So you want to create a membership website. Great! You’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll find a checklist of the most important things to be aware of before starting that site and during that tricky postlaunch period.
Some of the things we’ll cover include choosing a platform, building your website, and working on your marketing plan. We’ll also take a quick look at key aspects such as optimizing your membership site and keeping members happy for continued success.
Let’s get started…
Decide on a Topic for Your Membership Site
You probably have a rough idea for the topic of your membership site—otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this guide to launching a new membership program. However, even if you have a great idea for your project, it’s wise to invest some time in validating that idea. After all, it would be a shame to put in all the work involved in launching a high-quality membership site only to discover there’s no market or audience for your project.
To help you reduce the risk of investing your time and energy in something nobody wants, we’ve created a guide to validating your membership site idea. Some of the things you can try include producing a mini version of your membership program to see if you can generate any signups before creating the whole course, as well as promoting a prelaunch offer, again, to see if you can find members willing to register, perhaps at a reduced rate, before you get started.
Choose a Membership Platform or Plugin
There are lots of options when it comes to setting up the platform for your membership site. One big decision you’ll have to make is whether to choose a hosted membership-site solution or set up your own WordPress website with your choice of membership plugin.
We may be a bit biased with producing a membership plugin for WordPress, however, our guide should help you weigh the pros and cons of each option to so you can choose the right platform for your project.
Create Your Website
Once you’ve chosen a platform, it’s time to focus on your website. Before you begin producing the content members will have access to, you’ll probably need to flesh out your site with publicly available content that helps you connect with your target audience, get found in the search engines, and answer any questions potential members may have.
Part of the website-creation process includes giving your site a suitable design. The good news is that if you chose WordPress as your platform, there are countless web designers out there you can work with as well as professional themes that are ideal for membership sites.
Don’t worry about making everything perfect at the outset. As the old saying goes, done is better than perfect, and the sooner you launch your membership site, the sooner you’ll find out if it’s what your target audience wants. It’s fine to return to this step later and work on making your membership website look more professional once you've got some traction.
Work on Your Membership Program
Now the real fun starts. Once you’ve chosen a topic, tested the waters with a minimum viable product, and created the bare bones of your website, it’s time to produce the content your audience is willing to sign up for.
Again, unless your research makes it clear that your audience is ready and waiting to join your program, don’t produce your entire membership program just yet. Starting small and creating just enough top-quality content to keep charter members happy, then seeking their feedback before moving on to the next stage of production will help save you both time and effort in the long run.
Some membership-site owners have found success in testing their concept with a small cohort of sometimes carefully chosen founding members. Doing this gives you a chance to learn on the job and get a working understanding of how to run a membership site with a user base that is hopefully more understanding as you cut your teeth.
Devise a Membership Site Marketing Plan
Now that you’ve created your site and have taken into account the feedback of your first set of members, it’s time to start promoting to a wider audience. We’ve published lots of useful content covering this topic, including some simple SEO strategies for membership sites, as well as a guide to creating a buzz around your program. Then there’s social media marketing to consider, not to mention starting a blog to attract more of your target audience.
With so many options for marketing your site, it’s easy to get stretched too thin. Don’t let that happen! Instead, focus on one or two methods until you see results before moving on to the next channel.
Keep Your Members Happy
Focusing on acquiring new members is a key part of creating and maintaining a successful membership site. But perhaps even more important is keeping existing members happy. For starters, it’s probably easier to keep a member than find a new one. Then there’s the invaluable word-of-mouth marketing happy members contribute, not to mention the damage to your reputation unhappy members can do.
Consequently, it’s vital you do all you can to serve those members who’ve invested in your program. Adding a help desk system to your website can improve communication, while creating new and varied forms of content for your membership site is sure to increase the perceived value of your program. You can also implement tools like Churn Buster, which can reduce the risk of satisfied members involuntarily quitting your site—something you may not even be aware is happening.
Optimize Your Membership Site
Once everything is up and running and you have a group of members enjoying your program, it’s time to think about optimizing your membership site. By carrying out exercises in split testing, you can tweak and adjust your website with the goal of improving conversion rates and generating more signups from the same amount of traffic.
Perhaps changing the wording of a button’s text or editing your site’s color scheme will result in more registrations. With all the tools available to help you optimize your membership site, there’s no excuse for leaving this vital aspect of your site to chance.
Also, if you do choose WordPress as the platform for your membership site, there are some tasks you’ll need to perform and issues you should be aware of to keep your website running smoothly. Check out our guide to monitoring the performance of your membership site, where you’ll find lots of advice on this topic.
We hope this checklist for launching and running a successful membership site has been helpful and that you’re feeling excited to get going. If you’ll take a step-by-step approach to launching your project, you should find the process easy and even enjoyable.
With all the great reasons to start a membership site, why not start helping your target audience and making some extra income?
Are you ready to start your membership site? Is there anything else you’d like to know about? Please let us know in the comments below.