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Hey guys, welcome to lesson 2 of DRC Traffic Pro. Today we’re going to look at membership sites, and how they can benefit your business. We’ll be looking at some of the strategies you can use in terms of the content you include, how often you should provide new content, some pricing strategies available to you, and much more. So, let’s get into it.
Aims Of This Lesson
- Income Stability.
This lesson will help you stabilize your monthly income, and give you more consistency.
- Traffic Retention.
This lesson will help you build a group of repeat visitors to your website.
- Community Building.
This lesson will help you build up a loyal community.
What Is A Membership Site
As you know, your average website provides open access to it’s content. You simply need to visit the website, and all the pages are available for you to see. Where membership sites differ however, is the information in these sites are only viewable by members. If you’re not a member of this site, you can’t get access.
The information is hidden behind ‘closed doors’, and usually only accessible via a given username and password. Only the owner of this website can give people a username and password, usually via an automated system.
As well as having information in the members area, some people offer software or services. You can either charge people a monthly fee to stay part of your membership site (Or any other time frame such as weekly, yearly or daily), a one off fee, or you can allow them to become a member simply in exchange for their contact details.
Why Membership Websites Are One Of The Best Sources Of Income
As you know, the whole point of this course is to make us a lot less reliant on Google. We want to stabilize our income as much as we can, and from my experience, membership sites can go a long way in helping us with this goal.
If you have a membership site and you charge a monthly fee for people to keep access, as long as you offer something of value, each customer will keep paying you for months to come. The amount will of course vary depending on how long your course is and how many people stay on for the full length of the course, but either way membership sites are a great way to stabilize the amount of money you get coming in each month.
Let’s say for example you set up a course that is 6 months long. You charge $37 a month, plus say a $10 one week trial. The low trial price is what helps get people in the door, as it allows them to try what you have to offer without much of a financial risk. If what you gave during the trial was attractive to people, a good percentage of them will stay on.
Now if you was to create an ebook with the same information, chances are you wouldn’t be able to charge much more then $77 for it. This is due to the perceived value of an ebook, a one off product. With a membership site however, you will get $37 from this person every month until the course is over or they quit. Even if the average customer only stays for 4 months after the trial ends, that’s still $158 you will gain from each customer. You couldn’t really charge that price for an ebook, as ebooks have a lower perceived value. P.S: If in your niche you could charge more then that for an ebook, you’d be able to charge even more for a membership site with ongoing value.
What’s more though (And the main point I want to make) is you will be receiving that money from people for months to come. Let’s say a percentage of people will stay on for the full 6 months. Even if you did rely solely on search engine traffic to gain new customers and your search traffic went away, you will have people still paying your every month for 6 months before your income drys up.
During this time you will be able to spend your time finding another way to gain new customers, setting up another project, or whatever it is you want to do to turn things around. Either way, your income won’t stop dead like it would have if you were relying on one off product sales.
With one off product sales, if your traffic stops, so does your income. With membership sites, you will continue to earn for some time to come. This is why I love creating them, and why they should be the product of choice for your business!
Of course, if you use the other strategies in this guide, it’ll be a lot less likely your traffic will dry up that much. 😉
One final reason I love membership sites (And why you should too) is because they allow you to build up a lasting relationship with your customers. If you sell a one off product, you can relay your message to them one time only within the product. They may see your branding and advertising in your book, but once they put your product down (Maybe after a week or two), you won’t have the opportunity to market to them any more. With membership sites however, you’ll have people actively going to log into your site and checking in with you on a regular basis. If they do this over three or six months, do you think they’re going to forget you as easily as they would the writer of a one off ebook? No, they won’t.
You can use this to your advantage by getting close to them and ensuring they’re on your mailing list (We’ll talk more about building a strong mailing list in lesson 5). From here you can build a lasting relationship with them, and let them know about any other things that could benefit their lives.
