What to consider, when you are thinking of starting up a membership site.
There are quite a few things to think about when you are thinking of starting a membership site. Not only the technical aspects such as software and websites and file formats, but also things like how are you going to manage the ongoing customer support? Or things like how much content do you need to get started and what formats?
Let’s answer all of these questions below.
There are a few options when it comes to setting up a membership site. Not every option suits all people and budgets.
You can go for stand alone software/subscriptions where the members part of your website is actually on another website. These are typically easier to set up as they advertise low technical skills required. However the disadvantage is that all of your content is located on someone else’s server and you need to keep paying your monthly fee (your membership!) to keep it going. If you want to move somewhere else, you would have to start again. An example of this is Kajabi.
You can also do a stand-alone type software installed on your server such as Amember. However you would need to integrate this in some way with your main website and have it set up properly. This can be very technical so you would need a professional to do it. It would not be my favoured option.
One of the most common website platforms these days is wordpress. There are a number of addon’s you can get (plugins) that can be added to your wordpress site and set up to create your members area within your main website. This allows you to have everything in one place and all of your content on your site. You can also use the same theme (design) across the members site which allows everything to look uniform and integrated.
This is my favoured way nowadays to set up a members site as there are so many good software’s that are widely used and have really good features. Some favourites I have used are Wishlist Member, Digital Access Pass and Optimize Press 2.0.
Other Technical Aspects
If your website is not already mobile compatible, it really should be. People are always on the go these days and want to be able to access everything in places like the train or even sitting on the lounge on their ipad while watching TV. Gone are the days when everyone sat at their desktop computer.
When it comes to the type of content you are adding, you need to consider how it will appear on all types of devices.
- Are the links and buttons easy to click with a finger or thumb?
- Is the content easy to read without pinching and zooming, and scrolling left and right?
- Is the media content playable on modern devices that don’t support flash?
These are all extremely important considerations to ensure that all of your customers can access and enjoy your content wherever they are, using any device.
If your membership site is to be a monthly subscription, you will need a way to collect monthly payments. And not only that, ideally, you want it to be automated so that if someone stops paying their subscription, they lose their member site access. Therefore the payment system needs some integration with the website.
The most common option is PayPal. It is easy and quick to set up, compatible with all software I have mentioned, you don’t need to go through any approval process and most people nowadays are very familiar with it.
You can also go the route of a bank merchant account (your own online credit card facility) but bear in mind there is a strict application process to go through with your bank to be approved as your website needs to meet certain conditions. There are also set up fees involved. I personally, do not recommend this to my clients unless they have a well established business and are expecting to generate lots of sales fairly quickly.
Otherwise, you are better to stay with PayPal at least initially and then move across later if its something you want to do.
Membership Site Content
How much content do you need to start?
Now that you have decided you want to start a membership site, then how much work do you need to put in before you can build it and launch it (and start making money?
Well it depends on the membership model you have chosen.
With the lesson based model, you could just put together the first couple of classes. This makes it easy to get going as once you build it and get your first member, you just need to stay ahead of your first member!
If your membership site is part of a larger program such as a coaching program and is just forming the resource area for group calls to be uploaded, then you don’t need to create any content ahead, just the space for it all to be loaded.
With the content driven and product based models, you would want to create enough value for what you are charging so that members feel they are getting their money worth and not have to wait for things to be added.
However, I have heard of people who go out and sell their membership site before they have created anything! This is a great idea if you want to prove to yourself that the idea you have is wanted and valued by people first. Just by letting the members know up front (give them a special deal as foundation members) they will not mind, as long as you deliver when you say you will.
If you are creating content for an audience, you need to consider how to best deliver it. Some people like to read, some like to watch videos and some like to listen to audios in the car or with a headset.
Preferably you would have a mixture of all 3. If you create a video, consider getting it transcribed into text format and also converted to an audio format as well.
Site Maintenance and adding content
Once your website is up and running, now what? Its important that you regularly check on things and ensure any software is kept up to date and things are working efficiently.
Unless you are using a product-based model, where you would have added the whole product already, you will likely need to keep on adding new content regularly.
If someone else set up your website for you, ensure you have a plan in place to keep the content being added. Either you or someone on your team needs to know how to do this.
One thing people don’t always consider is the amount of customer support required for a membership site once it is up and running. The more members you have, the support you will likely need.
Although the site should be set up to run as automated as possible, there are always people needing assistance, such as if they forget their password or have trouble resetting it. Or if they want to start or stop their membership, have a question about payments or any other things.
Its important you have a plan in place to support your customers and keep them happy!
Need some help?
There’s a lot of information in this blog post and the last 2 posts. So if you need to have a chat about any of it, please contact us.
We love to build membership systems for our customers and would love to help you with yours!