So you're looking to start building a membership site for your current website but don't know where to start, or are looking to learn more about what it takes to make it work and have come for some advanced techniques, before I go on, I want to let you know, YOU'RE IN THE RIGHT PLACE.
When I started doing research on what type of membership options were available to me, I felt like I was drowning in options.
So I'm not going to let my readers suffer the same fate that I did.
Essentially there are a few main questions when you build your membership site that you need to consider to gain clarity.
Like my favorite saying says:
“Start with the end in mind”
1. Where in your current funnel will your membership site sit, and what's its purpose?
Before you go out and spend all your hard earned cash on a brand spanking new design to get a new membership site up, you'll want to know what role it plays and where it plays it in your sales funnel (if you don't have one you can check out this post on ClickFunnels and Leadpages) .
For example, if you have a membership site designed to sit in between your low ticket products and your high ticket mastermind, then you will probably want it to be an ongoing membership site which doesn't end, and is an ongoing recurring fee for as long as your members decide to stay.
This means you'll most likely only have a monthly pricing structure and it will be for clients you're looking to sell into a higher ticket product (perhaps a mastermind for example).
In contrast, if your membership is planning on being a set length of time, and you're teaching your members a specific skills, E.g. “How To Paint Your First Portrait in 90 Days” then you'll want people to have access to new content everyday over a set period of time. This is called “Drip Feeding” which I'll tell you more about later.
So as you can see, it's imperative to get clear on on your sales funnel, and where you want your membership site to sit throughout the entire length of the funnel. This will affect the structure of the site you're trying to create, along with the software you'll choose to use to create the membership website on.
2. How do you plan to promote your membership website?
This question usually doesn't come up with many other marketers because they tell themselves ‘i'll just email my list' or ‘it's fine, i'll just tell my clients to join'.
But the reality is, promoting a new product or membership site is a lot of work. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not discouraging you from creating or building a membership website, all I'm saying is that you need to build it the smartest and most effective way possible on yourself.
You want to make sure if there's tasks which can be outsourced, they get outsourced.
You want to be the one creating the ‘genius' in the membership site, not the one managing it all and stressing over technicalities.
So in saying that, you need to ask yourselves if you want to have an affiliate program within your new membership website. If you're unaware, an affiliate program is where people sign up to promote your site and make sales in return for a % of the sale.
Depending on the type of membership website you're looking at using, an affiliate program may or may not be for you. They do take work, and some of them require a long time to setup, but they can also prove to be very profitable if you have lots of affiliates going out and promoting your website on your behalf.
3. How do you want to price your membership site?
Pricing a membership site is extremely important, but at the same time, you're not going to get it perfect the first time off the block.
Pricing your membership site needs to be considered in regards to your sales funnel, so that the perceived value you're providing is in line with what's on the other side of the order form.
There's multiple ways to price your membership site, so let's go through some different variations which may work for you.
This setup is a simple month-to-month payment to a membership site. Your classic sign up for a monthly membership and it automatically gets deducted from your account. It's a great model of recurring income and is a ‘one-to-many' approach.
Monthly Payments + Trials,
Having a monthly payment system is great, but taking it to the next level is giving your members an option to trial your site before they jump in. Now trials can be any price, length and design.
Let's quickly list a few:
You could give out a 7 Day Trial then into a full recurring monthly membership
You could give out a $1 7 Day trial for 7 days which rolls into a full recurring monthly membership
You could offer a free trial and only limit the areas the user can access, then if they want access to more of the site they can pay the full recurring monthly membership.
My personal favorite is the $1 trial (this allows you to grab their credit card details up front) for a 7 Day trial period which gives your visitors/users a good taste of the content which is available on the inside.
4. How do you plan to deliver your value/content to your members?
It's important to be clear on what type of content you want to deliver to your members.
Using videos are a great teaching tool in a membership website, however they also take up a lot of space and time to load. Do you want your users only to be able to stream the videos or should they be able to download and share you private member content?
A great host for video content is Wistia (a little expensive but provides some great analytics) or alternatively if your strapped for cash Vimeo Plus offers a premium service which you can make sure only gets streamed on specific domains.
These are all questions you need to ask yourself when you're looking to at using videos to teach your members.
- Checklists, PDFs, Documents
Documents are a great way to have members interact with your content so they can check off tasks and do some ‘homework'.
5. What software/plugins should I use to setup my membership site?
This is probably the hardest part about setting up a membership website.
You're the expert in your chosen field, but getting the technology setup and working without hiccups on the website is the area you struggle.
Here are some of the best membership website alternatives I've come across with a list of pros for each one, so you can have a good look at them before making a decision, then a bottom line to see if the membership site plugin may work for you.
- Heaps of payment integrations are available for Member Mouse….no seriously…they support everything from ClickBank to Stripe.
- Great analytics of existing members (new!) Only added recently but now MemberMouse give a great run down on stats for your membership sites
- Probably Member Mouse's coolest and most handy function is ‘SmartTags'. According to them it's a “an extensive shortcode library which adds dynamic functionality to your site without having to code. Display customer details, upgrades and more.” It works exceptionally well if you're a developer and you want to do some nifty adjustments to the out of the box membership site setup.
- Member Mouse also offers automatic payment handling and management (this works fantastic with Stripe from experience, so highly recommend integrating MemberMouse with Stripe!)
MemberMouse is a great system which I highly recommend. I use them on mulitple wordpress sites (if I haven't mentioned it yet, it's a plugin to WordPress like the rest of these alternatives) and it has heaps of functionality and really is your all in one membership site management tool.
The only downfall I believe is the price tag. It's a monthly price tag rather an a ‘pay and forget' software.
But then again, this forces them to stay on top of updating the plugin as things which change which they do on a regular basis.
