Any experienced membership site manager will tell you that there's more to a successful membership site than just re-billing customers … the real challenge is to keep them engaged.
Your Membership Software Should Help You Keep Your Members Engaged
If you're planning on starting a membership site it's important to choose a membership software solution that won't just give you a standard “shopping cart” with the added ability to do recurring billing and some basic content protection. Make sure it will give you the tools you need to make it easier to create real relationships and keep members engaged. These engagement features may not seem necessary when you start your first membership site, but if you don't have access to them, you'll start having troubles sooner than you think.
Engagement is hard work no matter how you slice it though (even with the right membership software) … it means delivering value to your members over the long haul — here are a few things that might make this challenge a bit easier on you:
1. Make It Easy For Members To Sign Up
The fewer technical and psychological barriers you have to getting members in the door the better. Make sure your membership pricing is clear and up-front … and that your signup buttons are visible & clear. Also, try to structure your offering to provide some initial value for free. Some of the ways we've seen membership sites effectively provide an initial hit of value is to have a free limited time trial, a trial membership with a limited amount of your content and even ensuring that valuable content appears on the membership site's public blog or podcast.
2. Stay In Touch With Members To Keep The Relationship Strong
Establishing relationships with your members is critical to your success. These days there are many channels where you can connect with customers but the most important is still email. It's critical to use membership software that will send automated emails for the events that happen through the lifecycle of the membership.
In addition to automated membership emails, you can regularly email your members using an auto-responder like AWeber, MailChimp or GetResponse with emails about when new content is available on your site and general updates to the site.
Perhaps most important, it's critical to provide support to your users. If you have a team of people (2 or more) I recommend using something a bit more sophisticated than your personal email account for managing your support emails … you might want to look at something like Help Scout, SupportFu or Zendesk.
3. Provide Consistent And Reliable Value
Great membership sites consistently deliver value to members to keep them engaged … and there are several strategies (some manual and some fully automated) you can employ to do this:
The first strategy for this is to continually create content. For some types of membership sites, this option is unavoidable — for instance, anything time sensitive like stock picks, etc will have to be delivered regularly. The good news for this is that even though this is the most labor intensive strategy for keeping folks engaged … it's perhaps the best.
Second, get some content dripping going. If you aren't familiar with content dripping, it's a technique you can use to control the timing of when you release content to your users. For instance if you had 5 premium pages and wanted one per week to be released to your members — you could do it with content dripping. Dripping is great because it enables you to produce content en masse and then schedule it's release to your members.
A third way to get your members engaged is to create a premium community. This approach is brilliant because you aren't the one who needs to generate the content, you let your users do it for you. There's still work to do with this approach because you still need to moderate what's going on in your community. Even premium communities can get out of hand without some intervention now and again, so it's important for you to be there to make sure things stay on track.
Finally, a very effective way to get users engaged is to create a service that your members are paying for. This could be a software service (SaaS) or some service that you or your team provides for your members as long as they're still paying. Just know that the more critical the service is to your members, the less attrition you'll have.
You can do this all yourself … or select membership software that will make it easier … but the bottom line is that the more you work on keeping the relationship with your members strong through these and other methods, the more engaged they'll be … and the more willing they'll be to continue as paying members to your membership site.