How to launch the worst membership site
Membership sites are kind of popular nowadays. Probably due to the fact that they are great money making machines (when done right).
Picture the following scenario. Let’s say you have an information product that you want to sell. You can either:
- Sell it right away (for $100, or perhaps better make it $97 – the go-to price mark for every digital product), or
- Offer it as a membership program, where you share one piece of the puzzle every week for $50 monthly. And the whole program takes four months to complete, for example.
The second approach will earn you $200 in total (unless your product is of poor quality and people will unsubscribe sooner), and you’ll also get a list of users to whom you can offer your future products.
This is just one benefit behind membership sites.
But hold on!
This post is not about the light side of the force at all.
On the contrary, I actually want to show you the 10 steps to launching the worst membership site on the planet.
Why? I’m doing it just as a way to warn you about making some more (or less) common mistakes.
1. Going with a standard WordPress site
Now, a quick disclaimer. I have nothing against WordPress sites, or using WordPress for everything possible.
So if you want to launch your membership site on WordPress, and you have some cool plugins to pull this off (likeWishList Member), a support solution implemented on the back end, a tested way of managing all your precious content, then fine, you’ll do a great job.
If your idea of a membership site is to just password protect some posts and then send the password to your subscribers through email then sorry, this doesn’t really cut it.
And it doesn’t cut it for one main reason. You’re probably pitching your membership site as the best thing ever, featuring some best content ever (which is a fine marketing method, by the way). But if what someone gets after signing up is just a simple WordPress site with a bunch of password protected posts, they won’t feel very special at all.
2. No one on the support team
The need to have some support mechanism in place is one of the main drawbacks of launching a membership site.
Support is not something mandatory if you just have a one-off product on your offer. Especially if it’s an information product. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen with it? The only scenario possible is that someone might think the product is of low quality and request a refund.
But a membership site can experience some more problems. For instance: people will lose their login info, won’t be able to access your data using their 1990s’ mobile phone, will want to change their billing information, their email, or anything else.
— Ashlea (@AKobukowski) July 8, 2014
This makes it clear that a good membership site needs some kind of a support platform, otherwiseyour reputation will suffer. Period.
3. Automatic content
The point of a membership site is to deliver top quality content that can’t be seen elsewhere. That’s why someone needs to become a member in order to get it, and why they have to pay a fee to do so.
Some people, however, decide to make their membership site content mainly blog-driven. This means that the majority of the content comes from a blog that’s available for free to everyone, and only like 1/3 or 1/4 of the content is the actual exclusive premium content.
Image credit: flickr.com/photos/mike_miley
This is a trick used mainly by people who desperately want to launch a membership site, yet don’t have enough premium content to do it properly, so they turn tosending updates automatically.
In a nutshell: Don’t do this. It’s not cool. Focus on exclusive content instead.
4. Filler content
Automatic content is publishing stuff that can be found elsewhere for free. Filler content is publishing stuff that can’t be found anywhere else, but it’s as useful as a stab in the kidney.
@bcaudill I think lots of people do it bc they’re lacking content and need filler. And filler becomes so painfully obvious.
— Alex (@northstoryCA) July 8, 2014
It’s just meant to fill out the schedule and make it seem like there’s much going on. If you think that no one will ever notice, you will be surprised when your subscribers decide to vote with their wallets and simply leave. The nature of the problem is the same as with automatic content – not enough real premium content.
5. Mainly promotion-driven content
Yet another example of bad content practices.
This is something commonly seen in various email newsletters. You know, the case when someone sends you one content email, and nine promotional ones just after that. Don’t do the same thing with your membership site.
A much better balance to opt for is nine content-heavy updates for every promotional update. After all, your membership site can be a great marketing tool, which you can use to launch other projects. Which brings me to:
6. Not using your membership as a launchpad for other things
Membership sites can be great on multiple levels. Obviously, the membership itself makes you money and grows your business, but there’s so much more you can do apart from that.
