Business Ideas: Building a Membership Program

Image of Key for MembershipLast month we looked at using letter.ly as the focus of a business idea that I shared with you.

Have you tried it?

Today I have another business idea that I think you’ll enjoy. Just as the letter.ly strategy was lightweight and easy to implement, this idea is similar (but with a more robust offering).

This may not be revolutionary but my plan drills down to the “how-to” of implementation. I did this because concrete examples are what I look for when learning strategies.

My guess is you do as well.

Let’s dig in.

The membership program

We’re talking about a paid access community. You continue to produce high-quality content and only those who pay your monthly fee have access to it. Be it video, audio or text the content is selectively (or collectively) protected by a pay wall.

You may even opt to raise the monthly fee to newcomers later on due to the increasing value of your added resources.

If you’re a life coach, personal development advisor, social media consultant, business coach, green thumb gardener or even software expert this strategy may be for you. Any topic that requires specialized knowledge with a challenging learning curve is fair game here (and bonus if you can interview other subject matter experts in your industry).

Phase 1: Business Tool Kit

The following lists the tools I suggest to implement this strategy:

  • A WordPress website. You’re going to want to use WordPress as your website platform. It’s free and easy to install from the cPanel of your HostGator hosting. I’m an affiliate of HostGator and will be paid if you purchase using my link. But I do use their service and highly recommend them. You can register an inexpensive domain name at Namecheap.com after you’ve picked one out.
  • Aweber email marketing. You’ll want to give away a free product of some sort to build your list of email subscribers. An email list is an asset; regardless of search engine algorithmic changes you will always have this list of people to contact directly. Again, I’m an affiliate and satisfied user of Aweber so if you purchase from the above link provided I get paid.
  • Profits Theme: This is a theme (of which I’m a paid affiliate) that allows you to create your squeeze page (collects email addresses), sales page, membership site with drip-fed content and it allows for Aweber integration. In terms of an all-in-one solution, this is great. No need to bolt on expensive and complicated membership software as it protects content right out-of-the-box.
  • Facebook Profile and Page: This is the norm these days. At the very least establish a basic profile page for your new project and consider creating a Facebook Page (see video near end of article) later.

Here is a video overview of the Profits Theme. You’ll see how dummy proof they’ve made it to set up the different types of public and membership pages.

 

 

 

Phase 2: Build Your Business

First off, you’ll need to create your white paper, eBook, video or any other ethical bribe you’re going to offer your email subscribers.

I’m referring to the “gift” people receive in exchange for handing you their email address. You can make this as simple as a how-to paper on a relevant topic or a tell-all eBook.

Use the links in Phase 1 above to register your own accounts at each service listed. There are plenty of other service providers you can use but I’m not about overwhelming you with options; I researched quality providers for you.

What you’ll then do is create your squeeze page in Profits Theme and integrate your Aweber sign-up form. All the traffic that you push to your membership program will first enter this page so take special care to get your headline, ad copy, and design/layout done correctly.

(If you get stuck at this point, then I will help you out.)

It won’t be perfect the first time out. You’ll want to test different formats of the opt-in page but do take your time to get the headline and language that your target customers use spot on.

Here’s the flow – your new lead does the following:

  • Finds your squeeze page and signs the opt-in giving you their email address
  • They receive/download your gift
  • Sees your affiliate promotions embedded within your gift (optional)
  • Follows links to your sales letter page; also linked to from within the opt-in gift
  • Lands on the sales letter page and commits to paying you tons of money every month :)

Then you bring your A-game making sure the content behind your pay wall is top notch.

Since you’re using Aweber and collecting email addresses; the folks who don’t bother to look over your material or join at first will still be on your list to receive promotions later. So, consider queuing up several pre-formatted emails to go out over the 30 days following sign-up.

Alternate content-rich emails with promotional ones that advertise your paid community. One way to structure your email sequence is three content sharing emails to every one that pushes your subscribers to a landing page or your sales letter page.

You can set up Profits Theme to drip-feed your content to members. So, ideally you’ll have content ready to go out before your first paying customer. How much content you have ready-made will depend on how long your program runs.

You don’t need to create an entire year of content upfront because once your members join, they’ll comment on the course material. This feedback will help structure future modules so listen closely to what the community tells you about where and when they experience the most pain.

