So you want to setup a paid membership website. Is it best to jump straight in with paid subscriptions and spend time setting up a website to do that or should we lay the foundations first by finding people who are interested in your topic and see you as an expert in your field. I have been thinking about how it could be built and what it might look like so I will briefly outline how I expect such a website a business setup would work.
All of this is based on observation of paid forums, listening to a lot of podcasts about online business and membership websites and participating in masterminds and pay to access forums.
What does a membership site look like
The basis of a membership sites tends to be categories with pages or sub sections presented in an orderly way by topic or sequence, for example a little like the we have arranged our knowledge base, www.jezweb.info but with password protection on premium content.
Restricting premium content with teaser content
For the paid membership function we can restrict the content of the pages. So an opening sentence or paragraph can be visible for people and google to see so that they know what the page is about and can anticipate the value of it. But then they have to click to join as a member to read more. You can see an example of how this type of membership system works on a WordPress websites on membermouse.com. There are other membership systems with similar methods eg member.wishlistproducts.com.
You need an expert or expertise
A successful membership site will need a lot of specialist information in whatever field you are focusing on. Copy and pasting vague stuff from blogs won’t cut through to the reader. People expect validated facts, well written, expert, insider, tested knowledge conveyed in a variety of formats including text, images, video, audio, documents and presentations.
Trusted sources and unique perspectives
Is that all information you will be adding yourself or do you have experts in the field that will be providing information for you? The members of your website will scrutinise the information on the website quite closely. Unless everything is technically accurate, up to date and in great detail then doubts will rise and retaining members will be challenging. For your members to see the value in paying for membership they will need constant reminders that you are the expert, that you have access to key knowledge, sources and networks that they want to contact, be aligned with and benefit from.
Finding an audience
Let’s assume you don’t already have a highly engaged group of people asking for you to create a membership website. Begin marketing now, locate interested potential buyers of a membership site. Get started straight away with a blog and podcast to build an audience for the membership site because you may find that with the feedback of your target audience that they have ideas that will help form what the website becomes and the value that the membership will need to include if they are to become paid members.
This is not a simple website to maintain
Membership software generally proclaims how fast it is to setup but then the real work begins. It might seem like the sort of project that is going to be like building a simple brochure website but consider how long it takes to become an expert and write a book.
Configuration of the website systems, payment options, publishing the information etc, it all takes time, lots of time, and don’t expect other people to do it for free or the love of it. If you are asking a web designer for a quote on a project like this it will be difficult to give an exact quote on such a setup. Find other websites like the one you want to create even in different industries that you can use as an example of the features required that could help.
In broad terms though, unless you are very quick to learn all about managing and editing websites and all about WordPress then you will need to pay a web developer to do all this setup and assistance.
Find an audience and progress to a paid community
- setup a simple blog and a podcast, test the investor market, build up an email list of people who are interested in the information that you can gather
- try selling some one off information resources to these subscribers like a guide to mineral investing in Zimbabwe or a video series of interviews with mining company owners for example
- continue to establish yourself (and your team?) as experts in this field, people who have the local information and trusted sources
- get feedback from the subscribers about what information they need and whether they would like a website dedicated to that information and if they would pay for it
- continue creating content that can be used for the website, some of it could be used in email news to the subscribers
- build the audience of the email news and podcast, get interviewed on investor podcasts, find forums where investors chat and linkedin groups and get known as an expert
- if the feedback is favourable take prepayment deposits on the membership, offer a considerable discount for pre-purchase
- now you have the starting capital for the site setup and you have a willing audience waiting for your launch
- build the first version of the website and focus only on the topics and information that the subscribers are most interested in
- continue to grow the membership and the value of the resources on the site
If you have considerable financial backing to begin then you could accelerate this process but I think there is still a lot of value in testing the idea and getting a database of subscribers.
There are a number of excellent podcasts that I would think you could find helpful if you haven’t already been listening to them to help guide you in learning about online business such as:
- www.tropicalmba.com – online business
- foolishadventure.com – online business success
- www.freedomocean.com – online marketing and paid communities
- brightideas.co – email marketing and automation
- www.themcmethod.com – email marketing
That’s a lot to think about right. Keep reading, listening and learning.