How to Create a Membership Website
Online membership sites are an essential way to connect people with a common goal, but it can be challenging to get started. We have some tips.
Right now, creators around the globe are thinking about how they can bring together a group of people around a common goal or interest. And one of the best ways to do that is to create a membership site.
In the past, membership websites were looked at as a fringe business, but now they are booming. In our current moment, many people are looking for ways to connect with other people who have shared interests and aspirations.
In this article, we’ll show you a different approach to thinking about how to build a community site. So what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Choose a topic that’s important to people
If you’re thinking about how to create a membership website, then choosing a topic for people to rally behind is your first big step.
When you build a membership site around a topic or goal that’s important, people will invest their hard-earned money in joining you. Why? Because it turns out the best way to navigate uncertainty is by teaming up with other people to find creative solutions.
Think of the topic you choose as your group’s “big purpose.” It’s the glue that binds all of your members together and helps push them to achieve their goals together as a community.
If you’re still unsure of what your big purpose might be, we’ve got some ideas to get you started.
Career & professional membership sites
Every career path needs its own professional membership site that combines education, training, and networking.
Career and professional development are great topics to create a membership website around because they inherently bring people together and push them to achieve their goals. With each new member comes more value in the form of experience, perspective, and networking opportunities.
The kinds of questions a virtual community of fellow professionals can uniquely tackle together include:
- What are new challenges on the horizon and what new opportunities are there to pursue?
- How will our companies change and how can we be ready in advance of those changes?
- Where are the biggest needs for our skill sets? What’s become obsolete?
- Are there ways that we could pool our resources or help lift each other for the benefit of all?
These questions don’t have easy or obvious answers. There’s no Google search you can do for them. And yet, they are essential to our income, sense of self, and ability to positively impact the world around us in good times and bad.
With a career-focused membership site, you can crowdsource answers to these questions and find creative solutions with a network of motivated and invested professionals on the same path.
Choosing to create a membership site to bring specific professionals together is not just about building a healthy business for yourself, but offering something essential to people at critical times.
Health, wellness & spirituality membership sites
Health, wellness, and spiritual practices are evergreen topics. No matter where someone is in their life, there is always room for self-reflection, finding inner peace, and achieving better health.
Think about the power of a guided community in helping you build a practice around daily meditation, create a better relationship with exercise or fitness, or get closer to your spiritual or religious purpose.
When you create a membership website business alongside a physical studio or in-person training workshop, you’re expanding who you can serve and, in turn, your income potential. You’re also creating something that’s more valuable to everyone with each new person who joins because you’re able to pull from a much wider, more diverse, and more interesting community of members.
Membership Sites for Other Important Interests
If personal finance, retirement savings, or cooking were important enough for a paid membership site before a recession, they are even more critical now.
And these topics aren’t the only ones.
There’s a whole host of areas where you can create a membership website to deliver information, support, and professional and personal networking that gets people results they couldn’t otherwise get on their own.
As you explore offering a membership site outside of career, health, wellness, or spiritual topics, ask yourself whether your topic is important right now and whether members will benefit by navigating this category together with other motivated people. If the answer is yes, you’ve got the right ingredients for a membership site.
Wait. Am I qualified to create a membership site?
Speaking of experts, you may be wondering if you can create a membership site if you are not an expert in your chosen topic.
The answer? Absolutely.
Your value as the creator of a membership site isn’t in your expertise or the expectation that you’re going to have the answers. It’s in your enthusiasm to set up the structure for you and your members to master something essential to you and them together.
When you look at any number of examples of membership sites, they aren’t led by experts. Instead, they’re spearheaded by people who followed their curiosity and connected people around an interest. In the process, they have created six-and seven-figure incomes via their membership sites.
If you’re drawn to a specific topic, it’s a good sign that you are more qualified than you think.
Step 2: Focus on a narrowly defined “ideal member”
Once you have a clear, motivating topic for your membership site, it’s natural to want to make it available to everyone.
This is a mistake.
Being too general in defining who your membership site serves is one of the fastest ways to fail before you even get off the ground.
Here’s how it happens: Because you’re passionate about your topic, you see clearly how it applies not just to, say, mobile app software product managers but to all technology company employees. And if that’s the case, then really, doesn’t it apply to all professionals inside and outside technology companies around the world?
What comes next is the question, “Why do I want to limit myself and the benefits of my membership to just mobile app software product managers when I can have thousands of members by going broader to all professionals?”
So, you create a membership site and start broad marketing to all professionals. Maybe you even run some ads on Facebook and Instagram to get the word out. But when you launch and one the days that follow no one shows up.
Sounds bad, right? Well, unfortunately, this often happens when you try to cast a wide net right off the bat.
When you look at membership sites that are thriving, what do they have in common? They each started with a very specific, clearly defined ideal member to serve first.
You want your initial members to see themselves quickly in your outreach and say, “Hey, that’s me!” This will make growing your membership site much easier and go faster.
What are the ways that you can narrow your initial ideal members? Here are a few starting ideas:
- How would you characterize them if you saw them walking down the street?
- Are your initial ideal members at the same life stage?
- Do they share a profession or aspire to a specific role or career?
- Do they come from a similar background or geographic location?
- What are their goals or motivation to join your membership site?
- Why aren’t they able to achieve these goals on their own?
Once you answer these questions, do interviews with people who you think could be your initial ideal members and listen to how they describe themselves and what motivates them. The insights you’ll get from these conversations will make a huge difference in successfully building a membership site.
