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5 things to consider with online membership management software

When it comes to online membership management software, there are a lot of things to consider. Let’s look at five key things to think through. 

First, we’ll examine the key tools you might need. Second, we’ll look at how you will evaluate the software—what will be your most important features. Then, we’ll look at integrations you will use most of the time. After that, I’ll point you to thoughts on whether you can manage an all-in-one vs. cobbled together and some pros and cons. Finally, I’ll ask you to consider the sun in your ecosystem. What is “the thing” you are known for or the thing for which most of your brand should point to. Let get after it.  

Here are five (5) things to consider with online membership management software: 

#1 Examine the key tools you will need.

To start this whole process. I find it most helpful to review the key tools I love and the tools I actually use the most in my arsenal. Once you know that, you’ll be less likely to get interested in the bells and whistles of features that you won’t ever use. 

For example, these are a few of the key tools I’ve found useful in dealing with many clients: 

  • Member Directory - directory of members to connect with each other

  • Member Management - dive into member details and history

  • Direct Messaging - means for members to engage with each other

  • Member Stories - ways for members to share personal stories with a community

  • Payment Processing - managing membership payments and discounts

  • Access Restrictions - limiting access to membership levels

  • Privacy Management - ability to set personal profile privacy and access

  • Comment Management - tools to allow members to comment on content

  • Discussion Boards - ongoing conversations around key topics

#2 Consider how you will evaluate the software.

When it comes to picking a member management software. Consider what features you need most? Are there features you simply can’t live without? Make sure you note these things so you don’t lose sight of them in your research.

For example, if how a membership software integrates with your other systems is a priority, write that down—and ask those questions early and often. Trust me, it will save you a ton of time in the process. You won’t waste time on things that look great—but actually aren’t a good fit for you. 

#3 Consider integrations you will use most. 

Many membership management software will say they integrate with everything. But, it's easy to jump to the next step and miss this. Integrations are helpful but there must be a balance. Your membership management software should carry a lot of the heavy lifting and already bundle a number of key features together. There likely isn’t a one-stop-shop solution for your needs but you can mitigate the number of integrated tools.

For instance, I've written before on plugin alternatives to WordPress. So, as you review this list, understand it's vital to come at this with a list of your own, much-needed integration questions.    

Here are a few of the most common integrations to consider:

  1. Salesforce - moving member data into a CRM system like Salesforce 

  2. WooCommerce - housing sales from product to orders is vital

  3. WordPress - migration and connecting blog and website is crucial

  4. ActiveCampaign - connecting member data to automated marketing systems

  5. MailChimp - sync with an email management system

  6. Twilio - leverage text messaging to reach out to members

#4 Consider whether you can manage an all-in-one vs. cobbled together software.

What’s your budget and what do you really want to spend your time doing? There may not be one perfect solution for your needs but you can get at this better by thinking through a few things at the start. My opinion is, try to minimize cobbling together as much as possible. 

In an ideal world, you have as few logins and connections as possible. Maybe you have a member management software, CRM and/or automated marketing, and a text notification system. Now, if that’s all you need, your budget may thank you. 

But, the more you grow your followers, the more your budget starts to grow. Each strategy has its benefits and challenges. Here’s how I find it helpful to think about it: 

  • Highly cobbled allows you to have more features per individual technology but you may need an engineer to build the integration for you and there’s the chance of integrations breaking as each technology changes.

  • All-in-one allows you one or fewer key platforms to manage but you may have fewer features. Here you also have fewer systems to learn, log into, update, and manage. Most people don’t use all the robust features of each platform and would prefer to reduce the stress of having a lot of things working together and those complications.  

#5 Consider the sun in your ecosystem. 

Maybe it’s been a while since your last science class. That’s okay. I’m here to help! Everything revolves around the sun. At least most people agree with that last sentence! : ) It’s no different when it comes to your community. 

Every community technology plan has some central “sun” or the thing everything else spins around. Do you know what that thing is? It might be your CRM, folks attending your events, email, blog, or memberships. If memberships are a core part of your strategy then I recommend that your membership software be the key epicenter to your strategy.

Integrating a membership site into another website or platform can cause user confusion and frustration—both for the user and for you. If this is part of your strategy, you want to create and offer a seamless, great experience for your members.

