12,307 Words and 4 years in the Making…The Ultimate Guide to Launching a Profitable Membership Site
This post has been 4 years in the making and at 12,307 words it has turned into a beast. Over the past 4 years I have made almost 100% of my six figure income from membership sites.
Throughout all of this time I have had a lot of successes, some failures (ok a lot of failures!) and throughout it all I have learned a PHD’s worth of knowledge.
After searching around for an outstanding guide to creating your own membership site I came up short, so decided to create my own. It has turned into something pretty amazing…
I have poured every bit of my knowledge and strategies from idea to content creation, creation of the actual site to launching and member retention strategies.
When I first started writing this guide I wanted it to be the one stop shop, the truly ultimate guide that you can follow to create an incredible (and profitable!) membership site for your own business…I believe I succeeded.
There is only one real sustainable income model online. One business model that is quickly scalable, automated and guarantees you a predictable monthly income.
I am talking about Membership Sites!
There is a reason that almost every single big name marketer out there has at least one membership site in their collection of products. Smart marketers use the predictable monthly income of membership sites as the foundation of their online empires.
Once they establish a livable monthly income from their membership sites they have a foundation to stand on. Now they can branch out and experiment/diversify with other income models, some will be success and others failures, but they won’t have to worry about needing the income. Their steady, predictable membership site handles that.
I have used this strategy myself, launching The List Builders Academy several years ago. It has provided me a steady six figure income for years and has allowed me to pursue other projects, such as my second (and more all-inclusive) membership site The Freedom Business Academy as well as this blog!
If you are at all interested in learning how to launch your own membership site your going to want to bookmark this post!
Overview of what you are going to learn/who this is for
I have put together the most inclusive guide ever posted to creating your own profitable membership site. From idea to launch I am going to walk you through everything you need to think about and do to brainstorm, create and launch a massively successful membership site.
In this guide you are going to learn:
- Exactly what niches are made for membership sites and which you will have trouble in. As well as how to come up with the perfect idea for your membership once you have picked a niche.
- I break down the 6 different types of membership sites and help you decide which you should use for your membership.
- All of the best types of content for your membership site and how to create each.
- A detailed breakdown (with recommendations!) of exactly what tools and software you will need to create an incredible looking membership site as well as automate it.
- A break down of the 3 pricing ranges and the why’s and why not’s of each.
- How to attract new members and then how to automate it.
- More Importantly I teach you exactly how to keep your members so that once they join they continue to pay monthly!
- Finally, we end with how you should setup your email marketing campaign to maximize retention as well as attract new members.
Why Membership Sites are incredible (The Math)
Ok don’t cringe to much but we are going to have to do a little bit of math. There is no way to avoid it and still show you how awesomely awesome membership sites are.
However if your anything like me you actually like doing the math. I love sifting through the numbers figuring out if and how a business will be profitable, what the margins are, it gets me fired up to start it!
Ok, lets get into it.
The secret sauce of a membership site, the single thing that makes it so incredible is the fact that, if you understand the math, will give you a completely predictable and stable monthly income.
How exactly does it do that?
The best way for me to explain the math is through an example, so let me intrude you to Jeff.
Jeff is an internet marketer who has figured out a brand new business model. He has tried it himself, works great for him and he wants to create an e-course to teach others the business model. However as he lays out the outline for his course he realizes it would be to big as an e-book, it would overwhelm buyers with to much information.
Instead he decides to create a membership site where he can drip feed content to over time to his students so as to not overwhelm him as well as being able to charge more for the content because the buyers are paying smaller amounts monthly instead of one large lump sum.
Jeff creates 6 months worth of content and decides to price his membership at $47 per month.
So if someone joins and stays for the entire course Jeff will make $282 per new member. Keep in mind few people will actually stay to the very end but we will cover that in a few minutes.
Jeff wants to turn this membership site into a full time business and needs to make $50,000 a year to replace his current full time income.
The goal is to create a sustainable monthly income so lets just look at the monthly income numbers and not what you would bring in total from each new member.
To make $50,000 a year you need to earn $4,166 per month. That means Jeff needs to have 89 members each paying $47 per month. (This is very doable, intact as you can see in my October income report I gained 98 new members the first month I launched The Freedom Business Academy!)
Jeff follows the strategies laid out in this guide and launches his blog, bringing in 50 new members at $47 per month. (This number is low but I’m assuming you have no list and am only working a couple hours a week on it. If you work hard and have a list already you will gain a lot more at launch)
So at the end of the first month Jeff’s income formula is:
$47 (price per month) X 50 members = $2,300
After launch month Jeff is already set to make $2,300 or $27,600 a year in annualized income.
Most of you have seen this simple math before when memberships are described. However what most people fail to mention is churn rate.
Churn rate is the rate at which people quit on a monthly basis, usually expressed as a percentage.
Unfortunately not everyone who joins your membership site are going to stay the entire time. As crazy as it sounds I have had people quit my membership sites almost an hour after they join, probably them realizing it isn’t a push button and make money course instead you actually have to put in some work.
You aren’t going to be able to calculate your churn rate until a couple months after launch.
Example of how to find churn rate:
Membership Site XYZ has 100 members at the beginning of the month and only 84 members at the end of the month. Their churn rate would be:
(100 – 84) / 100 = 16 / 100 = 16% Churn Rate
This means that every month Membership Site XYZ is losing 16% percent of its members. So to stay at an even and predictable monthly income Membership Site XYZ will need to add 16 new members every month to keep up with their churn rate.
In my own personal membership sites I have seen an average of 30% churn rate in the beginning, then after optimizing my retention systems (I talk more about this in the guide) I am able to get my churn rate down to around 15-20% monthly.
So lets go back to Jeff’s example.
After his launch month he has gained 50 members each paying $47 a month earning him $2,600 a month. He is $1,566 away from his goal of $50,000 per year, which means he needs 33 more members.
But don’t forget about churn, it happens the first month as well! Lets assume Jeff’s membership site is very leaky and has a 30% churn rate.