Plus, things change. What is applicable today (depending on industry) may not be relevant 7 months from now. So most times it isn’t a set it and forget it strategy here.

It would be wise to make your program a mix of audio, video, and text-based learning. I’d advise you to implement all of the above simply because delivering content in a single form excludes people who learn best from a format you may not be providing.

But only you know if your content lends itself well to a multimedia approach and if that’s what your audience wants. Like I said, listen to the community.

Phase 3: Promote and Scale Your Business

You need traffic. Without that, your business idea is hosed. Where do you get it? Well, this is the classic snag for most of us but it doesn’t have to be so treacherous.

Consider allowing in a few close friends or fellow marketers as free charter members. These early members can help you tweak your content and offer input as to what your program lacks. You’ll want to ask them if you may use their testimonials for your sales letter page to encourage new members to join and if they’d share the good word with others about your program.

You could supercharge your promotional efforts by starting your own affiliate program. Give this article a read from e-junkie and see if their affiliate service(s) may be of use to you:

E-Junkie Affiliate Info

Then check out Clickbank to sell your product and score more affiliates. It’s a massive digital marketplace but many products there lack quality and authenticity (in my opinion). Stand out by being the refreshing, genuine marketer that you are:

Clickbank Marketplace

Facebook

Your Facebook profiles are another traffic stream. The Facebook Page you set up can share community news, snippets of newly released content (teasers), and push traffic back to your product squeeze page.

Pat Flynn released a current and thorough video on Facebook Page creation here:

 

 

If you can’t see the video then click here.

What about Facebook Ads? What about video marketing? Try both.

The video marketing part could be as simple as doing a screencast (blurring out private info) of your community back-end with you narrating over it plus a few Microsoft PowerPoint slides. Submit this video to video hosting sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler and Daily Motion.

Periodically release new videos and consider asking your members to share a video testimonial about their experience with your program. Share these video testimonials on your Facebook Page, video sharing sites, and on your membership sales page.

Your turn

So there’s your business idea. If you already have a site and process in place, great! This is still a strategy you can employ for any one-off communities or products that you release.

At the very least, the Profits Theme (affiliate link) will help you create a nice squeeze page for any product launch.

Please share this article with your Facebook and Twitter friends to help them kick their next idea into high gear.

What say you?

Photo: brenda-starr


31 Responses to Business Ideas: Building a Membership Program
  1. Mandy Allen
    April 27, 2011 | 1:34 pm

    Hi Jon, the theme looks very flexible and is a reasonable price for what it does. And I love the idea of being able to use it on numerous sites, most are a one site license. Very helpful video. I am currently creating my fan page so it was good to refresh my memory about the iframe process.

    Enjoy the journey.

    Mandy

    • Jon
      April 27, 2011 | 10:14 pm

      Hey Mandy!

      Yea, it’s a nice theme with some great extended functionality. Any time I can scoop up developer/multi-site licenses for great plugins or themes I normally do. Best wishes with your fan page, I’ll go take a look soon!

  2. Murray
    April 28, 2011 | 2:38 am

    Hey Jon,

    I actually have this in mind for two of my existing sites. Since going on vacation I haven’t touched Murlu much and I’ve been recently thinking about changing it up because it simply doesn’t seem that people want to take action with what’s offered.

    The problem, with free information, is that it’s just that … free. People just read to be entertained and then do nothing with it which is why you always see the same BS articles like Top 10 blah blah blah. Memberships are great because if you’re paying for something than you’re likely going to use the information.

    The other site is already established, ranking well with a hefty amount of traffic so I was thinking about turning a product into just a membership portion instead since it would let me expand into other ventures within the site.

    All in all, great information Jon. I’m still traveling for about 40 more days and will probably mull over the ideas as things go along.

    • Jon
      April 28, 2011 | 8:52 pm

      Hi Murray!

      Taking a break from your break to work? Hehe. Glad to see you here, yeah, I thought things were quiet over there. I hope all is going well with your travel.

      People appreciate being led and when there’s money on the line the perceived value of the locked information goes up. For some, their determination to apply what they learn also increases but there are always those who buy and shelf it. That’s okay. Anyway, you’re right – free is free.

