To Create A Membership Site Of Quality, Turn It Into An Exclusive Club Where Followers Can Hang Out. Get Rewarded With High, Reliable Subscription Income.
Knowledge Commerce marketers who want to start membership sites often don’t dare to think beyond measly monthly subscription incomes from a paltry few members. They hope for reliable earnings, but they see these as as drizzles coming in every month.
That’s probably because they never think of making their membership sites into exclusive clubs. All they see is how they have to slog to produce enough content that people may disdain and walk out on after the first month.
Well, haven’t you seen those privileged clubs in your city where people just wait to be invited in to become known as the “elite”? Why doesn’t it strike you to make your membership site one of those high-and-mighty hangouts?
At Solohacks Academy, we urge you to think of words like “classy” and privileged” when you create a membership site. Rather than you running after monthly subscribers, they must hanker to become your members. Are you bold enough to plan that big?
1. Target high-flier audiences who dare to dream of achieving audacious goals
If you have looked around, there are a lot of membership sites that are of mediocre quality targeting customers with very basic goals in life. They assume that people joining to learn the ropes of any the niche are all mostly beginners. Seldom do you come across a membership site that says “If you have audacious dreams and dare to separate yourself from the crowds, we have the fare to motivate and encourage you to go for it!”
There is a severe dearth of membership sites for target audiences who, even as beginners, want to be innovative entrepreneurs or belong in the company of those who are future-facing, bold, energetic, and wanting to be ahead of the race.
Take any niche that you want to build your membership site around. In that niche, you’ll find three types of target audiences:
- Those who are timid and tentative, or who have modest goals, and they are happy to just get enough content in one place to get them slowly step-by-step into the niche.
- Those who are in a hurry to succeed in the niche, and want the kind of content to consume that is all about speed of results and shortcuts to achievements. They have no time for articles, courses, ebooks, or tools and resources that speak of “slog and perseverance” as the backbone of success.
- Those who are of an innovative ilk. These people are set on both short-term and long-term gains, but they are looking for differentiated ideas that can give them a competitive edge – or ideas that can show them what’s on the horizon of technology so that they can look to be ahead of the curve. They want to spend their time in the midst of quality knowledge, trend-watching, and analysis. They like taking calculated risks with money, knowing where it will make the biggest difference.
As a membership site owner, it takes the same effort to promote a site for the first and second group of members above – or you can go for the third group that will pay high for the kind of values they want from your membership site. Target those high-fliers if you want to be a sought-after membership site owner.
2. Include content banks of high-quality, innovation-driven knowledge and ideas
There are at least a dozen types of content that you can make accessible for paying members on your top-end membership site. While most membership sites will have some or all of these kinds of content, the difference you offer must add extraordinary value to these types of content. Here’s how you can spice them up to attract target audiences with big goals:
- 1. Courses: Courses are always a big draw, and count for the value-perception of a membership site. Make sure your courses guarantee some bold, defined outcomes and learning objectives. The length of the courses doesn’t matter as much as what they promise to deliver for members. Get members to articulate their BHAG (big hairy audacious goals) before the courses, to be able to evaluate how far the courses can get them towards their destinations.
- 2. Webinars: The much-used webinar format is perfect for motivating members who want to spend some quality learning time listening to the latest subjects of interest in their niche. Webinars also allow you to invite exclusive top-rung experts as guest speakers – adding to the richness of your membership site. You can run live webinars or record evergreen webinars (that simulate live events without actually being live every time).
- 3. Masterminds You can have several types of “masterminds” to liven up your membership site. Some can be “brainstorming events” around questions of trending interest; some can be “Q & A type sessions” where members can send in their queries in advance for you, as the expert, to answer; and, some can even be “case study workshops” where you take up a case-study of one of your members and dissect it for potential solutions. It’s the variety of events, held as group sessions maybe once a month, that makes the difference.