30% x 50 members = 15 members churn
So out of those 50 new members Jeff got during launch only 35 will make it to month 2…Churn Rate is a bitch!
Lets assume that Jeff keeps up his momentum after launch, he gets a couple affiliates, his students love the content and he is starting to get some testimonials and he is able to continue to bring in 50 new members a month going forward.
How long will it take Jeff to reach his income goal of $4,166 a month?
As you can see from the screen shot below taken from my Membership Site Financial Worksheet Jeff will over take his goal and make $4,408 or almost $53,000 annualized in just 4 months! That’s crazy!!!
What I find interesting is if you look at the later months (8-12) the income starts to level off, with the churn rate reaching a naturally stagnant point and it turns into a stable predictable income as long as you are continuing to add new members every month. This is as close to passive income as you are going to find online.
So now you have seen the math, you know that this is an insanely profitable and more importantly sustainable business model. Lets get into how to actually come up with an idea, create and launch your own membership site!
If you are thinking about creating a membership site your more than likely already have an idea of what niche you are going into and if you haven’t I have a post for that!
Whenever I am considering entering a niche I always go through the following points/questions to make sure the niche is suitable for a membership site.
Are There Other Memberships/Continuity Products In This Niche?
First thing first, you need to find out if there is any direct competition in the niche in the form of other membership sites. If there are other membership sites in the niche that is a good thing! Remember competition is never a bad thing, it verifies that there is money to be made in this niche.
If you do find 1 or a bunch of other membership sites in your niche then you need to figure out the answer to 3 things.
1) What are they doing right?
You want to figure out what they are doing right so that you can emulate what their customers love about them.
2) What are they doing wrong?
If your lucky they will be doing something completely wrong. Either they have failed to market to a segments of the market you have identified, or their customer service sucks, they might even be charging too much (which we talk about below). All of these are weaknesses and opportunities to create a superior product and take their customers.
3) How much are the charging?
Pricing is important, perhaps one of the most important things. It doesn’t matter how incredible your content is, if you price your product at $1,000 a month you aren’t going to be getting many members (of course you wouldn’t need to if you can get a couple members!). On the other hand if you price way below your competition potential customers will instinctually think your product is in-superior. I have witnessed this firsthand with my own pricing experiments.
The sweet spot I have found is to price just slightly above your competition if your product truly is superior. If it is a close comparison to your competitions I price it just under. But we will talk a lot more about pricing later.
Does This Market Spend Money?
This is really only a question when you can’t find a membership site already in the niche. If there isn’t one you have to ask your self why, and one of the main answers I have found is that there isn’t enough money spent in the market to make it profitable.
Are There Forums And Online Communities In This Niche?
One of the best ways to figure out if a niche is big enough is to find an active forum or online community inside of it. If you can find at least one active community you usually have a large enough niche to make a membership site for.
You can find forums a couple of different ways. I like to start off with a simple google search using the following format:
Google Search: “Niche” + Forum
You can also search for a niche forum on Board Reader, just enter your niche keyword into the search box and Board Reader will return all of the discussions from every community site about your niche.
Is There Year Round Interest?
Sometimes you will run into a seasonal niche where the majority of your sales will happen during a certain part of the year. You need to know this before you enter a niche so make sure you check and see if the products in your niche are seasonal.
It’s not just holiday stuff that is seasonal, niches in the camping market are seasonal as well with most of the sales happening during the “outdoors time of the year”.
Are There Related Books/Magazines In This Niche?
If you are ever in doubt about the size of a niche or whether you will be able to monetize use this one simple trick of mine that will settle all your doubts.
I look to see if there is a magazine in the niche. If there is a magazine in the niche then it is absolutely big enough for a membership site, you can lay your doubts aside.
If there is no magazine then you may want to rethink your niche.
Here is a link to the amazon magazine section: Amazon Magazine Section
How Is This Market Not Being Served?
This is one of the most important questions you need to answer doing niche research, however it is also one of the hardest. You need to find the underserved niche within this niche.
Lets take golfing for example. Maybe there is already a couple of membership sites that are targeting all of the sticking points/issues golfers have. But lets drill down a little further and look at just women golfers.
These ladies probably have some different paint points or issues that are very specific to them but not any of the guys on the course. Is there a membership site specifically talking to them?
When I can’t think of a new product or angle in a niche, I start looking at the niches within the niche and can always find a group of people that aren’t having all of their needs served.
Other great posts to help you find and pick a niche:
Now that you have decided on a niche it’s time to pick the type of membership site that will suite your audience.
Over the years I have ran across (and started) thousands of types of membership sites, however they can be broken down into 4 main types with several variations in each of the types.
Each type of membership site has it’s pros and cons, some types naturally being better suited for certain niches over others.
Lets go through them one by one and as we do keep the big problems/pain points of your niche in the back of your mind. Odds are one of these membership site types will stick out as the best option for your niche.
1) The Normal Membership Site
The Normal Membership Site model is what you generally think of when you think ‘membership site’. It is the drip fed e-course or coaching program that is slowly fed to the members over a number of weeks/months. This is the most common type of membership and will more than likely be the kind you decide to go with.
Within The Normal Membership Site there are two distinct types:
A) Free Membership Site
For a Free Membership Site it is obviously free to become a member (hopefully no surprise there). Members have completely free access to every part of the training and resources.
So how exactly do you make money?
Two different ways:
1) Advertising inside the members area in the form of banners, pop-ups and paid reviews.
2) Affiliate offers to members which you can do in two different ways. The first is too recommend products within the membership site that helps the members achieve a desired result. An example would be me recommending Aweber (with an affiliate link) inside of a membership where I teach email marketing. The second way to use affiliate links is via email. When a new member joins your free membership you add them to your email list and can send them affiliate offers.
This type of membership is best for when you want to build your email list very quickly as long as you add quality content you will have a ton of signups. Just remember to provide value!
