Forget about the internet for a moment and think about your offline world. How do you spend your social time? At the gym? Down the golf club? Reading a subscription newsletter? And even when you not involved in some leisure activity, but are simply doing the weekly shop, do you find you’re at the local wholesale store rather than the high street supermarket?
All of the above activities generally have a very successful business behind them. And those businesses all have one thing in common – the business model they’re operating is a membership model. People are paying a regular fee for the rights to receive benefits only available to members.
Fortunately for the internet marketer, the membership model also works online. Here we’ll take a quick look at the main stages of setting up a membership site.
Choose Your Niche
As with the offline world and individual product sales, a successful membership site needs to focus on a niche with both high demand and commercial potential. Your typical keyword research and market analysis will help you to identify potentially lucrative niches.
Determine Your Sites Structure
Once you’ve decided upon your niche, you need to break it down into sub niches. This will not only provide a structure for the construction of your site, but it also provides more focus for your members as your content is delivered.
Build the Site
Membership sites can be built quickly and easily these days. Indeed, gone are the days when they required technical specialists. Platforms such as WordPress are free to use, have extensive support networks and a plethora of plugins, both free and premium, mean that membership site functionality is now readily available. Today even the most technophobe of us can set up a site and install software to
- Manage access and security
- Drip feed content
- Protect content
- Offer multi-level memberships with different price points
- Offer trial periods
- Integrate with payment processors
Information sells, but the way people prefer to digest that information varies widely. Unless your site is specifically dealing with only one medium, e.g. video, you may find it beneficial to produce content in a wide variety of formats. You could produce,
- Product reviews and demonstrations
- Software downloads
You may decide to produce each piece of content in a different format from the previous one, or you may decide to produce some content in multiple formats.
If you’re unable to produce the content, or the required format yourself, there are plenty of outsourcing sites which can help you.
In addition to the monthly content, you could also bring value to your membership site by adding,
- A helpdesk
- A frequently asked questions section (FAQ)
- A forum. While this may require a significant amount of extra work, in both terms of setting it up and moderating it, it could also prove to be the jewel in the crown.
Forums are often slow to establish simply because of the lack of members at the beginning. However, if you persevere and manage to establish a critical mass, you’ll suddenly realise that you have a flourishing community spirit in which members help each other, provide content for your site, and continue to pay their subscriptions as they don’t want to lose access to something which they are very much a part of.
Determine Your Payment Structure
How much and how often you charge people is obviously a major factor behind the revenue you generate from your membership site. Payment structures to consider include,
- Trial offers followed by a monthly rate. The low start cost could entice more people to join, but you could also see a high unsubscribe rate at the end of the first month.
- Low monthly fees. Low fees can result in longer memberships simply because, even if the site isn’t being accessed, the fee is paid because it’s easier than cancelling it.
- High monthly fees. These tend to attract only serious buyers. You’ll have fewer members, but as long as you deliver quality content each month, you may find they’re happy to stay with you long term.
- One-off lifetime payment. Many people join a site anticipating that they will be paying the fee each month. In reality however, many unsubscribe after only three or four months. If you pitch a lifetime membership at say, the equivalent of six months fees, the chances are you’ll earn more money than if you sold a monthly subscription, while at the same time your customer is happy because they feel thay’ve got a bargain.
Promote Your Site
You now need to attract new members. Your promotional efforts could include,
- PPC campaigns
- Article writing
- Building a blog
- Forum postings
- Video marketing
- Press releases, and
- Banner ads on targeted websites
You should invest a significant amount of your income back into your product. You can build a reputation for a good quality offering which always over delivers. As your reputation grows, you should find it easier to attract more members. You should also find that your existing members are very receptive to other products you may offer them. These could be either your own, or affiliate offers, but either way you’re earning more revenue.
Micro Continuity Sites
If the niche you’ve chosen for your membership site is too large, you could be hit by the double whammy of having to work hard to produce monthly content, while at the same time losing members who just move on to other things.
The trick behind passive income is to offer a number of smaller sites with fixed term memberships. Thus instead of focusing on internet marketing, you would have one membership site for SEO, another for social media, another for WordPress etc. Each membership program would last for 6-10 weeks, but members would have lifetime access to the site.
With short programs you do not have to worry about long term content creation. With a tightly focused niche, once the course is delivered and successful little, if any, work needs to be done the next time it is offered.
By focusing on micro continuity sites, membership programs can provide a lucrative passive income for very little work other than the initial creation.
Over To You: Do you offer a membership program? How do you overcome the content creation problem? How do you decide on your pricing policy?