As you can no doubt see, when it comes to online membership management software, there are a ton of things to think through. These are just five things—whew! We looked at key tools you might need, how you might evaluate the software, what your most important features are, vital integrations, whether you should manage things in an all-in-one package versus cobbled together, and finally, we looked at what the sun in your ecosystem is.

Now that you have a good grasp on what you should consider in thinking through your membership software, you’re well on your way to getting more done—and faster. 

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.


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How to get more people to attend your events

So, you have an event coming up. Getting the most people you can to your event matters. My guess is, if you’re having an event, you have a lot to share with people. Events are a gateway to other great things you offer as well.

That said, an event can create energy around your brand and your mission. It can also provide an opportunity for your followers to connect and network.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years of hosting events, that have helped me be sure I’m checking off all of the boxes I need so I get the most people I can to attend an event. 

How to get more people to attend your events

#1 Make a Promise. 

Events can often seem like dating someone. Quickly, you start making a promise about what someone gets from your event. However, it’s important to point out the benefits attendees will get when they sign up, when they attend the event, and even after the event.  

It’s vital to show how you’re going to deliver on whatever you promise. When you do this, it helps people feel like you’ve made a solid commitment to them—just as they have—or will—to you when they register. 

#2 Clarify what attendees will get from the event. 

This step is vital. Whether you're an author or leader of a community, a clever event title and great speakers may not get you the registrants as you might think. This step is all about what problem you’re solving with the attendees. If you clearly spell out what people get from your event, your followers or visitors will register because they trust you. 

Here are just a few examples of what attendees might expect to learn or how they may be helped from attending your event: 

  • Guided connections with experts

  • Refreshment in their career

  • Best practices and expert learnings

  • Connections with others like them. Your attendee doesn’t need to feel alone

  • Matched connections to exhibitors

  • Preparation and followup resources

  • Access to content after the event

You don’t have to feel like you need to offer every single one of these, but it's definitely worth thinking through what attendees will get from your event. Reiterate your promises throughout your marketing leading up to the event. Refer to these promises during your actual event. Then, ask or survey attendees about these promises after the event—to be sure they received what they thought they would receive. 

#3 Ask others to promote the event.

Hosting and marketing an event is a great opportunity to engage your partners, exhibitors, speakers, and alumni to help promote the event. You just have to ask! Think about how you can make a promotion part of being a partner. Will you provide a set or kit of marketing messages for use on web, blog, email, and social media for your partners? 

Consider making it easy to promote the event by creating resources to help people promote your event. Think of how your partners will be best at sharing. Will it be through PDFs, images, and so on? What platforms or channels are your people most familiar with? The last thing, you might consider partnering with some of the best groups who stand to bring new registrants and offer them a percentage for each attendee they bring. You can do this easily and track it by using a discount code at checkout. This could be the incentive some of your best partners need to move the need for promotion and registration.

#4 Leverage alumni and followers. 

This group is a bit different than the folks in #4. This group of people may be helpful, but they aren’t necessarily the folks who you’ll want to invest time in creating affiliate codes and such. However, don’t forget this group in your promotion of the next event. How well you activate this group may create a buzz and registrations that bring your event from dull to a success. 

For this group of followers, be sure you ask them to share several posts on social media. Be direct. Give them the exact post and link if at all possible. People are busy, and to be honest, your event three months from now isn’t the priority for this group! : ) Ask them to share with their friends—via email and text where fitting. Ask these things several times if you have lots of room in the calendar before your next event. You might consider offering a free ticket if they can recruit five (5) attendees. Now, this assumes you’ve done well at staying in touch with these folks between events. Remember that word of mouth is most likely your greatest marketing tool—especially for events. And, you might net out more followers to your website after the event ends.

#5 Be the guide and connect relational dots.

People are looking for a guide. It’s up to you to help attendees do some relational dot-connecting. Also, events can be intimidating. Show how you're going to make the event feel more personal. Will you have time for folks to connect and get to know each other before the event? During the event? After the event? 

You can create relational dots in several ways. One big way is offering times of connection where you share stories of how your event has set others up for success. Also, for your speakers, event staff, keynote speakers, and breakout session speakers—be sure attendees get their stories in front of them. Try and think beyond the bio. Why did you ask this particular person to speak? Mention that in marketing emails leading up to the event. This will serve you well in that—you’ll gain more registrants for folks who wish to connect—and—you’ll help the speakers be able to know their why. 