Examples of Free Membership Sites:
B) Paid Membership Site
This is the type of membership site that you are probably most familiar with. You pay a certain amount of money every month and you gain access to the members area. The content can either be 100% available at the time of joining or it can be drip-fed slowly over weeks/months/years.
The primary income from this type of membership is the monthly membership fee. However you can also add a secondary income stream by adding ‘recommended products’ with affiliate links. I do this very effectively by integrating the course I am teaching with the recommended product.
An example would be (using the Aweber example from earlier) where I recommend that they use Aweber as their autoresponder (which is what I use personally and love) and I provide them with a link to purchase it (my affiliate link). Then throughout the course as I teach I show them how to setup everything using my recommended product (in this case aweber). This way they can both see how much easier the tool makes it, but also encourages to purchase it because it is what I am teaching them in.
Using this method I have seen an average of 42% members purchase at least one recommended product. This is a HUGE source of extra income that a lot of people never utilize!
Example Paid Membership Sites:
2) Forum Based Membership
You don’t normally think of forums as membership site, but they actually are. These are often the hardest membership sites to start because you need a large community (or a small extremely active one) to have a forum. If you are first starting out building a community can be incredible difficult and time consuming.
However if you are already established in your niche with a following and looking for additional ways to monetize your audience a forum membership site is a great place to look.
There are three different types of forum membership sites:
A) Free Forum
A free forum is what most of us think of when we imagine a forum. A free community that you can join to talk about, discuss and educate your self on a certain topic. Most people think that a free forum is hard to monetize and not really worth the effort but there are 3 great methods that you can use to monetize a free forum. Remember your strength with having a free forum is controlling a large audience in a single niche, an audience that potential advertisers want to reach.
1) Advertising – This is the obvious answer and what most free forums rely upon for income. Sticking up some Adsense banners is the easiest way to initially monetize a free forum, but once you start getting a lot of traffic and steady growing community you should start searching out individual advertisers that would be interested in reaching the audience you have created.
2) Forum Sponsorship – This is a form of advertising, but instead of selling one banner too a bunch of different advertisers you sell every ad space on your forum to one company. This is a popular strategy that product creators will use when they are launching a new product. By sponsoring an entire popular forum in their niche they are going to get a ton of eye balls on their offer.
3) When members join your forum their email is added to your email list. Now you can continue to market to and educate them with content and affiliate offers in your niche.
B) Premium Forum
Eventually a free forum will grow large enough that they can evolve into whats called a ‘Premium Forum’. A premium forum is a cross between a free and fully private forum where a certain section is not accessible to non-paying members.
An excellent example of this is the Warrior Forum. They have one section called ‘The War Room’ that costs $97 per year and is on accessible to paid members.
This type of forum won’t work in every niche, but is a great way to monetize a free forum if you are able.
C) Private Forum
A private forum is exactly what it sounds like, a forum that is only accessable by paying members. This type of forum is great if you have extremely high quality content and “elite members” that are able to share their experiences. Mainly used for masterminding and courses private forums aren’t that common and are not recommended for anyone who doesn’t already have an audience.
3) Software Based Membership
A software membership is mainly for SaaS (Software as a Service) business that charge a monthly fee to use their software. An example of this is Aweber, Leadpages, Improvely, ect.
This is not an area of membership sites that I have personal experience with so I am not the best person to give advice on it.
4) Monthly Report/Newsletter
The monthly newsletter or report membership is probably the least common. These are often very low priced memberships that deliver an email newsletter on a weekly/monthly basis. Usually very low priced this is one of the easier types of membership sites to create because of the little amount of content you have to create.
I have actually been considering opening this type of membership site myself where I every week/month I reveal all the details and behind the scenes of every advertising/traffic driving method that I use and how they performed. This is something I would love to follow myself and think that it could be a bog hit. Let me know in the comments or via email if you would be interested in this!
Anyway, that is an example of a Monthly Newsletter Membership Site.
Whew…that was a lot of types of Membership Sites. Did one type stick out to you as the perfect model for your niche? If not it’s ok, you’ll just have to keep brainstorming till you can come with an idea that fits into one of those types.
Content For Memberships
The content for your membership site is arguably the most important element. If the content isn’t what is promised then your members won’t be staying for very long and more than likely asking for a refund.
The trick when planning your content is to not I’ve your members too much at one time. This will overwhelm them and cause them to be paralyzed by too much information…and then they end up quitting. Instead you should gradually introduce them to concepts and how to instructions over several weeks.
What I like to to do when I am planning the content for a membership site is to grab a blank sheet of paper and write out all of the big topics I want to cover, these will be each weeks/months topic. Then under each of the big topics I list out all of the sub topics and how-to instructions that go along with each, these are the sections inside of each weeks lessons.
Content Types That Are Great For Memberships
There are a lot of types of content that work well inside membership sites. This is going to completely depend on your niche and what type of membership site you are creating, but I will go through the most popular type of content that memberships have and why you should use each one.
It is important too have at least several different types of content in your membership site, it raises the perceived value of your membership a ton when you have video tutorials, forums, webinars and articles all inside the members area. The higher perceived value the more you can charge 🙂
While videos are a much more popular (after surveying thousands of my customers) some people still like good old fashioned reading. What I like to do is create video tutorials for my e-course membership sites and then transcribe (with screenshots) the video into an article so that my members have access to digest the material two ways.
Forums are awesome! For your members they provide a way to interact, question and get inspiration from fellow members. For you it keeps your members active inside your membership site and being able to talk with other members they might actually take action and utilize your great content!
Pro Tip: Want to keep engagement in your members forums high? Every week send out an email with a roundup of the best forum topics to all of your members encouraging them to join the discussion.
Videos are by far the highest perceived value as well as the preferred content type for most of your members. I have surveyed thousands of my customers over the past couple of years and always here the same response, “We want more video tutorials!”.
Customers absolutely love ‘over the shoulder’ video tutorials and if your membership site is an e-course then I highly recommend making video’s your main content type.
