A membership site will allow you to package and deliver different types of content.
Different people respond to different modalities. Survey your market to find out what content types will work best for your audience. To expand your reach, repurpose your content and offer it in multiple formats so people can consume the content in the format they prefer. You can select from a variety of content types - video, audio, text, pdf files etc.
A membership site will allow you to offer the same content in different modalities. You can, and you should repurpose your content. Some people prefer text content, while others may want downloadable audio so they don't have to be in front of their computer to consume the content.
What type of content do you plan on including in your membership site?
A product is nothing but a collection of content. Here's a list of different types of products that you can offer from your membership site:
As an entrepreneur, your knowledge and expertise are your biggest assets.
An information product will allow you to share your knowledge with your audience in a variety of ways. You can package and sell information in many different formats:
- Downloadable files
- Online courses
- Subscription-based web sites
The key is that you're taking the knowledge in your head -- and turning that into a product that can solve a specific problem in a step-by-step way, for your target audience. An information product can be in any format you want (text, audio, video, pdf etc), but regardless of the format, the goal is the same, and that is to help your audience achieve the outcome you promise. Also, compared to software products, information products are way more cheaper and easier to create. And there's very little financial risk with info products as you own the most important asset -- and that's your knowledge.
Start with something you're really good at, do the necessary market research to see if there's a demand for that topic and there's a gap that you can fill using your skills, knowledge, experience and expertise. With an information product, the main investment is your time. Of course, you need to spend money on things like hosting, wordpress theme, membership plugin, email marketing platform etc but the financial risk is minimal. Even if it does not work out, at least you wouldn't have lost a whole lot of money.
A passion without demand is just a hobby. You can't build a business around a hobby. People who want to create a business around what they are good at, and believe they can somehow create an audience for it and convince people to buy it, face the harsh reality when they open the doors to their membership site and no one shows up.
- Downloadable Resources
It could be PDF reports, eBooks, checklists, Word documents, Audio Podcasts, Zip files, Templates etc. Also when you create these resources, don't worry about the how long the report is because no one cares. Just focus on solving a specific problem with each piece of content and make sure it moves your audience forward in the right direction. You can offer it as a one-time paid product or use it as a free giveaway to build your list.
- Online Course(s) - audio, video or written content
An online course is a collection of content delivered in a specific order that leads to a specific result or outcome. Video courses most popular. You could use a mix of video, audio and text content to deliver your course. I'm using a mix of video and text to deliver this course.
If it's a video-based course, consider transcribing the videos (and also create an audio version) so your members can use the format of their preference to process your course content.
- Online Content - audio, video or text-based
You can create how to posts, training content, tutorials, blog posts, mind maps, news articles, action plan, execution plan etc and sell it for a one-time fee or offer it with your recurring membership. You can use video, audio, wordpress pages or posts to deliver your content online.
You could interview experts in your industry to talk about specific strategies or tips that you know would be beneficial to your members. Another great incentive for your members to stick around, especially if you do this on a regular basis - say every 6-8 weeks.
Your goal from the interview should be to get specific answers to specific questions that will help your members. Keep it short and laser focused on those specific questions. Don't go into the interviewee's life history. If the interviewee turns out to be more interested in plugging their product to your audience than offering real value, then don't publish the interview. You could even survey your audience in your Facebook group to get a list of questions that they want answered.
If you've a successful membership site, experts would be more than happy to be interviewed as it gives them more exposure and introduces them to a new audience. And it'll allow you to leverage the content for your membership site. It's a win-win for everyone.
- Case Studies
Case studies are real life examples of how your customers are using your products or services to accomplish their goals. Case studies will allow you to highlight your product and demonstrate how it has benefited your customers. When a customer says (and shows) how your product helped them with their goal, in their own words, it's far more relatable to your potential customers than you saying it.
Case studies will allow you to make your prospect want to become your customer! Here's a great article on the tips to creating a great case study.
- Product Reviews and Discounts
If you want to write product reviews, be prepared to spend a LOT of time doing research. You will have to be very thorough with your research. You can't misguide your audience with wrong information about products. If you’ve owned or used the product before, it's easier to write a review. If not, you might end up making inaccurate assumptions about the product. I know this well because I recently saw a review from a very well known blogger about DAP (he is not a DAP user), and I was shocked to several inaccurate assumptions about DAP in his review.
It's important to be honest in your review. If you want to play favorites, it's fine, but do that after you have spent the time doing a full review, before arriving at conclusions. Go into full research mode and stay there until you have a strong grasp of what the product can and cannot do. Reach out to the product creators to get more information and only publish the review when you're sure about the content. And you will also have to revise and update the review periodically otherwise it can get outdated pretty quick.
If you offer product reviews of 3rd party products that are of interest to your members, talk to the vendor and see if they would be willing to issue a special discount for your members. Maybe you could offer to let go of your affiliate commissions in exchange for a special discount for your members.
I recently did that for a DAPCast episode where I did an interview with DAP user Nino Alves, on LMS versus Membership Plugins. Nino uses WPEP as his LMS so I spoke to the founder of WPEP, and worked out a special 30% discount for just DAPCast subscribers.
In some cases, you may have to sacrifice your affiliate commissions so your members get the best deals but it's totally worth it as this will allow you to build member loyality to your own subscription site.
- Recurring Subscription
If you have multiple products, you can charge a recurring fee for access to all, or a subset, of your products. If payment stops, access stops automatically. We do this with our 'Wicked Cool Club Membership'. You can get access to DAP and our other plugins with our monthly or annual subscription program.
