Membership sites have become increasingly popular over the last few years. After the bottom fell out of the advertising bubble, bloggers and other online influencers realized that, if they wanted to earn a decent income, they needed to charge for their knowledge.
There’s nothing wrong with that. You can choose whether you want to give away your talents and secrets or if you want to charge for them. A membership site allows you to do the latter.
You might remember that, back in May 2017, Medium launched its first paid membership program. Medium is a popular blogging site that allows anyone to sign up and contribute. Members, however, get access to gated content that people who don’t pay for membership never see.
But you don’t have to be Medium to start a membership site.
What is a membership site?
Think of a membership site as an online magazine. Just as consumers pay for subscriptions to magazines, they can pay to read the content on your membership site.
You decide how often you want to publish content and what types of content you want to publish. The options are nearly endless:
- Blog-style articles
- White papers
Each time you update your membership site with new content, your subscribers get to consume it. They get an individual username and password that grants them access to the membership part of your site as long as their subscription remains active.
A membership site is a way to make money for your content, but not through advertising. Instead, people pay for the content because they respect your knowledge and want to learn from you. It can become an excellent complement to your online courses.
Should you build a membership site?
If you’re interested in creating an online community around your content, you should definitely consider building a membership site. It’s a great way to establish your authority, build loyalty among your fans, and stay connected with the people who want to hear from you.
Yes, you can do all of those things on a regular blog or site. However, a membership site lets you get paid for your effort. Since you’re spending your time and helping others, you might as well earn a living.
Additionally, you can use your membership site as an offshoot of your other digital products, such as:
- Online courses
- Books and e-books
- Free videos
- Social media content
- Public blogging
Whether you get paid or don’t for each type of product, they all help solidify your brand and spread your message. When consumers find out about you from another source, they might express interest in your membership site, as well, and vice versa.
However, you should only start a membership site if you’re willing to jump in with both feet. Your customers will expect to receive regular, valuable content. If you don’t deliver, they’ll ask for a refund or simply unsubscribe. It’s a big commitment, so consider it carefully before you decide to create one.
Benefits of a membership site
There are several benefits of creating a membership site, regardless of the topics you intend to cover or your target audience. Understanding these benefits will help you create better content and attract more potential customers.
Let’s break down some of the benefits you can expect to get from opening your own membership site.
Increase your revenue
We all want to make more money, right? You might already be an entrepreneur who sells online courses, e-books, and other digital products, and a membership site can become another revenue stream for your business.
When you’re an entrepreneur, diversification matters. It’s just like investing in the stock market. If you put all of your eggs into one basket, so to speak, you could easily lose them all.
In the stock market, investing your money all in one place puts it at risk. When you diversify, you can absorb losses more easily because they’re offset by the gains.
In entrepreneurship, a single stream of revenue could evaporate overnight. You hope it won’t, but you can’t depend on it indefinitely. However, if you diversify your revenue streams, you’re more secure financially.
Furthermore, if all of your “eggs” remain healthy sources of income, you can maximize your revenue and put some of that money into future investments, such as other online courses and digital products.
You’ll build trust and loyalty
As an entrepreneur, you depend on other people to put their cash in your pocket. You can’t force them to do so. Instead, you must earn their trust and loyalty.
It’s just like any other business model. If you love a particular supermarket because it always carries your favorite products, you won’t go to another supermarket unless you have a very good reason. You’re loyal to the first store because it doesn’t let you down and because you know that you can get what you need there.
The same pattern holds true for online entrepreneurs. When people trust you to deliver accurate, valuable information, they’ll have no reason to seek that information elsewhere.
What does this have to do with creating a membership site?
When someone gives you money in exchange for a subscription, they’re already demonstrating loyalty. You now have the opportunity to nurture it. As long as you don’t let down your customers, they’ll continue paying to access your content.
There’s no need for a physical product
Managing an inventory of physical products can create myriad problems. You have to find a place to store those products, pay to ship them out, and hire people to manage sales. If you run out of a product just as a bunch of orders rolls in, you have to disappoint your customers by making them wait.
And that’s just skimming the surface of the potential hassles that can come with running a business that requires a physical product.
A membership site isn’t physical — it’s virtual. In other words, it doesn’t take up any space in your home or office, and you can’t run out of it. The supply — your content — is always there for your customers to consume.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take work. You must continue to supply high-quality content if you want your customers to stick with you. However, you don’t have the hassles associated with physical inventory to overcome.
You get lots of free traffic
When you have a membership site, you automatically have access to lots of consumers’ contact information. Those email addresses become intensely valuable when you want to market your other digital products.
You can run drip campaigns to specific segments of your customer base once you figure out what they want and need. This leads to free traffic to your other online properties as well as to your membership site.
Email marketing can take many forms, whether you’re announcing new products, nurturing leads through the sales funnel, or providing free educational content. All of those strategies can lead to an abundance of free traffic.
