Starting a Membership Site? FAQs, Part 2

You’ve built your membership site: you know what you’re selling, how you’re uniquely marketing it, and who you’re selling it to. Additionally, you know which content you’re gating, and you’ve determined what exclusive perks members are going to get. (If you don’t know all this, make sure you read part one of this blog series.)

And now you’re ready to launch. But before blasting off into cyberspace and the world of online membership business, there are a few more things you’ll need to square away before liftoff.

Access Levels

Have you determined how much and how long members will have access to your content? Access levels are linked to the payment structure of your site. You can choose membership levels and content access by offering:

  • Recurring payments: made monthly or quarterly; when payments aren’t made, access to content is denied.
  • Lifetime payment: members pay a one-time fee to gain access to the content as long as it’s available.
  • Fixed-term access: access to content is granted for a certain amount of time with a one-time payment, usually for a year.
  • Pay-as-you-go access: access to content is given each time a payment is made.

Having membership levels is a good way to allow customers to try your product. They can start small by purchasing access on a pay-as-you-go level; then, if they find your content valuable, you can offer them the opportunity—and maybe include an exclusive perk!—to move up a membership level. Additionally, levels give you a way to down-sell a customer if they want to cancel their subscription. You can offer them a lower membership level and lower price so they can still have access to your content.

Pricing Your Memberships

There are some basic guidelines to consider as you price your membership levels. Take a look at:

  • Competitors. What are they charging? What are they offering for that price? How does your product compare?
  • Product’s value. What are your members going to gain from your content and product?
  • Support access. Part of the value of your membership site is that members gain access to you—and your expertise—in various forms (email, live chat, group discussions, etc.). If you offer hands-on support, you can generally charge more.
  • Marketplace. Do you want to be an exclusive, high-end option, or do you want to be more accessible and affordable?
  • Current audience. Send out a quick survey to see how much they are willing to pay and base your price on their feedback.

After you’ve conducted your research, it’s time to crunch some numbers.

  • How much are you hoping to earn?
  • How many members would you like to have, and how much do you need to charge to earn the number in the above bullet?
  • How much is running the membership site going to cost you—factoring in expenses, such as marketing and content creation?

A few final thoughts on pricing: make sure that when you’re determining what your profit margin is you take into account the differing membership tiers. If you’re going to have several access levels, you’ll want to determine how many top memberships versus entry-level memberships you’ll need in order to reach your desired income. Need more in-depth tips on how to price your memberships? Lucky for you, our founder, Blair Williams, has written a blog on just that. 

Ready to Launch!

And now it’s finally time to set sail on your cyber ship and launch your membership business. Here’s a quick check-off list of things to do before you set sail so you don’t encounter any rough waters:

  • Build a buzz. Well before the launch date, make sure you’ve told your current audience that something new is coming. If you want the traffic, you need to let them know where to go. Here are some ways you can announce your big news:
      • in newsletters
      • on your blog
      • in an exclusive podcast
      • on your social media platforms
      • as a guest blogger on your colleagues’ sites (ask permission, of course, and make sure it’s a relevant site!)
  • Make sure you’ve tested your site. It just won’t do—either for building trust or gaining memberships—to have broken links or other errors on your site the first day.
  • Make sure you are technologically ready—that your web host knows there’ll be additional traffic, that your payment processor knows to expect a spike in payments (fingers crossed!), and that you have expert technical support on standby in case unexpected storms arise.
  • Encourage prelaunch sign-ups by offering early-bird pricing and allow them to help you advertise.
  • Invite your audience to your launch day by making it an online social event. 
  • And . . . launch!

Running Your Membership Site

You’ve done it! You built it and they came. And now comes the true test of your site—maintaining it, continuously delivering what you’ve promised, retaining memberships, and gaining new members. Here are a few things you can do to keep members enjoying the valuable resource you promised upon their subscription:

  • Send members a welcome packet. Give them tips—either through a video or infographic or something similar—on how to navigate the site; provide an FAQ list; and consider gifting members with a surprise welcome present.
  • Continue to deliver valuable content and help members see what they’ve gained and what they’ll get by being a member of your site (i.e., give them a calendar, schedule, or roadmap of the content they’ve received and the content they can expect).
  • Become immediately involved in the community boards so they know you’re there and also so you know who your members are.
  • Encourage membership engagement and participation by emailing members who haven’t logged in for a certain amount of time.
  • Be prepared to handle cancellations—not everyone will want to stay. It’s important that you try to retain them—perhaps by offering them a lower membership level or trial run—but don’t make it difficult for them to cancel.
  • Devise plans to attract new members by offering trial memberships, having special new member sales, and joining forces with affiliates who can help you promote your product (and you can help promote theirs!).

Running a membership site is a lot of work, but it’s the rewarding kind of work where you build relationships and foster communities while promoting the content and products you love. If you’re new to the membership-site business, welcome aboard! If you’re a membership-site pro, please let us know what tricks of the trade you’ve used to launch your membership site. Are there tips you can share with beginners to the membership-site business? We’d love for you to leave those tips in the comments below.

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About Lindsay Flanagan

Lindsay Flanagan is a senior editor and project and social media manager at Eschler Editing. She earned her Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and spent over a decade working in higher education before joining the Eschler team. She and her husband are the proud parents of two brilliant daughters and make their home in Heber, Utah.