You’ve probably heard the term “membership site”, and you might be wondering what the heck one is.
For starters, a membership site is one of the best ways to form an online business. So if you’re also wondering how to run a successful online business, you’ve come to the right place.
Lucky for you, we’ve got Membership Sites 101 for you right here.
In this post, we’ll go over what a membership site is. We’ll give you a few examples along with links to a whole bunch of examples. And we’ll clue you in on the most important kickstart components to get you going.
So keep reading!
Membership Site: Defined
Simply stated: If a user is required to sign up to access any of a website’s content, that makes it a membership site.
When we talk about content, we can mean all kinds of things:
- Digital products
- Physical products
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Online courses
- Coaching sessions
- Zoom meetings
- Online communities, clubs, and forums
- Virtual conferences
- …and the list could go on!
Virtually any type of digital content can be protected, and physical products linked to digital spaces can be protected, too. The sky’s pretty much the limit.
Also, many membership sites combine several different types of protected content.
Like Pilatesology below, a website that offers users access to protected content when they sign up is considered a membership site.
Protected content on a membership site can be available for free or for a fee. It can also include the whole site or just a few “gated” parts of the site.
“Gate” is just another word for “paywall” – a barrier you build into your website using a plugin like MemberPress.
Once you’ve got that barrier in place, members can log in and access exclusive content, special offers, and even be part of a community of other members. They can also interact directly with you.
WordPress Communities or Online Spaces
A good example of a WordPress community membership site would be an online clothing store that offers a VIP program.
Any visitor can shop for clothing on the website without an account. However, if a visitor signs up for the community, they get special perks and content like exclusive sale alerts, discounts, and a regular newsletter.
Since the online store offers a VIP community with special content that requires signup for access, we’d call it a membership site.
Brick and Mortar Businesses and Memberships
Memberships aren’t just for online businesses.
Incorporating a membership model into a traditional brick-and-mortar business gives you a unique opportunity to enhance customer engagement and open up new revenue channels.
That’s why more and more physical businesses are using MemberPress to offer exclusive benefits and create a sense of community to elevate customer experience these days.
For example, a local restaurant or café might introduce a membership program offering monthly meal deals, early reservations for special events, or a loyalty point system.
A gym or other fitness center could offer memberships with added benefits like access to exclusive classes, personal training sessions at a discounted rate, or wellness workshops.
The fitness center might also provide online resources like workout videos or health-related webinars, adding value to the in-person experience.
WordPress Coaching Membership Sites
Online coaching sites are among the more complex (and profitable!) types of membership businesses.
As a result, WordPress coaching sites require a more specialized toolset than do regular membership sites.
To create a solid coaching solution, you combine several tools (sometimes dozens!) on one site, with the foundation being a WordPress coaching plugin and a WordPress membership plugin.
The combination of these two platforms create a single solution with a few important functions:
- Program creation and management
- Client and cohort management
- Self-service scheduling
- Online course building
- Reminders and progress tracking
- Payment processing
- Access control (paywalling)
👉 PRO TIP – CoachKit™ by MemberPress is the industry’s only membership and coaching WordPress plugin rolled into one. Click the box to learn more.
So there you have the basics of what a membership site is. There are more types than what we listed above, but the following examples should broaden your knowledge base plenty!
Membership Site Examples
For starters, take a look at some MemberPress customers running successful online course membership sites:
- Callie Willows and her partner, Mike Morrison, started Membership Academy. It’s a successful business that offers training, coaching, and courses for those who want to build their own successful membership sites (and they use MemberPress to run it!).
- Jack Coble and Alisa Wyatt run Pilatesology, a membership site that teaches the art of Pilates to everyone from beginners to pros.
- Kara Bullock operates an online art school that offers a large variety of courses for anyone interested in embarking on a creative journey.
If you’re still curious, you should definitely click below to see over 100 membership site examples (all separated by industry).
You should also check out our post, 25 Ideas for a Killer, At-Home Membership Business.
Building a Membership Base
The first step toward building a membership site is establishing a membership base. You do that by first finding a niche in your industry.
That is, identify a specific area where you can offer something specialized enough that customers will be willing to pay for your content and services. Any business can do it.
For example, consider Christina Jones Photography. As you can see below, this MemberPress-powered online business offers one-on-one coaching and courses to other photgraphers.
That’s in addition to Christina Jones Photography’s usual professional photography services.
This business could create even more revenue streams by adding additional membership-based offerings; for example, sell a webinar on starting your own photography business.
Once you’ve found your niche, a surefire way to start building a membership base is to offer free content on your site…
The Power of Free Content
Why start with free content? Well, for one, it’ll help you build a solid customer and membership base like nothing else.
That’s because those who experience your content firsthand will be more open to paying for premium content in the future. Once you’ve built up a base, it’ll be easier to sell memberships to those who already want to learn from you.
Additionally, if you mix content – free and paid – you can draw new members with your free content. The more members you draw, the greater your chance of securing buyers for your paid products.
As always, consider your audience.
A struggling student might not be able to afford your content now. But once they graduate and get a high-paying job, they’ll remember how your content helped them. They might be willing to become a member once they can pay the dues.
The same can be said for entrepreneurs just starting out and building their businesses (perhaps just like you!).
The Importance of Expertise
Regardless, make sure you present yourself as a trusted, credible source with plenty of information. Your content should be of value to your customers and illustrate your knowledge.
Members will quickly leave your site if they discover they’re paying for content that’s repeated, recycled, or easily accessed by a simple web search.
You’ll be juggling a lot of things as you launch your site, but be sure of these three things:
- Demonstrate you’re an expert in the field.
- Show you’re passionate about what you’re doing.
- Convince the world you want to share what you know.
You should now have a basic understanding of where to start when you’re thinking about running a membership site.
Make sure you check out all the amazing membership site examples we shared in our post, 100+ Membership Site Examples, Organized by Industry. Inspiration is guaranteed!
Is there anything else you’d like to know about starting a membership site? Let us know in the comments section below.