Over the last year or so we’ve seen an increase in clients that needed support with their membership websites. So we thought we’d share some insights into what’s special about them and what do you need to consider – should your business needs one!
I’ll come out straight away and say none of these are black and white, but we’ll certainly do our best – as we do with all our clients – to guide you to a prosperous outcome based on your own circumstances. To be sure, existing business owners will find this post most helpful; if you just want some of that ‘internet money’, but haven’t got a business in mind yet, let us know and we’ll go into this topic deeper.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first let’s lay out what a membership site even is.
What is a membership website
A membership site is a website or portion of your online presence that has content or resources that has been gated; providing access to members only. The term gated (perhaps intuitively) refers to resources that have been separated and protected from other resources that are openly available – with the standard business model being that user can purchase a membership, to gain access to content behind the paywall.
It’s worth mentioning however that not all membership sites have paywalls, and in the age of data, many simply require you to create an account to access gated content – we’ll get onto the ‘why’ of this shortly.
Do I need a membership site?
If you’re an existing business owner and this is the first your hearing of membership sites, then the answer is probably ‘no’. The real question then (consider this your second bonus question, yay) is: how can it help you?
Establishing yourself as an Expert
You know your stuff, and this is why your customers and clients should use your services. But how do they know you know your stuff? Well, producing content is a great way to demonstrate that, and putting it behind a paywall creates added value; somewhat oddly, people value something more if they pay for it.
Making steady income
A paywall means that you can charge users a recurring fee to access your gated content, and as long as you can keep your membership numbers up you can begin to generate dependable, recurring income. Keeping members on your site requires you to keep demonstrating value – a subject that would need a post of its own – but if you wish to maintain your expert status, there’s no doubt this is a great way to turn that knowledge and content creation into monetary gain.
Data & Community
Not sure you can justify the fee? No problem, a membership site has value beyond the face-value regular payments. Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’ said data is more valuable than oil. Well, that sounds punchy – not so sure it’s true, but there is no doubt that you need leads to make sales and sales are probably valuable to you! In an age when so many people are giving away so much content on the internet for free, the use of a membership site to gather data is a very wise and measured one. The trade is that people sign up to get the content you’ve worked hard on, and in return, you’ve generated a lead, someone you as part of the community you have created you can legitimately reach out to – who has expressed an interest in a subject you’re an expert on.
Has that ship already sailed?
Our world is becoming more and more digital and it seems that the Covid-19 pandemic has only increased this trend. In a world where we have all been shut in our homes, we’ve seen an explosion of new ways of conducting ourselves in the digital world. As consumers, we’ve been desperate to recreate aspects of our life that have been missing in the pandemic: a thirst for content and community. As business owners, we have been seeking to adapt, be resilient and even prosper in the face of new consumer behaviour.
A membership site has been a powerful tool now for many years even before the pandemic, and although we’re all breathing a sigh of relief as we start to return to the physical world and all the joys it has to offer, there’s no doubt that it remains a powerful, in-demand tool.
To benefit from a membership site in a busy marketplace, you must have a plan of action for how it can help you and your business. You’re right to be skeptical of the fast talking salemen on Youtube ads flogging ‘passive income’, but with the right approach, membership sites can generate leads, establish you as a industry leader, and even generate regular income.