Over the last couple of years, membership sites have been popping up in the WordPress world. Launching a membership site seems to be a growing trend. Or should I say the idea of a membership site is growing.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a membership site, it’s pretty simple. Create a site with valuable, exclusive content that is available only through a paywall to members who are charged a monthly fee to access it. But that is really where the simple stops.
You will hear from some people that a membership site is easy money. But what they are often talking about is the setup of the site with WordPress. What steps to take. What plugin to use. You know, the technical stuff.
While this information is valuable, the harder part comes in identifying your audience, thinking out your strategy, and laying the groundwork for a successful launch.
That said, here are seven things you need to know before launching a membership site.
1. Carefully define your niche
This might seem obvious, but I still see people making this mistake. Competition is fierce out there and you need to offer something — in content or style — that cannot be found elsewhere. To do that, look not only at your own knowledge and strengths, but what might be missing in the membership space.
Instead of trying to attract millions of people who are hypothetically interested in your general topics, keep drilling down until you reach that sweet spot.
You will get the best results if you target a smaller audience that is hyper-focused on what you are offering. For my new online membership site, it was the intersection of visual learners, easy-to-understand lessons, and something not many others were offering in the WordPress space — courses on online content development.
2. Build a community first
Don’t expect to nurture a community of users after the fact. You must take the time to get your fans, your peeps, your entire community onboard before you launch. That way you have a good arsenal of supporters already built up. This may take a few months or a year or more, depending on what kinds of networks you already have in place.
3. Have enough content for launch
People often tell me that they were totally turned off by a membership site launch because of the scarcity of content. Obviously you can’t start an online learning membership site with one course and a promise of more. And in those busy months after launch, you won’t have time to develop new content. So do the upfront work, before launch, to ensure you have a robust offering of content. (It’s hard work to create content, so give yourself enough time.)
4. Make a detailed pre-publicity plan
It would be nice if people found you by themselves and signed up in droves the day you put your site up. But they don’t. Spend some time thinking about pre-launch promotion. Create a landing page to sign up for pre-launch details. Tease the heck out of it. Guest post on other blogs. Consider a pre-launch contest to give away a few memberships. Your goal is to get people curious and anticipating that moment of launch.
5. Find your customers
Early on, do some serious research on who your ideal customer is. The community you already have in place is just a part of it. Of course, if you have a clearly defined niche, this will be easier. Just know where they are, and how to reach them successfully.
6. Figure out that perfect pricing point
If this isn’t the hardest, you will find it close to the top. You are going to have so many pricing options, in both the amount and the length of membership. You will struggle with — or at least consider — the lifetime membership concept. You will put time and effort into setting that ideal monthly price, even when you hear that the most popular range is below $20 a month. Again, do some research. See what others in the same area as you have had success with. Talk to the pricing experts and listen carefully.
7. Add fresh content all the time
The old saying that it takes a lot more resources to get new clients than to retain your current ones holds true for membership sites, too.
If all you want to do it stick up dull, static content on your site and spend the better part of your life seeking out new members, well, good luck with that.
You need both — current members and future members — to make your site a success. Add fresh content, offers and whatever else will be new and enticing to your current members, so you have a better chance of retaining them as you recruit additional new members.
We have done several membership sites and I am getting ready to launch our new one on January 1. From my experience, creating and running a membership site is a lot of hard work and not for the faint-hearted. The concept of making money while you sleep is a beautiful thing — if you are prepared to work your butt off when you are awake.