Sam Hollis Web Design

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How to Build Income with a Membership Site

Sam Hollis is a web designer, dad and serial networker

‘I’m always happy to chat and advice is always free’

Clubs, societies, teams; whatever you call them, these membership groups bring to mind ideas of sociability, strength and unity. That’s exactly why harnessing their power can be a shrewd and profitable thing for a business to do. Get it right and you could build a reliable income and do much more too.

How membership sites generate income

Memberships help your clients, and they help you – building a strong two-way relationship. Provide members with value as part of their membership and you will have loyal clients for a very long time.

As you build up your membership and your relationships with each of those members, you are building up a base of reliable, recurring income in a natural way.

When you try to serve customers to a high level with a range of one-off services in different ways, your workload quickly expands and maintaining relationships with each person becomes hard. When they are members of an online site though, you can systemise and standardise many points of service enabling you to focus on relationships and the important things.

It’s not just you who are building the relationships that will keep members on the site, but other members too. When you build a membership site, you’re essentially creating a community. If you have a community of people with similar interests and you can successfully encourage communication between members, you have the recipe for a group that creates its own identity and sense of belonging. In this way, the group can work to keep itself loyal. Isn’t that great?

Seth Godin explains in his book ‘Tribes’ that the want to be part of a group with a leader is a basic human desire. Offerings like membership sites cater to this strong human instinct meaning they are very attractive propositions indeed even before we consider all the effort that goes into adding value and building a group identity. The ability to fulfil this desire is an asset that you are investing in to build income.

All of what I have mentioned equates to reliable recurring revenue from each member, so every time you add a member, you’re not just earning a one-off payment. You’re not even earning an income for as long as your client needs a particular service. You’re adding extra revenue that will keep coming in for as long as that member has a valuable relationship with you and the rest of the community.

Exponential growth is a real possibility for a good club or membership group. After all, word of mouth is the best form of advertising and people love to recommend groups they are part of. Recommending a product is one thing, it’s part of a friend or connection helping another. But recommending a group of other friends to your friend is the most natural thing in the world. As your group grows and provides more value to its members , more of these recommendations will add to the membership and soon the group could be huge.

As you grow your membership and body of valuable work, your site and group become more and more valuable. A price that might have been a stretch for prospective members at the beginning can suddenly start to seem like a bargain.

As well as the income that comes directly from membership payments, membership sites give you plenty of opportunities to add extra revenue, increasing the value of each member to you. More on how to do that later in the blog.

Setting up a membership site

Membership sites are almost exactly like normal websites, except parts of them can only be accessed by paying members. Normally, this will be done by giving members usernames and passwords that must be entered before accessing the limited parts of the site. It’s the same as what your bank, your social media sites and your favourite shops do and it’s surprisingly easy to run once it’s set up. Your web developer can do the original setup for you and help you to administrate it, or you can look to one of the many membership site development platforms if you prefer.

As with any website, you will have some pages that can be viewed by anyone. There, you can advertise your membership, distribute public content and promote anything else you want to offer to the world at large. As well as this, you will have a set of pages that can only be viewed by members who have signed up. On here you can provide members with news, exclusive content, limited downloads and whatever else you want to add value. Of course, there will be the signup and login functions, which can be handled by most web developers you decide to work with.

Running a profitable membership site

Keep providing value

The key to a successful membership site, as with almost anything you sell, is providing value. This needs to happen consistently. Memberships vary greatly, but we all want to get something out of the groups we belong to. As the administrator of such a group, you must know what it is your members want and be willing to provide it to them.

Keep your members satisfied and more, and you will quickly begin to build the strong relationships that are so important. The community will develop and you will reap the rewards. Fail to do this and you will just as quickly see your membership dry up or fail to take off in the first place.

You can add value in many ways on a membership site:

  • Written content
  • Videos
  • Podcasts and other audio
  • Downloads
  • Member-generated content
  • Events (online and offline)
  • Group socialising and networking opportunities
  • Exclusive offers
  • Face-to-face support
  • Entertainment

Adding extra income

An extra bonus of membership sites is that your members an engaged and pre-qualified audience for marketing. They have a relationship with you and your business. You know they trust what you say and what you offer. That means you can market to them effectively and potentially sign them up for extra services or products. More than that though, you can test out marketing on them, get feedback and learn what works and what doesn’t before you send your material out to the wider world.

You can also upsell directly and exclusively to your members, offering training, information, consulting and downloads that non-members cannot get hold of. These exclusive offers reinforce the value of the membership while generating extra income from people who are already engaged and invested in your business.

Levelled Membership

Levelled membership is a great way to address each member’s individual needs better with different offerings and to make more profit with more complete provision for people who want it. You can offer access to basic information for some members at a low price, while giving more to those who want it, including more direct contact time and a fuller sense of membership for a higher price. This has the dual benefits of giving price-savvy people access to your group at a low price while generating more revenue from those who want more. To learn how to make the most of tiering, have a look at my blog on the subject.

Encouraging exponential growth

When your membership site launches, it will probably only be you and your business drawing members in, meaning that growth will be pretty linear. But it’s a fact that all attractive groups grow in a naturally exponential way. To really scale up your group, it’s important to encourage and harness this. Referral schemes that provide referrers with rewards such as free membership for a certain length of time are the prime way to do this. Let everyone know that the scheme is active, keep reminding them and make it fun. You can even have ‘bring a friend’ events or free membership for people who have been referred.

A membership site can be a great authority builder

Did I already mention that word of mouth is the best form of advertising? Well, I’ll repeat it here because it’s very true and very important for these groups. Your precious group members won’t just do all the things I’ve mentioned above, they will also act as a standing army of promoters for your business if they are nurtured enough. Your members will be among the most engaged stakeholders in your business. They will often help you to build authority and reach out emotionally in ways, and at scales, you never could without them.

How to get help setting up and running a membership site

I can manage the technical side of setting up and running a membership website and even help with some of the value content for your members. Just email sam@samhollis.co.uk to start planning your site with me today.

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