Starting your first membership site can be an exciting, but nerve-racking experience.
On the one hand, you’re finally working on a project that you’re truly excited about, one that has the potential to help others while also financially rewarding you for your efforts.
On the other hand, there is a lot of work involved in setting up a membership website. While a good membership plugin will take many of the technical tasks off your hands, you’ve still got to build the site, define the levels of access, and most importantly, create the content that your target audience will be willing to pay for.
The time between actually starting work on your project and the point where it’s finally ready for public consumption can be a long and drawn out period. Although the minimum viable product (MVP) approach can help shorten this time frame and allow you to launch much more quickly, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Then, once your membership site launches, the hard work really begins. Not only do you have to somehow drive traffic to your site, but you must also find a way to get your free visitors and trial users to sign-up and join one of your paid membership plans.
In this guide, we’ll be covering some tactics and strategies to help turn your visitors and free users into paying premium members. Once you’ve cracked this, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and profitable online membership project.
Make High-Value Content Available for Free
If you’re just starting out and haven’t yet built up a positive reputation in your niche or industry, you’re going to have to demonstrate why your target audience should trust you with their time and money.
Regardless of the form your membership content takes – whether you’re providing access to a service or product or you’re running a content-based membership site – you’ll need to demonstrate your expertise in the field you are entering.
Depending on your membership content and your target audience, the best way to do this could include publishing case studies, reports, guides, downloads, or offering free trials. Even publishing news and advice can be a great way to convey to your visitors that you have your finger on the pulse and know how your industry works.
The blog on your membership website is a great place to share this content. What’s more, publishing blog content on a regular basis can help with your membership site search engine optimization and bring more potential members to your website.
Demonstrate Your Credibility
While your freely available high-quality content might be enough to persuade some visitors and free users into becoming premium members, for others more reassurance might be required.
One way to further prove your credentials is to publish testimonials, reviews, and feedback from other members and users. Demonstrating to your visitors that other people, just like them, have benefited from your membership content will help allay their concerns and move them closer towards joining your program.
It can be hard to get testimonials when you are just starting out. However, in order to get the ball rolling, try approaching established players in your industry and offer free access to your premium content. Sponsored reviews are another avenue that is worth exploring.
Getting testimonials when you are just starting out can be a catch-22. However, as soon as you have your first batch of users, be sure to reach out and ask for feedback.
The best testimonials cover who the user is and what their situation was, before explaining how they were helped by your product. When soliciting testimonials from your early adopters and established members, be sure to give them as much direction as possible.
Ask them to share what they were doing before they found you, and then ask how things have improved since becoming a member. The more your target audience can relate to your testimonials, the more likely they are to become members.
Increase Traffic to Your Website
It might seem obvious, but if you want to turn more of your visitors and free users into paid members, you’ll need to increase the number of potential users who find their way to your site.
Giving away high value information for free as part of your content marketing strategy will help drive more visitors to your site. However, there is much more you can do.
Some of the other ways to increase the volume of traffic your website receives include paid advertising and search placements, social media marketing, networking with others in your field, guesting on related blogs and podcasts, and much more.
In a recent post, we covered three marketing strategies for membership sites in more detail, so be sure to check them out if you want more website traffic.
Improve Conversion Rates
The second piece of the puzzle, after increasing the number of visitors to your site, is to improve your conversion rates.
The more visitors you can convert into members, the less traffic you’ll need. As acquiring traffic takes time and/or money, focusing on optimizing your conversion rates can help you do more with less.
Split testing your content can help increase conversion rates and tools like Nelio AB Testing offer a relatively easy way to carry out experiments on your WordPress website. Factors to compare and test include pricing, membership plans, button placement, link text, colors, image, and sales copy.
Over Promise and Over Deliver
Something to remember when trying to launch a membership website is that a large part of your success will come down to attracting members and then providing the level of value they were hoping for.
Under-promising and over-delivering are popular truisms. However, when it comes to standing out from the competition and being the one your target audience signs-up with, you’ll need to over-promise and then over-deliver.
Some studies suggest that over delivering is wasted effort. However, if you want to succeed in the competitive world of membership sites, providing your users with more value than they were expecting is a great way to keep those recurring membership fees rolling in.
If you’ve been struggling with how to turn more of your visitors and free users into paid members, you should now have some ideas to work with.
Growth usually comes down to getting more of your target audience in front of your membership product. However, by focusing on demonstrating your expertise and credibility, while also working to improve sign-up conversion rates, you can ensure that you are making the most of each and every visitor who comes your way.
Just remember that if you aren’t offering the type of value your members were expecting, the lifetime value of each new sign-up will be extremely low and all your marketing and promotion efforts will have been for nothing. Over-delivering should be at the heart of your membership success plan.
How do you plan to encourage more of your free users and non-member visitors to sign-up and join your program? What methods have you tried in the past? What has persuaded you to join a membership site? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.