From Amazon to Netflix to Dollar Shave Club, and everything in between, businesses are realizing the immense potential of a recurring revenue model.
And, the best way for you to access that kind of reliable income right now is with a membership site.
You can set up a site for members effortlessly nowadays with the right management platform. But that doesn’t mean it will be successful.
We studied hundreds of membership sites to figure out what makes them tick, and what makes some more successful than others.
In this article, we’re sharing what we learned so you can create a membership site of your own, and start growing a community for your members.
Find a Niche For Your Membership Site
Whether you skipped ahead or read this far, you’re probably itching to start building your very own membership site.
And the first step to ensure success is to choose the right area of expertise.
There’s a case to be made that any type of membership site can be successful if it’s good enough.
But that’s a little too optimistic in our opinion.
There is more than enough content out there that can help you decide on a home for your site. In fact, you could probably get away with making a membership site dedicated to helping people find profitable niches.
Here’s our take:
Start with a broad niche and then drill down to smaller solutions you can solve.
One of those small solutions is likely to be the right mix of low competition and high earning potential.
As you get access to a wider audience, you can start expanding in the same niche.
For instance, within the weight loss niche, you might have success creating a subscription-based website for women who want to lose weight postpartum.
Explore Your Passions And Areas of Expertise
It’s a lot more realistic to start working in a space that many people have a lot of interest in.
And that means you’re pretty much all set if you’re an expert in any of these areas:
At this point, you’ve picked your niche, and you know how much you’ll charge for the course.
It may make sense to jump into creating a minimum viable product and test your idea.
However, there’s one more step we firmly believe separates successful membership sites from failed ones more often than not.
And that’s creating a marketing plan for your content.
If you already have a game plan for how to promote your membership before you start, you’ll be way ahead of most competitors.
And here are the top three priorities you should focus on.
Leverage Your Current Audience
If you have any kind of following, whether that’s on social media, a forum community, or anything else, use it.
As the saying goes:
Your network is your net worth.
The place where you’re most likely to find people to sign up for your membership sites is where people already know you. So, do some research and decide what the best way is to leverage your current network.
Existing members of those communities can be the foundation of your membership site.
Many communities, such as ones on Reddit, have strict guidelines about what types of promotional activity is and isn’t allowed.
Work within the rules of your chosen community and decide on the best way to deliver value
You’ve got to spend money to make money.
Paid advertising is essentially a surefire way to get members. And it’s scalable, and there are plenty of excellent agencies that can do it for you.
The one tiny drawback is that it will cut directly into your profits.
To make the ads worth the money you spend on them, you’ll need a solid target, retargeting, and spending strategy.
Content Marketing (SEO)
If you have more time to build your membership site than you do money to spend on it, content marketing can be an equally effective option.
You can market your membership through educational blog content, newsletters, podcasts, and other media. The free content you provide should serve to convince people your premium content is worth it.
The key is to choose ways that will provide value to your target audience.
That will help build trust and establish you as an authority in that space.
And remember, the more people trust you, the easier it will be to convince them you’ve got a membership worth their money.
Pick a Membership Site Software
You’ve finally made it to the big moment—creating your membership site.
And to do that, we highly recommend using a membership website builder.
There’s nothing stopping you from using a general-purpose site builder. But you’ll save a ton of money and time by picking software that’s tailor-made for creating membership sites.
It should come as no surprise that we highly recommend using Hyax to create your site.
And it’s super-easy to use:
Ultimately, the best membership site builder for you depends on your goals. But here are the features you need to look for regardless of the builder you choose.
Every offline or online business needs revenue, and if you can’t charge for your membership, you may as well start a blog.
Ideally, your membership software should also include ways to receive donations and collect other fees from paying members seamlessly.
Membership site owners are starting to diversify into various forms of payment models, so try to pick software that’s going to support you in the long run.
Plenty of Automation
The less you have to do manually, the better.
To illustrate the point, imagine having to grant access to each member manually. You’d never be able to scale.
That same principle applies to things like member communication, newsletters, invoicing, etc.
The more automation your membership site has, the better.
Lots of Content Features
As a general rule, you should look for a site builder that has more options than you need.
Things such as member directories, event calendars, blog posts, exclusive content areas, all add value to your site. Make sure your chosen software provides ways to create those easily.
💡 Remember: Restricting access to content is how you generate revenue from membership sites. Use software that makes it easy to do that!
Software That Gives You Access To Data
Don’t underestimate how important it is to monitor your membership site’s overall performance.
