Before we really begin let’s define what we’re actually talking about.
What is a membership site?
A membership website is an online resource where members pay a regular and recurring fee to access the content that’s there. It really is as simple as that. But it’s the simplicity of it that disguises some masterly and quite clever complexity.
Basically, there are two types of membership sites:
- Content-oriented – lots of items, articles, news, reviews and topics around the subject in focus such as soccer, baseball, music, books, theatre, cooking, new age psychology and an entire galaxy of other interest areas. This is primarily consumer-oriented.
- Service-oriented – a structured website that gives members access to tools, techniques, tips, research, information, knowledge – all manner of items and articles that they can use to progress their business or specific area of interest. Typically, this is aimed at businesses and seriously professional people.
How they differ and how they are to be used depends entirely on you.
What you are trying to create is an “auto income business”. That means Internet users and members all pay to access the content that you’ve hosted. You can charge users to view (pay-per-view) and/or you can charge frequent users a regular fee to access (pay-to-access) your content. Either way, you are generating revenue every time someone accesses your content.
Quite quickly, it becomes a regular earner for you and all you have to do is make absolutely sure the content is relevant and usable, accessible and interesting.
However, a pay to view site is not strictly a membership site. A membership site means that people, your users, pay a regular fee to be active members of your site. They are “actively involved” and want to belong to your site.
They are co-contributors to its shape and development, not just “gatherers of content” who simply hoover up what you have offered and disappear having paid a one-time fee. That’s not what membership is about.
Help & Assistance
But if you need help to source a suitable domain name (your URL), or you need assistance to help you design and build your first website (or any subsequent website) you can find it at my own membership site: www.Nick-James.com
At my own site there are how to videos and a full range of articles that are designed to take you through every step in the process – from a suitable and well-chosen domain name, to building and uploading content – all in less than 24 hours!
And I’ll happily host your website for you too at www.pushbuttonhosting.co.uk. This is my own webhosting company and it was created especially for my members who told me they needed help, advice, simplicity and total reliability.
But this is your business. It’s your baby. What do you want it to say and how is the information going to be used? That’s your first decision, but it’s one that you don’t have to make just yet. Let’s gorge ourselves on the feast that’s on offer before we make any of those “final “decisions. The question we now have to answer is – what sort of membership site is going to suit you? Are you going to provide consumer content or business and professionally related services?
The Internet is wonderful! It really is and it holds the answer to pretty much everything. But, as I said right at the beginning, it is so cluttered with nonsense, rubbish and people (organisations too – Kelkoo is a fine example of this!) who seem to have nothing better in mind than to waste your time. Grrr! It can be so frustrating just to even attempt to find what you need.
And that’s the great strength of membership sites. You feed people what they need to know. You make it easy for them to access information that is relevant, recent and interesting. And they can do it in an instant. Hit the key and there it is.
That’s the really great weakness of free Internet information. It’s nearly always out of date and if it is recent and relevant, it is often out of reach. The Times newspaper, for example, asks you to subscribe to its service if you want to access or download an item that they have printed that is older than the past seven days. Yes, even The Times has realised that there is great value in information and they too recognise that people are willing to pay to access it.
The way I see it is this. People have an insatiable curiosity. They are “knowledge vampires”. They simply want to know and will hunt eagerly for information that
expands their knowledge and improves their skills.
People also want “to belong”. That’s why clubs and associations exist – and thrive! People want to be in the company of other people like themselves who share their passions and interests – steam engine enthusiasts, train spotters, martial arts students, knitters, sewers, stamp collectors, football supporters, food junkies, koi carp keepers, model makers and a huge diversity of business people interested in all manner of knowledge and know-how.
They “collect” either in person at rallies, shows, events and fairs, or virtually, online, at membership sites.
The advantage of a membership site being that no travel is ever involved. You
can speak to someone as easily in Guatemala and you can in Brighton or Berwick.
Distance is no object to passionate people who gather in an online community, which is exactly what a membership site is. And that’s where you come in. You feed their passion at the same time as feeding your own. You provide accurate, reliable and up to date information, on a regular basis, that members pay you for at a recurring cost. It’s the perfect, low cost, highly profitable business model.
And it has many layers. For example, as your membership site grows and develops you can introduce new layers and levels of membership that will grant users extra special privileges, at an extra cost.
You can make special offers to selected members and you can profit handsomely by engaging in joint ventures with other entrepreneurs to sell their products, services and solutions to your members. (Be firm in your negotiations and you’ll get to keep the lion’s share of the profits too!)
Once you’ve got your first membership site up and running there is so much that you can do with it and so much that it offers you. And when you’ve done one, you’ll be ready to do another and another and in a very short time you’ve got a string of profit streams feeding in to your bank account on a reliably regular basis.
All at a very, very low cost.
What makes them appealing:
You see that’s the thing with membership sites. That’s what makes them such an appealing business proposition for you.
- They require very little in the way of investment. In fact, all you need is a sound idea (or two), a PC and a broadband Internet connection.
- You’ve got no overheads to worry about. You can run your membership sites from home, working only part-time and still holding down a full-time job, or continuing with your career.
- You don’t need staff, premises or stock. There’s no commuting to do, no face to face selling and no costly franchise to buy into. You don’t need to borrow money, or beg any favours.
- You choose the hours you’ll do and that’s as much or as little as you need to do to keep everything fresh, alive and interesting.
It’s just you, doing what you do best, in an area that you are almost an expert in – and if you’re not, then you pretty soon will be! Whatever you are saying, selling, doing, posting, offering, or hosting is instantly available to your members. They simply hit the key or tap in the relevant code to download it or access it there and then onscreen.
It’s a great way to go solo and run your own business! How else and in what other
way can you start your own business, totally from scratch, without employing a string of experts and professionals, or buying into a hefty franchise? And with each success, you’ll see the results accumulating, healthily and heftily in your swelling bank account. And I can assure you that success is the best feeling on earth. Especially when it’s the direct result of your own creation.
Three absolutely crucial things:
Before we go any further (and I know that you are eager to press on), I feel that I just need to bring three absolutely crucial things to your attention. They are:
- Do not run your membership site as a hobby. Your membership site is a business and it is designed to make you money. You start a business to make a profit and there is nothing wrong with that. If you gave away membership for free, then it would simply be a hobby and that is not what you want. Not if you want to be debt-free.
- Always provide excellent content. Make your membership site content – whatever it is – the very best that it can be. Always. That is what your members are paying for and buying into. They want to be entertained, informed and challenged by your content. If you can’t do it then hire it out and find someone that can.
- Give tremendous value, service and support. Make that your commitment to every single member. In all of my businesses, I am constantly trying to “over deliver”. I want to surprise people and give them more than they ever expected. I see it as a reward for the investment they have made in me and it is a practice that has served me very well down the years.
Satisfied customers spread the word.
It’s called “viral marketing” and it is probably the best and lowest cost marketing you’ll ever get to use. Satisfied customers tell other people about you and the service you provide. That means more customers, which in turn creates more profit and that gives me the opportunity to do new things.
And if my members are not happy, I want to hear about it. Then I’ll do everything I can to put it right because every member matters and I don’t want to lose a single one if I can help it. If I can do anything prevent it, I will. You should too.
These days, everyone expects VFM. They simply want Value For Money (VFM ). Your task is to provide it.
And when you do, the rewards are infinite and the satisfaction immense.