If you look at some of the most successful people online, there is typically one thing that they all have. It isn’t necessarily a stellar idea or that they’re crazy smart…
It’s that they built their business on membership sites.
Sometimes, these membership sites revolve around the gaming industry. Other times, it’s about health and fitness. The model is the same though – they deliver content month after month to folks who are paying for their membership.
Memberships aren’t anything new. If you look around, you’ll see countless memberships that businesses use to pad their yearly revenue. Here are some of the ones that I shell out for every month:
- - Entertainment services like Netflix and Hulu
- - Software like Basecamp and OfficeAutoPilot
- - Magazine subscriptions like Entrepreneur Magazine and Fast Company
And don’t forget yearly memberships, like:
Every month I get something that I want in exchange for a small fee.
That’s how memberships work!
No matter what niche you’re in, you can make memberships work for you too. You can use them as front end products, upsells, or ways the give your buyers more access to you and your training.
And sometimes, memberships aren’t even called ‘memberships.’ They’re called continuity programs or recurred billing programs.
How To Create A Membership Site
There are a few things that you’ll need to set up in order to have a membership site that you can sell subscriptions too…
The first thing you’ll need is a website, preferably built on WordPress. WordPress has a few themes and plugins that make setting up a membership site super easy, and it’s got incredible support. Simply searching Google to troubleshoot is oftentimes more than adequate.
We’ve published a full tutorial on how to create a website that I think you’ll find helpful.
There are a lot of themes that you can use for your membership site, but there is really only one that will give you the power and functionality that you’ll need to both SELL your membership and DELIVER your monthly training content.
That theme is OptimizePress. It’ll take an hour or so of watching tutorials to get the hang of it, but after you do it’s well worth it. It’s pretty much the only theme we use for membership and sales applications anymore.
Right out of the box, WordPress doesn’t work as a membership site. It’s simply a content publishing platform. You’ve got to add a plugin to make it membership friendly so that only logged in users can access the content that they paid for…
The first and easiest plugin to use for powering membership sites is Wishlist Member. The tutorial videos for it are spot on and you can set up a membership site in about an afternoon. My only problem with Wishlist Member is that you still need an email marketing platform like Aweber AND a shopping cart like 1shoppingcart or Infusionsoft.
When you bring that many systems together, it can get jumbled pretty quickly.
The membership plugin that we use to power all our stuff anymore is PilotPress by OfficeAutoPilot. OfficeAutoPilot combines email marketing, a shopping cart, affiliate management, membership functionality and a bunch of other stuff into one application. It’s seamless in terms of unlocking content and making sure that your members get what they bought.
Getting Paid From Your Membership Site
Awesome! You’re membership site is now set up!! So let’s talk about how to promote it and how to deliver regularly scheduled content (so members keep paying!)
There are a number of ways to offer your membership for sale. You can list in in Clickbank since it’s a digital product. You can post sales copy and put a payment form up on your site with OfficeAutoPilot. You can even create a payment button in Paypal.
It’s totally up to you.
With Clickbank, you’ll tap into their network for over 200,000 affiliates who might help you promote your membership site. If you’re using OfficeAutoPilot, your monthly earnings will get put right into your bank account through your merchant program. And with Paypal, the money will get dumped into your Paypal account! From there you can move it to where ever you want. Be warned though, Paypal has been known to shut down accounts :0)
Creating Monthly Membership Material
Well, you’re going to need to put some training in there for your members (or whatever else you decided you wanted to sell!). Training typically comes in the form of text and video, and sometimes integrates audio.
I’ve actually been doing video, audio and text on a lot of my stuff because when you record the video, it’s pretty easy to outsource the transcription on a site like Elance. You can hit all three ‘educational modalities’ for online learning very, very quickly and easily. You can also charge a much higher monthly price.
The best way to create membership content is to do all video and outsource the transcription of it on a site like Elance…
- 1) Record the video
- 2) Take the audio out of the track
- 3) Encode that audio into .mp3’s
- 4) Send those .mp3’s to a transcriptionist
- 5) Have them turn the audio into PDF’s
Now you have all three different types of content that can be used in your membership site!
Promoting Your Membership Site
There a few different ways of selling memberships. Some require an advertising budget. Others are free. And others are affiliate based (meaning you pay per sale).
When most people get started, they don’t have an cash to spend on paid advertising and lack the skills to get free traffic through the search engines (AKA search engine optimization) so they go the affiliate route.
