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INTRODUCTION

I have written quite a few posts now on membership sites over the past months and the reason I have is that I believe that they are one of the best ways you can set up an almost completely passive income stream by using them in your online marketing business.

Today I wanted to start a new rolling blog on my own personal experiences with membership sites. Not only am I talking the talk, I am walking the walk! This stream of thoughts and findings as I go along will help me and you!

After a lot of research, I have put together my plan for my first membership site. Read more below on all my trials and tribulations as I get the site up and running and add to the conversation (and subscribe to my membership site!)…

Make Money Online

BEGINNING TO PLAN FOR MY MEMBERSHIP SITE

Once I did all the research, it was easy to select options. There were paid and unpaid options I looked at, and cheaper ones and more expensive ones…

I gathered all the different information and sites you could use to set up the site and organized the tools into free or inexpensive, one-time or recurring, I then started a mind mapping exercise to determine the goals and best tools to meet my goals.

Here is a post on what mind-mapping is and how it can help you for many areas of your online marketing business…

==> MIND MAPPING <==

This was a fun exercise because it allowed me to dream a little bit, plus examine what exactly I wanted to achieve with the membership site. There are so many options that you have when you set up a site.

For an idea of what I am talking about, please refer to my posts I have made earlier…

Here they are:

==> All About Membership Sites <==

==> 7 Proven Easy Online Business Models For Recurring Income <==

These will give you an idea on what is possible, and will mention some of the options that are available to you when you are planning for a membership site…

For my purposes, I decided to start out with little costs and upgrade the platform as I get more and more subscribers. There is an argument that this will cause more work in the long run, and this may be true.

My thought process was that I did not want to throw money out the window, as so often happens when you get an idea, and start buying bits and pieces that when added together, cost a lot. Better to test and grow the site as I grow the business…

The goals were threefold for the site: 

  • Add new subscribers to my online marketing lead list.
  • Target the new subscribers so I can see where they are needing answers for their problems, which will help me in having valuable content that they will want to subscribe to get access to.
  • Lastly, I wanted to offer a mix of free training and paid training on the site, and even the chance for members to participate as an affiliate to make some money themselves by promoting my site to others (as paid members).

The content and roll out process I determined that I wanted to have on the site include initially was:

  • Video training modules and courses on some of the problem areas that I identify for online marketers.
  • These video training courses will include, but are not limited to, subjects such as Copywriting, Blogging, Websites and WordPress, Video Creation, Graphics and Design, Sales Funnels, Membership Sites, Product Creation, Tools of the Trade, Sales Pages, Optin Forms  and other similar pages, etc.
  • I want to provide training materials that complement the  video training so members will be able to download and add their own notes and ideas as they go through the various training modules for each subject…
  • Within the site, I will have advertisements and other paid tools, programs, and courses that members can opt in for. They will be able to subscribe for a monthly fee, and can access the training at any time while subscribed…
  •  Any training that they have paid for will be accessible in perpetuity using their login information for that product, while the free training and affiliate sales they may make using promotions will be ongoing, and at a higher rate for an active member, but still available in a lesser amount for the non-member or free member…
  •  The entrance point would be what is called by some a “Freemium” level membership, where the prospective member will gain access to valuable and useful training on a basis of providing their contact information…
  • The order of the roll out for the products within the membership site will be a free training level, added first, thereafter the paid training after which other products I may be promoting on an affiliate basis will be loaded, then my own tools and products, and finally I will add in an affiliate program…

 

Checklist for Online Marketing Program

THE PROCESS TO STAND UP MY MEMBERSHIP SITE

After planning for the kind of site I wanted, the goals of the membership site, who the targeted audiences were to be, the financial outlay that I could live with to get started, and my expected outcomes at different stages were, I was ready…

Note all the above was done using the mind mapping exercise and the researched information I had in hand…In short, I had a plan at the end of the process…

Remember there are literally dozens of options you have when putting together a membership site. Many marketers will set up the entire site for you at a one-time cost/fee. This is not even the most expensive option you have, by the way.

