Choosing Your Membership Platform
Membership marketing and subscription sales is a strategy that uses a web site platform to promote business. A membership platform is simply the type of membership website you intend to use to offer your business service and / or goods, whether it's free or paid as well as how you plan to deliver the goods and communicate with your subscribers.
To begin, there are many different options available to you and depending on how you attract business from your market you will determine what membership platform and its options is likely to work best to achieve your sales goals.
Keep in mind that it is important to thoroughly evaluate the platform that your competitors may be using. The obvious reason for this is that people get used to certain things and not everyone adapts easily to change.
If subscribers are used to logging into a traditional membership platform, where they enter in their username and password to access content on a monthly basis, you might want to stick to this format, simply because it will save you a lot of time and work explaining how a new concept or format works to the same subscriber base.
That does not mean that your actual content or your overall sales sequence process should be a replicated version of a competitive company's site. What we are talking about now though, is in evaluating the layout and platform of competitive sites, such as if they are offering a free membership site with upgrades, a traditional site, and so on.
For now, let's take a quick look at the different formats that are most common within the membership industry:
Traditional Login & Access Format
This is where a subscriber creates an account, chooses a username and password (or your system assigns one automatically to them), and then logs into a protected members area where they can download or view restricted content. This material is available only to paid members, and subscribers are able to pay for access on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, etc.)
These types of membership sites have no end date, they can continue for many years to come provided that the content continues to be updated. This is by far, the most popular platform for membership based sites online.
Fixed Term Membership Format
A fixed term membership site typically only runs for a specific period of time before terminating. With a fixed term, members can either pay a flat fee to access the entire length of the membership site, or they can choose to pay in specific intervals (6 months, 12 months, etc). This works best for sales markets where developing orgoing content or products may be difficult, or for membership webmasters who are more interested in creating a batch of content or products that recycles, rather than having to consistently create new material, new products or service updates.
You can also choose to run your fixed term membership sites using auto responder services, eliminating the need for cost membership software. In fact, just by using an email marketing program like AWEBER you can create your short term membership site and set your content to be delivered automatically through your auto responder service.
Email based Membership Format
This is where you use an auto responder service, like Aweber mentioned above, to power and run your own membership program. You can choose a fixed rate / term format, or even a traditional membership site, provided that you consistently add new material to your outgoing email sequences.
Using the email based membership format, you can get started reliably quickly and easily just by subscribing to a reliable auto responder service and injecting a series of emails set to be delivered on specific times and dates, as each subscriber signs up for your service. The down side to an email based membership site however, is that it is often harder to create a community feel to your membership site, which can be a huge benefit in retaining subscribers.
If a member joins your website and meets other subscribers and becomes used to constant interaction via a community forum or private area, they are far more likely to log in regularly and stay subscribed in order to continue gaining access.
If you do decide to use the email based membership format, consider offering your subscribers with an additional bonus of being able to access a private members only area. This area could feature a private forum or chat area that allows your subscribers to interact with one another as well as with you directly.
There are benefits to many of the different membership formats we've just covered. With traditional membership sites, the benefits are in being able to build an ongoing community, where you can build and grow a solid base of customers on an ongoing basis.
With fixed rate / term membership sites, the benefits are in the simplicity of its set up. You only have to create a specific batch of content that recycles as new members join and previous subscriptions expire after each member has received the material.
Regardless of the format you choose, you will want to make sure that you have the following check list of items prior to launching your membership site:
Ready Made Content
This is where you either have 2-3 months of content available to members right away, either by allowing access to all of it instantly, or the current months content available with two months of archives being sold as an upgrade. You could fill your membership site with fresh material using reports, articles, interviews, audios, videos, ebooks, graphic packages and so on.
Bonus Packages and Special Offers
Provide your members with a combination of bonuses, whenever possible. Once again, these should be exclusive to your website and relevant to your topic, service or product line. You should have at least one unadvertised bonus package featured within the member's center. This is to be a package not listed on the sales page and not advertised elsewhere. This is where you over-deliver and give them more than they thought they were paying for. This will help address buyer's remorse immediately after someone subscribes to your website.
