Online paid membership sites are increasingly becoming popular because it provides a steady source of recurring revenues. A small amount of monthly membership fee quickly adds up to substantial income for you if you have a few hundred members. Once you set a successful membership site, you can copy the success formula and create several membership sites.
Membership sites are good for digital products in the form of ebooks, audios, and videos. It should be geared towards teaching something that your target market is hungry to learn and implement in their lives to solve problems related to money, health, and personal development.
The challenge then is to find customers and then provide them with such good value that they will retain their membership month after month and hopefully also recommend your site to others because you pay them a generous affiliate fee.
There are four main criteria you need to consider to achieve this and they are:
1. Your site must be in an established membership type market.
2. You must provide excellent value content or service
3. You need to use software that will password-protect your site so that non-paying members cannot get the content for free.
4. A marketing system to attract new subscribers and retain them once they sign up.
Criteria 1 – Your Membership-Site Market
In assessing your potential membership-site market, consider both online and off-line habits. Ask yourself whether people with an interest in this subject would buy monthly magazines, belong to a club or organization about it and perhaps whether there are books on the subject on Amazon’s best popular seller lists. Online, check if there are eBooks that sell well, blogs, forums or other on-line communities about this subject.
The topic must be popular enough to have many potential subscribers or you will be wasting your time. It is worth offering some free material, perhaps an ebook on your subject to see how many people have an interest it it. Another strategy to test your market is to set up a simple survey, asking what issues people have. You can offer free membership to your new site as an incentive for people to reply; the answers you receive will guide you as to what kind of concerns people have on this subject.
The information most in demand online is that which solves someone’s immediate problem, so it is worth considering whether your content or service solves just a one-time problem or whether there could be an ongoing or related issues that you can address.
An example of a one-off problem would perhaps be a remedy for snoring and for an ongoing problem, think of new parents, who have many worries and sleepless nights when their baby cries, perhaps in the middle of the night and there is no-one they can ask for advice. A membership site that contains suggested solutions for the numerous problems new parents face would be a valuable resource for them.
Criteria 2 – Quality Content
The four main types of content are: written, audio, video and web-based software solutions. Naturally, the media type you use will depend on your site topic as some will be more relevant than others. Most sites will include a significant percentage of written material as this is still the primary method of sharing information on the Internet, but audio recordings are increasing popular because people can download them and listen when they are walking, driving, exercising or away from their computer for any other reason.
Video content is preferred when the information you are providing is instructional; “how-to” in pictures or a video can make a process very easy to understand compared with following a written list of instructions.
Another situation where pictures are helpful is showing symptoms of something. For example, for the new parent site mentioned above, there could be photos of the types of spots or rashes a small child might have on their body if they have caught any of the various common childhood complaints such as measles, chickenpox or have been bitten by an insect.
There are many sources of good content apart from writing your own if you are qualified to do so. Your own material is obviously the cheapest, but will take the longest to prepare and you need to know enough about your topic to keep providing fresh material on a regular basis.
Use other people’s material by utilizing royalty free articles from article directories such as ezinearticles and free content sites, free to use videos from YouTube, metacafe.com or eHow.com or good quality PLR (private label rights).
Outsourcing is another option that will be less time-consuming although you will have costs for the ghost-writer or freelancer you contract to produce your work. Apart from the well-known elance and rentacoder, there are hundreds of other sources as a simple web search on “outsourcing” will reveal. If you plan to outsource on a regular basis, it is worth the time and effort to find a freelancer and develop a relationship with them, rather than going through a ghost-writing service provider.
Interviews with experts are something you can do yourself with basic equipment. Prepare a list of open-ended questions before the interview and send a copy to the person you will be interviewing two or three days beforehand. Any sooner and they might forget about it and any later doesn’t give them time to prepare.
The following are some suggestions for interview questions that will give an expert the opportunity to give you excellent material for your membership site:
1. What is so good about ………?
2. How did you get involved in ………?
3. What do you consider the top 3 things someone should know about ……?
4. What would you suggest would be the best way to get started?
5. How long would it take to be proficient at ……….?
An hour is a good length for a value interview but you may want to go longer and edit the script later. This is easily done even with a free audio editor such as audacity.
Criteria 3 – membership site software to protect your subscriber’s investment and save you time
If you can, invest in a specialized memberships-site software package or script. There are quite a number of good choices of varying prices, for example Membergate, Memberspeed, and WordPress plugins like WordPress Wishlist, Digital Access Pass (DAP), YourMember and aMember. The advantages of using one of these is that so many of the member functions are done automatically, for example:
1. Membership levels
2. Membership types
3. RSS Feed encryption so that non-paying members cannot access your content through the RSS feed
4. Sequential delivery so that someone cannot sign up and download all the material and then unsubscribe – the longer a person is a member, the more content they have access to
5. Payment gateways – preferably more than just Paypal
6. Training and Support
7. A good strong guarantee
Criteria 4 – Strategies for Recruiting and retaining members
1. Instead of focusing on trying to sell memberships, focus on how how one particular article of your content can solve a specific problem a person might have so that you are providing a solution to that problem and also giving one month’s membership to the site for free.
2. Use free advertising by writing and submitting articles and reports, posting on blogs and forums, make Squidoo lenses and Hubs.
3. Buy Pay per Click advertising and banner ads etc
4. List your membership site on Clickbank, Paydotcom etc
5. Email your list and if you don’t have one, form a joint venture partnership with someone who does and pay them a generous affiliate commission.
There are many other marketing tactics that have been written about at great length and can be found in a web search.
In summary, if you can address the four main criteria of using an established membership type market, providing premium value content, using appropriate membership software and attracting subscribers, a paid membership site can become a very profitable business model.