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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!)…
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…
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:
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…
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.
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:
- 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.
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!
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
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…
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:
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
(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.
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:
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!
TO BE CONTINUED…
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!
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!