These are just a few of the best ways I’ve found to help me feel confident, knowing I’ve done all I can to make an event and get the most attendees possible. If you do these things, you can rest easy knowing your event will be a success. 

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.


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How to get more followers on your website

There are so many reasons why you want to get more followers to your site. Maybe you have something great to share. It’s your passion and it really helps people. The more people who see your message—the better. 

On some level, it’s a matter of stewardship. You should want to help more people with your message as a leader of your own community. You do this by gaining more followers and getting your message to a wider audience. 

So, you want to know how to get more followers on your website? Great! Here are a few real-life ways to grow your followers today and over the long term. 

How to get more followers on your website

#1 Create relevant content.

My guess is, you're already doing this fairly well. The point is—write about what people are asking about. If you follow this blog, you already know how to create content that Google ranks you for. So, for the people around you, think about your blog, through email, social media...what are the questions people are repeatedly asking you? Make a list and write about those things. 

Don’t have anyone asking you questions? No problem. Ask your followers! Survey your followers to learn more about their needs. For example, if you don't already have an email list of thousands, crowdsource on social channels like Facebook and twitter asking questions to learn more about what people who already follow you would like you to address. 

#2 Push lots of content online. 

Rule number one: be helpful. Don’t say stuff just to be saying stuff. Offer helpful advice. Engage. Space out your content so you’re always working ahead. This helps me. It’s always easier to start with some content, no matter how small, than it is to start from scratch. Here’s the point: make your content valuable by being helpful to people. 

#3 Use your content for multiple purposes.

Once you’ve written a piece of content, use it for several purposes. Write once—use the writing several times. Craft your content for a blog post and then chop it up in snippets for social media. You can get days, weeks, and months out helpful content.  

#4 Use lead generators to your advantage.

After answering some questions from your followers, over time, you will develop content that is more popular than others. Learn from this content what is most helpful for your audience and create an asset your followers can download or watch which provides value to your visitors in exchange for their email. 

Don’t overthink this. If you make it super complex, you won’t start the project and you won't finish it. Be as simple as you can and race to finish. You can get a ton of use out of a lead-generator on your site. 

#5 Use compelling and clear CTA’s.

Create clear and compelling calls to action (CTA’s). Then, place them everywhere as fitting. Be sure you have them on your homepage and on many other pages of your site. 

Be sure you’re not asking a ton of information. The name and email of contact will be fine. You want to convert your visitors, so make it a low barrier to entry. Don’t ask a visitor to do too much too soon. 

#6 Create a simple flow on your website.

If you’re selling a product, course, event, or trying to monetize your website and gain more followers, be sure to make it easy to find your products.

Also, use simple navigation and clear messaging. Don't clutter your site with a ton of different products or messages. 

#7 Equip your audience to be advocates.

Once you have an audience. It doesn’t hurt, if they are following, to ask them to share certain messages. Your followers are the most likely to share your content. So, don’t be afraid to ask them to share.

For some of your top followers or fans, consider asking them to become guest bloggers for your site. You never know the power of the community until you connect with several different writers. 

#8 Be a guide for your followers.

You are the guide for your followers. Where are you taking them? Consistently be a guide to your audience with your content. Be a teacher. 

When you write, always consider what will help your readers know how to take the next step. Work hard to keep the follower engaged by laying out the next step. 

#9 Be sure your SEO keywords are optimized.

If you’re wondering where to start, create a list of potential keyword phrases that fit what your followers are interested in. Use keyword tools like Moz or Google for doing the keyword research. 

Things like search volume and searcher intent will be vital for you to write about, so you’re the most helpful to your followers. And, doing this will give you a leg up because if you pick the right keyword for the post, you already know, because you’ve done the research, that folks are searching for it. Win-win. 

#10 Engage your audience with giveaways. 

Giveaways can be done on your website and on your social media channels. Find some things that you sell or partner with a fellow brand that your followers would enjoy. Do it at random, or even on a monthly basis. 

The point is to be helpful and have fun. Giveaways will create engagement! Doing giveaways will not only be helpful and encouraging to your followers, but it will increase your reach as your current followers share your giveaway.

#11 Study what’s working and do more of it.

