Your website isn't just a tool that helps build your business, with these membership site examples you'll see that a carefully crafted website can be a business in itself.
One of the best ways to increase your income (without working more hours for dollars) is to set up a membership site platform.
A membership site becomes the hub of your online training, allows your fans to connect more, and gives you a community of fans to ask for input, information, and questions.
When done well, it can provide an amazing source of recurring revenue for your online business.
Table of Contents
- Membership Site Examples – By Type Of Members Area
- 1. Membership Sites For Online Courses
- 2. Online Communities
- 3. Host Evergreen Content Inside Your Membership Site
- Free or Paid Membership Sites?
- Designing Your Membership Site
- Got a great example of a membership site?
Membership Site Examples – By Type Of Members Area
There are several different types of membership sites. Each works slightly differently.
We're sharing the main three types of members area… but the one you choose will be determined by the unique needs of your business.
Designing a professional looking membership site can take time and investment, but the returns are well worth it.
1. Membership Sites For Online Courses
In an online course, you offer unique content to your students through a confidential “protected” online area.
Students can create their own accounts by invitation, then access the site at their leisure.
Workbooks, course videos, and other content can be uploaded, then viewed when it's convenient for your students. Since it's account-based, you control who can access the material.
You can also set up message boards for members who want to interact in a secure, private environment.
The AccessAlly WordPress plugin is helpful for creating this style of online class membership site.
We go into more detail on delivering online courses in our successful membership site case study post.
2. Online Communities
Community forums give your fans the opportunity to interact with one another – and with you. It taps into a desire that most consumers have on some level: direct contact with the person in charge of the business.
You can create an online community as a hub of information for new fans of your business or interest. It's also a great chance for old, loyal fans to interact and share their knowledge.
Use this community to share “sneak peeks” of upcoming releases, offer members-only discounts, or discuss issues with your fans.
The best part of an online community is that over time, it becomes much more self-moderating. Older members naturally begin to step up to enforce the rules, answer simple questions that they've seen over and over again, and start discussions of their own.
The downside? You have to have a fairly substantial online fan base in order for an online community to do you any good. The point is interaction, and if you don't have enough people to interact, members will find something else to do with their time.
Pro tip: You can also host live coaching calls or group training calls inside your members area, to help keep the interactivity high.
Should You Use a Facebook Group Or A Forum Plugin?
One of the most common questions I get asked by business owners who are creating a community along with their membership site is whether to keep the community inside your members area using a forum, or to host it on something like Facebook.
I've learned over the years that it helps to go where your people are. In my case, that means having our community interaction mainly held on a private Facebook group.
But if your audience does not use Facebook at all, having a forum inside your members area might be a better fit. Although, there are more and more people joining Facebook every day – so I really think that Facebook groups are a natural place for many people to host their community engagement.
3. Host Evergreen Content Inside Your Membership Site
Do you want your members to keep returning to your membership site… but find yourself scratching your head when it comes time to create new content?
Consider an “evergreen” setup that will allow members access to more content over time. It will keep them coming back and give you the opportunity to share more products with them, but doesn't require as much effort or maintenance on your part.
You can easily build this type of unlocking content using AccessAlly's automation features.
Free or Paid Membership Sites?
If you want to increase your income with a membership site, the obvious choice would seem to be a paid membership.
Even a small monthly or annual fee will keep the money rolling in that “recurring revenue” way, right?
Ultimately, however, the decision about whether you prefer to offer a free or paid membership site will depend on the content and benefits that you offer to your members–and you might discover that there are significant benefits to offering free membership.
1. Starting A Paid Membership Site
Paid membership sites charge a small monthly or yearly fee for access to premium content. You can also offer to unlock content in a course on a one-time fee basis, and just host your premium content inside a members only area.
A paid membership model also tends to keep out people who aren't genuinely interested in the product you're offering, which means that you have better odds of maintaining a productive community.
Obviously, the key benefit of paid membership sites is that you can keep adding members to increase your monthly or yearly recurring income. One thing to keep in mind is that there is built in turnover or churn, so not everyone who joins will stay on forever. Because of this, you'll want to build in continuous marketing into your business plans to attract new members.
2. Running a Completely Free Membership Program
Free membership sites have their own unique advantages. First, they're available to anyone who wants to look in on what you're doing.
In some cases, having access to that content will convince people that they want to take advantage of the products and services you're offering. In fact, there's a whole strategy behind this method, called the Login Optin™ Strategy. (You can learn about it here.)
Also, think about the type of people who are likely to be interested in joining your community. Are they people who are young? Students? Elderly individuals who might be on a fixed income? What about stay at home parents, who often sacrifice a second income in order to be able to stay at home with their families?
All of these individuals will be more likely to take part in your community if they don't have to pay membership fees to make that possible.
3. For Best Results Offer a Mix Of Paid and Free Content
It doesn't have to be all or nothing. There's a compromise between “free” and “paid.” You can offer an open area of your membership site and a closed area that is only available to people who pay the fee.
Offering free memberships as prizes and giving free memberships to older fans that you've noticed falling away from the community are also options that take the best of both worlds.
This is exactly what we do with our free 30 Day List Building Challenge. Anyone can join for free, and access the full 30 days of training videos and downloads… and at the same time, they'll be shown other great courses and options that they can upgrade to.
Designing Your Membership Site
The first step to the perfect membership site? Taking the plunge. If you have an active fan base or online following, the first thing you need to do is ask your audience what they want from you.
At first, it might seem intimidating, especially if your online community will require you to produce content regularly.
Here's the thing you have to remember: you don't have to produce a year's worth of content overnight, nor do you have to come up with the idea for every tutorial or training you're going to produce in the first month that your community is up and running.
You'll have plenty of time to come up with ideas.
The more you produce, the more you'll be able to think of.
Feeling stuck? That's when your online community is there to help!
Ask members to tell you what kind of content they're interested in seeing, then produce it. It's that simple!
If you're looking for a guide to build your membership site successfully, then consider hiring one of our AmbitionAlly Certified Partners to help you get going.
Plus, with AccessAlly on your site – you'll be well ahead of the curve on the design of your membership site!
The next step? Developing the first part of the community. Consider offering a “testing” membership for free or at an extremely reduced price to a number of individuals that you know are an active part of your current fan base. Give them a sneak peek at the action while you're developing the community.
Let them know up front that they're part of your testing group: you're still working out the kinks and figuring out how this is going to work, but you want them to come in on the ground floor and help you figure this out.
From there, market, market, market! Use your social media accounts and current website to seek out people who will be interested in your new community. Offer them a peek of what you're offering. Then tailor your community to the needs of its members and watch it thrive!
Got a great example of a membership site?
Creating an online membership site is a wonderful way to interact with your fans, engage with people who care about your products, and deliver an amazing learning experience. (Especially when you pair your membership site with AccessAlly Pro!)
The type of membership site you design is up to you… but the sky is the limit when it comes to the people you can reach. Take the plunge and see what you can accomplish!
Leave a comment below with your favorite membership site examples, so we can check 'em out!