We’re going to discuss each of these in further detail here…
How To Get Affiliates To Promote For You
To be honest, getting affiliates can be pretty daunting. I didn’t understand this at first, but its rare to get someone to mail for you and your product if they don’t have at least some personal relationship with you. It’s one of the reason going to industry events is so important.
With that being said, there is one tool that’s pretty indispensable in this business – Facebook.
Almost everyone you could want to know hangs out on Facebook. Some more publicly than others :0) It’s not uncommon to see a product owner or a potential affiliate commenting on other people’s threads.
So, as long as you’re not being pushy, it’s completely acceptable to interject yourself into a conversation and start a relationship.
Just know that you’ve got to be cool. You can’t jump in and say ‘Promote my product. You’ll make lots of money!’ Put yourself in the other person’s shoes… What would your reaction be to that kind of behavior!
I’m notoriously bad at asking people to mail for me or my products. It’s just weird for me. I’ll typically mail for someone else 3 or 4 times before I ask for anything in return.
Which is another good point – mailing for their stuff! People like to help folks who support them. If you want to get in someone’s good graces, mail for their product or promote their product in some way. Once they put your name on their leaderboard two or three times, they’ll come looking for you!
The best interaction you can have when meeting a big affiliate is, “Why haven’t we met before? I’ve put you on my leaderboard like 6 times!”
How To Get Free Search Engine Traffic
Free traffic is the holy grail of Internet marketing. You don’t have to pay a dime for it and you can’t turn it off!
The problem with free traffic, or search engine traffic, is that it takes a lot of content and some time to pull off. If you know what you’re doing, it might take a few weeks or a few months to start getting traffic. If you don’t, it might take years.
There are 3 pieces to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that you need to consider before venturing down that path:
- - The content that appears on your site, otherwise known as on-page optimization.
- - The links that are coming to your site from other sites around the Internet, known as off-page optimization
- - The social aspects of your content… How many Facebook likes, Twitter retweets and Google Pluses does it have.
You can spend years perfecting Search Engine Optimization and testing out strategies. Lord knows I did. After about 7 years, we’ve got it down to a science though.
There are two ways of learning about SEO. You can jump into the Money Sites Builder and pay close attention to all the training modules… That’s how our Money Sites get traffic!
How To Get Paid Traffic And Do Media Buys
The third way of getting traffic to your membership site is paying for it… Typically on a ‘pay per click’ basis or a ‘cost per thousand impressions’ basis.
There are countless programs and platforms out there where you can buy traffic from. Most of the large sites online offer banner ad placements (we call this direct site buys).
Google operates their advertising platform that you can get traffic from, Google Adwords. You can go out to the sites directly and ask for advertising. You can advertise on Youtube. You can buy solo ads or doretargetingwhere you show your ads to the people who have been to your site.
You can also set up Facebook ads and Facebook Pages…
The sky’s the limit as long as you are making your money back within the first 30 days of spending it on advertising.
That’s a whole other conversation though… The point of direct marketing is to see a return for every dollar spent on advertising. Once you pair the right advertising with the right marketing material and product, you can scale to the moon – especially if your membership course is paying you month after month!
Some Membership Program Ideas…
There are lots of ways to work membership programs and membership sites into your product mix. It’s not limited to just selling information…
- - If you have a supplement, you can do a rebill offer where you automatically ship your customer the next month’s worth of product.
- - If you’re selling information, you can send your members next month’s books
- - For any service related business, membership might include lawn care or gardening or monthly checkups (think chiropractors)
This article is more specifically about how to create a membership site, so let’s start there.
Things To Think About
There are a couple things to think about when it comes to your membership site.
First of all, how do you want to deliver your content?
Do you want to drip the membership content out day by day? Or week by week?
Dripping out content will encourage people to stay longer, especially if you tease certain pieces of content right around the time that most people cancel (about 3 days before a billing cycle begins).
You can also put affiliate offers inside your membership pages.
Oftentimes, your course doesn’t have all the software or games or tools that people will need. It’s beneficial to find affiliate programs for all that stuff and let your members buy through your affiliate link! Hell, there are ‘buyer clubs’ set up for this one purpose alone!
Also, you can give announced or unannounced bonuses monthly…
Things like extra training or plugins or additional access. Basically, a bonus is anything that can help your members consume or get into the topic of your membership site a little bit more…
And finally, expanded community.
Folks like to interact with other members inside your platform. If you read any community development book, it’s a proven fact that people will stay with you longer if you inject some community in your mix. Forums offer a way to add that ‘community’ without having to build out expensive or complicated social network style pages inside your site.