A membership site is a business that provides gated content or services to customers, otherwise known as members. “Gated” content simply means the content is placed behind a paywall that allows the creator to limit access to certain individuals (those who’ve paid to be members).
While a membership site might initially seem ineffective in a world of free content, the opposite is actually true. People are tired of sifting through low-quality, unreliable content and would prefer to pay for authoritative, reliable information that’s simultaneously “exclusive.”
There are thousands of profitable membership websites on the internet. Some are in hot industries like marketing or health, while others are in niches like orchid care. And many generate six- or seven-figure revenue streams!
But not all membership sites are created equal. If you want to be successful, you have to plan ahead and execute with precision.
6 Principles of Successful Membership Sites
Successful membership sites do things much differently than your average membership site. Here are a few of the principles that set them apart:
They Create Real Value
There are a lot of membership sites claiming to do a lot of things, but only a small percentage actually creates real value for members.
You might be able to string members along for a couple of months, but they’ll eventually reach a point where they’re either receiving value or they’re not. The ones who feel like they’re getting the right amount of value in exchange for their membership fee will stick around. The rest will jump ship as soon as they can.
Study any successful membership site and you’ll see that they don’t blow smoke or make outlandish claims. They under-promise and over-deliver.
They Prioritize Current Members
In order to grow a membership site, you need to add new members. (This should be pretty obvious.) Unfortunately, this push for adding new members often causes entrepreneurs to neglect the members they already have – leading to frustrated individuals who feel like they’re taking a backseat to the newbies.
Want to keep your business healthy and growing? Always prioritize your existing members first. Only then can you seek to grow your numbers.
They Retain Members
Retaining members is arguably more important than adding new members. (You need both, but a failure to retain members will ultimately erode your membership site from the inside out.)
Good membership websites have a way of retaining members at a much higher rate than average membership sites. One of the ways they do this is by personalizing content for members to make them feel special.
“No matter how many members you have on your website, it’s important to keep the personal human element. We all love to feel seen and acknowledged as an individual and not just as ‘someone on your email list,’” Membership Works mentions. “The more personalized your content is, the more likely they will relate to it. And the more your members relate to it, the more likely they’ll keep subscribing to your website.”
It’s also smart to keep prices steady for your existing members. If you choose to increase rates, you should do so on new members only. Use grandfathered pricing to avoid frustrating your existing base. If you have to raise prices on everyone (in order to stay profitable), ease your way into it. (Incrementally raising the cost each month until you land on the new target price.)
They Don’t Get Stale
A good membership site must stay fresh. This means publishing fresh content on a daily or weekly basis. Plus, you should be adding new services and features – constantly innovating and experimenting. Some of these new features might flop, but your members will see the effort and reward you with loyalty.
They Build a Community
A membership site shouldn’t be about you and the member. The most successful sites cultivate a sense of community. They create environments where members can engage with one another and interact in meaningful ways. This sort of connectedness dramatically reduces their chances of leaving and increases their loyalty to the site/brand.
They Prioritize UX
Your membership site needs a clean look and pleasing aesthetic. Functionality should be smooth, pages should load fast, and the navigation must be intuitive. Prioritize user experience and your members will enjoy coming to the site over and over again.
Adding it All Up
Interested in launching your own membership site? Want to take your existing membership site to the next level? Success is found in the details. Do all of the small things right and people will respond in a manner that’s consistent with the value you provide.