There are some companies that will provide you a complete framework and site ready to use that has tools for everything you might need, and then some. The cost for such sites varies, but you can plan on spending  anywhere between $39 to $197 a month or even more…

There are a couple of things I do not like about such a setup. Such monthly paid solutions will host the site for you, but if ever you have issues with the company, you could be blocked from accessing your own site!

At some stage when the site is up and running successfully, and generating a significant amount of income, and I am sure that the site will be self-supporting, this might be a viable option for me, but not now. Cheaper is good at this stage!

Cheaper is good at this stage!

So without using one of these done for you solutions, there are still more options that can cost nothing, a little, or a little more, depending on your comfort level and your financial situation.

Cloud Magnifying Glass Pic

Basic Elements of a Membership Site

Let’s look at what all you will need to get a site up and running. Do not be alarmed at all the items you see below, it really is not that much, and remember, in my case I am keeping it very simple…

Here are the basic elements you need:

  • Hosting
  • Domain
  • WordPress Theme
  • Membership WordPress Plugin
  • Security Plugins
  • Spam Protection Plugins
  • Google Analytics setup
  • Other WP plugins that you might want to add
  • Auto Responder (free or paid)
  • Video Editing Tool
  • Graphics designing tool
  • Word processor software
  • Location to host your pages, products, videos, and materials
  • Marketing  to drive traffic to your opt-in pages
  • Products that offer true value to potential subscribers
  • Customer relations management solution
  • If your site will be a paid site or a combination of free and paid, you will need a way to collect money from subscribers on a recurring basis

There are likely more items that could be added, but this is generally some of the considerations you will need as you plan for your membership site.

Businessman Image Graphic

SITUATION FOR MY NEW MEMBERSHIP SITE

Most people have access to some of these tools, but there are also likely some that you will have to go out and source. In my case, most of that list I have on hand already.

This means that as opposed to spending a lot of money right from the start, I can use what I have on hand and get the site up and running quickly and cheaply.

Of course, I would advise you to go through the same process I went through. Research, collect all the options that may work for you, prioritize them, and then plan what it is you want to accomplish.

At that point, you will have a good idea of what you will need, the products you will have on the membership site, and the way you will make the user experience a rich and engaging one each and every time they sign in…

The next step is to build it!

Graphhic Cloud Image of Loading Process

MY EXPERIENCE BUILDING THE MEMBERSHIP SITE

This is the stage I am at right now…As I go through the process of putting it together and adding products and capabilities to the site, I will add in updates here for you, the reader.

Also, once we do get started, I will track how things go, any adjustments I may make and the results from making the adjustments. Note that this will be all added here to a certain point, and then stop.

Overall, however, you will get to see first hand how I put the site together, how I added all the pieces in, and will see how the progress goes. It should be a valuable learning experience for you!

CASE STUDY UPDATE: 17 June 2016

Domain

I decided to use the domain and website that is already in place to set up the Membership Site, and since it has been in existence for a year already, it will have some Google trust in place…

This site has a theme installed that I am currently using, but I am going to switch to an alternative that works better for membership sites. I have this theme already (paid for it a while ago) so there will be no additional costs to get a good looking membership site up and running…

Hosting

Since that website is hosted by Wealthy Affiliate as part of membership, it also comes at no additional cost. That means the initial outlay has been significantly reduced without sacrificing any quality…

This is an excellent site and training program that offers not only the hosting but a series of affiliate marketing courses and a feast of a buffet of services and advantages for the member…

You can find out more through my review found here:

LINK:

WEALTHY AFFILIATE REVIEW

Membership Plugin

Next, I also decided to go with a WP plugin that is free, but has options to upgrade and add elements as I may want as the site grows. It does offer the basic requirements for a membership site at the free level, so it will work.

This membership plugin is called Paid Memberships Pro, and you can do a search on your WP dashboard and download it or alternatively, head to their website at http://www.paidmembershipspro.com and learn more and download from there…

I have installed the plugin, and either today or tomorrow will install the theme. The member levels are set, and I used 4 total. I called the first “Freemium” and at this level, I will use lead magnets to attract subscribers…No cost involved for this level of access.