For example, no matter what price point you’re offering, be it $35 a month or $100 a month, there will always be people willing to pay more in order to get more.
You can capitalize on this in multiple ways. Just to list some of the more popular ideas out there (used by membership site owners):
- Offering higher-price membership levels. For example, if your standard entry point is $X, make the next level up two times this amount. In it, include some extra exclusive content or even information coming from your own resources or your own studies. In short, make it easily two or three times as valuable as the standard membership.
- Offering couching calls or other mentoring services. When people start seeing you as an authority figure in your niche, some of them will want to work with you up close or even want you to mentor them. You can charge good dollar per hour for such Skype calls.
- Offering direct consulting services. The idea is kind of similar to the one above, but this time you’re providing services geared at delivering a specific result to your client. It can be anything from teaching them how to do interior design, optimize their social media presence,tweak their SEO, and etc. The idea is to make your rate per hour high enough so it makes you happy to do this work and not treat it like a chore.
- Offering other freelance services. There’s a lot more things besides consulting that you can do directly with a client. Depending on your niche, the nature of your main membership program and your area of expertise, you can offer things like: writing services, web design, AdWords management, blog management, online promotion, and so on. Of course, the difficult part is finding the right way to structure your funnel and pitch the right services to the right people. Should you need any help with that, feel free tovisit the guys over at Bidsketch and check their proposal resources (there are templates, guides, and e-books that will get you up to speed).
- Launching live events. This is an idea that’s a bit far down the road, but hey, why not? Once you have a big following in certain areas of the country, you can try organizing an event with live workshops, presentations, group consultations and even Saturday night parties.
7. Not using different types of media
For me, and feel free to disagree, launching a simple membership program (offering just some text content) is not enough to make the project successful.
These days, the internet is chock full of different types of content and methods of delivering information.
For instance, a good membership site should utilize things like: videos, audios, webcasts, web-seminars, apps, software, templates (of something related to the content), infographics, interviews, forums, and so on. Text is simply not enough. Need a good example? Check outFizzle (probably the only honest online business training right now).
I know that it will take some time and dedication to produce all this, but it’s the only way you’re going to differentiate your content from all the other memberships available on the market.
8. No member’s area
Member’s area is probably the most common element of every quality membership site. The idea is to provideyour subscribers with a place that’s kind of like a dashboard for everything going on.
That’s why notifying people via email about some stuff and then sending them over to a standard WordPress post doesn’t make it a membership site.
One pretty clear reason why people decide not to offer a member’s area is that they don’t have enough diverse content to share. Let’s face it, if you only have text content, your member’s area won’t look very attractive.
By the way, every quality membership site solution will give you a member’s area you can use to communicate with your subscribers.
9. No semi-premium content
Semi-premium content is something that can be partially accessed by anybody (available publicly).
For instance, you can make every subpage of your membership site available openly to the public, but the trick is to display only the introductions, and to follow it up with a subscription link. (In other words, using teaser content.)
That way, you get the benefit of exposing your premium content, and at the same time you’re not really making it available. People who want to get the full pie still have to buy a subscription.
This is great for ranking your content on the search engines, and what follows, for getting additional subscribers who will visit you directly through your search engine listings.
10. No interaction helpers
The final item on this list. Interaction helpers are everything your subscribers can use to interact with each other and with the staff of the site – usually just you.
Having no interaction helpers is a common approach for scam membership sites – those that offer crappy overpriced content. If they enabled any sort of interaction helpers, people would simply blast them with negative reviews, complaints, and all sorts of other hateful yet honest comments. And it would all be publicly visible to every new subscriber.
So if you are in this business for real, you have to enable user interaction and make your site just a little vulnerable to the opinions people might have.
That’s it for my list of things on your way to launching the worst membership site on the planet. Feel free to share, have you stumbled upon any crappy membership sites lately?
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