- 4. Archives: Whenever live events are held on your site, it’s a brilliant idea to archive all these events and add to your library. You can even archive past newsletters. New members joining your site may have missed some topics they would like to know more about. Having an archive allows them access to hear and watch recording of live events that may not repeat again in the near future. This is an area where you can showcase the quality and quantity of past topics covered on your site, for new members to be impressed by the wealth of your archives.
- 5: Forum: Almost every membership site has a forum, but what type of activities take place on in your forum can make a huge difference to the quality-perception of your membership site. This means that members cannot be left to their own devices to reduce the forum to a place where they discuss unimportant topics or trivia. You have to moderate the forum so that the topics are strategically important. It’s a good idea for you, the membership site owner, to visit the forum daily, answer member queries, add intelligent two-bits to ongoing conversations, and maybe, drop a thoughtful question there yourself for members to debate about.
- 6. Downloadables: If you can collaborate with the makers of premium tools and resources in your niche, see if can work out some strong discount deals. See if you can offer these products at a less-than-market price from downloadable links on your site. Members like to belong to membership sites that make life easier and cost-effective. Make sure not to label these deals you offer as “discounts” but do stress that you are aiming to give “better return on investments” for your members.
- 7. Member Perks: From time to time, offer some exclusive member perks that members can never get elsewhere on the Internet. For example, you can finalize tie-ups with some best-of-breed freelancer sites. Your members can be given a special “Top Freelancers Outsourcing Day” – say, a 24-hour time frame – when some handpicked topnotch freelancers can bid for their projects at special prices. If such events are one-offs, members will feel like they’re being given some exclusive cost-friendly access to the best freelance talent. Your deal-making on behalf of members with the finest manpower and resources is key to such events being seen as tremendous value.
- 8. Short Tutorials: You don’t need to have all long courses. Sometimes short tutorials that take an hour or two to learn something special, are much appreciated. These can be part of your regular repertoire, or offered as special events. Members especially like short tutorials on topics that are about oncoming technology. They may not want a whole course on, say, “YouTube Shorts” (or topics that are just emerging) but they sure may like a sneak peek at what all the new hoo-ha around this topic is about. A “What’s Happening Now” kind of tutorial event may attract a lot of attendance.
- 9. Cheat-sheets and Checklists: Both cheat-sheets and checklists have perennial appeal to members. They feel like handy tools when you have to get processes done, and you can download a checklist or cheat-sheet where you can have the sequence of steps to follow like a ready reckoner. These kinds of business aids are downloaded a lot – and besides, they are easy to create too. Pack your membership library with a lot of checklists and cheat-sheets for every kind of project or process your target audiences will find useful. See that all these items are strongly branded with your signage. That’s where the extra value-perception lies.
- 10. Workbooks and Planners: Workbooks and planners are a bit different from cheat-sheets and checklists. Cheat-sheets are like to-do lists where you can tick off actions as you complete them. Workbooks or planners help you strategize, by throwing up questions that you have to think about and answer to yourself. You are forced to articulate your thoughts as you work through the questions. The sequence of answers you give yourself may give you insights into what strategy may work for you. Workbooks and planners are thinking aids, and are just as much downloaded as cheat-sheets and checklists. Again, make sure your workbooks and planners look like strongly branded high-value resources.
- 11. Interviews and Podcasts: You can include two kinds of interviews on your membership site. You can invite top influencers in your niche to answer your questions on topics of high interest. You can then convert these interviews into videos or podcasts. Alternatively, it would amp up your own brand power to include videos and podcasts where you have been interviewed by other experts. See that your site carries a good number of both types of interviews. Make your podcasts slick with good signature music to open the recordings. Branding is nine-tenths of the game.
- 12. News About Members: A great idea is to have a corner of your membership site for publishing successful events in your members’ lives. Make sure to greet them on birthdays, or call for a round of applause from everyone when a member’s business hits a high point. Show members that you care what happens to them, and how they prosper as members of your site, deriving value and ideas from your knowledge products and services. Let every member become an inspiration for other members and encourage them to share their “big days”.