As long as you continue to deliver consistent value, you can turn that traffic into new customers. Create lead magnets to build up your email list even further, then continue to connect with your prospects via email.
You build increased authority
Authority matters today more than ever before. Consumers have access to so much online content that they don’t know where to look first. They’ve started to pare down on the number of websites they visit and online leaders to whom they pay attention.
Naturally, they’re drawn to those who demonstrate their authority best.
What is authority? It’s the sense that you know what you’re talking about, that you can back up your claims, and that other people follow you. When you create a membership site, you send the message that you have information that’s valuable enough to demand payment.
It might sound like a little thing, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to attracting market share.
Think about it: How many blog posts, emails, and social media posts can you read in a day? It’s limited. You only have so much free time, and you’re not willing to give up that free time to people who don’t, in your estimation, deserve it.
That’s why you have to demonstrate authority on as many levels as possible. Establishing a membership site adds another layer to your authority and credibility in the online marketplace.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to develop relationships with your customers. If your customers don’t feel like they know you on a personal level, they’ll have no reason to stick around.
An online membership site gives you a chance to build your own exclusive community. Only people who are willing to pay to consume your content can enter, which makes members feel more connected to one another and to you. That’s powerful.
The people who sign up for your membership site are likely extremely devoted to your industry, just like you. They’re seeking solutions and knowledge so they can develop their own talents and skills. You might meet a future partner or influencer who can help your business grow. Plus, you might meet people whom you can help to further their goals.
It becomes a multi-way street. Everyone in your community can work together to achieve a common goal.
When you’re paid for your work, you can afford to put more time, effort, research, and value into it. That shows in the content you produce.
Sure, lots of people produce excellent content for free. The post it on their blogs and social media accounts, and their generosity is appreciated by their followers.
However, money creates freedom. You can use that freedom to spend more time on your content to make sure it really shines. You can dig deeper into the research — or maybe conduct research of your own — and control your production schedule more efficiently.
In short, charging for your content doesn’t automatically make it more valuable, but you get the chance to inject more value into it.
Tips for creating and running your membership site
If you’re ready to create a membership site on Kajabi, there are a few tips and best practices you can follow to make your first foray into this field a successful one. Even if you’re confident that you understand how membership sites work and what they can accomplish, you still need a strategy.
Follow these tips for creating and running your membership site. You’ll thank yourself for putting in the time to get it right on the first try.
Start as soon as possible
We mentioned above that time is of the essence. Many online entrepreneurs have already started membership sites, so you’re behind the curve. To catch up, you need to start as soon as possible.
However, don’t immediately throw some content onto a site and start asking people to pay for it. Starting as soon as possible means creating the content first. You should have several pieces of content ready to go before you open for business.
How many pieces of content should you prepare? It depends on the type of content and its length and complexity.
For instance, if you open your site with 10 3,000-word articles, you’ll probably satisfy your first members. They’ll have plenty of material to work through. The same goes for 10 10-minute videos or 10 30-minute podcast episodes.
These numbers aren’t written in stone. You just don’t want your customers to sign up for the site, then find themselves disappointed when they discover what lurks behind the gate. At every opportunity, exceed your prospects’ and customers’ expectations.
Learn From membership sites you belong to
If you belong to membership sites, start paying attention to the content, the interactions that take place on the site, and other features.
What do you like about the site? What would you change? How do the sites’ owners communicate with their customers? Do you see a high level of engagement? If not, why do you think that is?
Take copious notes so you can apply what you’ve learned to your own membership site. You don’t want to copy someone else’s strategy, but you can take bits and pieces to help shape the site you create.
Pay attention to design and functionality, as well. How is the navigation laid out? What colors do the sites use? How about typography? Getting a feel for the visual impact of the site can help you figure out what you want to do with your own.
Interact and engage with members
We’ve mentioned interaction and engagement several times in this article, but bears repeating. You can’t act as a silent founder when you run a membership site. You need to be present and active.
Ask people what they think. Respond to their comments. Hold regular polls and surveys so your customers know that you care what they think.
You can also encourage members to interact with each other. Membership sites, much like online forums, often build around a shared culture. There will be inside jokes, standards of etiquette, and other cultural norms that develop over time. Embrace those qualities and treat your customers like friends.
Run group events and challenges
Don’t be afraid to spark a little competition. Invite your customers to meet challenges or goals that you set for them. Help them grow and develop as you create content and other features on the site.
You can even develop a badge or point system that gives customers bragging rights. As they participate in events and meet challenges, they earn rewards. Over time, you might even add monetary incentives to customers who win contests. A free month of membership, for instance, might go over well. Just get creative and show your customers that you care about their engagement and happiness.
Help members find their way around as your site grows
New members might feel a little lost, especially if your membership site has grown to include lots of content and conversations. Provide simple, intuitive navigation so new people can find their way around.