The other three I added were

(1) Gold,

(2) Platinum, and

(3) Titanium levels.

They will not be the emphasis initially, but I did want to set things up so I can see where things are headed down the road and how it will look on the pages.   

Likely I will not go live with these pages until I have the content in place and I am satisfied that the monthly fee I am asking will be worth it for subscribers.

I will add in some screenshots and explainer videos so you can see how I have gotten to this point, they may help you understand better what I am going through as I build this membership site out.

The biggest challenge I have to now is that time is a factor. I simply have too many things going on at the moment, so it is taking longer that I wanted to get to this point…

Keep you posted, and ask me anything you would like to know about please in the comment section below.

Additional Training

Note that I am also adding in separate posts on different membership subjects that will be of use to those of you that are interested in setting up your own membership site.

These can be found on the page, and the latest three can be found using the links below:

LINK ONE:

A VIDEO COURSE ON CREATING EFFECTIVE SALES LETTERS

LINK TWO:

MEMBERSHIP SITES SALES LETTER ELEMENTS PART ONE

LINK THREE:

MEMBERSHIP SITES SALES LETTER ELEMENTS PART TWO 

There are some other costs that I will have to consider such as the autoresponder, a video editing tool, and a video player/posting tool, but I have them covered since I have the tools already.

In the next update, I will add in a discussion of these and explain why i chose these over buying more similar tools. As you can see, essentially I have no new money so far into the project, I have been able to cobble things together with what I have.  

For those of you that are starting out, I would recommend doing the same…Keep you outlay to a minimum until you see that this is for you!

Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

Dave

TO BE CONTINUED… 

 

Image Cloud With Pencil

CONCLUSION

OK, today I have covered how I am going to keep you, the reader, in the loop as I stand up a real, live, and successful membership site.

This post will be updated on a regular basis, and it will give you the opportunity to ask questions using the comment section below so we can all learn.

We covered the research, planning, and elements for a membership site, and even mentioned some of the content that will be added over time.

Please stop by often, and I will add in screenshots and any other pertinent information that will help you understand what I am going through!

Stay tuned, I am very excited to get this started!

10 things to know for lead magnets

FINAL POINT

I always add in this final paragraph asking for your feedback on posts, in this case, my rolling blog post on standing up a real live membership site. When you provide your thoughts, it helps everyone to learn and we all get a deeper understanding of the subject. I thank you in advance for your input!

Cheers!

Dave Ssweney Signature

Dave Sweney favicon photo

14 thoughts on “Membership Sites – My Case Study Roll

  1. This was an interesting read, Dave.

    Since I’ve just started exploring the possibilities of online marketing, I’m not ready yet to start a membership site but it sounds intriguing.

    I’m book-marking this so I can come back to it later when I’ve got a handle on where I am going with this thing I am doing.

    Thank you for your in-depth research….

    1. Hi Netta!

      Thanks for stopping by…The online marketing world is wide, that is for sure…Membership sites are just one way of monetizing your online efforts, believe me…

      I was glad to read that you are bookmarking the post, because I hope that you will come back to check out some of the other information that you will find here…

      The site is set up to help people to make money online, and as such, it covers a wide variety of subjects…Frm personal and professional developmeht, to yes even membership sites!

      I look forward to hearing more on how things are going with your online business efforts…Anything I can do to help you out, just let me know!

      Cheers!

      Dave : )

  2. Hi Dave I’ve just become a loyal reader! You obviously have a lot of experience in this area and there’s definitely a lot I can learn from you.

    I’ve been thinking about planning on launching a membership site for my leadership/personal development website – do you think it could work with this kind of niche?

    You make setting it up sound simple – I never actually realised there was a WordPress app for this kind of thing – you’ve given me lots of food for thought! Thanks again!

    1. Hi Simon,

      Great that you stopped by and that this case study on membership sites setup will help you. One of the cool things about our business is that we all can learn from one another. I see some share more than others, and it seems to me the best are those that do share.

