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When you’re considering starting an online business, it pays to think about membership sites.
Also known as subscription sites, they’re a great way of sharing your expertise with the online world and generating some steady revenue.
According to Citibank, 82% of businesses adopt subscription models because it transforms them into the leaders of their industry.
We’ll be exploring what a membership site is, as well as some actionable tips to get your paid membership site up and running.
Let’s take a look!
A membership site is a website which offers gated content that’s only available to paying members or subscribers.
A “gate” acts as a barrier so that only active or paying members are allowed to gain access to content.
Membership sites allow you to make money by sharing your knowledge through exclusive membership content.
With the membership model, you’re able to sell access to courses and informative material.
A membership site can offer free or paid subscriptions.
These subscriptions can range from lifetime access, once off payments to recurring subscriptions.
Many membership sites also operate on a tiered system that offers different levels of membership for different types of content.
With the rapid rise of online learning and Learning Management Systems (LMS), there’s no doubt that starting your own membership site is a profitable business model.
At this point, you may be wondering why membership sites are so popular and what’s in it for you.
We’ll answer this by exploring some of the benefits of building and operating a membership site:
Membership sites are all about helping people
You can earn a steady income
There’s opportunity for exponential growth
Producing valuable content makes you an authority in your industry
Membership sites build customer loyalty
You already know your target audience
Adding a membership site feature to your website will gain more website visitors and put you on the (online) map.
So, how do you go about creating a membership site?
We’ll take you through the simple process from beginning to end.
Membership sites work best if they speak to a highly targeted audience.
For example, a membership site for online marketers would encompass a lot of topics and would be a little too vague.
But a membership site for social media marketing would be more profitable, as that’s a very specific niche.
The key is to be as specific as possible with your online content.
Your first step would be to identify an area where you feel you can offer valuable knowledge and then narrow it down to your niche. Your audience needs to validate you as an expert.
Additionally, being a specialist at something will help you increase your influence and authority in your industry.
Then take a look at your skills, and ask yourself these questions:
After that, it’s time to run a competitive analysis.
Identify the other businesses running membership sites that cater to the same niche.
It’s also important to determine whether these businesses are already making some money in a particular niche.
If a niche is lacking competitors, not very popular, and is relatively small, we’d recommend giving it a second thought.
We’re not saying it’s impossible, but it’s going to take a lot more work, which is something to keep in mind when you’re evaluating your online business idea.
Once you’ve got all the resources to get started, the second step on your membership site journey is deciding on the type of content you’ll offer to your members.
Typically, an online membership site would use some of the following content usually in exchange for a paid subscription:
Offering free membership site content is a great way to entice members to subscribe to exclusive content later.
This is usually done through membership tiers — offering certain content at one level and more valuable content at the next membership level.
It helps to experiment with free content to see what type works best for your particular niche.
For example, a fitness membership site could use video content.
Similarly, if you’re speaking to professionals who need to stay ahead of their game, you could send out email newsletters and publish how-to guides.
Choose topics that are evergreen to begin with.
This will help you retain members and also appeal to new members.
Make sure you stay on top of the latest trends to keep your membership site interesting.
After you’ve decided on your content types and topics, it’s time to start thinking about attracting members.
The easiest way to reach potential members is by providing some of the material for free.
You can use blog posts and search engine optimization (SEO) to get more traffic to your website. Just make sure you create valuable content.
Similarly, you could also enhance your social media presence and offer bits of wisdom by posting informative social media posts.
If you can build a personal brand as you build your professional brand, you will go a lot further.
If you already have access to your target audience (for example, from a previous business venture), make sure you use them.
The best way to reach them is through a mailing list.
Simply shoot your subscribers an email informing them of your membership site.
An effective email marketing tool works well for this.
You can also use this to gauge if your membership site idea is worth it.
If enough people are interested and they convert from the get-go, you’ve got yourself a profitable business!
Consider paid advertising such as Facebook ads — these are great ways to get your membership site exposed to your target market.
Make sure you hone in on bottom-funnel keywords to appeal to search intent and reach more people to purchase or sign up.
If you had a fitness membership site, you’d target keywords such as: “fitness membership site” or “fitness videos”.
You wouldn’t target generic “fitness”, as it’s too vague and wouldn’t bring you the maximum amount of conversions.
Another great way to attract new members is to consider partnering with other entrepreneurs in similar niches.