Step 3: Choose a software platform with the best member benefits to deliver your membership site
Today, there’s a new breed of modern community platforms that have emerged to deliver a much more natural and integrated membership website experience than in the past. These platforms allow you to build sleek websites with powerful features without the need for custom development.
The leader in this new category of membership site software is Mighty Networks. An alternative to a Wix website or Shopify eCommerce store, a Mighty Network is a website builder expressly made to deliver membership websites, online courses, and community together all in one place, under your brand, and instantly available on every device–web, iOS, and Android.
With a Mighty Network, you have member profiles and direct messaging, as well as a ton of flexibility to build your member benefits and tiers with:
- Exclusive content delivered via organized topics and beautiful rich-media articles just like you’d find on WordPress.
- Exclusive groups & paid memberships that can function as “mastermind” or coaching groups with more personalized or intensive instruction, feedback, problem-solving, and accountability, typically at a higher subscription tier.
- Online courses that structure content into a step-by-step program alongside the option of a dedicated course community.
- Events that can live within groups or online courses.
- An overall community that makes it easy for members to consume each of these elements while connecting to other members.
As new solutions like a Mighty Network emerge with more frequency today, it’s clear that the old, tired, content-heavy approach to launching a membership site on WordPress and a Facebook group is no longer your only option.
In this new model, your prospective members may show up for you, your content, or your online courses, but they stay because their connections with other members get them the best results.
Step 4: Pick your starting price
Now that you’ve chosen a modern membership site software platform like a Mighty Network, you have more membership benefits to offer beyond content alone.
Between online courses, smaller mastermind groups, live events via video conferencing, and even an optional 1:1 coaching tier, you are ready to think about what you charge for your membership site and the member benefits you will offer as part of it.
There are three key principles to keep in mind when choosing a starting price for your membership site:
If you are starting from scratch, keep it simple and just offer one level.
While you may be tempted by all of the membership tiers you could create when you start a membership site, pick something simple and make it valuable. Consider what will make your members successful in what they want to achieve, and focus here first.
As you build this initial high value tier, remember that it’s not about content, an online course, or even your own coaching time alone. Your community and the connections you will make between members will likely end up being the reason your people achieve the results and transformation in their career, health, and wellness, or other important interests they want.
Price it at what it’s worth (which is typically more than you initially think).
When the motivation for your membership site is strong, the ideal member you’re serving is specific, and your member benefits tie to a bigger purpose in their lives, you’ve dramatically increased the likelihood that you’re going to get people results that they can’t get on their own.
This is extraordinarily valuable to people.
And by being valuable to people, it means you can charge more money than you’re probably comfortable with. We think about it as “pricing at a premium,” which is when you charge at least $299 per year or offer a one-time fee of no less than $499.
When you’re ready to add membership tiers, it’s easier to move “down” than “up.”
It is always easier to start high and surround your members with a lot of support and benefits than pull back features for lower priced tiers.
When you start a membership site with limited benefits at a low price and then try to move “up market,” it’s much harder to tell what people need to be successful, which drives how high of a price they’ll pay.
Rather, start your membership tier(s) packed with value and goodness and charge a premium. You’ll learn the most this way and get your initial members the best results, which is easier to adjust and build on over time.
Step 5: Recruit your first members
Now that you have done the work to create a membership site, it’s time to recruit your first members to your new membership site.
For a variety of reasons (especially related to the way that Facebook and Instagram make their advertising money), don’t assume you’re going to put your membership site out there and see it go viral.
Instead, set a modest goal for your number of members out of the gate and work your personal and professional networks to recruit those people. Because you are pricing at a premium ($299 or more per year), you can set up a membership site with 10 or even 15 people and still make the financial return worthwhile.
Let’s do the math: If you can get 10 people to pay you $299 per year, that’s $2,999. And if you can do that, then there’s no reason you won’t be able to get 20 people, then 30 people, then 100 people to pay you the same over the next few months.
If you have an email list or social media following, recruiting your first members is pretty straightforward. You can start with an email campaign and post regularly about your membership site on social media.
If you are building a membership site for the first time without a following or email list, start by reaching out over email, text, or the phone to your professional or personal network to recruit members. Tell folks what you’re building and who it’s for. Then, ask for nominations or recommendations of people who would benefit from it the most.
Bonus step: keep experimenting after you launch
The choices that you make when you create a membership website aren’t set in stone. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try new things.
A network of people mastering a topic together creates the fastest path to new solutions, creative problem solving, and uncovering previously hidden opportunities when the rules change overnight.
If you think that you can pre-plan everything, build a bunch of content, and kick back then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. The ideas you had when you first decided to build a membership website probably won’t be the perfect solution after you launch. That’s okay! In fact, experimenting with how you create content and interact with members is the fun part.
The most successful creators of membership sites treat their jobs like detective work. They love to ask questions and listen to their members (or ideal members before they have any); experiment with new benefits to see what works, and reframe what doesn’t work into a new set of questions that help them get more specific about who they serve.
It’s time to create a membership website
We’ve made it to the end of the article, but now is the most important step: actually getting started. These steps should give you a clear guide for how to create a membership website, as well as some of the pitfalls you can run into.
If you’re curious, motivated, and ready to prioritize working smarter over harder, you have something important to bring to the world right now.
We can’t wait to see what you create.
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