This is an incredible post from Income Diary teaching you how to make great video tutorials: http://www.incomediary.com/ultimate-guide-making-online-video-tutorials
Interviews are a great content filler. Everybody loves to hear the behind the scenes details of success stories in the niche and it’s a great way too add value to your membership.
Interviews are extremely easy to make, that is, once you actually have the interview. The most difficult part of doing an interview is actually getting your interviewee to agree to to do the interview.
Others have written how to do this much better than me, check out these blog posts on exactly how to find interviewees and then how to create kick ass interviews:
This one is pretty self explanatory and pretty much every membership site should have a page dedicated to relevant resources. If helps out your members by giving them an all-in-one resource for all the tools and resources they could ever want in the niche, while at the same time providing you with a secondary stream of income (use affiliate links for all those tools and resources!).
Like interviews webinars are an incredible way to raise the value of your membership. What I like to do is a mix of conference calls, interviews and webinars.
What I will do is host a monthly live webinar in which I bring a guest expert on with me and we will have an informal interview with participation from the audience (members). During the webinar, which usually lasts about an hour, I will also hold a ‘town hall meeting’ in which we talk about whats going on with the membership site, do a question and answer with members as well as give a special call out to any members who have had a great success that month.
Feedback from members shows that they absolutely love the monthly live webinars and is one of the big reason they continue to be members!
Want to learn how to host your own webinar? Don’t miss these great posts teaching you exactly how:
I like to refer to conference calls as ‘town hall meetings’ or ‘office hours’. These are live group cals, either on Skype or on a webinar where I will take question and answers from students/members, let everyone know whats going on with the membership as well as give a shout out to any members who have done something awesome since the last group call.
Traits Of Great Content
So what exactly makes great content? What separates the amazing membership site content from the average?
One of the main things I have noticed that separates the best membership sites from the mediocre is that the great ones make it extremely simple to consume the content.
When creating your members area you need to keep everything very straight forward. One of the worst things you can do is to have a confusing layout in the members area, it should be very intuitive for the members to navigate.
Take a look at the members area of The Freedom Business Academy, it is very clearly laid out and easy to navigate. This creates a better user experience which leads to less churn which leads to more profits!
You also want your content to be able to be consumed in different ways. Not everyone who joins your membership site is going to want to watch a video or read an article. Instead, to make everyone happy, you should make multiple variations of the content.
For example you can record video tutorials, then create an article that covers the same thing as the video (along with screenshots/pictures) for people who would prefer to read as opposed to watching.
By providing multiple content formats for your members you will be able to retain as many different types of people as possible.
How To Produce Membership Material
When you sit down and start planning out the content for your membership site you are probably going to get overwhelmed, I mean there is usually a massive amount of content that you need to create.
Luckily there are a bunch of different ways that you can create the content, I have narrowed it down to 5 different methods you can use to create your content.
Create Your Own Content
If you are already an expert on the topic then this will be easy. While it may be overwhelming at first to think about having to create all the content for your membership, I have a process that I go through to help you organize your thoughts.
Like I talked about earlier, what I do is sit down with a piece of paper and write out all the big main topics that I want to cover. Then I go through and add all of the details below each of the main topics.
That will give me an outline of the everything I am going to cover in the course, then I simply choose what format I am going to create the content in then just go down the list one at a time creating videos and articles. When you tackle it like this it makes it much more manageable.
This is how I have always created my content for all of my membership sites and this is the way I would highly recommend you create your own content.
These are some amazing posts on how to create epic content:
However if you are, for whatever reason, unable to create the content yourself you have a couple different options.
Buy PLR Material
One route is to go out and buy PLR material in your niche. PLR stands for Private Label Rights, basically you are buying the rights to use pre-created material on a certain subject.
The benefit of doing this is you save a ton of time on content creation. However the content you find as PLRs is generally pretty poor quality as well as the risk that the same content is already spread all over the internet. How would it look if your customers ran into one of your competitors selling the exact same content?
If you are having trouble finding PLR content a simple google search will reveal a bunch of different resources. Use the following google search:
Google Search: “Niche” + PLR or “Niche” + Private Label Rights
Personally I would not recommend you use PLR content in your membership site, unless that is what your membership site is all about. An example would be a membership site that supplies members with a new lead magnet and squeeze page every month. As long as your members know they are receiving PLR material then go for it!
Buy Out Existing Products/Memberships
Another option if you don’t want to create your own content is to buy out an already existing e-course or membership site. There are a ton of membership sites that launch and fail every month. If you see promise in the content of one of them, but the owner is doing a terrible job promoting it (which is 90% of the battle) then offer to buy it from them!
Partner With Someone
This is actually a great model if you would prefer to handle the creation/promotion side of the membership site and want someone else to handle the content creation.
What you can do is go out and find an authority already in the niche and partner with them, where you create the site and do the promotion while they handle the content creation. Then you utilize their name, authority and audience to gain members.
This strategy works best in niches where the authorities don’t have a lot of technical skill, such as golf, martial arts, ect. Pick niches where you can approach authorities who would have no idea how to create their own membership sites themselves and show/explain to them the insane income benefits that a membership site provides.
Tools & Resources
This is the part where most people start to get nervous. They think that setting up a membership site is incredible difficult and complicated with hard to understand/use software so they end up never even trying.
While that might have been true a couple years ago, the software available today is very easy to use and even the noobiest (is that a word?) beginner can create a membership site fairly easy.
There are a ton of different options available for membership software. I have personally tried every single one of them (gotta do your home work right?) and to me one stands far above all the rest.
I personally use Member Mouse to run every single one of my membership sites.
There is only one con to using Member Mouse and that is it requires a monthly fee (they are using the software membership model!). However I see it as a pro personally, because by me paying a monthly fee not only do I save on paying several hundred dollars up front but I know that they will continue to provide outstanding support and constant updates. As opposed to a software that you only pay once for and hope the company continues to support and update it.