This way, you’ll both be expanding your audience by cross-marketing.
So you’ve got the content, strategy, and audience in place, it’s time for action!
Fortunately, the final step is pretty simple.
Before you start the setup process, you’ll need to decide exactly what type of membership site you want to offer:
Free membership sites:
Paid membership sites:
Recurring subscriptions tend to be more reliable sources of revenue, as not everyone will want to commit to a membership for a lifetime.
We’d recommend going with a recurring subscription.
Next up, you’ll have to decide on what your membership pricing will be.
Remember, you’re charging for the value that your content brings. Don’t sell yourself short.
Keep in mind that your pricing should be within the range of what your competitors are charging. Some research into your competitors’ pricing is always a good idea.
Once you’ve decided on the type of membership site and pricing, you’ll want to pick a membership platform to host your site and then you’re good to go!
There’s no shortage of platforms out there, and picking the right fit can be a task in itself.
Systeme.io offers a streamlined and effective membership site builder that we’ll explore in a bit.
First, let’s get into member engagement and why it’s so important.
The key to a successful membership site is providing valuable content and having an engaged community.
Members will stick around if they feel that they’re part of a solid and supportive community.
Fostering member engagement involves keeping a constant line of open communication between you and your members.
Basically, your members want to know that you haven't just taken their money and made a run for it!
Encouraging member participation and maintaining active communication is key!
Your membership site is pretty new on the block, and you want to build a member base, but it’s difficult to do if no one's heard of your site before.
You’ll want to start off by increasing your online presence as much as possible through:
Gaining new members is the first hurdle.
Once you’ve gotten over it and built a steady foundation to work with, you can focus on building a loyal community.
Strengthening the relationship with your existing members should be an ongoing and worthwhile effort.
Your members want to feel that they can communicate and participate in an active community.
Your role is to create and maintain this sense of community by:
Your member retention rates should be at the top of your priority list as a membership site owner.
As long as your members feel that they’re gaining something valuable and have access to a supportive community, they’ll be there for the long-haul.
A great way to get some inspiration to kick off your own membership site is to look at some examples of successful membership sites:
Food Blogger Pro is a membership website created to help people monetize their food blogs.
The membership site caters to new bloggers and individuals who’ve been struggling to monetize their blogs.
Food Blogger is successful because it appeals to a specific and profitable niche and provides valuable content to its members.
With Food Blogger, members learn how to monetize their site using brand sponsorships, ads, and affiliate marketing.
The membership site offers a free trial version, monthly recurring subscription, and a once-off yearly payment.
The membership site has a community hub feature, where members can interact, ask questions, and share opinions on food blogging.
Dribbble Pro is a membership site that lends its services to designers and creatives.
Once signed up, online designers and creatives can create a portfolio, share their work and get expert feedback, as well as get access to many clients with Dribbble’s leads.
As with Food Blogger Pro, Dribbble Pro owes its success to being in a very profitable niche.
There are millions of freelance designers that need a platform to promote their work, as well as a community to share ideas with.
Dribble Pro offers the option to choose between a monthly or yearly subscription.
A great sense of community and a well-established niche are the key factors in this membership site’s success.
Picking a good platform for your membership site can be a tad overwhelming, with so many options to choose from.
Most membership site platforms don’t offer the full house, and you’ll be left at a loss when it comes to the other features that are necessary to gain members.
With systeme.io, you’re getting a website and membership site builder, all under the same roof.
Our all-in-one tool will also take care of the finer details, like email marketing and funnel building.
Systeme.io offers a course creator, so you can sell your valuable content easily while we handle the opt-ins and memberships.
This is how it works:
You’ll be able to integrate your membership site with your email list and payment system with systeme.io’s website builder.
systeme.io’s pricing plans
Did we mention all our plans allow you to have unlimited members on your membership sites?
If scaling your membership site is top of your list, we can help!
Creating a membership site is a fulfilling venture, as it allows you to share some of your skills and experience with the online world.
Building a loyal community, picking a profitable niche, and providing content that helps people to solve a problem is the formula to a successful membership site.
Navigating your way through the world of membership sites should be a breeze.
With systeme.io’s membership site builder, we’ll handle all the organizational aspects, so you can focus on your community of members and sell memberships.
Start by building your membership site for free, it’s easier than ever!
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