3. Collaborate with top influencers in your field to offer their rare content
There is this story that I’ve always thought of as a very lucky streak. A very well-known expert on marketing, who had tons of high-quality evergreen content on his site, bequeathed his content – the whole load of it – to his fiercest competitor (whom he had secretly been very impressed by).
The expert marketer became too ill to continue his online business, and he knew he didn’t have much time to live. He gave his whole load of content to the guy who had vied with him for nearly 15 years.
Not everyone is blessed to have this kind of stuff to inherit for his membership site, to suddenly make it a very happening place. But there is a lot of good content out there that other experts may have written but they may not have membership sites themselves, or they may not be doing much ecommerce with the content they have written. They may instead be offering their work free to people.
You could work out a deal with such experts who are not selling their info-products, to allow them to charge you for adding their work to your membership site. That way you both get money out of what was being given away free. If the other expert’s brand also has a great rub-off on yours, what more can you ask for?
4. Incorporate courses into your site that target futuristic concepts to learn about
Have you noticed how so many membership sites have hackneyed content? For example, you may have two or more membership sites that offer members a whole library of content around a similar niche, say “content marketing””. Once inside the site, however, you’d find all of them have the same old “blog writing courses”, and “SEO content writing” ebooks, and so on. The fare is, to put it mildly, just the same trash you can get for free all over the Net. There may be no differentiation between these competing membership sites and their offerings.
If you had a site around the same niche “content marketing”, what different fare could you offer to your members? How can you stand out from the crowd?
One smart way is to think of all the futuristic ideas that are cropping up around “content marketing”. See if there’s is potential to be above the common herd by offering courses and ebooks about the neo-tech in your niche.
For content-writer members, for example, there may be Artificial Intelligence (AI) ideas on the horizon that make writing easier. Artificial Intelligence is helping a lot these days with content curation for writers – to produce outstanding data-driven articles. There could also be new ways to write content for Voice Search. With Google’s changing algorithms now focusing on Page Experience, there may be other members looking to reshape the writing they do for better “page experience”.
See how your membership site can help people stay ahead of emerging technology. Members will pay good money if you can help them become early adoptors of neo-tech.
5. Offer evergreen content of timeless value with up-to-the-minute research data
There’s no doubt that you’ll have less and less work to create content, if all the content you have on your membership site is evergreen. What is “evergreen content”? It is content that has timeless value. It was true yesterday. It is true for today and it will be true for years to come.
Let’s take an example. If you have an ebook on “writing with polish and grammatical perfection” it will contain truths that are timeless. Great writing never goes out of fashion, does it? And the tenets of great writing have always been the same across the years.
But if you wrote an ebook on “SEO content writing”, your ebook may be good for a few months. Then suddenly Google may change its algorithms and SEO writing may require some new nuances or maybe a totally different writing style. For example, when Google suddenly changed its SERP listing pages to contain “Featured Snippets” so many bloggers had to redo hundreds of old posts to make them meet these new standards.
You may well ask: If all content was evergreen, what about the new research data that must be part of our ebooks or courses. Doesn’t the new need to have a place alongside the timeless?
There is a way out for this. Always include the latest data if it’s relevant to the largely evergreen piece you write. But do give the link from where the latest data can be accessed by those who want it up-to-the-minute. You can sayy, “This data was good as of the publishing date of this ebook i.e. 20th November 2020. If want to see if it’s changed since then, here’s the link.”
6. Write deeply analytical articles that separate the wheat from the chaff on new trends
One good thing to remember when you want your membership site to score high on a potential member’s mind, is that they are coming to you because you are an expert. You cannot throw raw information at them, which is available everywhere. Facts, data, and trends are available aplenty.