Membermouse comes with an amazingly detailed and easy to follow setup guide along with quick tutorial videos that you can follow and be up and running in an hour or so.
Check out this quick 2 minute video of Membermouse staff demonstrating how easy it is to setup your membership site.
If you decide to go with Membermouse for your membership site and run into any issues their support team answers questions almost within the hour (I have gotten responses within 5 minutes before!) and if for whatever they can’t help you send me a message and I will do my best to help you out!
Besides membership software the other tool you will need to decide on is your payment processor. This is what people are going to use to pay you and you have several options. Keep in mind you can always use 2 or more of these options at the same time to give your customers as many payment options as possible.
Depending on what niche you are in these are the top 3 that I use:
1) Paypal – Everybody knows it, almost everybody uses it. It is extremely easy to setup with Membermouse and is very secure. This is the payment option most people are going to choose when they join your site. Check out this link to see how easy it is to integrate paypal with Membermouse: http://support.membermouse.com/knowledgebase/articles/319036-configuring-paypal
2) Stripe – This is my secondary payment method. I offer this and paypal with every membership site I choose and between the two choices about 35% of new members will join using stripe over paypal. Check out this link to see how easy it is to integrate stripe with Membermouse: http://support.membermouse.com/knowledgebase/articles/319041-configuring-stripe
3) Clickbank.com – Clickbank is a marketplace for e-courses and books that handles everything from payments too affiliate programs. Though I have never used Clickbank as a publisher (I use it as an affiliate) having a built in affiliate program is never a bad thing. Check out this link to see how easy it is to integrate with Membermouse: http://support.membermouse.com/knowledgebase/articles/317013-configuring-clickbank
Pricing For Memberships
A lot of people will leave pricing till the very end of the product creation process. They will create all of the content, build the membership site, start the sales copy and then decide on the price, which is generally just a guess of how high they could get away pricing it.
This is the complete wrong way to do it. You need to look at pricing from the very beginning, when you are picking your market and deciding on your membership model. Price will determine the type of content you create, how much of it you will create, how intensive your support system will be, ect.
Price your membership site wrong and it will be a flop, price it correctly and you will be swimming in new memberships.
I have found that there are three different categories for pricing monthly membership sites.
1) $10-$30 Per Month
Never go below $10 in price per month, any lower than that and payment processor fees will eat up to much of your profit to make it worth while.
- Affiliates want to promote higher ticket items so you will find it difficult to find anybody to promote for you.
- Your profits aren’t very high per customer. This means you can’t spend as much on marketing to acquire new members as you could if you had a higher cost program.
- Members stay a long time even if they aren’t using the content. Because of the low cost they have the mentality of “Maybe I’ll use it one day” because they don’t want to go through the hassle of canceling.
- The price range is perfect for a large membership site where there is an overwhelming amount of content. Customers would be crazy not to join for the value they are getting and they would be crazy to cancel because it would take them forever to get through all of the content.
Best Type of Membership for Price Range:
Monthly/Weekly Newsletter and Report membership sites are perfect for this. Also if you have an overwhelming amount of content that you are providing access to all at the time of purchase I would stick to this price range.
2) $30-100 Per Month
This is the price range that most membership sites fall into. Most of my membership sites are in this price range with my ‘sweet spot’ price falling at $47 per month.
- The expectations for quality content are much higher than at a lower price point so you better deliver!
- Customers are much more likely to cancel if they are not using the content on a consistent basis.
- Very easy to attract quality affiliates with the higher price point and this will account for a lot more sales than you could pull in on your own.
- A much higher profit margin which means you can spend more per lead to bring in new customers making marketing a lot easier.
Best Type of Membership for Price Range:
This price range is perfect for e-courses or coaching courses. Membership sites that are drip fed over a certain period of months where the customers is using the new content as soon as they receive it. It is also a the price range for most software based memberships (think Aweber and LeadPages).
3) $100 and Up Per Month
I would stick to the $30-100 price range if it is your first time creating a membership site, but if you are ready to step up your game the $100+ per month price range can turn you into a six figure earner almost over night.
- The content must be the best available in your niche, something that people could never find anywhere else.
- If a member isn’t using the material they will not stay for more than a month.
- You must interact with members on a daily or atlas a frequent basis, this can be in the form of a members only forum, Facebook group or Skype group. But whatever it is you have to stay in content with your members at this price range.
- MONEY!! Serious money. All it takes is 84 members at $100/month to make $100,000 per year.
- Extremely easy to recruit affiliates. Your giving them huge paydays!
- Your marketing budget can be huge once you have built up a base of members.
Best Type of Membership for Price Range:
This price range is used for all inclusive communities. An extremely advanced and detailed e-course paired with a members only forum would be perfect. An ‘Elite’ Private members only forums focused on a certain niche would work well in this price range well.
Whatever type of membership you choose with this price you must be in constant contact with your members otherwise you will see massive churn rates!
Attract New Members
Now that you have your membership site setup, you have all the content created and you have figured out your pricing strategy it’s time to start bringing in some members!
What most people don’t realize is that creating the membership site and all the content is actually the easy part. I know, I know your probably thinking that just getting to this point was a mountain of work and now your saying that was the easy part!
Don’t worry, this is the fun part! This is where you get to setup your automated machine (called a funnel) that will bring in new members and market to them on auto pilot. So lets get started…
If you are not familiar with the concept of funnels then you should jump over and read my post about the perfect online business model.
We are going to be creating a very basic funnel to get started bringing in new members. This funnel is going to consist of three parts.
1) Your Lead Magnet (Squeeze Page)
Your squeeze page is where you are going to send all of your traffic. I know your eager to send all of your traffic straight to your sales page, you want those new members right away right?!
This is what I used to do at first and found that the highest converting sales page I could get is 3%. That means for every 100 people I send to my sales page 97 of them would leave, never to be seen again.
However when I added a squeeze page and follow up series to my funnel my conversion rate skyrocketed. Let me show you why.
I will use the funnel I have setup for The Freedom Business Academy as my example.