So for the next two lessons, we’re going to look at the best ways to create a income stabilizing membership site.
The Most Important Trick When Creating A Membership Site
Ok, so I’m going to share something REALLY big with you here. This will change the way you approach creating a membership site, and make the whole thing a lot more manageable for you to get going.
One of the main reasons I’d recommend setting up a monthly membership site before creating a one-off product, is because the time it will take you to set up this membership site. If you have a course which delivers new content to members once a week, you only in theory need to create new content at the rate of once a week until the course is over. Do you see what I’m getting at here?
Let’s say you have a load of information you want to deliver, and have the choice of either putting it as a ebook or monthly membership course. You’re planning to put a lot of information in this course, so each of the 12 lessons will take one week to complete.
If you deliver all this information to your website visitors as an ebook, you will need to write it all up before you can start making money from it. People wouldn’t want to buy a half finished ebook after all, would they.
It will take a minimum of 12 weeks to finish and release your ebook, probably more when you take into consideration the set up time for your marketing materials.
If on the other hand you decided to deliver this information in the form of a weekly membership course, all you need to do is write up the first three or so lessons before you can launch your course! This is because there will be a week’s gap between your members getting each new lesson, so there’s no rush to complete everything at once. No one will see it for another few weeks anyway, so you can launch the course, accept new members, and finish creating the lessons as you go along.
This will take three weeks to finish enough of your course to release it.
Using this method, people are basically paying you to create a membership course for them. If you launch and no one signs up, you will either know you haven’t marketed your course well enough, or there’s no demand for what you have to offer. You can then promote your course more before you write the rest of the lessons, or you can rethink your product and take a new direction with it.
Changing up your product won’t be much of a big deal if you’ve only written a quarter of the lessons. If you finish the product and realized there’s no demand for it however, you will have wasted a lot of time and effort. And as they say, time it money.
Note: Notice how I didn’t say simply do one week’s lesson then release your course. This is because it’s better to be a few weeks ahead of your course members in case things fall behind for any reason. You may be offering a lot of customers support in the first week, and that may slow you down a bit. Or you may not be able to work for a couple of days due to an unexpected occurrence, so your output becomes a bit under for that week.
As a lot of people get put off creating their own product due to the amount of time it can take, this is the perfect solution. Not only will you be able to launch your product and start making money a lot quicker then you would have otherwise, but you’ll also be getting paid by your new members to finish the course. You’ll receive a monthly (Or weekly, depending on what options you give) income, all while you’re writing up later lessons. Nice.
For this reasons alone, membership websites are one of the best products you can create. Add that to the fact that you can charge higher prices for these courses, that they can be launched before you have finished all the content, and that they stabilize your income with monthly payments, and you have one of the best methods to Google Proofing your business there is.
A Word Of Warning About This Method:
Although using this method is extremely handy if you want to get your course out there quickly and are good at sticking to deadlines, if you know you’re not good at sticking to deadlines or always have other things coming up that you simply have to deal with, then maybe you shouldn’t use this tactic. You’re going to have paying customers expecting lessons each week, so if there’s a good chance you may fall behind with delivering this, then maybe create more (If not all) lessons before you launch. That way you won’t feel pressured to finish the new lessons every week when you have other things on. More importantly, you won’t let your paying customers down.
What Kind Of Content Should You Include In Your Membership Website?
Ok, so what kind of content should you deliver within your membership site? Simple answer: Whatever it is your visitors want!!
What your visitors want is all important, as they’ll be the ones paying for your services. Most people visit websites because they want to fill a need in their life. They either want to become more knowledgeable in a certain area, they have a problem they want to solve, or they want to be kept entertained by a certain hobby of theirs.
Depending on your niche, you will have to provide the answer to one of these questions. So you help members solves their problems (How to guides, services you provide that makes their lives easier etc), keep them entertained in a way that suits them (Think online comics, gossip websites, videos etc), or just share your knowledge with them (Once again how to guides,
success stories etc).