People want experts to go through all this, sift the wheat from the chaff, and analyze all this information them – and present it all in a usable form. They want to know what all the information they see means, and how it can be of use to them in their success journey. They need help to understand the pros and cons. They need help to know if some piece of information is what they thought it was – or it is something else entirely.
An expert’s value to members of his membership site lies in his analytical ability. When you write an ebook or a course or a piece of content for your membership library, separate yourself from the other membership site owners but refusing to dump tons of raw information at your users.
Instead, write strategy documents, and practical implementation guides – and offer plenty of examples and use-case studies. Explain the cost-benefit analysis to your members of employing any new concepts. Show them how to mitigate the risks while multiplying the values of using any new concept.
People come to you as a go-to resource, the best in your field, because you are better than them at pre-digesting information and converting it from its raw form into usable information. They value having access to a brain like yours that can think of the macro picture for them, when they are floundering with the micro details.
7. Be just ahead of the curve to let members know how the future is likely to shape
There’s one other big benefit top-grade members would expect in a membership site. They would want to see if the site-owner is “trend-watching” on their behalf. While every entrepreneur, solopreneur, or small and large business has to deal with a daily workload, someone has to keep his eyes on the horizon to spot new emergences that may impact all of us.
“HORIZONEERING®” is the term we give it as Solohacks Academy. It’s the exciting duty of bringing to customers all that is happening at the cutting edge of technology.
Remember, when you want to set up a premium membership site, the target audiences you aim at will be those who don’t want to be laggards in adopting and experimenting with new and fresh ideas. They are probably people who have a risk appetite and look for greater gains for the time they invest in reading or learning anything on your site. If they spend 5 minutes a day on your membership site, they want to walk away knowing something insightful they didn’t know before.
If you are always ahead of the niche you are in, and keeping your eyes peeled on the bleeding-edge of trends and technology, you will spare your members the effort of having to do this “horizoneering” themselves. It is not a small service. It can be a crucial game-changer for many of your members if you can alert them to happenings that can alter their success trajectories.
8. Encourage user-generated content from members to add to your thought-leadership
Who says that if you own a membership site, all the content must be created by you – and you alone? How about making your membership site a grand repository of several thoughtful articles and content pieces contributed by your members?
User-generated content not only fills up your library with a lot of variegated and interesting content, but it has two other very important uses:
- One, it builds member loyalty. People who are allowed to contribute thoughts and articles feel a sense of co-ownership of your site, because they too have helped to build up a part of it. Their articles are going to hang on in your library forever. More reason why they will want to continue to be your members, to keep getting those kudos for their piece as new members join and read it.
- Two, user-generated content usually has a different and refreshing slant from your own writing style. It provides a lot of variety and interest for all readers to see what their peers are writing. They feel tempted to contribute themselves. In many cases, your members would like to show off their best thoughts, images, videos, case studies, or their strong opinions. This creates points of high attraction on your membership site. The only thing you need to tell members is that you will be moderating uploaded content before it becomes visible to all the members.
One smart way to include user-generated content is to create a page for every member, when he joins, so he can upload whatever he wants to share with other members. This trick ensures that user-generated content is seen as separate and individualized, and does not clash with the content you have created as the core of your membership site. When every member has his own page on your membership site, and has posted diverse kinds of content on it, chances of his ever wanting to leave your membership site become slimmer.
9. Let community-bonding forums and group sessions become places of value-discussions
There are lots of online choices when people want to hang out with others and engage in debate and discussion. For example, they can join social media groups or specialized forums in various niches. So, why then would they see your membership site’s forum as a better place to spend time?
Obviously, the quality of discussion on your membership forum has to be higher than you get on social media. People must find your forum to be a place where innovation, growth hacking, and success-seeking finds a higher place than just friendly, meaningless chit-chat or self-advertisement.
