Creating a Membership Site – What to Think About & How to Build It

The last 5 months have seen a monumental shift in the digital landscape when it comes to doing business online. Businesses that typically offer face to face services have had to adapt to the new dynamic of conducting business primarily online. This has led to businesses re-evaluating what they offer, how they offer it and how much they offer it for.

Online stores have been at the forefront of companies’ strategies to expand their online footprint and create a new revenue stream. With the support provided by the Trading Online Voucher (TOV) businesses can avail of financial support of up to €2,500 toward the cost of eCommerce related projects.

But what about those businesses who don’t offer physical products but instead offer services? Those that teach or coach or train. How can they increase their online presence, generate new revenue and continue to provide meaningful value to customers? Let me introduce you to the concept of a membership website.

The Benefits

Aswell as providing benefits to it members, a membership site also provides significant benefits to it owners if planned & run properly. These benefits include:

  • Helping Others

The overriding goal that drives owners when creating a membership site is to help others. This can be achieved through providing education, information, encouragement or resources that help users in reaching their own goals.

  • Reliable Revenue

Generating recurring and predictable revenue is a big plus for any business and a membership site allows you to do exactly that. Members pay monthly or yearly for access to your content and the more members you sign up the more reliable revenue you generate.

  • Creating a Community

A membership website is in a way a community. Members have joined your site in order to achieve a specific goal and they share an interest in what you are offering. By tapping into this community, owners can learn more about the needs and desires of their members and develop a loyal base of followers by developing relationships and communicating directly with them.

  • Ready Made Customer Base

As outlined in the point above, members join a site because they have an interest in what is being offered. Therefore, they are pre-qualifying themselves as leads for similar types of courses or material that you offer and provided they give you permission they can be approached to sign up to additional classes or packages that will bring in further revenue.

  • Growth

A membership site provides an unlimited capacity to grow as a revenue stream. The number of members that can sign up can be uncapped and depending on what is offered to members, very little work may be required to be done to update material so costs are kept down. Compare this to an eCommerce store where in order to grow you may need to purchase additional inventory or take on more staff.

Is This Business Model Right For Me?

So, the idea of a membership site appeals to you but you don’t know where to start. In my Discovery sessions with clients where I look to understand their business and their reason for wanting to embark on a membership site or indeed any web project I always start with the same question – Why?

When thinking about starting a membership site, ask yourself the following five questions:

  • Why do I / we want to do this?
  • What value will be provided to members?
  • What are the goal(s) in terms of no. of members, amount of revenue?
  • What is going to be the cost to the business in terms of time and money spent to make this a reality? – i.e. is the material ready to go or do you need to create it, how much will it cost to modify my existing site to function as a membership site or to build a separate membership site, who is going to be in charge of managing the site and interacting with members?
  • What are you offering and how are you going to offer it? – e.g. what do the membership packages look like, how much will they cost and what is the member journey in order to sign up for a package and make use of what you are offering? Am I going to incorporate additional tools such as Zoom into how I offer the service that members sign up for?

Answering the above questions on your own or as a business can be daunting especially if you have never done something like this before so I would advise seeking the help of a person or agency who has created membership sites and include them in discussions from very early on. They will be able to guide you through the process of understanding if this type of business model will work for you, what you could offer and how you could offer it to potential members. 

How Can I Make This a Reality?

You’ve gone through the Discovery session(s) and answered the questions above and have decided that a membership site is a good route to expansion for your business. Now it’s time to look at the options available to build it:

  • WordPress – If your website is built on WordPress, which 33% of the world’s website are, there are a number of plugins available that allow you to build a membership site quicker and more efficiently than a custom build. The best WordPress plugin I have found and the one I use to create membership sites is MemberPress. It allows you to create memberships, protect content, accept payments, offer discounts, and send emails to members to enhance the membership process. It cost’s $150 a year for 2 licenses which is extremely good value. 
  • Wix – Another popular website builder is Wix. Wix allows you to create a membership site for free but if you want to accept online payments you will need to sign up for one of their Business & eCommerce Premium plans that start from €17 per month.
  • Custom Build – You can employ a web developer to build a custom membership site that can be  an addition to or separate from your existing site. Custom builds tend to be more expensive than WordPress or Wix builds but provide you with a blank canvas in terms of design and also in terms of how you wish to build it.

The typical timeline for a membership site build can range anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks depending on the build option chosen and the subsequent effort involved – the number of Discovery sessions that need to take place, the creation of the membership packages, the creation of the user journeys and ultimately the design and building of the membership site itself along with testing to ensure it all works as it should.

Summary

There has never been a better time for businesses to be online. More and more people are looking for and excited by conducting learning, training etc online. A membership site is a fantastic way to create a high-growth revenue stream for your business and there are a number of ways in which to get up and running in a relatively short space of time. If this is something you think would work for your business then I encourage you to talk with your web agency or feel free to reach out to me at john@blackbirddigital.ie.