A successful membership site can be financially viable and profitable. However, if you want to start a membership site as your online business, there are aspects to keep in mind.
First, you must understand what a membership site is and the different site models and membership types. Then you can decide how to get members and how to make money with your site.
A membership site could be your sole online business. Still, you can also have another online business and start a membership site related to the services or products your other business is offering. Read on to find out ways to make money with your membership site.
What is a Membership Site?
A membership site is a website where access to specific content is placed behind a login page for paid-up members only. Some membership sites are free, but we’ll only discuss sites that require payments as you want to make money.
Many membership sites have different levels where the member gets access to certain aspects on every level. The access levels are linked to the different membership fee options.
Why Does a Person Become a Member of a Membership Site?
People will only become and stay members if the membership site offers something unique and exclusive. For example, it might be interesting and useable text content, special discounts, or access to unique and exclusive products and services.
How Do you Set Up a Membership Site?
One of the main providers of membership software is Memberpress. It offers an all in one plug in for WordPress and basically sets up everything to turn your site into a membership site.
Membership Site Models
Let’s have a look at the two most common models of membership sites.
The Drip-Feed Model (Only Monthly Membership Subscription)
With this model, members pay a monthly fee for access to the site or part of a site. The content offered must be premium content to entice members to continue paying their membership fees to get access.
You can also have a membership site as part of your other online business’ website with a ‘members only’ section. For example, suppose your online business sells beauty products. In that case, a catalog is available to all website visitors, but nonmembers can only purchase certain product lines, while members can order exotic lines.
The content has to be updated regularly and must always offer something new to members.
You can provide new material easier by preparing 6 different ‘content packages’ twice a year. Every member starts with access to month 1, and 30 days later, month 2, etc. But this method can only work if your content stays relevant for at least 6 months.
The basic idea is that you entice members to renew their membership subscriptions every month to provide you with a ‘guaranteed’ monthly income.
The ‘All-In' Membership
This type of membership site allows the member to access complete content straight away. This is an excellent feature for members who don't like to wait a month for the next piece of information. However, it only works well with certain types of content, like ‘how-to’ manuals, for instance.
The model offers the new member, apart from the monthly payment and a module accessible every month, to immediately access the complete manual for a fixed price, payable upfront.
To prevent a person from only paying one payment, get the manual and then cancel, you have to entice the member to come back to the site for new content and new manuals every month. The member must feel part of an online community.
When the member wants another full manual again, you can offer discounts based on how long the person has been a member. The longer you are a member, the more significant the discount. The member pays upfront for full access to the new manual, but the monthly subscription stays intact.
This model has the advantage that you entice members to spend more than only the monthly subscription from time to time. Thus, this model ‘guarantees’ a monthly income and generates extra revenue with the ‘access-all’ option.
Determine a Membership Fee Aimed at Making a Profit
On the one hand, you want your membership site to be profitable, but on the other hand, membership must be affordable for your target market. Therefore, determine the monetary value of the time and effort you will spend to keep the site on a high level and regard that as your business expense. Also, add foreseen marketing costs and add your profit margin.
With all these calculations done, you will have a bottom-line fee. Next, look at similar membership sites and their subscription fees. Don’t outprice yourself, but also don’t be the lowest end of the price range.
According to a recent Online Membership Industry Report, 22% of sites charge between $15 and $24, and 23% between $50 and $99. 44% of sites charge between $25 and $44 per month. This last bracket could be a good start.
How to Get Members
You can have the best membership site in your niche, but you will not make any money if you don’t have members. So strategize how to attract your very first members, how to keep them, and how to continuously get new members.
Friends, Family, and Contacts
A lot of energy from your side as the owner of the new membership site is needed to get your site known. If you don’t have the capital for costly marketing campaigns, you have to be creative.
Write a short snippet about your membership site and include it at the bottom of all emails you send. Don’t make it intrusive, but invite the readers to visit the site.
Many will visit the site out of curiosity. If it offers unique and exclusive content, some of the visitors will enroll. Those who feel your niche is not their field of interest might mention the site to somebody who will be interested.
Email a short invitation to everybody on your email lists, whether you think they will be interested or not. Let the recipient decide on that.
Customers of Your Other Online Business
If your membership site is linked and relevant to your other online business, ensure that every customer knows about the site. The website must mention the benefits, discounts, etc., available for members.
Reward Existing Members for Finding New Members
To build your membership continuously, design a reward system for your existing members to introduce a new member. Offer the referring customer a discount or other applicable award.
Using Advertisements to Drive Traffic
Of course, if you plan to make money using your membership site, you will first need to attract those members, and yes, unfortunately here we are going back to good old marketing. In case you just don’t want to pay anything for marketing, one of the most effective things that you can do is to create some high-quality social media profiles and go that route, going so far as to become a real influencer.
If you manage to become a social media influencer, you can use that clout and popularity to drive traffic to your site. Of course, paid Facebook advertisements, social media marketing campaigns, and other forms of paid advertising all cost money, but the bottom line is that they do work.
Make Money With Ads on Your Site
When your membership site has a large following, you can sell ad space to noncompetitive but relevant online businesses. Sell the ads with 3, 6, or 12-month contracts, and you are guaranteed a steady income.
Just keep in mind that many members will find ads intrusive and might leave your site. Therefore, it is good to look at other membership sites with ads and set guidelines for yourself on what not to do with ads on your site!
How Do You Come Up With Content Ideas for a Membership Site?
There are many ways to get content ideas. Many inspiring ideas are offered online in blogs and on social media. Look on search engines at the questions asked about the niche you’re working in. Let the questions (and answers) lead you to content ideas.
Another method that works well is to read blogs and other relevant articles. All the questions about the topic you still have after reading the articles are possible content ideas.
If your membership site is combined with your other online business, use your clients of that business to get ideas. Do that by asking them in your ‘thank you message’ to let you know what relevant topics they need more information on.
How Do You Build Your Membership Base?
The short answer is ‘tell everybody about the site!’
When you start your site, let everyone in your address and phone book know about the membership site. Entice them with a special offer to look at your site. Many will not follow this up, but a large percentage will take a look.
If the niche is not for the person you’ve invited, the chances are good that the person will mention it to somebody interested in the niche.
To build your membership continuously, design a system to reward your existing members if they introduce a new member.
How Much Should I Charge for My Membership Site?
The fee depends on the content you’re offering. The uniqueness, the expertise level of the content, and your target market's age and income level all play a role. Look at similar membership sites and their fees. Don’t outprice yourself, but also don’t be the lowest end of the price range.
According to a recent Online Membership Industry Report, 44% of sites charge between $25 and $44 per month. So this bracket could be a good start.
If done correctly, you can make good money with a membership site as your online business. So follow up on the ways to make money with your membership site given in this article and start your site. Just remember – like any other online business, it will take passion, time, and a lot of effort, and a little bit of money, to start.