Starting a membership site is an excellent way to explode your earnings, while also bringing in a monthly or annual source of income in the process. However, starting a membership site isn’t as easy as throwing up a new WordPress site, installing a few plugins and calling it a day. Actually, millions of membership sites are started every year, but only a small fraction of them will find success. This is mainly due to the fact that membership sites need paying customers to keep them alive — and this is where most site owners and marketers go wrong.
The good news is that there are plenty of tools and resources out there to help you with the pre-planning and setup process before you get started — all of which I will be providing for you below.
Quick Tips, Tools, and Resources for Building Your First Membership Site
If you’ve ever wanted to start a membership site of your own, you will know there is are lot of options to choose from. Everything from what type of content you will be offering, how much you will charge for access, and also how you will build your site so you can store and lock content for members only. I’m going to cover most of these topics and questions in detail for you below.
1 – Why should/shouldn’t you build a membership site?
The most common reason to start a membership site is because you have some form of premium content to offer and also want to make money from it. At the same time, a membership or community-based site can bring a lot of loyal to your brand following. If this is something you already have in place, the overall success of your membership site is much more likely to happen.
However, before jumping the gun and going live with your site right away, there are many things you should be thinking about — such as;
- Do you have the time, resources, and focus to make a membership site work?
- Is there enough value offered through your program for an audience to pay?
- How large of a niche audience can your membership site attract and is there a market for it?
- What is the end goal for your membership, and how can you scale it over time?
Another thing to consider is why you are creating your membership site in the first place. If you are simply going after the money, this might be an immediate cause for concern. It’s extremely hard to convert a free content/blogging audience into a paying audience. Be sure to consider all options (and split test where possible), before actually going live with a membership site.
2 – Tools and Resources to Build a Membership Site
Having considered launching a few membership sites over the years, I’ve spent hundreds of hours considering all of the different options out there. Since I already use WordPress for most of my sites, this is something I wanted to stay consistent with — yet there are still many alternatives, options and WordPress plugins to choose from. MemberPress, Memberium, WooCommerce Memberships, S2Member and MemberMouse are some of the most popular solutions on the market today. I recommend taking a look at this article on top membership plugins for a full review on each.
But don’t forget… each of these solutions are just one component to your membership site and how your content is set up. You will also need to look at different options and solutions for payment methods, engagement, tracking, content creation and much more. Here are some top solutions on the market today.
- Paypal / Stripe – These are two of the best payment processors out there. Nearly everyone already has access to Paypal, but not all solutions are compatible with it, or provide enough options for customer payment. When Paypal isn’t your best option, don’t forget about Stripe, which makes accepting credit cards and online payments easy — while also now being more compatible with most membership platforms.
- GetResponse / Aweber – Don’t even think about launching your membership site without an email platform in place as well. While people will be paying to access your membership site, it will be important to keep them updated with any news, changes and notifications you may want to send out to all members.
- YouTube / Vimeo – A great majority of membership sites are now focus on video content. When choosing your video hosting platform, be sure to choose one that offers premium video hosting, tracking capabilities and the option to remove ads and embed video. YouTube and Vimeo are two of the top names out there when it comes to video hosting for membership sites.
3 – Content Creation and Audience Engagement
As mentioned earlier, the end goal of your membership site should be to provide extreme value over whatever else it is you are currently offering. In most cases, when you see a private community or membership online in the blogging or online marketing space, it’s because they are providing step-by-step tutorials and guides on how to accomplish something — in much more detail than what they might be offering to their general site or social media audience. This is also something we have been seeing lately with many gurus and experts within their own space, mainly because it’s a lot easier to set up a membership site than ever before. Names like James Wedmore and Chalene Johnson have launched their own membership sites and online courses through a solution like Kajabi, which is an all-in-one solution for creating and selling content online.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to consider your options and how you want to provide value to your audience. A perfect example of this would be to offer individual modules and courses within your membership area — both through written content and online video. An added bonus to paying members only should be a weekly or monthly video chat session. It’s also a great idea to offer some type of Facebook Group engagement where everyone can chat and meet on another platform outside of just your individual membership site.
As your audience and member base continues to grow, always ask what type of content or improvements they would like to see. After all, your members are the most important component of your membership site.
4 – Promotion of Your Membership Site
Once you’ve created your membership site and done a soft launch to bring in a few members, it’s important that you have an outreach and marketing plan in place. Membership sites are extremely tough to grow in size, as you need to actively convert free audiences into paying customers. At the same time, if you have a slow growing membership and an audience that isn’t participating, this in itself can be enough to bring the downfall of your precious community.
Here are a few ideas to bring some life and promotion to your membership site.
- Email – Always take advantage of the power of email marketing and those who may already be subscribed to your mailing list. If someone already gave their email address to subscribe to your content, there is a good chance they would pay for your premium content as well.
- Content Block – If you already have a website or blog, be sure to make different areas of your site more exclusive than others. Not only will this provide more content for your premium members, it will also draw a lot of interest from your free users as well.
- Affiliate Program – Depending on the niche market you are in and they type of community you are trying to grow, launching an affiliate program might be a great idea for your membership site. With an affiliate program of your own, you can partner up with other sites in your industry and offering them a commission for each new member they send to your site.
- Podcasts and Interviews – Participate in podcasts and expert interviews on other sites. This will allow you to show off your expertise and reach new audiences — thus further growing your reach and membership base.
No matter how big or small your membership site may be, implementing each of these methods can result in a huge member increase over the life of your community and marketing efforts.
How to Build a Membership Site Infographic
Special thanks to Become a Blogger for their infographic below. I always like to break down the steps of how something is accomplished, while also including visuals at the same time. Leslie over at Become a Blogger has done an excellent job at covering all of the components of a successful membership site through the infographic below.