      The “Top 10″ articles are great for SEO, link bait and sharing some value but applying what we read/watch/listen to is where it’s at. Thanks for taking the time from your travels to chime in :)

  3. Jane | SEO Blogs
    April 28, 2011 | 8:31 am

    Hey Jon,

    What a detailed plan. I love the explanation. Membership sites take care of recurring income and as you say it is quite important to update the information we offer at these sites to match day-to-day information and changes.

    Seems to be a great working plan. I will try out some bits of it.

    Cheers,
    Jane.

    • Jon
      April 28, 2011 | 8:57 pm

      Hey Jane,

      Best wishes with it, Jane. I wish you well and keep me updated on any plan of yours involving these or other strategies I cover. It would be great to see you taking advantage of these tips.

  4. Oliver Tausend
    April 28, 2011 | 8:54 am

    Hi Jonathan,

    I always enjoy your hype-free step-by-step instructions how to carry an idea into physical reality. It’s all about taking action, isn’t it ?

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Take care

    Oliver

    • Jon
      April 28, 2011 | 8:58 pm

      Oliver,

      It is ALL about taking action! Thank you for commenting and I’ll be sure to keep delivering ideas with instruction.

  5. Jeanine Byers Hoag @ Dressing My Truth
    April 28, 2011 | 4:14 pm

    Jon, this is a really good step-by-step tutorial for anyone wanting to set up a membership program.

    I have considered it in the past and I can see from what you’ve written that it wouldn’t be that hard. I will keep this post in mind if I do decide to create one at some point.

    • Jon
      April 28, 2011 | 8:29 pm

      Hey Jeanine,

      Thanks and I’m glad this is worth saving for later. Contact me any time if you want to talk shop about this.

  6. Janet @ The Natural Networker
    April 28, 2011 | 5:36 pm

    Jon, aloha. Terrific! Little did I know the other day when I made my comment about a continuity program that you would cover that topic in your next blog. Perfect.

    Jon, the flow in this post makes the creation look so easy. This post, along with many of your others, is now “living” on my computer for easy reference.

    When I am ready for this next step, “I’ll be back!”

    Best wishes for a terrific day. Aloha. Janet

    • Jon
      April 28, 2011 | 8:28 pm

      Janet,

      So great to know that we save each others work for future reference! Thanks for sharing your thoughts here and I appreciate your compliments.

  7. Jk Allen
    April 29, 2011 | 7:18 am

    Hey Jon,

    Again, you surprise me with your wealth of knowledge on making money online. And you further extend what I’ve considered as even possible. That’s awesome man!

    I had never heard of Profits Theme before this post, but I watched the video and it looks to be set up pretty well for flexibility.

    Thanks for continuing to enlighten us. You just don’t run out of ideas do you? It shows that you do your research and have lived it too. Thanks man! You know I’m always telling you I don’t make money money online, nor do I try – but you motivate me with each post. PEACE

    • Jon
      April 29, 2011 | 10:26 pm

      Hi Jk,

      You have your own thing going on at The Hustler’s Notebook and it’s getting lots of eyes on it. I’m sure when you’re ready and willing you’ll put together a solid product. One that your own audience will likely suggest they want without you even asking!

      Thanks for the respect, Jk. The motivational nudge is mutual.

  8. Danny @ Firepole Marketing
    April 29, 2011 | 9:10 am

    Hey Jon, this is a great idea, and it is the backbone of Firepole Marketing (with our coaching program).

    One thing, though – it’s a lot more work than people sometimes think; Peter and I spent over 2,500 hours putting our training program together…

    • Jon
      April 29, 2011 | 10:22 pm

      Danny,

      Thanks for being honest and speaking from experience. Yes, it takes work. The steps and tools are fairly straightforward but there are a lot of moving parts to this strategy. A lot of things require your attention from product inception to completion and through to marketing that you won’t fully appreciate (or expect) until you’re waist-deep in them :)

  9. Hi Jon,

    I have heard of different people doing this, or wanting to at some level. The concept of my blog isn’t suited for paid content, since the content is there to entertain people who stop in and browse around my “store”. It’s more like a retail store you would find at the mall with a slightly different twist. I know that if I went to the mall, and a store charged me to come in the front door, I probably just wouldn’t come in. Great information for many people, though.

    Lou

    • Jon
      April 29, 2011 | 10:16 pm

      Lou,

      Great to have your input here, Lou. Some people just won’t pay for admittance no matter the cost. Others buy up everything in sight thinking the next big thing will solve all their problems. I like the membership model but I’d prefer to seed a community and get beta testers first; then open it up to the public later. However, with a compelling sales letter I’m sure the PPC pros out there could simply drive paid traffic and let the copy work its magic (1-2% conversion maybe).

