by Will Rogers
Many communities are working to build membership sites. It’s a common business model today, especially looking at brands like Netflix, Disney+, Dollar Shave Club, and countless others. Creating a membership site takes time and strategy to do it well. I’ve seen some good practices and some not-so-good practices.
Let’s unpack the key ingredients to starting a membership site well.
Take time to look at what others are doing and what they are offering. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you review other membership sites for ideas to use on your site:
What do they offer?
What are they charging?
How many things do they offer?
How simple is their process?
What questions do you have about their offerings?
What do you find compelling?
What do you find confusing?
How do they use graphics to help you want to take action?
You’ll want to take time to assess all the things you have that you could offer your community.
Start with making two lists—one list of what you currently have that can be used to create products and one list of what you could build in the future.
For now, only use what you have to get started. Otherwise, you’ll take forever to start because you’ll have to wait and create new stuff.
Consider what you might be able to feature from other places even. With your current content, you can probably start there. Here are a few ideas of things you’ve probably spent time creating that you can offer on a membership site:
Blog articles: which posts are your most visited? Your top handful of posts could tell you something about the content you should bundle up and sell.
Courses: Think about the content you could use to create a video or series of videos from a few minutes to a few hours of viewable content. This would make a helpful course for your community.
PDF resources: It’s worth reviewing the most visited pages on your website. This will be telling about what is helpful to your audience. Take, for example, your most popular post online, could you make a PDF out of it? If not, could you take the content and add some to it to create a helpful PDF?
Scheduled coaching: Offer to coach to your followers. You’ll not only be helpful to the folks who sign up, but you’ll learn a ton from answering their questions.
Events or event discounts: offer discount codes to your community. This is helpful for lots of reasons, but especially for retention.
Now you need to take the items that you’ve selected and build your bundles. Many organizations like to have a free tier and a paid tier. If that’s something you want, think about giving your paid tier 100 percent of your content and your free tier about 40 percent of your content.
Give each bundle a creative title but something that’s understandable and descriptive. You’ll also want to clearly outline what you get from each membership tier. Spell everything out. Folks want to know what they can expect from the start. Show your strongest offerings at the top of your list. But, don’t forget each and every item that’s part of your package.
Now it’s time to configure your technology and load your membership offerings. Depending on what membership platform you’re using, be sure to study their tutorials and knowledge base to learn what you can do and what you can’t.
Here are some common things you should be able to configure on your site:
What this tier provides (and doesn't)
Pricing (free, monthly, annual)
Custom confirmation message
Automated email confirmation
A welcome campaign can serve several purposes. It can welcome folks but it can also establish trust and help folks know what to expect from you.
Consider the following things related to your welcome campaign:
Go ahead and assume buyers remorse - attack it head one
Immediately get new members in a 2-4 week email campaign
DO NOT UPSELL THEM - this is a time to ease their concerns
Be their guide
How would you welcome them to your community if you were to meet them for coffee and walk through joining
Add videos to your welcome email messages
Automate your email campaign with a tool like MailChimp or Active Campaign
Now it’s time to go live. Don't forget these things when you're launching your membership site. But, it's time to go big with your new announcement. Here are just a few ideas of ways to promote your launch:
Push out announcements through all your channels. For example, be sure you don’t forget sending emails, creating blog posts, social posts, texting friends and fellow partners, and so on.
Create a banner on your website homepage
Feature on your podcast
Add to the footer of your personal email
Make it simple to find on your website
Make sure you have Google Analytics or other tools set up properly so you can learn how many visitors you’re getting, where they are coming from, and what they’re doing once they visit.
Many membership websites have their own analytics built-in. I've talked before about things to consider related to online member management software. But, as a reminder, here are some things to keep in mind so you’re tracking what you need to:
How many people are seeing your membership offering?
What is your conversation rate?
Where are people dropping?
So, you can tell, starting a membership site isn’t easy. But, with these seven steps, you can feel confident knowing you’re well on your way to not only starting your membership site but cultivating connections and community from the start.
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.