Instead of sending traffic straight too my sales page (which was converting at 3%) I created a Case Study of the success I have had from the business model taught inside of the membership course.
When creating your Lead Magnet (free giveaway) you want to try and stick with what I like to call ‘the what’. Meaning, you want to focus on the results of what your membership site will teach. This should be one of the huge sticking points/problems that your target market is trying to fix.
For The Freedom Business Academy I teach exactly step-by-step how to create your own online business around a niche that you love. So I created a case study video walking potential members through my most profitable business model (which is the one that is taught in the membership).
This is a screen shot of the squeeze page (created in Lead Pages!):
Having a very specific lead magnet (free offer) makes it so anyone who opts-in to your list will be very interested in the result that your membership site offers.
After they have opted-in to the squeeze page take them directly too your offer, don’t try to immediately sell them on your membership site. Odds are your membership is priced about the normal OTO (one time offer) price and won’t see a very good conversion rate if you offer it immediately when they opt-in.
Instead make your lead magnet a huge value bomb and establish your self as an authority in their eyes.
I do have a button under the case study video that takes my new subscribers to my sales page, but that is the only time (outside of the follow up sequence) where I will actively promote my membership site.
2) Email Follow Up Series
Now that they have been added to your email list you are going to both establish yourself as an authority (something you have hopefully already started with your incredible lead magnet!) as well as sell your membership site.
I like to setup one week (7 days) worth of auto responder emails. If the prospect hasn’t purchased after 7 emails then they aren’t going to buy right now. Remember marketing is all about getting the right message in front of your market at the right time. Just because someone isn’t ready to buy right now doesn’t mean they won’t be ready in a month or two.
When I write my follow up sequences I always include content in each of the emails before I do the sales pitch to get them to the membership site sales page.
Having trouble writing your email follow up series? Take a look at the mind blowing posts on how to write incredible follow up series:
3) Sales Page
This is probably where you start getting a panic attack. Writing a sales page is actually not that difficult.
I am not a great copy writer. I’m really not, though I get compliments on my sales copy often, I kind of just make it all up. The reason I have such success with it is due to the method I use.
When I am getting ready to write sales copy I go around and study the sale page of every successful product/membership site in my niche.
After you study a couple of them you will start seeing patterns. Almost all of the successful sales pages will follow the same basic pattern (which differs from niche to niche) that you can simply duplicate with your own words.
This is what I do every single time I create a sales page and have aways had great success doing it.
Want more help creating your sales page? Here are two posts that will help you immensely:
Implementing this simple three step funnel has increased my conversion rates from just 3% with the sales page only up to as high as 21% with my follow up sequence. This is a MASSIVE increase and is well worth the half day it took to setup.
Once you have your funnel setup it is time too start sending some traffic your funnels way!
A lot of people, especially new people to internet marketing, will avoid paid advertising thinking that it is a money sink and are afraid to spend anything.
However you will never accomplish your income goals without utilizing paid traffic, there is absolutely no better way to scale up your membership than to buy targeted traffic and sending it through your optimized funnel.
The goal with paid advertising is to pay less for the traffic than you earn from your membership site.
Here is an example:
You setup a Facebook Ads campaign promoting your squeeze page. You optimize your ad and end up with a .75 CPC (Cost per Click). You drive 1,000 clicks form your FB ad to your squeeze page for a total of $750 (1,000 X $0.75).
50% of the traffic from FB opts-in to your follow up series. Out of the 1,000 clicks from your FB ad 500 have made it onto your follow up series.
You have an average converting follow up series of around 10%. Meaning that out of the 500 prospects receiving your follow up emails 50 of them (10%) will purchase a membership.
Your membership price is $47 per month and your average retention rate is 3 months. So every new member will stay an average of 3 months and earn you $141.
50 members x $141 = $7,050 total income
Subtract out the cost of the FB ad ($750)from the total income ($7,050) and you get a profit of $6,300! This is as close to printing money as you can possibly get.
They key here is to have a highly optimized and converting funnel and the only way to do get that is to always be split testing your squeeze and sales pages.
Want to know some more about split testing? Check out these great posts:
Facebook is one of the greatest sources of paid traffic I have ever used. In fact I am constantly running over 20 different Facebook campaigns for every post an product I have.
The reason Facebook is so incredible is the targeting options that you have. Want to market to left handed surgeons living in Dallas, TX? How about Vikings fans that make over $100,000 and live in Atlanta, GA? You can target absolutely anybody, no matter how out there your niche audience is.
I will be writing a complete guide to running ads on Facebook soon, but until then take a look at the other great posts to get your Facebook Ads up and running ASAP!
Solo Ads/Email Drops
Most of you know what a Solo Ad is. For those of you who don’t a Solo Ad (also known as an Email Drop) is when you pay an authority who has an email list to send out your offer to his list.
It is a great way to send quick surges of targeted traffic to your funnel for relatively cheap.
If you are in the IM/MMO niche then Solo Ads are pretty easy to find. Do a quick search in Facebook for “solo ads” and you will find a ton of groups with sellers.
If you are in a different niche then it won’t be as easy. Instead you will need to contact individual blog owners in your niche and ask if they would be interested in selling a solo ad from their list. Sometimes you will run into blog owners who won’t even know what a solo ad/email drop is so you will need to explain it to them. When you do this remember to focus on how it will benefit them and their readers.
Free advertising is where most people will start out. Whether you are afraid to start playing around with paid traffic, or you are just short on funds, free traffic will be much more time consuming for less of a payoff.
However done properly you can drive a TON of traffic to your funnel. Keeping that in mind lets look at the top ways to drive free traffic to your squeeze page.
If you did your niche research correctly then there should be atlas one active forum in your niche. Forums are a gold mine of extremely highly engaged and targeted traffic. But getting that traffic from the forum has to be done correctly, otherwise you end up looking like either a scammer, spammer or just plain banned.
