How to Create, Grow & Make Money With Membership Sites for Long Term Passive Income

One of my group coaching students recently asked me:

“Are membership sites trending up or down?”

And my answer to that was simple… As long as businesses have been selling goods/services to people – “memberships” have been around and they’re not going anywhere.  They’re just found in different forms.

First were the days when the milk man would come by every week and drop off a gallon of milk.  Then were the days of Columbia House where you would get 12 tapes or CDs for the price of 1 if you subscribed to their annual membership.

Fast forward to today…

Memberships come in all different shapes and sizes.

From Netflix to Weight Watchers to SaaS apps to Info-Product Training and everything in between.

A real, sustainable business runs on recurring revenue streams.  There’s nothing more frustrating than reaching your monthly revenue goal, but then the next day you have to start back at zero once again… each time a new month starts.

And this is exactly where membership sites come into play.

But…

Do you know how to run a SUCCESSFUL Membership site?

And do you know how to rinse and repeat them?

Let me show you how anyone, even if you have no experience at all, can…

– Create a Membership Site in ANY niche
– Create & Manage Content with Ease (keeping members active and paying you every month)
– Identify Where Your Target Market Hangs Out and “siphon” them into your membership.

In the digital era we live in now, it’s actually A LOT easier than it used to be. Technology, software, equipment – is super affordable now to make it all happen.

It all starts with finding the right profitable niche.

SECTION 1: RESEARCH HACKS – Finding Profitable Niches

A niche is a certain topic or subject in marketplace. Each niche has a particular audience with particular needs or goals like cooking, crafting, or internet marketing. Some are more profitable than others, so it’s important to focus on niches that can pay the bills.

6 Main Factors to Focus on When Deciding on Niches When Building Your Website:

  1. Does it have any competition? Competition is a great thing, and many make the mistake of finding a niche without competition. The downside here is that there aren’t really a lot of customers in that niche if there’s no competition. Niches with lots of competition means that there are tons of people out there looking for products, so don’t be afraid of crowded niches. “No competition = no money”
  2. Are there any existing products? You’ll be promoting affiliate offers to your customers, but you want to know if your products are even going to sell in the first place. Do a little research to see if there are any existing products out there. The easiest way is to use affiliate networks like Amazon. See what’s popular, what’s selling, and what’s trending.
  3. Are people buying information? The niche you choose should be purchasing information products. It’s where the real money’s at. IT’s simple, cheap to create, and easy to maintain. There’s no storage or shipping fees, and they have the highest margins.
  4. What are the sub-niches? A sub-niche is deeper into the main niche for more targeted audiences. It takes you from a jack-of-all-trades to an expert in your field. For instance, you can move deeper into the ‘workout’ niche to ‘postpartum health’, ‘ab workouts’, or another sub-niche. Become the king of SEO.
  5. Is the audience passionate? Your audience splits into those who love the niche but are casual fans and the truly passionate. For your market to be extremely profitable, your core audience needs to be extremely passionate. You can tell this if they frequently talk about your niche. They also need to have real problems that can be solved; otherwise, you have nothing to sell. Check if there are groups and pages with lots of raving fans in that niche, and make sure they’re actively purchasing similar products on your research pages like Amazon.
  6. Are you passionate about your niche? If you have no passion, you’re going to have a hard time staying motivated to keep the membership up and numbers growing. You can hire someone to run the membership for you if you aren’t passionate about the subject, and this is perfectly okay!

 

SECTION 2: Laying the Foundation – Membership Layout

Before your membership site goes live, you’ll want to spend ample time laying a strong foundation. Without it, the structure of members you build upon it will falter, and you’ll miss out on the real long-term profit potential. There are 5 main elements before you make your website live:

  1. Member Login Page: Make sure your members have a dedicated page to log into your membership website. Seems simple, but it’s essential.
  2. Member Dashboard: It’s the first page members see when they log in, so make sure it includes many of the essentials like:
    • Quicklinks to Resources in Website: Right when you log in, you’re given many options to go within the membership including resources, support staff, settings, etc. It’s the best pattern that has helped to give members quick navigational options.
    • Welcome Message/Video: If you’re doing training or looking to build a brand, then consider uploading a video of yourself with links to any new content that has been added to your membership website.
    • Recent Forum/Comments: This entices them to click through and join the conversations.
    • Renew/Add-to-Cart Button: What’s the point in having a membership forum if they can’t quickly and easily renew their membership right from the dashboard? Using a program like PayKickstart for setting up subscription payments makes it even easier for your members with their one-click payment processing, so your members never need to scour the site to find their renewal button, and they don’t have to waste time processing their payments. Quick, easy, and unimposing is the name of the game here. And since it integrates with many common pay programs like Paypal, virtually every member will be able to utilize this form of payment processing.
  3. Simple, Easy-to-Read Navigation Menu: Make this simple and easy so your members don’t get lost on your website.There are 2 main navigation menus:
    1. Top Menu: This consists of all the important pages that don’t have anything to do with your membership. Keep this clean and simple. Include a:
      • ‘Welcome’ or ‘Home’ link to redirect members back to the dashboard.
      • ‘About Us’ Page: This is dedicated to explaining who you are and what your business is about. Upload an image to compliment the text. If used correctly, it can dramatically increase sales and conversions because it builds trust through transparency.
      • ‘Contact Us’ Page: This is different from your support center, because it’s for anyone looking to reach out to you like advertisers, partners, or customers. Just have a contact form with name, email, and a section for their questions.
      • ‘Support Center’ Page: This is for your customers and members, and it’s where they go when they need help with your products. This is a great place to upload common questions and solutions as well.You can also add an ‘Account’ dropdown for customers to access their profile and other settings. Don’t forget to add Pay Kickstart here as well for customers to access their subscriptions quickly and renew them even quicker.
    2. Side-Bar: Organize all the content and downloads that you have to offer. Break this down into modules like:
      • Training Courses
      • Lessons
      • Bonus Content
      • Forum
      • Software/Plug-in/Download Link

Don’t forget to include a small, visual ‘add to cart’ button on either the top or side-bar. This is a quick way for members to renew their membership while they’re perusing any page, and when you use a one-click program like Pay Kickstart, they won’t be taken through a series of extra forms to renew their membership.

4.   In-Depth Content Pages: This is the entire reason members are signing up to your website. This is the information that your members come for, so make it simple yet effective. Include these essential elements:

A.  Headline: Have a headline that gives customers an idea of what they’re going to be learning about inside of ‘Lesson 1’, for instance.
B.  Content: Deliver videos that walk them through the process and help to train. Don’t just post the video; give a pretext, bullet-points, and key features to warm them up first. The video is the main content of your content page.
C.  Download Links: This may not apply to all the lessons, but a majority reference some other site or file. If so, make sure you include that under the video.
D.  Comments: Keep these turned on! They want to leave a comment to ask questions or leave feedback, so keep the comments on so that you can continue the engagements. This dramatically increases respect and responses.

5.   Support/FAQ Center: There will always be members who have questions and need help, so make this page to provide support and answer questions.

 

SECTION 3:  CREATING THE CONTENT

PLR Content

Private Label Rights (PLR) articles are a relatively new twist on content building consisting of a special type of right or license which you purchase where you are legally allowed to edit and publish the article as your own. High-quality PLR can help grow your business and your membership. You’ll still need to customize this PLR to make it unique to your members and website.

  1. Take PLR articles and turn them into drip-fed content for your members. Many membership websites provide constant streams of content, so with this strategy, you buy a bunch of high-quality PLR content and rewrite the content so that you’re doing minimal work.
  2. Break the content into social media updates to expand your business and brand. Take your content and break it into individual Tweets or videos to stay consistent on your social media outlets and drive customers to your membership website.
  3. Rewrite content into blog posts. If you’re currently writing a blog, then take articles from these high-quality PLR websites and rewrite them into your blog posts. This dramatically decreases time invested into blog posts, and you can easily outsource this to someone else to write the blogs for you.
  4. Turn high-quality PLR into video training courses. You can even break these up into individual videos, upload them on Youtube, and put them into your drip-feed.
  5. Take this content and create webinars. They’re a great source of communication with your members, especially if you’re selling high-ticket items.

Repurposed Blog Content

Popular blog content can be reposted to your blog, used as content for your members’ area, or whatever you need. If you have your own blog, it could be a good idea to take popular blog posts and turn them into articles or other pieces of content…but right now, we’ll focus on repurposing other peoples’ content.

