More and more entrepreneurs are turning to membership websites, a business model which provides exclusive content to people who pay a monthly or yearly fee. Some entrepreneurs establish businesses which revolve around this model while others are using it to expand an already existing business. It’s not difficult to see why: early in 2018, Forbes reported that the subscription e-commerce market grew by more than 100 percent each year for the previous five years.
Of course, membership sites make money for their owners but that’s not the full story. They generate passive income. Unlike other forms of income generation where you don’t make money unless you’re working, with membership sites, you can create content and then let it earn for you. Think about all the ebooks, online courses, podcasts and webinars that you see being advertised.
Beyond the money, the best membership websites allow people or businesses to establish themselves as the experts in their chosen field. It also helps them to increase the buzz surrounding their business. Furthermore, membership websites help businesses to offer more value to their customers and create a loyal customer base.
If you’ve recently launched a site or you’re now beginning your research, you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’ll find four pro tips from a long-time edtech professional. I’ve done dozens of membership sites, so you’ll get to learn from those who master the process.
Tip #1: Make It Clear That You Know Your Stuff
Notice how Amazon just keeps getting bigger and Facebook keeps reeling in more advertisers? It’s because they’ve already established themselves as the biggest in the business. Once you’ve started attracting customers and you keep your offering to a high standard, they’ll keep coming. You have to put in the work to make this happen, though. Here are a couple things you can do:
- Establish yourself as a thought-leader. Don’t just react to industry developments when they occur or regurgitate information that is already widely available. Be at the forefront of anticipating the opportunities and threats which are likely to face your field. Bring solutions. Innovate and tell people why your product or service will be a game-changer. Set yourself apart so customers have no choice but to notice you. Write blogs, create podcasts or appear as a guest on an established podcast. Tease your audience with high-quality free material which will make them want to pay to hear more from you.
- Get others to sing your praises. Have you ever heard that self-praise is no praise? Get testimonials from satisfied customers and put them out there for others to see. You get bonus points if can source testimonials from influential people. If they endorse you, their followers will definitely check you out. Let’s say you create a membership website revolving around travel. It would make sense to get your product endorsed by a well-known travel blogger with genuine, engaged followers.
Tip #2: Structure Content Smartly
The best membership websites are those which offer LOTS of value for money. Customers won’t pay you for something they could get elsewhere for free! One way to create a meaningful membership site is to offer a “training roadmap” or “learning path”. This is a structured way of presenting courses so that learners get information incrementally. Here’s why training roadmaps are popular:
- They allow for a comprehensive course to be taught over multiple sessions as part builds on the other.
- Customers don’t get overwhelmed since the entire training programme is broken down into manageable sessions.
- They allow customers to learn about complex products and services which they may later want to purchase.
This can all lead to increased sales for your business!
Let’s say your business is offering an accounting membership package. Companies may be hesitant to purchase it because it’s not tried and true. They don’t want to waste money on something that may not be user-friendly or useful. If you can present them with a training roadmap in which you gradually teach staff a few of the skills they can learn, they may sign up. Once they see the program is all that you claim, they will be ready to purchase.
Tip #3: Don’t Give Away Everything at Once
You need to strike a careful balancing act. Your first eBook, podcast or lesson needs to have tangible value but if you share too much, you won’t have content for the next time. This is especially important if you give away a freebie initially to collect email addresses. If your free product is exceptional, you will really have to scale up if you want people to pay to become a member. The best approach is to create anticipation so subscribers look forward to the next piece of content on your membership website. Giving them an idea of what to expect also helps members to decide whether they will tune in next week, open your next email or watch your next video.
Training roadmaps are actually an excellent example of this membership websites tip in practice. You wouldn’t try to go through a 12-week course in one hour, would you? The best membership websites know how to offer just enough information to provide value to customers but not so much that they never come back. When you’re building your membership site, think about how you will package your content at the earliest opportunity.
Tip #4: Leverage Your Existing Customers
Yes, you want lots of new members, but you also need to take stock of how you’re engaging current members. Do you solicit feedback from them? Do they feel comfortable telling you what they want from you? Have you even made it easy for them to do? After you secure your first set of subscribers, it may be useful to engage them so you know if there are ways in which you can improve. When current customers are happy, not only will they continue doing business with you, but they will tell their relatives and friends about that awesome site you have.
Here are some things you can do to build and maintain a strong relationship with your customers.
- Send personalized emails on occasion. Mailing list solutions make it easy to send automated welcome, follow-up and thank-you emails. Depending on the type of membership website you’ve created, it may not be practical to email everyone personally but every now and then, send a personal message. You may want to reach out specifically to those subscribers who are always the first to comment on your posts or open your emails. Make them feel special!
- Reward your customers. This is another way to build a healthy relationship. Rewards can come in the form of discount codes, access to an even more exclusive group or a physical product like branded merchandise. It can even be an attractive digital badge or trophy for a learner moves from one lesson to another. Make it something they will want to share with both their social media following and their real-life friends. Rewards let you kill two birds with one stone: your customers feel appreciated and some potential customers hear about how great you are.
The best membership websites offer high-quality content consistently and establish themselves at the best at what they do. They keep customers coming back for more and telling their friends about it. If you want your membership site to be successful, start putting these pro tips into action!