You might also write a Starter Manual — sort of like what you’d read if you just bought a new microwave oven, but perhaps with friendlier language. Tell new customers what they should read and which pages they should visit first to get acclimated. You can also introduce them to other members if you have a forum or other communication tool on the site.
Adapt based on members needs
Over time, you’ll get a sense of what your members need and want. Deliver on those desires and necessities if you want to keep them around.
For instance, you might discover that your customers prefer video content over written content. Strive to release more video to meet that demand. Your customers will thank you for it.
If they don’t offer up feedback of their own volition, ask for it. A poll or survey can provide you with in-depth information about each of your customers’ specific needs. You can use that information to inform your editorial calendar and site updates.
Attract new members
While it’s true that it’s easier and less expensive to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones, you want your community to grow. Striving to bring in new members will help you increase your bottom line as well as engagement on the site.
Start with good old fashioned content marketing. When you write blog posts or add updates on social media, mention your membership site and post a link to the signup page. Don’t just make it a sales pitch, though. Tack your CTA on the end of a piece of valuable content that gives your audience a hint of what they can expect when they become members.
To gain more visibility, consider guest posting on other people’s blogs. You can also work with influencers, use email marketing to spread persuasive and educational content, and get involved in industry forums.
Don’t discount the power of commenting on other people’s sites, either. Include a link back to your own membership site, but contribute valuable content to the conversation. Don’t just pitch and run.
You might cringe at the thought of spending money on advertising, but sometimes it’s necessary — and profitable. Many entrepreneurs experience extreme success with paid search, paid social, display advertising, and other types of ads.
You might start with Facebook Ads or PPC through Google AdWords. Whatever you choose, set a budget and make each ad count. Create a custom audience for each ad that will appeal to your target customer. The more strategic you are about your advertising methods, the less money you’ll spend and the more customers you’ll net.
Whether or not you try paid social, you still need to be active on social media. Some social sites are more effective than others, so figure out where people in your industry hang out. If they spend most of their time on Twitter and LinkedIn, you don’t want to waste time on Facebook and Instagram.
Create a following by following influential people in your industry, posting valuable content, and linking out to other people’s content. Follow the 80/20 rule of social media marketing. About 80 percent of what you post should be entertaining or educational, and the remaining 20 percent can be promotional.
Your existing list
Remember when we talked about your email marketing list? It’s a goldmine for growing your membership base and keeping in touch with current customers. Use it to inform both members and non-members about upgrades to your site, new content, and other lead magnets.
You can also grow your membership list by partnering with other online entrepreneurs. You each expose yourselves to each other’s audiences, which can result in a boost in memberships for both of you. Consider working with someone in the same industry, but who occupies a different niche.
For instance, maybe you both publish content about personal development. You focus on spirituality, though, and your partner concentrates on relationships. Together, you can cross-post content that appeals to each other’s audiences and stimulates a boost in membership-site signups.
Retain your members
Once you have a solid membership base, your work isn’t done. In fact, it’s easier to retain customers than to find new ones, so don’t neglect the people who have already forked over their hard-earned cash in exchange for access to your membership site.
Interact with them as often as possible. Pay attention to their feedback, continue delivering quality content, and make them feel as welcome as possible.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs assume that, once they have landed a customer, they’ll keep that customer for life. That’s not true. If your customers become disillusioned with your offering, they’ll skip out and head straight for your competitors don’t let that happen.
Every once in a while, add a new feature to your membership site. You want to keep it fresh and inviting. You might create a forum, start a video series, or create a podcast. Release content slowly but consistently so your customers remain hooked.
Build your membership site with Kajabi
Believe it or not, creating a membership site is as easy as signing up for Kajabi and creating your own website using one of our beautiful templates. You can create custom pricing for your site and build content directly within the Kajabi interface.
Use our new Kajabi Assistant to make the process even easier. This tool will guide you to the modules and customizations you need to create an effective website that will continue to generate income for years to come.
Plus, you can integrate your membership site with your other digital products and run your entire online business with Kajabi. Create separate online courses, email campaigns, and other content that will help solidify your brand in your industry.
It’s easy to establish a membership site that people will want to join if you follow the tips and steps above. Kajabi just makes it easier because you don’t have to know how to code or design. Just create the content your customers will love and start funneling them toward your membership signup page.
Is building a membership site right for you?
Membership sites aren’t for everyone. They require work, commitment, and time. However, if you have those three things, you might want to consider creating a membership site sooner rather than later.
As more people jump on this bandwagon, you don’t want to get left behind. And using Kajabi to establish authority, build an audience, drive traffic, and earn a living might offer the precise answer for which you’ve been searching.
Start a membership site and begin promoting it immediately. Create lots of content before you launch so that your members see the value that you’re offering immediately.
Retain your members by consistently fulfilling your promises and offering valuable insights. Continue to add new features to your membership site so it doesn’t get stale.
Before you know it, you’ll become a Kajabi Hero and an entrepreneur with a thriving online community.