Search on Google for your topic and add ‘+ blog’ to find some trending blogs that are related to your niche that you think your members would love.

Hire a virtual assistant or writer, link to the blog post you’ve found via the method above, and have them rewrite it or turn it into an article or report. Post it inside your members’ area for use.

Better yet, break up the blog into multiple uses to cover several days. For instance, if the blog is ‘Top 10 Tips…’, then over the course of 10 days, reveal a new tip that you rewrote for your own blog. This drip-feed extends the longevity of the repurposed content.

Let Experts Create Your Content

Experts can create content for members’ area to reduce the load of work that you have to do. What types of content can they provide?

  • Interviews: Hop on Skype and do a voice interview. Then provide that to your members in their members’ area, and allow those members to provide questions to your interviewee as well. You won’t have to spend time creating questions, and with your members providing questions, then you know your members will love the results.
  • Guest Posting: Have them come over and post high-quality blog articles to your readers. You could pay the expert, or they could do it for free in exchange for publicity for their brand and their website. At the end, you’d allow them to put a little advertisement, and link to their webpage/profile or whatever information they want to link to.

Contact popular vendors by finding top products, and reach out to those sellers, asking them on how they’d like to proceed (monetary exchange, publicity pushes, etc). You can also reach out on related forums on niche websites to connect with experts in the field.

SECTION 4:  IMPROVE ENGAGEMENT FOR YOUR MEMBERSHIP

You’re going to have a hard time getting members to stick around if you’re not engaging with them to increase the loyalty and keep them coming back for more. Engagements keep members active within your website. This is where a few engagement hacks come in handy.

Run an Expert Blog Inside the Members’ Area

Members love premium content that is created just for them. If they feel like they’re getting something special, they’ll keep paying for their memberships. This is different from the public blog, and get the members to engage with this special content in the comments.

Inside of your premium blog, ask questions at the end. Then, respond back to them, and start conversations. Simply ask the questions at the end of every single blog post, and make sure to respond to those comments as well to build rapport.

Host a Monthly Webinar

This is the very best way to keep members excited every single month for the content you’re releasing. Webinars are live meetings that take place over the internet. It consists of an instructor as well as viewers (your members). The presentation can include key speakers, but they’re mostly important because of the relationship-building it causes. There are two main benefits to webinars:

  1. Members can interact with you in real-time, which pre-recorded videos can’t provide. You can answer them back live, and this helps to build a close relationship with your audience.
  2. People are happier to spend money with people they know and trust. Live webinars with product discussions can help direct members to sales pages, which can in turn improve profits in a short period of time.

So you’re sold — now what? These are the two main things you’re going to need for your first webinar:

  • A very specific topic within your main niche.
  • A platform (like Google Hangouts or WebinarIgnition).

At the end is when you’re pitching your product, but check out more info about our webinar close formula <<HERE>>. Don’t forget that your webinars are just another tool to keep your members engaged, so always integrate it into the membership site, making the renewal button linked to Pay Kickstart visible at all times on the navigational toolbars.

Run a Members-Only Forum or Facebook Group

Inside of your members’ area, host a members-only forum or direct them to a closed Facebook Group. There are a host of benefits to doing this:

  • Members can engage with each other to share ideas and network — with FREE content for your membership website.
  • It adds tremendous value and is a selling-point to future members.
  • Introduces another outlet for engagement. Communicate with members, build rapport, and ask questions to keep ‘em coming back for more.
  • Makes your website addicting and keeps your members around. Sometimes, people pay for the forum even if they’re not overly interested in the content itself.
  • Free market research at your fingertips. Forums with paying members lets you pick product ideas out of a hat by looking at threads and topics in the forum.

Members who build a relationship in your forum are more likely to continue to stick around longer.

Comments are King

Having a comments section is the easiest way for members to communicate with you on a one-on-one basis. Have comments sections on everything you present to members like:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Articles

Ask questions on your content pages to initiate the conversation and get readers posting in the comments. Then, turn around and engage in the comments to get them engaging with you at the same time. Start a discussion and build a relationship.

