About 2 years ago, if you frequented any of the Internet Marketing forums, you would have thought membership sites were the next best thing to sliced bread. People claimed to be making money hand-over-fist from these types of sites and they were popping up all over the Internet in every niche imaginable. Here it is, 2 years later, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one. Well, there is one that I know of, and I’ll cover it in a minute. But, for now, just keep in mind that it is very possible to make darn good money with your own membership site – if you do it the right way.
Isn’t that always the way, though? The number of different methods you can use to make money online is infinite and someone comes up with a new idea every minute of the day. The problem is, they’re generally in such a rush to go to market and start raking in the money that they don’t take the time to make sure they’re providing a quality product. And that’s exactly what happened with most of those membership sites that were created 2 years ago – everybody wanted to be the first to get to market, so nobody worried about what they were actually marketing or how they were marketing it.
There are some excellent membership sites out there that survived this rush-to-market chaos. One, The Niche Blogger Membership Site, has been around for more than 3 years and its membership number still continues to grow. Using that site as an example, and taking a lesson or two from my own experiences with membership sites, I’m going to tell you what it takes to make money online with your own membership site.
What is a Membership Site?
Membership sites can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them but basically, they’re a way to lock in steady income. Generally, they’re set up to charge a repeat fee – whether it’s weekly, monthly or annually depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. In exchange for that fee, the member has access to some product, service or information. As long as they continue to make the payments, they keep that access.
If you belong to a Sam’s Club then you’re a member of an offline membership club. As long as you continue to pay the annual fee for your card, you can continue to shop in those stores. But if you stop paying the fee, you don’t have access to the store. Membership sites are also sometimes referred to as Subscription sites because, like a magazine subscription, you only get access to the site if you continue to pay the subscription fee.
The benefit of having a membership site is that you have a recurring monthly income from the membership fees. They also provide you with a captive audience for promoting back-end products and up-sell offers. And, if you do it right, you only have to set the site up once and then periodically add some new content. Membership sites are an excellent way to generate residual income – if you do it right!
Those earlier membership sites that I mentioned failed for two reasons:
- Membership Turnover: The attention span of the average Internet user is comparable to that of my Pomeranian – almost non-existent. Most users drop off of membership sites after only 3 months – unless you’re doing it RIGHT. And most Internet marketers don’t. So they’re constantly spending all their time promoting their site, trying to dig up new members when they should really be concentrating on quality. Sure, you can charge them an annual fee, but that’s risky, too. Charge too much and you won’t have any takers. And you’re also giving them a whole year to demand their money back.
- Quality of Content: And that’s the second reason those sites all failed. Actually, it’s the main reason. Most marketers were so dazzled by dollar signs that they didn’t really pay any attention to the content they were putting on their membership sites. If they had, they wouldn’t have had to worry about losing and replacing members.
There were sites charging $17 a month for access to PLR products that had been floating around the Web for 5 years already, sites where all they did was drip out a bunch of YouTube How-To videos – that ANYONE could go to YouTube and access for free, even sites that consisted of nothing other than a forum and a blog about How To Make Money Online – all done by some guy who was living in his car at the time … because he didn’t know how to make money online!
The Internet is a huge marketplace and there’s lots of competition out there. If you’re going to ask someone to give you $17 every month then you darn well better give them one heck of a product and it needs to get bigger and better every month if you want to hold their attention.
OK, now that we’ve covered the who, what, when, where and why, let’s talk about the how.
How can you make money online with a membership site?
Be Unique – I think I mentioned earlier that the Internet is a very big place. These days, you can find nearly everything you’re looking for on the Web – and if you know how to search well enough you can generally find it for free, or close to it. Unless you’re already one of the big name bloggers with a following that numbers in the millions you are not going to be successful setting up a membership site in the make money online niche. It’s been done – over and over again.
To get people to pay you a subscription fee every month and keep them coming back for more you need to offer a unique product or service and you need to over deliver the goods. Your first thought shouldn’t be what kind of a membership site can I create because just about any site has that potential. Your first thought should be – Gee, I have this great site with a huge, loyal following. How can I turn this into an exclusive membership site? What can I add to this site that would entice my readers to pay me a monthly fee?
This is how Amy Bass started out with her Niche Blogger Membership site. In the beginning, she had a great blog with a strong following. Looking for a way to increase her income on that blog, she decided to add a membership site, along with a forum, and teach people how to be niche bloggers.
But she couldn’t ask them to pay a monthly membership fee for the same information they’d been getting for free on her blog so she had to look for ways to give her readers more, to entice them to subscribe.
The reason The Niche Blogger Memebership site is so successful is because Amy drips out monthly content, including daily articles and videos, and it takes you an entire year to complete her course. I’m not going to bore you with details but suffice it to say – this woman raised the bar on over delivering! She also updates her content on an ongoing basis to stay current with the market and she has an active forum in which she herself participates. Members have the option of paying $20 per month for a year or paying one flat fee that gives them lifetime access to her site.
How can you make this work for your own membership site?
Take a lesson from Amy. Yes, she competes in the make money online niche but she’s definitely not a newbie and she already had a strong following before she set up the site.
But the keywords are Quality of Content, Uniqueness and Over Deliver.
If you can think outside the box a little you’ll see that it’s pretty easy to add a membership upgrade to just about any blog or website, whether you’re selling a product or a service. Most Internet marketers have some type of Special Offer tied to each of their sites – some have multiple up and down-sells. Create an offer than can be dripped out over 6 months or a year. Just adding the words “… and for the next YEAR you’ll receive…” to your sales page will help increase your conversions.
If you’re a service provider, think about setting up a subscription service for your clients. Charge your clients a set fee every month for an exclusive package of services. They don’t realize it but what your clients are actually paying for is a guaranteed spot on your calendar. In exchange, you’re getting a guaranteed income.
A membership site can be something as simple as charging a monthly fee for a new website template every week or a weekly newsletter. So, my challenge to you is to take a look at your most successful website or blog and ask yourself what you could do that would enable you to make money online with your own membership site. And report back here in the comments!