However when you do it right you become a well respected member of the community, an authority figure in their eyes and a constant stream of free traffic into your funnel.
So how do you do it right?
There are two different methods I use. Both of them drive the majority of traffic from your signature. This is the space at the bottom of your posts that you can put a link to your squeeze page. You need to make this as enticing as possible.
Here is a screen shot of my signature on the Warrior Forum that drives a steady stream of traffic to this blog.
Once you have your signature set up you should start posting these two types of posts.
1) The Pillar Post
This is the type of post that you are always looking for on a forum but very rarely ever see. It is also the type of post that you see people in other threads link to instead of writing out answers to questions. It is because the pillar post completely answers all of your questions that you have on one certain topic.
To create a pillar post pick one big pain point or question that continues to pop up over and over in the forum. Then create an all inclusive, all questions answered detailed post covering the pain point in complete detail.
It is as simple as that, people very rarely provide such ‘value bombs’ and the threads naturally become very popular. As you create a couple of these everyone on the forum will start to see you as an authority and will click on your link in your signature to see more of your content. Then they enter your funnel and you have them!
2) The Content Helper
The second type of forum post you should be creating is called ‘the content helper’. This is where you are replying to posts of people asking questions. If you have created a pillar post that answers their question point them towards it.
If there isn’t already a pillar post made to answer the question then perfect, it’s time to create a content helper post.
In a content helper post you are going to completely answer the question the original poster asked along with links to blog posts that expand on the subject. This is perfect if you already have a blog, you can drive some traffic back to it, but can also work by linking to other peoples blog posts.
The great thing about the content helper post is that you don’t even have to link to your own content, just by providing an overview of the solution/answer to their problem and then a link to get further info still establishing yourself as an authority in their eyes without having to write a full on pillar post.
If you take an hour or so a day and commit to posting a ton of these two types of posts in the forum you are guaranteed a continuos stream of new subscribers into your funnel.
Guest Posting On Other Sites
With Guest Posting we will be leveraging other authority blogs in our niche that already have a built in audience to drive traffic back to our funnel.
What you are going to do is to find a high traffic authority blog in your niche and write a blog post custom tailored for their audience. The goal here is to tie your membership site topic and your squeeze page give away topic into the blog post. Case Studies work wonders as well as any type of over the shoulder how-to post.
The way you drive traffic back to your post is you put a link back to your squeeze page at the end of the post.
Below are two posts that go into incredible detail about how to approach, land and create great guest posts. Check them out:
What exactly is an affiliate? An affiliate is someone who promotes your membership site to their audience and get a percentage of the sale. Getting (and keeping) good affiliates is the key to ramping up your sales big time.
I like to be a little bit different and not recruit affiliates until after my initial launch. I highly suggest that you do this as well, especially if you have a small list and/or little or no relationship with affiliates. The reason you want to wait to recruit affiliates is because initially you have no sales data.
By sales data I mean, conversion rates of your sales page, conversion rates of your email series. You don’t know what your churn rate is going to be so that you can accurately tell affiliates how much they have the possibility of making. Without all of this info it will be very hard too recruit any ‘real-deal’ affiliates.
Instead what you should do (and I do this every time I have a new launch) is to launch the membership to your own audience first. If you don’t have an audience then setup your funnel (lead magnet, email follow up sequence and sales page) and then buy some paid traffic like we talked about earlier.
The whole point of this is to get some real tangible conversion numbers. Once you know exactly what your conversion rate for your sales page is you can take that data and approach affiliates with it. Trust me, you will stand WAY out of from the crowd of people trying to pitch them with real solid numbers and will be able to get a lot more to mail for you.
Affiliate Tools Page
Once you have your conversion numbers and are ready to start recruiting some affiliates you need to setup what is called an affiliate tools page.
This page is where you will have affiliates join your list (you want to create a new list in your autoresponder just for affiliates so you can let them know when your paying out and when you have new products to launch!) as well as instructions on how to get their affiliate link. You should also include any banners, promotional email templates or any other tools you want to arm your affiliate army with.
I personally use the ‘Affiliate Tools Page’ in the Lead Pages Marketplace. Here is the link to the affiliate page for The Freedom Business Academy: https://thefreedombusinessacademy.com/affiliates
Take a look at how I have laid it out, what I include on that page and the wording I use. This is a well done affiliate tools page if I don’t say so myself 😉
An affiliate network is the platform you use to automatically payout your affiliates. A lot of people put way to much thought and effort into picking out which affiliate network to go with. They think that if they pick the right network the flood gates of affiliates will open and they will get 1,000 affiliate requests in the first day of launch. They couldn’t be more wrong…
I have been releasing information products for about 6 years now and and if there is one thing I have discovered is that, as far as gaining affiliates, it doesn’t matter what affiliate network you use. You aren’t going to post your new membership site on Click Bank and have a ton of affiliates wanting to jump on board.
With that in mind I prefer to stick with the three affiliate networks below for membership sites:
Jvzoo is a great platform. Its only drawback is it really is only used (at least for right now) in the Make Money Online/Internet Marketing niche. So if you are launching your membership in the MMO/IM niche then I highly recommend using Jvzoo. It is extremely easy to use, instant payouts to you and your affiliates and there is a large number of affiliates actively seeking out great new products in the marketplace.
The only downside too Jvzoo is it only allows you to use Paypal to accept payments.
Take a look at this great step-by-step video from Nicola Cairncross on exactly how too list your membership on Jvzoo.
If you are in any niche besides MMO/IM I would recommend you use clickbank.com. This is the largest affiliate platform and has been around forever. I have had nothing but good experience with clickbank.com. It does not use paypal or stripe, instead clickbank.com has their own payment processor and handles it themselves. Because of this they take a 7.5% + $1 which includes payment processor fees. This is a little bit above the price of most other payment processors but with clickbank.com handling everything in house it makes it worth it.
3) idevaffiliate.com (self hosted)
IDevaffiliate is a bit more advanced and I would only suggest using it for advanced marketers. However if your up for it hosting your own affiliate program has some big advantages.
