How to Launch a Successful Membership Website or Forum
How does earning a consistent income, month after month, all from a loyal community, sound? Oh, and you get to engage, interact, and discover new ideas in the process. You create in-depth content once and get paid for it, time and time again.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Well, that dream can be yours with a membership site.
What Is a Membership Website?
A membership-based website is a style of site with exclusive content that people pay a monthly fee to access.
No doubt you’ve come across membership sites and forums in your time online. But, you might not realize how easily you can run your own, thanks to the amount of tools available today, including website builders and forum tools.
Even if you have no previous experience, our guide below will walk you through how to create, launch, and run your very own membership site from scratch. Let’s get started.
Why Membership Sites Are a Solid Choice
Membership sites are a great way to present a lot of information and create a community around it. When you create an eBook it’s usually just a one-off purchase. If you develop your material into a course, then it’s usually the same as well.
When you create an active membership site, you’re building a community around the high quality content you create. If you add a forum to your site, too, then you’ll be able to continue the conversation surrounding whatever kind of content you choose to create.
A membership site allows you to create a nice stream of recurring income for yourself.
Step 1: Finding Your Niche
Once you’ve made the decision that you’re going to start a membership site, it’s time to decide on your niche. The smaller your niche, the better. Whatever it is, it should be something that you’re passionate about.
When doing your research see if there are already any existing membership sites in your niche. This is actually a good thing. Competition automatically verifies that the niche you’ve chosen is profitable.
Other ways to test the viability of your niche might include looking for existing blogs, books, and magazines on the topic. If there’s a wealth of information surrounding your niche, then you know the market is big enough.
Step 2: Membership Site or Forum?
There’s a ton of different membership models you can choose from when starting your site. The most common model is a membership site that drip feeds the content out over a set period of time. Usually, you’ll have other evergreen resources like webinars, classes, and forum access as well.
You can also create a paid forum. Running a strict forum can be more difficult from scratch, as you’ll generally need a large audience to make it successful. However, it can work for some niches. A good way to test before diving in completely is by driving traffic to a landing page.
Step 3: Building Out Your Site
Building out your membership site or forum doesn’t have to be difficult. If you choose a platform like WordPress, there are a number of plugins that will add membership functionality to your existing theme.
When designing your site keep your user in mind. You’ll want your site to be very intuitive and have a content layout that makes sense. Confusing your visitors, or providing them with content in an illogical manner, won’t be much to keep them subscribers.
Step 4: Create Your Content
When planning out what kind of content you’re going to create, you’re going to have a lot of options at your disposal.
The most basic includes long-form blog posts and video content. You can even have interviews, webinars, forums, relevant resource lists, and much more.
With membership sites you can really go crazy with the quantity of content you’re providing your subscribers. Just make sure that you present the information in a way that’s easy to follow and consume.
Need inspiration? Check out how these subscription sites do it.
Step 5: Attract New Members
Once you’ve created the initial content and have your site built out, it’s time to starting bringing in members.
It can be helpful to let a few initial members in for free. If you already have an existing blog or website, you can gift these memberships to people who have been incredibly active over the years.
This will help you to discover any content gaps you might have and provide your site with that initial engagement. Plus, there’s a chance these people will become your biggest fans and help you get the word out when it’s time to launch.
Here are some more ideas of how you can generate new leads for your membership site:
Depending upon the niche you chose, doing things like guest blogging might be a good way to build initial interest. Simply find a few authoritative blogs in your niche that accept guest writers, and create an incredible post that links back to your site.
In this link back to your site, make sure it points to a landing page that you’ve specifically created to capture a reader’s email addresses.
With paid advertising you have all sorts of options, from Facebook ads, to Twitter ads, to Instagram, and even Google Adwords.
Your ad should send the traffic back to a specific landing page similar to the one you would create for the guest blogging strategy above. This landing page will allow you to gauge user interest and create a simple email campaign to sign people up for your site.
Your Existing List
If you have an existing email list or audience, then this should be the first place you start. This list is already familiar with you and your work and will be much more likely to hop on a new project you launch.
Step 6: Retain Your Members
The overall profitability of your membership site will ultimately rely on your ability to retain your members. You can’t just create content once and expect the site to take care of itself.
The best way to keep members engaged year after year is to consistently create new content that caters to their evolving needs. If you have an active forum or blog section, make sure you pay attention and engage with what’s going on.
You can even create a survey that goes out every few months to see what kind of new features your members would like for the site.
Creating, launching, and running a membership site isn’t easy work, but it can be incredibly rewarding. If you’ve been looking for an online business model that allows you to explore your passion in a new way, then membership sites might be worth checking out.
Now over to you. What big questions do you have about running your very own membership site? Have you created one in the past and had success? Share your tips!