1-2 Back End Products
You want to be able to squeeze every dime out of your membership site, and in order to that, you need to create 1-2 back end products that can serve as upgrades, add-ons or special 'member only' deals. You want to present this to your subscriber immediately after they join your site, and are still in buying mode. Make sure to create a simple process where they can either upgrade their membership account to gain access to extended downloads, or they can simply purchase directly, using a digital delivery processor to ensure that the content is sent independently to each member who elects to purchase it .
Important Membership System Characteristics (Elements)
After choosing your membership format, you will need to determine exactly how you intend to deliver your content, service, products and material to paid subscribers. If you elect to go with an email based membership site, then all of your content will be sent through your auto responder service. But for material products, a traditional delivery service will be needed, and it is possible to integrate the shipping process with your web site, ie UPS tracking, USPS tracking, delivery charge calculator, etc. With traditional based membership platforms however, you will want to choose a scalable, solid membership based software program that will make it easier to manage and grow your own consumer community.
A few things to keep in mind when evaluating potential software or scripts that will power your front and back-end, is that you need to be able to control every aspect of your community, including:
1) Time Release Content
Also known as trickle-feed delivery, you will want to be able to ship or deliver content on specific intervals, rather than all at once. The reason should be obvious, if a subscriber is able to gain access to all of your informational content immediately after joining, there is very little motivation to stay subscribed to your service.
So, with information based service or content, you want to be able to control the delivery flow so that a new subscriber is only able to gain access to a specific content package, or if you are running your membership site on a monthly basis, you would want only content from the first month of joining to be visible to each subscriber.
2) Content Management System
Unless you are proficient with HTML and coding a website yourself, you should look for a software solution that offers a built in content management system. This way, you can create pages directly from within your administration panel without hiring a webmaster programmer.
If you are interested in simplifying this process, you could consider using a WordPress based website, where you can plug-in membership protection while reaping the benefits of using a ready-made free solution to building feature rich websites.
3) Auto Responder Integration
Whether you choose to Incorporate an email based membership site into your program or not, you will want to be able to add every subscriber to a mailing list. That way, you can follow-up each time you update your site but more importantly, be able to build a profitable backend system that offers additional upgrades, content packages, one time offers and special downloads.
4) Full Scale Affiliate Program
In order to jump-start your membership site and power it up with fresh subscribers and attract targeted traffic from prospective consumers, you absolutely need to integrate an affiliate program into your business plan and website so that both guests and members can earn commissions by referring them friends as new members to your business. Tell-a-Friend social technologies, such as Facebook, are an exceptional method of generating fresh leads on a regular basis, while taking your online business to a whole new level of increased sales. There is no other method of maximizing exposure that even comes close to what an active affiliate army can do for your business.
Membership Software Options
With membership sites, you need to automate as much of the process as possible, freeing up your time and resources. When it comes to membership software, there are many options to choose from, with some ranging from simple processes, to others that offer a full-scale, all in one solution. If you can afford to, you should consider one of the more feature-laden solutions, so that you can offer an enhanced, well-managed community for your subscribers. These features would include:
- Managing archives and protecting content.
- Releasing content at pre-set times.
- Extended administrative options and control.
- The ability to offer upgrade packages and add ons.
- Allow you to create various levels (Gold, Silver, etc)
- Managing subscribers, access, updates.
- Auto responder integration options.
- Forum integration options.
- Built in affiliate program management
Membership marketing and subscription sales is a strategy that uses a web site platform to promote business. A membership platform is simply the type of membership website you intend to use to offer your business service and / or goods. This article has described some important membership platform options. By choosing and implementing one of these membership marketing platforms, you can attract and enroll subscribers willing to pay each month, automatically by credit card, regular fees in exchange for access to your resource of products, services, and information. This is a reliable method to produce residual cash flow into your business enterprise.