One of the most popular income-generating models online is the membership site. Similar to the subscription software model becoming standard in recent years, membership sites provide paid content to users in exchange for a monthly or yearly payment.
How a membership site generates long-term income
For a membership site to generate income, members need a reason to stay. You need to produce content people are willing to pay for on an ongoing basis. That doesn’t mean you need to continually create and add new content. It means that members need a reason to continue their membership after the first month. There are several reasons a user will continue paying a monthly fee to access your content:
- Abundant content. Your site has an abundance of content and it will take them months or years to consume it.
- The price is affordable. Since just about everything is paid on a monthly basis, your membership site needs to be affordable.
- Your site is secure. With all the data breaches we hear about, people want to know the sites they use their credit cards on are secure. This requires locking down your software and using SSL connections. SSL encrypts the data sent between your members and your web server to keep private information private.
SSL status is indicated in most browsers with a green or red lock icon in the URL bar. If your site is secured with SSL, people will be more willing to make a purchase using their bank or credit card.
- Paid access to special content. A membership site is enticing to users when your site offers free and paid content, but members have access to specialized content.
- New content. The promise of new content being added to the members-only section of your website is a good incentive for members to keep paying.
The downside to using new content as an incentive? It doesn’t take much to disappoint web visitors these days. If you fail to keep up with adding new content, they’ll cancel their membership. Likewise, if you start churning out low-quality content, they’ll cancel their membership.
- You’re using the right software. There are countless membership software programs available, but they’re not all high quality. Users are willing to put up with minor flaws and some technical issues when they want the content, but you can avoid the big flaws by thoroughly researching – and testing – membership software before you buy it.
- Drip-fed content on an automated schedule. Say you launch a learning website and sell courses on Search Engine Optimization. Using drip-fed content, each new member would be given access to a new module each month. If you offer twelve modules, each member will need to maintain their subscription for a year to complete the course.
The biggest problem with drip-fed content is once all content has been delivered, the user has no reason to maintain their paid membership. This brings up the next tip.
Use your membership site to upsell members to a more expensive product or service
Once your members have consumed the content they’ve paid for, they need a good reason to continue their relationship with you and your brand. For example, after a person takes James Patterson’s Masterclass on writing, they probably won’t take any other courses unless they specifically appeal to writers. Once they’ve taken all the writing courses, they’ll be done.
Use your membership site as a tool to upsell members on a higher priced package, product, or service. This increases the potential value of each member. You don’t want to give your members one year of content and then bid them farewell. At the end of that year, you’ll have to work hard to convince them to take another course or buy another membership, and they may not want to. However, during the time they are a member, if you market a higher level of services to them (like a coaching program), you can turn a $200/year user into someone who will pay thousands of dollars for a higher level of services.
Consider your members a community
Rather than taking a hands-off approach, consider your members part of a community. It helps to use the word “community” in the name of your membership site to reinforce a feeling of connection.
Part of running a community means interacting with your members rather than just feeding them static content and collecting their money.
People want to engage. Launch a discussion forum, a chat room, or a private Facebook group for members to connect with each other. Be involved in their progress. Overall, the best reason to continue their membership will be a sense of belonging.