Their support is also very actionable on tickets and requests, which I highly value in any software company.
2. Wishlist Member
- Wishlist member has a simple installation and can be easily installed into a WordPress blog. The simple uploading and activation ability of the plugin means you shouldn't face any tough development issues
- The interface is very easy to use. If you're an avid WordPress user who knows their way around a website, you'll find that WishList member is a great option for you. Not only will you feel very ‘at home' but you'll work a lot more efficiently.
- The reputation of the Wishlist Member owners Stu McLaren and Tracey Childers are quite well known. It's always good being able to invest in a product you know the faces behind
- Updates come around quite often, this shows that they're proactive in delivering the best features to their users as times change.
WishList member is a great tool if you're looking for something with a bit of power and don't want to be spending money each month on a recurring payment schedule. It's a very versatile plugin which does the job its made to do.
It's got a great framework and design which makes it very easy to use and manipulate so you can make it work for your membership site.
Its 3rd party integration is fantastic, which means you shouldn't struggle to use your most preferred merchants and systems alongside the software.
3. Paid Membership Pro
- Configuration of the core areas of a membership website are all there and for a price tag of free you can't complain
- It's a great lightweight plugin which can be used straight out of the box, the settings are easy to grasp and control
- There's a whole heap of free addons available
- Extremely customizable to your desires, which means even if you have a developer working on a complicated project, they could take this and run with it
- Completely themable and you can control the full layout of Paid Member Pro
- Surprisingly flexible options when it comes to setting up the payments an pricing. You can define any initial payment you want someone to take when arriving to the site, along with everything from reduced-price trial period to optional free.
If you're looking at building out a membership site but really don't want to jump into the deep end, this is a great choice. Not only does it offer a variety of features which you can grasp the idea of what a membership site is, but it'll also let you play around with setting up a good, solid, working website.
It by no means it is a simple system, the founders have clearly put effort into the product to make it a very high quality plugin which can be used in a variety of circumstances. I really like the ability to use plugins which are free and incorporate them into the site, I think that brings a lot of value to the website at no additional costs which means you can focus on what's important which is driving sales and providing content.
I probably would stay away from Paid Member Pro if you've got shippable products, but it works swimmingly (love that word!) for content based memberships.
3. S2 Member Pro
- S2 Member Pro has a super quick start. If you're a very straight forward type of person who just wants to get started, then you'll love S2 Member.
- They have a cool mascot guy (not really a pro, but I thought he looked pretty cool 😛 )
- The protection settings for S2 Member are great, you can protect WordPress posts, pages, categories, tags, files and custom post types all using this plugin
- You can set an unlimited amount of levels
- What I found really cool was they offer a ‘pay per post' billing setup. It's getting rare to find a setup like that so if you want that kind of website setup this is your choice
- Their knowledge base has been expanding rapidly adding integrations as they come up
The ease of use and setup of S2 Member Pro is phenomenal and you'll be able to get your membership site going within the hour using their quick start guides.
The ease of use of this plugin is great, and if you're fresh off the block the quick start guide is a fantastic resource which should get you familiar with everything you need to launch your membership website.
What I really love about the S2Member plugin is similarly to WishList Member it's just a one off purchase.
Even though its a one off purchase, you still receive updates and a top of the line plugin which you can roll out for your membership website.
What are the benefits of running a membership website?
Probably the main reason and most beneficial parts of running a membership website is having that recurring income come in every single month. It builds a consistent stream of buyers who stick with you over a long period of time.
One To Many
This model is great for anyone (Coaches, Consultants, Businesses etc.) because you're able to leverage your time to meet the result of your entire membership base. This means you put out the same high quality content, but you won't be repeating yourself across every single one of your clients/member.
Get Increasing Value
When someone decided to sign up and become a member of your website, instantly they start absorbing the information. The longer they remain in your continuity program they will learn more and more, taking resourcing and learning from what's available. As a membership site owner, every resource you add keeps increasing the value of the website so you can increase your prices over time as the value grows.
Build and Reward Loyalty
By building a site choc full of value, you'll be able to start building a loyal and raving client base who are willing to go above and beyond to help you and your business out. This means that you can take advantage of your member's loyalty for new product launches and offers as they come up. Additionally you can reward your most loyal followers through the site which then encourages others to remain active and participate,
Building An Active Community
When you have a thriving membership site, one of the most valuable and enjoyable parts is to see it turn into a community where everyone is learning side by side. This encourages others to invite their friends and check out all your other material. Building a community in itself will also become more and more valuable as it grows. You'll begin to notice how others want to be surrounded by the high quality members in your circle.
When members are a part of your program, they're able to save money by getting inner circle offers which are not available to the everyday joe.
How much can you make from a membership site?
Finally, lets look at a real life scenario of a membership website and how much money you can make.
If you're looking at introducing a membership site into your business at $40/month, you'll need 208 members to join for it to be making a whopping $100,000 per year.
That's a serious number for a site which is either supplementing or sharing the main part of your business.
Now if you look at this from a conversion stand point, 1-5% of the members would generally want to take you up on your next upsell which could be a anything from $1,000-$10,000 (product or even a mastermind).
So when you look at the numbers, planning, launching and growing a membership site can be very lucrative and very valuable.
If you are looking to learn about how to build a membership site, this post should have given you some serious clarity about how you want to go about doing it.
There's a lot of different combinations available to get your membership site off the ground, so it really depends on what you want to use it for and which one woks best for your application!
Here's a PDF Document which you can use for a quick reference with a few additional membership site softwares which are available.[pdf]https://stephenesketzis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/WordPress-membership-plugins-comparison-WP-Membership-plugin-comparison.pdf[/pdf]
If you have any questions please let me know, I'll be trying to update this post as often as possible!