      Thanks for your insight.

  10. Jayne Kopp
    April 29, 2011 | 11:44 am

    Jon, I feel the advice here will be incredibly interesting for those who need friendly step by step help in getting set up. You have made some incredible suggestions here.

    It does take work, but anything rewarding in life does… so following your suggestions will definitely make it that much easier.

    I really appreciate the FB Video… I will be back soon as I have not taken that step yet, so I really appreciate you posting this here for me (and others) to refer to).

    Thanks,

    Jayne

    • Jon
      April 29, 2011 | 10:18 pm

      Jayne,

      Yep, there’s that four-letter word again: work. It takes work and dedication but perseverance and strategy win this game.

      I’m happy to be of assistance with the shared video. Come back for a refresher any time :)

  11. Susanna Hess
    April 29, 2011 | 5:16 pm

    Wow Jon,

    Being the partner of a memebership site, I know exactly how valuable the info in this post is. You have packed a ton of value in right here!

    This would have been great to read a few months ago… ;)

    Way to bring it!

    Susanna

    • Jon
      April 29, 2011 | 10:06 pm

      Hi Susanna,

      Thank you for backing me up here and I’m glad that you value it especially considering you are speaking from experience. I hope all is going smoothly with your membership community.

  12. Marcus Baker
    April 30, 2011 | 7:14 pm

    Hi Jon,

    You have come up with a clear and awesome step by step approach to getting this done.

    For anybody about to do this I would highly recommend they follow exactly what you teach.

    Will share this with my followers as I am sure one or more will be able to use this information.

    ~Marcus

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:50 pm

      Marcus,

      I appreciate you sharing this, MB. These take time to write out and I would be quite pleased to hear of someone implementing an idea or two they found here and having success with it. Thank you for commenting.

  13. Jym Tarrant
    May 1, 2011 | 8:22 pm

    Excellent post Jon.

    You’ve provided a really good description of a working marketing funnel, even one which doesn’t have the paid program within it.

    Of course, as you develop credibility and a following, it’s a great idea to monetize by having paid levels of access as well as free ones.

    Definitely support the use of AWeber, though I haven’t heard of the Profits theme until now.

    Thanks mate, awesome and valuable stuff as always!
    Cheers,
    Jym

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:48 pm

      Hi Jym,

      Thank you for your thoughts. Aweber makes me happy; I’ve used it for multiple projects over the past 2-3 years and am satisfied. I’m glad you are as well. See you around, my friend.

  14. Peggy Baron
    May 2, 2011 | 11:48 am

    A very thorough overview, Jon.

    I’ve had/have 3 different membership models going and I’ve learned a lot from all 3. The 1st used EZCM and delivered the content weekly via the member’s email, the 2nd used DAP and Clickbank, and the current one uses JAM integrated with DLGuard and Aweber where content is delivered via email.

    The current membership is actually a backend offer when customers purchase my ebook. They can get the monthly paid newsletter at a very low price. The newsletter is also offered as a stand-alone at a higher price. I make sales of both, thanks to affiliates promoting.

    #3 has been very successful from a conversion standpoint as well as a customer satisfaction standpoint. It’s information that expands on what was in the ebook and really concentrates on giving marketing info that applies to this particular customer.

    Also, I’m really enjoying writing them because it makes me want to bring my A game, learn new things myself, and allows for customer input into the shaping of the newsletter.

    That said, I have much more to do regarding promotion. Thanks for the tips!

    Peggy

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:47 pm

      Peggy,

      Look at you, you’re a machine! So great to hear that you’re shipping quality, have affiliates, and your paid community is headed deeper into the funnel. Great work, Peggy, and I think we should be paying more attention to your lead!

  15. Sadia Komal
    May 11, 2011 | 1:24 am

    Nice idea, i like you replied each comment, its your another technique to in touch with readers, nice blogging

    • Jon
      May 12, 2011 | 9:46 pm

      Thanks, Sadia. I think it’s important to acknowledge those who have taken the time to share their thoughts on the content here.

  16. [...] last time we added to our Business Ideas series around here was the membership site strategy using a premium WordPress theme and Facebook for [...]

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