At any point, you should have access to financial reports, membership numbers, and other analytics.
Otherwise, you won’t be able to make informed decisions about what the next steps are to maintain growth.
What To Include In A Membership Site
No matter what kind of site it is, or how it’s monetized, all good membership sites share a few common features.
Each of these deserves more attention than it’s going to get, but here’s an overview of the essentials.
The first thing visitors to your site should see when they land on your membership site is what your value proposition is.
There should be no hesitation or confusion about what you offer and for whom.
Here’s one of our favorite examples from The Knitting Guild Association.
The site immediately answers the most important questions visitors have:
Who is it for? People who love to knit.
What does it offer? Seasoned experts who help you learn and masters knitting.
If we had one note, it would be to convey the value proposition in the bottom paragraph with even fewer words.
Simplicity works best on landing pages.
You don’t want anyone digging too deeply to find your premium content.
Make it easy for members to get access to what they paid for.
A good guideline when you create a membership site is to have content sections no more than a single click away from your landing page.
Here’s one of our favorite examples of a membership site that does this right:
Ali Abdaal’s site is as simple as it gets, and even divides the content into separate sections to make it easier to navigate.
You can read more about Ali Abdaal’s journey and how he turned his passion into a thriving and profitable community.
In content sections, you can also speak to existing members about why it might be a good idea to move up to a higher content tier. Or, make them feel like they made the right choice becoming and staying a member.
Succulents and Sunshine is a site for people who want to learn more about taking care of succulents.
And its owner, Cassidy Tuttle, uses the About Us section to tell members about the site, her experience, and further explain its benefits.
Regardless of what you choose to name it, the “About Us” section should be loaded with information to make people trust you.
In this section, you’re not trying to focus too much on the hard sell. Rather, go over your credentials, mission statement, and specific outcomes for your members.
Why Start a Membership Site
Still on the fence about starting a membership site?
You’re not alone. It’s worth it to explore a bit before committing the time and energy required to build a membership site.
And, we’re happy to share a few of the reasons why we think it’s an excellent decision.
Membership Sites As A Recurring Source Of Income
We already touched on this in the introduction, but it’s worth coming back to.
The most compelling reason to build a membership site is the potential of creating a steady source of income from members who join.
It’s certainly not the only reason. But if you’re like most people starting a membership site, you’re not doing it purely as a hobby.
Passive income is always going to beat out one-time sales in the long run.
👀 Look at it this way:
If you’re selling magazines, you have to demonstrate each issue’s value to customers before they buy. That means marketing each issue individually.
If you sell a magazine subscription, you only need to attract a customer once, and you’ve got a recurring revenue stream for the duration.
It’s an age-old concept and you can tap into it easily with the right membership management platform.
Leverage Your Current Following and Expand It
If you’re thinking about creating a membership site, there’s a decent chance that you already have some members in mind.
And, in fact, most of the people we’ve seen build successful membership sites do so to monetize an already existing following.
In other words, if your tribe is already starting to form, a membership site is an excellent way to give a home to that growth.
And here’s the beauty of it:
Your followers already want a membership site.
Even if they don’t know it yet.
A membership site is not just a way to gate access to existing content. It’s also a place for your tribe to gather. We’ll get back to this concept of a home for your community further down.
Boost Your Reputation as an Expert In The Space
You’re good at what you do.
Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be starting a membership site.
We’re also going to take a wild guess that you like what you do if you want to expand your presence in that space.
A successful membership site immediately establishes you as an authority in your chosen space.
Just think about anyone who has built a successful community of members around what they love. You almost certainly perceive that person as an expert, precisely because so many people support them.
In a way, building a profitable subscription website for your community is the most effective way to leverage social proof. Every person who becomes a member is a testimonial that you’re doing something right.
Wanna be perceived as an expert? Give your audience a chance to see you that way with a membership site.
It’s that simple.
Closing Thoughts on Creating Membership Sites
If you’ve read this far, you have more than enough information to get started.
Not only is now a great time to start a membership site, but all indications show that it will increasingly become the most profitable way to monetize content.
The basic steps we want you to walk away with are these:
If you need help with any of these steps, we’d be happy to help.
Let us know in the comments, or book a strategy call right now.
Jack Paxton is the co-founder of VYPER, a marketing tool that helps brands build email lists, social followings, and revenue using viral giveaways, referral, and reward programs. After millions of dollars spent testing different marketing strategies at his marketing agency. He then also co-founded Hyax a fast, conversion & design-focused course and funnel builder for creators.
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