Even if you just have one main product, you can still charge a recurring fee for access to your content. It just means that you'll have to release new posts, videos, audio, training etc on an ongoing basis, and charge a recurring fee for ongoing access.
Recurring revenue is a game changer! Imagine having a steady and predictable stream of income month after month, regardless of whether you had a good new sales month or not! That said, recurring model is not for everyone. If your product does not lend itself naturally to a recurring model, or if you can't commit to producing ongoing content, then the recurring model is not right for you.
Also, recurring membership is generally at the bottom of the funnel. If you run paid ads and send cold traffic to your recurring offer and expect them to make the recurring commitment, you are just going to lose money there. Get your prospects to sign up for your freebie or get them to spend their first dollar on a low-priced item and over-deliver on that! In fact, people often employ a loss leader strategy on their frontend products. Essentially, a loss leader is a pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price that is not profitable, in the hopes of securing future recurring revenue! So don't worry about making money from your frontend offer. Get your customers to know you, like you and trust you and that will lead to a natural progression where they'll be more prepared for a recurring membership commitment.
Software products have a higher perceived value than information products. Consumers are more likely to spend on things that will help them save time and make things more convenient for them. Customers will invest in software products that will help them automate and expedite things in their business.
You could create a plugin or a tool that offers a solution to a specific problem and sell it from your membership site. It could be your core product or you could use it as a members-only bonus. SaaS (Software as a Service) membership sites have great profit potential if your software can simplify and automate things that are time-consuming to do manually. People will pay for speed and convenience. And usually SaaS products have a higher stick rate because people don't want the hassle of migrating everything to a new platform or learn a new system from scratch.
We sell a membership plugin for WordPress - DigitalAccessPass (DAP). Our customers are able to pay for the software license in multiple ways (one-time fee, monthly recurring , annual recurring etc). We use use a membership site to manage all our software products, sell our plugins, protect the downloads (zip files), manage our affiliates and members.
If you want to start a software products business and are looking for ideas, just look at some of common problems that you face online (in your niche) and wish could be automated. Do market research and if you believe that your product will fill a specific need in your marketplace for which there is clear demand, and it's something that you are passionate about and can sustain for long term, go for it!
You don't have to be a developer or a designer to start a software business but it'll certainly help and make things easier if you have some tech background. You can hire developers to create the product for you. Of course you've to be careful about who you hire. Finding developers that are reliable and have the technical knowhow to get it done is not an easy task. Making a bad hiring decision can prove very costly so do your due diligence before your hire. Be prepared to work closely with your developers and provide them with regular feedback so they can shape the product according to your vision and not theirs.
If your software product is your core business and you are completely dependent on a developer to develop, manage and support it, you should always have a backup plan (in case the developer decides to quit or starts throwing tantrums that are hard to deal with).
One of the biggest challenges for any business owner is accepting that they are not the only competent person in the team and their time would be better spent working on the business, rather than working in the business. I'm guilty of that myself!
I used to do a lot of coding work for DAP, but it also meant that I had very little time for anything else. And if you get bogged down with stuff and spend hours doing tasks that other people could be trained to handle competently, you’re not going to able to grow your business.
The last couple of years, I've gotten really good at delegating, training and trusting my team. I've spent a great amount of time training my developers and now I've a great team of very capable and skilled developers and designers who can handle any complex projects. It took us us time to find the right kind of developers who we could trust with our software. Building a team takes time. And growth not about how many people you've on the team but how you can get each member of the team to be more productive and accomplish the goals you set for them.
Now I come up with the idea, my designers create a mock up based on my guidelines, after a few iterations I approve it and my development team takes over from there. I've good, reliable developers that are able to implement my vision. My tech background helps me because my developers know that they better do their homework and try all possible options before telling me that something is not technically feasible :). I talk to my development team daily and provide them with my feedback. Things don't always get done per schedule, unexpected issues and challenges do come up, but that's expected when you create software products.
While creating and managing a software product is not for everyone, if you do it right, the rewards are so great that it makes it totally worth it.
An online community for your members, such as a forum or a closed Facebook group, is a great way to get your members more engaged and increase your membership stick rate. However, if you just sell community membership where your members have to pay a monthly or yearly fee just to have access to community, unless you are a well known marketer and very active in your community where members would happily pay for your advise and suggestions, it'll be hard to get your members to stick around. People won't mind paying to be part of a group if an expert in that industry is leading the group.
You may have heard this many times: "People come for content but stay for community". For a successful membership site, you need both - great content and active community. There are so many free Facebook groups available these days that people are not going to stick around just for community and pay the monthly fees if you're not consistently delivering value with your content.
While you can create a membership site that's just content-based or community-based, usually a mix of both is what helps a membership site thrive.
Use your Private Forum or access to a Closed Facebook Group as an added incentive for your members to stay and continue paying subscription fees.
Live Events, Workshops & Webinars
You can use live events, workshops and webinars to educate your audience, while simultaneously positioning your product, program or service as the logical next step. You can make it free for your members and use it as an added incentive to improve your stick rate and keep your members engaged.
You can use webinars in multiple ways in your membership site. It's a very powerful marketing tool. You can use it to generate leads, provide value by educating prospects about a problem and then demonstrate how your product solves that problem, signup new paying members, promote your brand, and build authority, trust and credibility. You can offer group coaching or product training using webinars. You can make the webinar replays part of your membership content.