Should You Build a Membership Site?

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Membership sites are becoming increasingly popular among bloggers and web developers, and it’s easy to see why. In a membership model, customers pay a monthly fee for access to a site – usually the site contains regularly updated content and some form of community interaction (such as a discussion forum). Often, the site offers the chance to learn from industry experts.

If a membership site is done properly, it can generate a regular income for years to come. However, not all membership sites are created equal, and if site creators spent more time in the development stage ironing out potential issues with their membership sites, they will see increased value over the long term.

If you’re thinking of building a membership site, check that you’ve answered the questions below:

Will your site provide ongoing value?

A successful membership offers solutions to common problems faced by your customers. The site needs to provide continual value, which means constantly updating your content and offering something that users find valuable enough to continue paying for month after month.

Your site’s topic needs to be broad enough to sustain new content on a monthly basis, and attract members who want to stay for the long haul. Is a membership site the best distribution method for your information, or might you be better off creating an ebook or webinar?

Maybe your company sells software products for small businesses. Your membership site could be a small-business success club, offering monthly tips on small business marketing, productivity, and product development. Members will receive some of your most popular software packages for free, along with 24-hour support and steep discounts on your other products.

To the potential customer, this membership site looks like great value for money. Not only are they getting the software they wanted at a cheaper price, they’re also receiving a ton of free advice and a community of other business professionals they can interact with, and ongoing value of business advice and inexpensive software.

Points to consider:

  • What is your website’s mission?
  • What are the problems you will solve?
  • Can customers already attain this information somewhere else?

Can you provide community?

If you can build community interaction into your site, and sustain vibrant, informative discussion in forums or live chat, you’ll stand a much better chance at retaining a loyal membership. Members will continue to pay for access to a community of peers – so think about including some kind of discussion forum or chat room feature, especially if it includes access to industry experts.

Points to consider:

  • How will you facilitate and encourage discussion on your membership site?
  • How will your structure your community?
  • Which industry experts can you invite to participate?

Are you using the right medium for content delivery?

Your medium is as important as your site’s message. Membership sites can take on many different forms, with content presented in various ways and a whole array of different features, such as:

  • Discussion forums
  • Downloadable PDFs
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Interviews with industry experts
  • Coaching Calls
  • Live Chat / Q&A

What features will your site include? How will you present content in your membership site? How will you notify members when new content goes live?

Different niches and audiences will have different preferences, and it can be difficult as a beginner to understand why some features work for some niches and not others. Many membership sites can be created with software and plugins designed for WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. But if you want to add lots of features or create different levels of membership, you’re going to need a more customized solution.

In the initial planning stages of your site, get a great web development company on board. They can help you research your audience and figure out the best presentation method for your content. A web development company will not only help you choose the right features for your niche, but they can take care of the design, development, testing and launch of your site, leaving you free to create the content and promote the site.

Points to consider:

  • How do your members prefer to access content?
  • How will you keep members informed about new content and changes to the site?
  • What platform will you use?
  • Do you need a web developer?
  • Do you need a customized content management solution?

How will you promote the membership site?

Having a marketing plan for your membership site is essential. If you’re going to put in all the work to create the site, you’ll need to put in just as much – if not more – work to ensure customers sign up!

Luckily, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to market your membership site. Start by approaching industry experts and bloggers in your niche. Perhaps you can offer free access to the site to a selected panel of experts in exchange for their promotion of the site to their followers. You can create an affiliate program, offering 50% commissions for anyone signing up new members.

Create a killer sales page on your site, and make sure any of your current products offer an upsell to the membership site. Use all your current marketing channels – such as your email list and social media – to push the launch of the site. Offering a launch special (2 months free if signing up in the first week) will help generate more signups.

Points to consider:

  • Create an enticing sales page
  • Use an affiliate program
  • Get industry experts and bloggers on board
  • Generate buzz on social media
  • Create sales leads from your business website
  • Promote to your existing email list.

How will you continue to add value?

After the initial flurry of sign-ups and activity on your site, it can be easy to allow it to stagnate while you work on other projects. If this happens, you’ll find your members dropping like flies, and no one will be rushing to renew their memberships.

Create a plan to continually produce valuable content. One of the best content-generation techniques for busy people is to use your community to create content. Ask experts to provide content in exchange for links to their products, or use community members for case studies.

If you don’t have time to produce the content yourself, you can hire content creators to make ebooks, reports, videos and webinars. Forum moderators will help keep discussions on track.

Points to consider:

  • Create a weekly schedule for working on new content.
  • Ask members what topics they want covered.
  • Use case studies from members.
  • Offer industry experts free access / promotional opportunities for their products in exchange for creating content.
  • Hire a content creator to ensure new content goes up on time.
  • If required, hire a forum moderator to generate new discussion and prevent topics from being derailed.

Membership sites can be very lucrative business ventures, but they require a lot of initial planning and constant updating – so make sure you’re prepared! If you’re thinking of building a membership site, the CorePHP team will help you get started with development solutions.

BIO: Steff Green is a freelance writer, blogger and illustrator living on 4 acres of rural paradise in New Zealand. Through her company Grymm & Epic Copywriting she creates unique and humorous content for ebooks, blogs and membership sites across a variety of niches. Check out her free ebook – 10 Content Marketing Ideas for Badass Business.

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