      I think that a membership site will work well for the niche of leadership/professional development. One thing I like about the membership site concept is that it is not a hard sell nor are you giving away something that has little value to the prospect (if planned properly)…

      Once you have the member inside your site, you can then offer other products and services, add in other affiliate product adverts/reviews, and even create an affiliate program for your products and membership site. Much like Wealthy Affiliate (PERFECT example), you can add in forums, chat and mail capabilities, etc.

      There are many options for setting up the membership site. I am starting using the rooute that will cost me the least. I mean by this I have most of the tools already so no need to buy much. There are paid solutions that do most of it for you, but these cost, and normally monthly…

      Please do stop in again and let me know how things are going. I certainly will keep sharing the process I am going through as I build the site to the end and then even add to my experiences operating the site. I will also add in other posts that supplement this case study on building a membership site…

      Some of the content will be helpful to you I m sure!

      Cheers!

      Dave

  3. Well Dave that is a very thorough post and I really like the way you have structured this project.

    The benefits of a membership site as you have pointed out is that trust factor, so important in the online world and a hard thing to achieve with the rubbish that is put out there.

    While a membership site is not on my radar (yet) I do love to see future paths and possibilities of IM. And watching you do it is a great way for us all to get a feel for how it all goes together.

    I am also interested in the mindmap process you mentioned, I have heard of this and it seems like a great way to get ideas down. I haven’t researched this so will check out your link.

    Cheers Dave

    1. Hi Wade,

      I appreciate your input and am glad to hear that you will stop back in to check out the progress. I have not updated this rolling blog case study on setting up a membership site in a few days, but I have been working on the new site.

      While I go through the whole process I am also finding other subjects of interest to provide additional tutorials, etc. on such as creating video sales letters that will help sell the membwrship site to potential members.The real focus at first is to add to my lead list, but over time, paid membership levels are in the cards.

      Over the period I have been involved with online marketing, I have delved into a few different segments of sales. Affiliate marketing is one, for which I have Wealthy Affiliate to guide me, eCommerce sales, for which we have set up our own store, which is opening soon (http://www.memoriesiabox.com) and now this membership site.

      I must say that I find the whole world of online sales very fascinating, and the potential is huge. Contrary to what many think, this is an ever growing sales opportunity as new people join the internet and more sales migrate to online versus bricks and mortar operations.

      Membership sites provide so many advantages when selling your own products. It is a secure way to control who has access to your product or service, it can be a central hub for other projects such as JVing etc. and like Wealthy Affiliate, it can be a place where like-minded people can commissserate.

      Regarding the mind mapping, please have a look at what I have added to the site. It definitely has worked for me over many years since I was a young 21 or 22 years old. It helped me plan my militaty career, and believe it or not, I followed the path it laid out for me for over 30 years…

      Please add more thoughts as this project gets fleshed out, there will be a valuable (or several valuable) products that new subscribers will get access to for no more cost than a name and email. I do hope you consider being one of them!

      Cheers!

      Dave

  4. Hi Dave,

    Extremely interesting article on membership sites. I really am looking forward to reading about and watching your experiences with this.

    Membership sites are an area I am interested in, but I need to get some guidance on. This rolling case study will help me to that end.

    I also noticed that you are adding to the number of tutorials on membership sites here. I do hope that at the end we will all have a one stop source for everything that has to do with membership sites.

    There is not so much good information available on the internet, this content is needed and timely. Thanks for your efforts as always…

    Kind Regards,

    Rea

    1. Thanks for stopping by Rea and also adding to the conversation. Yes I just posted a tutorial on sales letters for membership sites. This tutorial can relate to any sales page, but I did so with the intent to educate site visitors on the process of that particular element of membership sites. Planning and putting these things together is not hard, but does involve some planning, and definitely a lot of work! Cheers! Dave

  5. Hey, Dave

    Thank you for describing all the details of your way to establishing membership site. It seems you have done a very thorough analysis and investigation. I do think that these two are the basis of each serious business – both online and offline. So I am sure you will succeed as you have taken these two important steps towards serious business.
    I will check back on your site as I am also interested in your progress. PLS keep us updated.