How do you ensure that the forum you have built for community-bonding is far superior to any social media group or external forum? You have to take the lead on this one. You have to first set up a forum with the right rules and etiquette spelled out. Say firmly, “This is a forum for brains functioning at their best – or wanting to. So no self-advertising, affiliate sales, abusing rules, or low-grade idle banter. Let’s all get down to serious business, and let’s see if we can beat each other’s ideas, and inspire everyone.”
Set up the right topic sub-forums and label them clearly. Some of your sub-forums could be places for debate and discussion on niche concepts and their application. Some others may be sub-forums for the mutual sharing of resources to help other members. The third kind of sub-forums could deal with “news you can use”. How visibly you signpost the sub-forums, and what kind of moderated content of high quality you will allow, should be clear to all. This will soon help new members settle in with high standards of contribution and forum etiquette in mind.
10. Make your membership site a hangout with an exclusive best-of-breed user experience
If you are using a WordPress plugin to create your membership site, most of the features and functionalities will work out of the box. But will that be enough, if your membership site is merely robust and does what it’s meant to do? What about the design factors that enrich a member’s experience when lingering on your membership site?
There’s no denying that people will spend more time on membership sites than they do on other sites for two reasons:
- One, they have paid for it, and they will try to get the most value out of your membership site for each session.
- Two, there will be a lot on your site that hits the eye with every repeat visit (that is, if you’ve been adding content regularly). More reason for people to stay on a bit longer each time to see what’s new since the last visit.
Since people spend more time on membership sites, there are six user experience factors that you must ensure your site satisfies. These are the basic minimum – beyond which great design always soothes and satisfies the soul. In a cluttered world of the Internet, any oasis of peace, calm, orderliness, and visual beauty is always a welcome thing.
So here are the six factors to ensure your site has:
- 1. Responsive design: There has to be design coherence whichever screen the member visits your site from – laptop, tablet, or mobile.
- 2. Call-to-action (CTA) buttons: Eventually your site must also sell products and services in addition to just earning membership fees. So great CTAs, with visible “click-me” buttons, are a must.
- 3. Font readability: This is a bigger issue than you would think. Do you remember how many times you left a site in disgust because you had to read font that hurt the eye? On membership sites, especially, we expect people to read a lot. So don’t make it hard. Test out the readability of your site with a lot of potential users. Don’t let only your own intuition guide you.
- 4. Aesthetic, compelling images: A picture tells a thousand words. All your images should be magnetic and beautiful. Make them work hard to touch the emotions of people. Don’t forget to bring standardization and strong branding to charts and diagrams that you select from third party data source sites. They will all look like a crazy set unless you have given them all some standard look, perhaps with your own brand color borders, and some size consistency.
- 5. Clear navigation: Signposting the different areas of your membership site clearly is very important. Otherwise, your site, with all its burgeoning content, could feel like a lumber-room with stuff dumped into it mindlessly. Create visual sitemaps of your site, use breadcrumbs, and see that sub-section titling is carefully done. Make your site look like a professionally-curated space.
- 6. Strong, authoritative branding: Good branding of every single page or post on your membership site, on the downloadables, and in the opening signature tunes of your videos and podcasts – all these add to a sense of power and authority you emanate. People who visit your membership site must feel that they are in a place that exudes quality and excellence as its predominant energies. Their visit to your site must uplift them. That’s the key to a good user experience.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
This post is part of a series that elaborates on “How To Create A Membership Site Online For Knowledge Commerce“.
Other related posts you may like to read are these:
- How To Choose A Membership Model … 10 Smart Options
- How To Launch Your Membership Site … 10 No-Fail Tips
- How To Mix Your Membership Site Content … 10 Must Haves
- How To Improve Your Membership Retention … 10 Easy Ways
- How To Price Your Membership Profitably … 10 Sound Methods
- How To Handle Customer Service In Memberships … 10 Savers
- How To Measure Membership Metrics … 10 Ideal Indicators
- How To Grow Successful Membership Sites … 10 Vital Traits