SECTION 5:  RETENTION BOOSTING TECHNOLOGY

Living in the stone-age can be a dealbreaker for members looking to develop a lasting, useful relationship needed for a recurring membership program. If you’re creating awesome content like podcasts, mp3s, and webinars, you’ll need a few things to get started:

  • High-Quality Microphone: This helps you sound professional and ensures your message is getting across clearly and crisply.
  • Shock-Mount and Filter: This reduces vibrations and popping noises in sounds.
  • HD Camcorder: This is only needed if you plan to recording videos. Don’t forget the tripod!
  • Accessories: Get a green-screen kit to record your face or body with a professional background edited in. Also get a microphone clip to keep your microphone on your shirt while being plugged into your camera, helping to improve audio quality.

Once you’ve got the goods, then it’s time to start creating your high-quality training videos and podcasts. Invest in software that can record and edit easily, and there are plenty out there on the market to choose from.

To wrap things together, you’ll need to spend some extra time investing in programs that can bring the tangible technologies together into a coherent format. This includes more obvious programs like ones that create and edit videos as well as the less obvious like integration systems and payment processing systems.

If you don’t have the technology where members can quickly hit that ‘add to cart’ button to renew their membership, then all of the time, effort, and money you put into the technological aspects of your membership site will be for naught. We recommend Pay Kickstart because of it’s ease of use, one-click upsell technology, and integration with nearly all of the popular membership platforms, including FreshMember.

The technology behind the programs you choose to outfit your website with can make a world of difference when it comes to keeping your members coming back for more. Pay Kickstart is the core of that retention process.

SECTION 6:  INCREASE RETENTION RATE

The key to recurring memberships is retaining old customers. You want your members to continue paying you every month while reducing cancellations in memberships.

Make it Personal

By making things personal, you’re showing each customer that they’re important to you. You can do so by implementing a few of these retention hacks:

  1. Use their first name in emails to make it personal.
  2. Highlight their profile in the membership area (on the side-bar). Have a mini-profile of their name and picture or avatar. This gives them a more customized area.
  3. Send personal messages to members. You don’t have to send individual messages to each members, but include first/last name in emails on a regular basis just asking how they’re doing and if you can help with anything.
  4. Offer custom products and services based on their needs. Customers can feel like another peg in the system, so personalize with special software with auto-responder campaigns depending on what the customer does. Set up multiple campaigns for specialized responses.

Implement Customer Feedback Surveys

These surveys are sent out by you, asking customers whether or not they enjoy your service, whether or not they’d recommend your product, and so on.  This is a perfect opportunity to find out what your
customers actually think as well as if they’re having issues.

Having one of these on your website can increase retention rates because:

  • You can improve your website based on the feedback from your current members, resulting in happier members.
  • Members love when you give them a voice and you listen. They feel like they have a type of ownership in the website when they submit something of value that’s integrated into the website.

Here, you build a stronger relationship with your members where they’re somewhat in control of their  experience because you’re listening to their feedback and implementing effective changes.

Offer the Best Support and Reward Your Customers

Becoming a real expert at your support can dramatically increase the amount of happy customers you have, and this is reflected in the retention rates and recurring memberships.

  • Implement a ticket system. This makes it extremely easy for a member to contact you by just filling out a form.
  • Implement an FAQ/tutorial system. Instead of waiting for their response from you, they can easily figure out easy problems with your tutorial videos.
  • Offer live chat. Anyone visiting your website can ‘chat now’ and get live, real-time responses at any time of the day.
  • Hire an assistance to handle all support tickets and live chats. You can use a variety of sites to find these assistants, and they can handle the constant support needed by your members.

From here, make sure you’re rewarding your customers for simply being customers. Taking care of your loyal customers is a great way to build a relationship where they want to stick around and support you even longer. Here are 5 ways to do it:

  1. Give unique badges/titles inside of the members’ area. This can be if they make a certain amount of posts or are around for a certain amount of time.
  2. Offer discounts after certain purchases or lengths of subscriptions.
  3. Give away free items or free membership months.
  4. Give early access to new products or services.
  5. Offer free coaching or consulting.

You’re giving away items, which can be considered losing money, but really you’re investing in long-term profits with short-term giveaways. Make sure to work with your payment system like Pay Kickstart to ensure that these free or discounted items are accounted for when your members renew their subscriptions with you as well. It’s easy to do, and it can make a world of difference in terms of customer satisfaction if the discounts and freebies are already taken care of before they renew.