One of the huge advantages is you get paid right away, as opposed to if you used clickbank.com you would get paid on a rolling basis. Another advantage is you get complete control over every aspect of your affiliate program from when your going to payout, to how much commission, email follow ups and a ton of other things.
I use idevaffiliate as the affiliate program for The Freedom Business Academy, you can check out what it looks like by going here: https://thefreedombusinessacademy.com/idevaffiliate/
This is a great video from Ben Jankte going through an overview of all the features and how to setup Idevaffiliate:
How to Network
I want to talk just a little bit about networking. I get about 10 emails every single day from people wanting me to promote their new products. 99% of the time I will just click delete on these emails and if I am doing it you can bet most other authority bloggers are doing the same thing.
Why do I just delete the emails? Because they fail to tell me what’s in it for me. While I do like to help people, I receive a ton of requests and unless you stand out from the crowd odds are you are going to end up in my trash bin.
So how exactly do you stand out? Two words…Provide Value!
You need to provide value to anyone you are trying networking with. It needs to be more than you trying to get them to promote your stuff, you need to actually be interested in forming a relationship with these authority figures.
This is how you stand out from the crowd. You need to focus on what you can do for them. If you are trying to get them to do an interview with you then tell them about how you can expose them to a new and very interested audience.
Start providing value to them before you ever even email them. What I like to do is find authority figures on twitter and retweet their tweets. I will also tag them in some tweets that I think they might find interesting.
Doing this before I ever contact them helps me get that first response because when they see my email they recognize my name from twitter.
Just remember to keep everything positive and focus on what you can do for them and you will be leagues beyond everyone else trying to connect with authorities as well.
How to recruit affiliates
Whether you use Click Bank, Jvzoo or even your own self hosted affiliate program you are still going to have to actively seek out and recruit high quality affiliates yourself.
Here are two of the best ways I have found to recruit affiliates (especially when your new to the game!). They are a bit labor intensive but are very effective.
1) Similar Product Owners
Go out and find all of the e-products in your niche (you should have done this in the niche research stage!). You aren’t looking for exact competitors, instead look for products that compliment what your product does.
An example would be if your membership site is about how to build an email list then you could go out and find all the products that teach how to increase conversions. Naturally anyone who is interested in increasing their conversion rate will be interested in list building products.
Once you have identified all of the complimentary products in your niche start reaching out too the creators. Remember our rules from networking, it’s all about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you!
Once you have established a conversation with them let them know about your new membership site and how their customers would love it. Your goal is to bring them on as an affiliate an email your offer to their lists who are very targeted (because the bought complimentary products).
Doing this takes a long time to reach out to a bunch of people but I average around a 25% response rate with about 10% of them becoming affiliates and emailing my offer to their list.
2) Blog Owners
Once you have gone through and contacted all of the product owners you should go through and contact all of the blog owners in your niche.
By building relationships with bloggers in your niche you can leverage their audiences to quickly grow your own membership. You can do this through guest posting like we discussed earlier, or you can ask them to promote your offer to their email list as an affiliate.
Blog owners in your niche will already have a built in audience and if you are able to get a couple on your side it can be a very quick way too grow your membership.
Want some more ideas? This is an incredible video I found from Yaro Stark on great ways to recruit affiliates:
How To Keep Members
Attracting new members is only half the battle. Once you have them paying you want to keep them as a paying member!
After running multiple membership sites for years I have found that the average membership site retains its members for an average of 3 months. Obviously some members will leave the same day and some will stay for years, but the average seems to be about 3 months.
Your goal as a membership site owner is to extend this number as far as your can.
Pro Tip: I have raides my average member retention rate to 6 months by adding an end to my membership site payments. When creating an e-course as a membership site eventually your course content is going to end, and buy making a membership site that charges for a limited amount of time (like 6-7 months) will encourage members to stay for the full length instead of just seeing a never ending amount of monthly payments.
The number one way to keep members is to have incredible awesome, jaw dropping content. If you have that you are already one step ahead, because if your content sucks your members won’t be staying around very long.
Besides having incredible content there are a couple of methods that I have discovered that will help your membership retention.
1) Tease Upcoming, Unreleased Material
I do this in two different locations in The Freedom Business Academy. The first is inside the members area. I have the content broken up into weekly lessons. On each weeks page of content I have an area talking about what’s coming up next week.
I also add a teaser at the bottom of every email sent out. Every week when the weekly lesson opens up I send out an email letting them know its open, what they will learn and what is coming up next week.
2) Ask Them What They Want More Of
This one is so simple sometimes we wouldn’t even think about it. You can simply ask your members what they want more of. Either send out a survey or just a plain old email to all of your members asking them what they love most about the membership, what they love least and what they would change.
The feedback you can get from these is amazing, things will come up you never even considered and it also shows that you are listening and responsive to your members which will up your retention rate.
3) Make a “Connection” With Members
The more you interact personally with your members the longer they will stick around, it’s as simple as that. If you a forum then you have the perfect way to interact with all of your members, listen and hear their suggestions and then respond to them.
You can also invite highly active members to play a part on the site such as being a forum moderator or a content contributor (there is nothing your members will love more than case study success stories from fellow members!).
4) Offer on Cancelation
One thing that I have just recently implemented is to offer a special discount and/or survey whenever someone cancels their account.
With Membermouse this is very easy to setup, the feature is already built in, and buy offering a discount you can retain around 20-30% of the members who would otherwise quit.
Even if they choose to leave you should ask them to fill out a survey so that you can find out exactly why they were leaving and how you can fix it. They key here is to actually take action on the suggestion you get!
There you have it! Everything I know about creating and launching a membership site. I really hope that this guide helps you create your own membership site.
Just follow this guide step-by-step and you will have your own profitable and sustainable membership site up before you know it!
Do you have your own membership site? Really want to create one but have some kore questions?
Leave a comment below! I promise I will personally respond to everyone of them 🙂