Be sure, through all of this, that you have installed analytics on your website. This way, you can look back through all of these great things you’re doing and learn what’s working and what’s not working with your followers. 

You may like some content you’re churning out, but if it’s not getting any visitors, something needs to change. Study what’s gaining traction and what isn’t. You don’t have to stop creating content that isn't getting visitors. But, you may have to step back and look at what you’re doing to grow your email list or how you're sharing on social media. 

Do more of what’s working. Stop or improve what’s not working. You got this. 

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.


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How to monetize a website - 7 strategies you might be missing

Why does monetizing your website matter? It seems like everyone is hanging a shingle for a monetized website, but how do you do this well? It seems many folks make money from blogging. But, then you have so many people who don’t make a penny. 

Where are you when it comes to monetizing your website? I’m not pretending this post is exhaustive. There are so many ways to get at this. But, my hope is the following list will inspire you to think of a way to monetize your site that maybe you haven’t thought of before. 

Should you monetize?

Ask yourself a few questions before you jump head-first into monetizing your website:

  • Do you actually have something of value to offer?
  • Are you excited and passionate about doing this? 
  • Do you have something that others want? 

I've written previously about how to monetize a blog. There are many similarities (read: and many differences) for monetizing your website. How do you know which one to start with? What follows are just a few ways you could do this—from affiliate marketing, advertising, selling products, to sponsored posts. Each method has its own challenges, time commitment, and sweet spot. 

How to Monetize a Website - 7 Strategies that work

We’re going to focus on seven key strategies that have been proven by many folks.

Strategy #1: Memberships

This isn’t easy. But, if you have the traffic and you’ve written lots of content, then memberships may be the best way to monetize your website. 

We've seen folks learn to how to take their communities digital and grow their memberships or launch a membership program with great success. What would this look like for your audience? Maybe it means exclusive membership communities around certain topics? It could fit certain individuals and/or organizations that follow you. The point is, think of your content as a way to provide exclusive access to member-only content and connections. You might have a membership site right on your fingertips. 

Strategy #2: Courses

Depending on your audience and the content you create, strongly consider creating courses to walk your followers through step-by-step on how to do something or get better at something else. Maybe you're an author or leader, what do you know so well that you could teach others? You may be the one to help guide your audience through steps and a process for building something significant.

We often ask people what they find themselves explaining to others all of the time. Boom! That's your first course.

Strategy #3: Products

This might mean offering digital or physical products on your website. Selling digital products might mean selling anything from eBooks as short as a few pages to full book of several hundred. But, it’s not limited to this. You can also sell any resource that’s helpful to your audience. It could be any content you can put into a PDF or may mean working with a third party to ship your product. What do you talk most about that could be quickly turned into a purchasable product?

Strategy #4: Events

Events may mean hosting live or virtual events. The point is: bring together experts for others to learn from—and everybody wins. Many don’t often think about this strategy for monetizing. But, consider hosting an event for your audience. It could start off small. But, it could generate significant revenue from ticket sales and event sponsorships. 

Strategy #5: Services

Could you sell coaching or design services? Consider what questions your followers are asking you all of the time. Can you package some consulting services and sell them? What about your teaching or facilitation? What if you trained others in how to do something in person or virtually?

Strategy #6: Donations

Allow for donations to your organization (one time or recurring). You can do this in an ongoing fashion. Or, create a campaign (or several) that fits with your brand or organization. This could be any endeavor where you want to help or fits your mission, but where you need funds to help move the needle. 

The point here is to have a clear goal and amount of funding needed to reach the goal. Knowing your why is vital at this stage. But, this is one strong way, depending on the campaign, you can monetize your site. 

Strategy #7: Affiliates

Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by sharing other people’s (or company’s) products. While there are many different affiliate marketing networks out there, start with one of the biggest—Amazon. Just create an account, find a product you like, promote it to others, and earn a small percentage of the profit for each sale from your shared link.

Now that you have seven ideas you’ve either been reminded of or thinking about for the first time. What now? How will you decide which one to do? And when?

How to start

Here are three questions you can ask yourself right now to help you pick the right method for you:

1. Which monetization method is reasonable to achieve today (and not sometime out in the future)?

2. Which method gets you the most excited?

3. Do people trust you as a guide?

What to do next? Start with one of these ideas. Don’t overthink things. At this stage, just get started. Pick one of these ideas and run. You’ll figure it out on the way. Who knows, maybe you make a few dollars in trying. 