Under-Promise, Over-Deliver

There’s no better feeling than investing in a product that you think you’ll like only to be surprised that it was actually a much better experience than planned. You’re in charge of delivering the product, but make sure that you’re over-delivering above and beyond the expectations of your members.

To do this, you can under-promise. You know what you have to offer, so promise less than what you plan to give. Then, give even more bonuses like we’ve listed above to go even further. When members receive much more than they expected and/or paid for, they’re more likely to stick around to see what else is in store. Plus, it’s just good business.

SECTION 7:  LAUNCH FOR LONG-TERM SUCCESS

You’ve probably heard about how first impressions can make or break a relationship. The same goes for the launch of your product. Choose the right time to launch your product. How do you know when the time is perfect to launch?

  • See when other people inside your niche are launching products.
  • Time of year (‘How to Ski’ products will likely to best in winter months, ‘Weight Loss’ products would be better in the summer, for instance)

The JVs

7 Elements to Creating a Killer JV Page:

  1. Welcome Video or Message: This introduces you, your product, and what it’s all about.
  2. Launch Date/Time: They need to know when the product is launching and at what time. Keep this info at the top of your page.
  3. Product Description and Demo (if necessary): Is it a software or information product? What are the features? Explain exactly what the product is.
  4. Opt-In Form and Affiliate Link: This gets them to sign up and get included on your JV list. This also keeps them in the loop about future launches as well as current statistics. Have a button where they can get your link so they can have access to promote your product.
  5. Contest with Prizes: Entice them to promote your product by giving away cash prizes to those who make the most sales.
  6. Email Swipes, Banners, and Bonuses: You’re making it easy for them to promote your products. Have your JV page pre-loaded with professionally-written emails (3-5), banners, and bonuses so that when affiliates give away products/packages, they can use these to give to customers.
  7. Contact Info: Include who you are and how they can get in touch with you.

Some folks have issues attracting and keeping their JVs, but as long as you have a killer page, you just need to advertise your launch. Post on forums, and use Facebook retargeting to add cookies on their browsers when they visit your JV page. Reach out to influencers in your niche as well to build relationships and garner more attention.

Launch Week

So what can you expect in your launch week? Review these 5 tips before the launch of your product:

  1. Make sure your servers are ready for the traffic. Hop on a live chat with the host company to make sure the servers can handle a surge in traffic. This is dependent on the amount of JV partners you got on board.
  2. Have a support assistant ready and on stand-by. The first few days will come with a huge influx of support questions, so make sure you’ve got help to handle the flow.
  3. Make sure your payment processor is aware of your launch. Accounts can get locked if an unexpected surge of money comes in, so give PayKickstart a call ahead of time to make sure they’re prepared and so your account doesn’t get locked or flagged due to the appearance of fraud.

SECTION 8:  OUTSOURCING HACKS

Increasing your recurring membership can also involve a bit of outsourcing and scaling. For instance, you’ll want to consider automating your memberships. Automate the following:

  • Membership Platforms
  • Email Campaigns
  • Blogging
  • Social Media

Outsourcing requires you hire others to help you run your business. You’ll need support assistants, virtual assistance, and technical assistants to fill out the support and automation aspects of your members.

One of our favorite automation and scaling hacks is FreshMember. With FreshMember, you can get a membership site with customized features up and running within five minutes. You’ll have branding options, automated sales process, and seamless Facebook integration with just a couple of clicks.

The best way to use your time to scale your time is with the 10-80-10 rule. You do 10% of the work to get it started, outsource 80% of the project, and the final 10% is you doing the final edits and changes to wrap up the project. That’s the blueprint to a successful business and scaling it to a new level.

Make an even more effective use of your time by investing in programs that boost retention rates and recurring memberships for long-term profits. Focus on programs built to support your content, support your membership site like FreshMember, and support membership subscription payments and sales automation like PayKickstart.

It’s about making the process easy and exciting for your members — and keeping them coming back for more!

If you’re not using PayKickstart to sell your products and handle all of your recurring subscription payments automatically, what are you waiting for? It’s free to get started today!

Are You Ready to Start Making More Money Online?

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Matt Callen is co-founder of PayKickstart. He has founded several million dollar online businesses and lives in Indianapolis. Since 2006, he has helped hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs scale and grow their online businesses with software and automation.