will be important when choosing a coach, as well. There is a lot you can learn by seeking out the education and it is certainly a lot better than relying exclusively on free content you find online in an effort to train yourself.
Remember, too, that when you are starting out there is no need to go it alone. There are places where you can do networking and meet others who run successful membership sites, too. You always want to be working to expand your membership and this means that attending events for those with membership sites is smart, but also that events related to your niche are a smart idea. Don’t overlook the value of joint venture partners, either, because when you are networking you may meet someone you could interview for your site and give your members something really special. Stay social and take advantage of chances to meet people, form bonds and grow your business if you’re an entrepreneur with a membership site.
Membership Sites That Are Also Authority Sites Can Really Succeed
Here is one major benefit you should think about if you’re considering starting a membership site: this is one of the best ways to show authority. Think about it, a site which is focused on meeting the needs of a tightly focused audience is usually going to drill down into depths within that niche that few others will. You will be gaining not only from the content you are producing for your members, but their feedback, too. This can make your site very authoritative in a relatively short amount of time.
Authority sites are a lot easier to market because they end up getting cited by other sites online and sometimes even in traditional media, as well. Not to mention, they have a tendency to rank a lot higher in the search engines. Being so focused gives your membership site a lot of great advantages and really will help your business over the long run. Authority sites are trusted, have the most valuable content, get the most respect and tend to last the longest – this is exactly why it is well worth your time to build one.
Marketing Your Membership Site Will Require Serious Planning & Strategy
As great as membership sites can be, they definitely require some work and they are never built overnight. The best membership sites were usually developed for quite a long time and this is why they have so much to offer. They were well thought out and planned. Those running them have a schedule of content they release or events they host and they stick to it, remaining consistent and delivering value above and beyond what is expected of them each and every time. If you want your membership site so overflow with subscribers then that is exactly what you need to do.
It’s about more than just picking a niche and meeting needs if you want to succeed to a higher level. It’s about exceeding those needs and being an indispensable resource to those who have subscribed. Planning out how you are going to do this and then strategizing so that you find a good way to present your site to its potential members is going to take time and intelligence. That’s why seeking out education and maybe even training first is a good idea.
Like any real business, starting and running a membership site is going to require a budget in almost all cases. Be prepared for that and be prepared to invest your time and energy, too. When you feel overwhelmed, consider outsourcing content creation or tech support or whatever it is that you are struggling with that takes away from your core business: making sure your members are happy. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, remember to put in just as much to planning and operating your membership site as a company would because one day that could be your competition.
Give your membership site time to grow and keep marketing it, developing it and making it the best it can be. Those who really make the best site they possibly can are going to reap the benefits and enjoy a lot more than just continuity income – they can enjoy the pride of knowing they’ve created both a powerful resource and an important destination online for the niche they serve. That alone makes it well worth doing everything it takes to create a membership site that will be around for years to come. For those looking to build a membership site, we highly recommend Wishlist.