Holly in the background, working on a laptop with the focus being on a table in front with a coffee cup and a notebook.

Is a membership website the right choice for you?

Online membership communities have been around for over a decade and can be a fantastic resource for both, the community owner and the members. For the members they get to meet others’ who share their interests and be a support to one another. For the community owner it can be a good source of income either alongside or as their job.

Memberships can be a brilliant way of scaling a growing business and many small business owners eventually turn to running their membership as their only source of income.

It’s the beginning of 2024 and the market is tough for small business owners. Many people are enquiring about setting up a membership on their website as a way to make money. It’s a great idea but you also need to have the basics covered before you set it up, otherwise it’s going to lead to an expensive and infuriating, confidence-bashing exercise.

So, what are the basics?

There are a few things you need to have in place before you can setup a successful membership space:

A large, engaged audience.

Social Media can feel both a blessing and a curse, mainly because of their metrics telling you how many people are seeing your posts, how many are engaging with it and how that goes on to effect you, the person who’s creating the content.

In a bid to get likes and visibility on our content we can end up creating content that we know will get hits, but doesn’t necessarily do anything to extend our purposeful marketing of our brand. For this reason they’re often known as ‘vanity metrics’.

Social Media figures are low and the algorithms don’t help with that. For example if you put out a post, the social platforms will show it to approximately 10% of your audience. If they respond well to the post, it will be rolled out to a further 10%, etc. You don’t often get to the point where 100% of your audience see 100% of your posts.

This means that the posts that do get shown to your audience need to work hard to get them to like/comment on it. If you have 20% of your audience engage on your posts, then you’re doing well.

Given that even less than 20% of that audience will go on to buy from you, you need to make sure your audience is quite large to begin with, to have a decent number of people to join the membership.

You need to solve their pain point(s).

If you want to start a membership you’ll need to attract people who are looking for your content to solve their pain point. For example:

You’re a holistic therapist specialising in meditation and breathwork. Your audience are likely to be people who feel anxious, overwhelmed, who have busy, full lives. This still leaves a large portion of the population. So you need to narrow it down even more which is also known as niching.

For example: if you want to work with mothers then you would be looking at an age group from approximately 25 to 45.   You then need to look  at what their interests are and their lifestyle is like, to really be able to craft your content to something they’re going to engage with.

You need a mailing list with at least 2,000 subscribers.

Getting people signed up to a mailing list can feel like trying to find hen’s teeth. Long gone are the days of people handing out their email address in exchange for a small promotion, or out of good will. You need to work hard to give them an incentive to be on your mailing list and then you need to create regular engaging, useful content to keep people on the list.

Mailing lists works over time, meaning no one will buy from your first email and you may find you need to have many touch points with them before they begin to truly engage with your content and become potential customers. Therefore a mailing list can be a numbers game, the more people on your list = the more people likely to sign up to your membership.

Tech setup.

Membership software isn’t cheap. It’s one of the few pieces of software that carries a higher price tag when integrating it directly to your website. This is from software developers spotting a gap in the market, that if people want to pay to protect content, then the developer, who's author of the software wants to be paid to create the protection of that content.

There are also other things we need to look at. For example, does the software work well with the website? Does your website hosting have capacity to deal with a membership? Is it easy to use for both the members and the website owners to use? Ultimately is putting membership software on the website the right setup for you?

Are there alternatives?

There are many ways to run a membership. These can involve paid for forums, groups connected to monthly subscriptions such as GoCardless or Stripe. You could look at having a subscribed podcast which is handled via the platforms such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also look at the YouTube and Vimeo subscriber options.

The best fit for you will determine the type of content you’re looking to deliver. For example, if you’re looking at providing meditations and affirmations, then you may find that YouTube and Vimeo are great options here.

If you’re looking at having a members group for members to communicate with and support each other, then linking your subscription to a social media group could be the right set up for you.

There are also options to run across Google meets/Zoom sessions and integrating these with a membership mailing lists and a calendar.

Finally, is it right for you?

That’s the basics of the tech covered. Next thing to look at is whether running a membership is the right option for you.

As well as creating information for members, you also need to look at what the framework of the membership will look like. For example, your membership may be an evergreen, monthly workshop style, or it may be a 3, 6, 9 or 12 month program.

As well as creating the content for this, you’ll also need to look at the content to:

  • Appeal to new members - you may unlock a free trail or training modules to entice them.
  • Subscribe & onboard new members to the group - can they join anytime? Or are there set times of year?
  • Create the framework and content of the membership group.
  • Cover the off-boarding process for people who leave - do they graduate? Do they go quietly? etc.

It’s demoralising if you're creating or have created all of this content in anticipation, then don't have as many sign ups as you were hoping for, or which can make the group have the right buzz.

Therefore, before creating a community which ends up feeling like a ghost town, it's worth looking at other, low cost options, which doesn't involve your website in those early days.

If you’re considering creating a membership community this year and you'd like to talk to us about what feels like the best option for you, book a free, no obligation call with us and we'll support you in creating the right option for you.