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.

 


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3 ideas if you’re looking for conservative alternatives to Facebook

You care about your content. You care about who owns said content. And, maybe you also care about certain views about where your content lives.

Here’s the deal: if you’re looking to engage a community, and you’re concerned about social media platforms and their control over your content and information, it’s not easy to find and build an audience on a platform that isn’t called Facebook. 

Have you looked? If so, you quickly found that it’s tough to connect with an audience outside of the big social channels. 

Whether you're an author or leader with a community, Facebook seems to own the world and therefore, own all of your friends and followers—and your information. We all know the stories of Facebook being caught exposed for what they are doing with every little piece of your information and behavior online. I’ll try NOT to get into that here. 

If all of that wasn’t enough to consider, there’s more. What if Facebook no longer supports your point of view? Could your entire site be removed? Whether you ever get off of Facebook or not, you should know there are options out there. Here’s the thing: you may, after reading this, decide to ride Facebook as long as you can. But, for you who’s reading and want to jump ship, what are your options. 

Here are three (3) ideas if you're looking for conservative alternatives to Facebook: 

#1 Ride Facebook.

I know, not really an "alternative" here. But, listen. As I mentioned earlier, it’s certainly one of your options to get from Facebook what you can. There is something to the fact that your friends—and yes—even your parents are there. So, when it comes to connecting and getting your message out there, it’s one of the best in a lot of ways. Maybe for an intentional amount of time and growth, you may still want to utilize Facebook. 

The big strength of Facebook is the sheer number of people there. But, you must understand, you’re at the mercy of Facebook’s tools and changes. Don’t hear me say you should jump off of Facebook. But, for this who are bothered or interested in other options, or trying to monetize your blog more, let’s at least a peek at what’s out there. 

#2 Use Another Tool.

Now, maybe you’re done with Facebook. Believe it or not, you can launch your community in some other social platform or build out a private community. You can try doing something similar on another social platform like YouTube or Instagram. I know, Facebook owns Instagram, so there’s that. But, point is, it may be worth it if you haven’t tried—and depending on your followers—you may be able to get what you need out of another platform entirely. 

If you want to get away from Facebook entirely, consider YouTube, LinkedIn, or even Twitter. Again, it depends on your most important issue related to Facebook. But, you’re reading this post, so, you’re at least interested in checking out other options. 

With the platforms I just mentioned, aside from LinkedIn, there aren’t a ton of options for groups, building community, or connecting all types of people in general. Sure, there are sites like MeWe and Parler popping up, but they aren’t yet super comparable to Facebook’s audience size. So, how can you build a community that’s also private? Great question. I have some ideas. 

#3 Build a Private Community.

This isn’t as difficult as it may sound. But, it’s no cakewalk either. Yes, you would have to start from scratch. But, maybe you already know how to create content Google ranks you for. And, this would mean having to find a software tool that allows you to do have your community access. When it comes to building your private community, there are at least three things you need to get right.

First, some cautions. Building your private community takes time—a long time. You’ll need a plan and have to set several things like preferences, branding, site structure, membership plugins, and so on.

Again, most of this isn’t impossible to complete. But, you’ll need to have plenty of time to start. Then, you’ll have to re-train your audience to use a new tool instead of Facebook! 

Second, the things you’ll need to do. You’ll need to start with a plan. For example, you will need to find a tool that meets your needs now and allows you to grow. You will need to find a tool that’s easy for your members to use. And, you’ll want to consider on the front end—if you need to hire someone to get it set up, help with branding, and get started may be the right decision.

Third, benefits. If you can jump all of these hurdles, there are great benefits, or trade-offs, to keep in mind. Everything from security, to access, to knowing user behavior, and so on. You’ll have almost total control of your community. You’ll have a much higher sense of security and privacy—because you’ll be the decision-maker for what you do with your content. You control the direction, message, and engagement of your community. There is power in your audience not being “sold” only what and when Facebook wants to sell them. 

I don’t mind telling you, I’ve helped dozens of communities figure this out - if you want to learn more, hit us up, as I understand the deep need for having a private and secure community site. I’ve walked many others through this process. And, I happen to have created a platform, a strategy, and a team to assist.

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.


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