    Arta

    1. Hi Arta,

      Thanks much and I hope that the first step towards building trust and credibility for my membership site will be this case study. It just makes sense to share my experiences because I am not just interested in selling…Rather I want to help people build their own online businesses in a proper manner that will provide success for their effort.

      There are so many considerations when putting a membership site together and for many it may seem too daunting. I am hoping that readers will see from my experiences that putting one together is not THAT hard. The advantages are many and worth the effort on the front end in my mind…

      Glad to hear that you will stop back in and have a look as this project progresses. Please feel free to also add in any thoughts you may have and suggestions are always welcome!

      Cheers!

      Dave

  6. Hey, David, this is a great idea and I will be checking this site often for the update. The checklist does look intimidating but I guess you need it for a successful site. What is important is to gain the trust from readers and potential members and not be written off as a scam site.
    So what you are doing now i.e. sharing the process of building the site, is one way to build trust and convert your readers to being members.
    Good luck and look forward to the final product.

    1. Hi M8!

      Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts and comments. Certainly this kind of feedback will help me as I progress through this next level of IM! Membership sites offer a great way to in a less intimidating manner attract subscribers I think (we will see)…

      These days it is getting harder and harder to convince the savvy online surfer that you have something that offers true value and are not simply hyping a lot of crap that will not be useful and will clog up their inbox with offer and offer they don’t want…

      Over the last 1 1/2 years now, I have seen that the membership model will work well if you have it set up properly. I can cite many examples such as Wealthy Affiliate, some of the exxpert forums I am a member of, or even some of the WordPress theme and tools support sites I subscribe to…

      All of these work because they are set up to allow the subscriber to navigate easily throughout the site, they offer something of value to the member, and they are providing updates and current events or similar that keep the subscriber coming back for more. I mean that they are an active community – in every case.

      I have also seen membership sites that are dead in the water. I go back once in a while to see if anything has changed, and the same old information or tools are there, no changes and no interaction whatsoever between members.

      So in designing this membership site, I really thought a lot about what it is I wanted to offer to members, and how I could best do this. Even of all the infrastructure is in place properly, and everything works, it has valuable information, and it looks good, a membership site is largely either successful or not in large part due to the members…

      On your thoughts as to the process of building and populating the membership site with content, that is exactly why I chose to do this openly. It can help everyone in the IM business, and the content will allow them to set up their own membership site as well…

      As with this website, the idea is that we all go and grow together…I certainly hope that people realize and gain trust as they see I am operating openly. Hopefully, as they sign up as members, they will also provide feedback and experiences from a member’s perspective that will allow us to continue to improve the site.

      Please do check back as we go along, I am sure that you can use it at some point in your own online marketing efforts. It is also interesting to read other’s takes on the subject…If you look at some of the other posts I have you will see that I actively seek feedback.

      Cheers!

      Dave

  7. Hey,

    This was a very interesting and transparent post.
    Thanks for sharing the steps you took and the activities you used to map out your goals.
    Best of luck with your membership site and thanks for sharing!
    Looking forward to more posts about your progress with the membership site!
    All the best,
    Mike

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for stopping by and reading through my latest project to get my first membersip site together. This is something that I think many online marketers can use to create an almost passive income with very little work after the front end effort is complete.

      Membership sites offer so many other dividends as well…Helps your authority, your credibility, and increases leads, with the right opt-in or capture page…All of this sounds like it is quite complicated, but in reality it is not. As with everything, there is a set of elements that together make it work.

      I thank you for you good wishes, and please do stop by again to see how things progress. Purposely I wrote this in the first person so it would be an easy read and hopefully interesting for the viewers. In reality, I am hoping that many will subscribe as they see what I am building…

      Please do come back and get a catch up, as I will be regularly updating and showing my progress…This could easily be put together as a course at some point, and I may do just that!

      Cheers!

      Dave

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