In order to find out what your customers will want, you need to do some market research. Ways you can do this include:
- Reading Relevant Forums.
Browsing relevant forums is a good way to see what kind of problems people are having. Are there certain situations or questions that keep coming up but aren’t answered properly? Can you answer those questions in more detail then is already being offered? Does there seem to be no one answering those questions but still the need is there? If so, creating a solution could be a good idea.
- Asking Any Of Your Existing Audience.
If you have an existing community based around your website, a good idea is ask them what they’d want to see. Compile a short survey, asking them a mix of open end question (Questions where they can answer however they want) and multiple choice questions. So for example, you may ask them:
“What is the one problem in (Your niche) that you wish you could solve?”,
“How much would you be wiling to spend to solve that problem? $10 – $19.99, $20 – $29.99, $30 – $44.99 etc”,
“Would you be interested in (An idea for a product you already have)” etc.
What you ask them is completely down to you, but should be what you need to know to create a useful product. Bare in mind that people don’t always answer 100% honesty in questionnaires, and not everyone that says they will buy will end up doing so. Having said that, it serves as a good indicator as to whether or not the demand is there for a product, and what kind of solutions people are looking for.
- Solve Your Own Problems.
If you’re an active member of the community and involved in your niche as a fan, you may already be familiar with the problems that people within the community face. This is because you too may be faced with these problems.
If this is the case, you can base your membership site on the problems you have, and solve them for both yourself and the other community members.
To further help you decide what kind of content you can deliver, here are some of the types of content you could give inside your membership. Bare in mind that you will have to tailor them to your niche, but the below ideas can be pretty much customized to any topic area:
- Guides On How To Do Things.
One of the easiest types of content to offer to your members is a guide on how to do something. If you have knowledge on a particular area which other people can benefit from, share this knowledge behind closed doors in the form of weekly lessons (Frequency is up to you). The reason why this is one of the easiest types of content to produce, is because it’s simply a case of giving your knowledge to customers. Because of this, it can be done from the comfort of your own home and online.
Unless you want to do new lessons every week forever, you can simply set the lessons up once, and have your system deliver them automatically to each new member. Other then the support you offer, once your product is complete it’ll require very little maintenance.
The set up cost of this model is also usually very low.
- An Ongoing Service.
Another option is to deliver a service to your members. An example of this is Aweber and other email marketing providers. They allow you to use their system in exchange for a monthly membership fee. This is a service type membership site.
Another example of this is a writing service. You could provide people with a set amount of articles a month in exchange for their monthly fee.
There are pros and cons to offering a service. While you can often continue to charge members until they decide to quit (Which could be never, cha-ching!), they often require you to be on hand to deliver that service. That means you will have ongoing work to do. This can however be tackled by paying people to deliver your service for you, although outsourcing isn’t something we cover in this course.
If you’re offering a software based service, there can also be a big set up cost in some cases. Having said that, the potential money you can make back is huge if you get it right.
- Ongoing Item Delivery.
Another option is to offer items to people in exchange for their membership. So for example, if you’re a good drawer, photographer, can make story books or make music, an option is to give your members access to your items throughout their membership period. So for example you could deliver them new stories every week, or allow them to hear exclusive songs you have made.If you create physical products, you can also deliver these as part of your membership. If you have a food based website for example, you can send your members a new jar of your sauce every month for as long as you desire. Or you could offer them a monthly bundle of your finest food selection. Yes this will require postal delivery, but the membership can still be set up and run through your website.
Any items can be bundled and delivered on a regular basis, so if you have physical or digital items to hand, creating a membership around this could be an option.
As well as looking at what the content of your membership site is going to be like, you also need to think about the format that your members will want to consume your content in. Some of these options include:
- Text Lessons.
Text lessons are probably the easiest for most people to set up. On top of that, they’re probably also the easiest lesson types for most people to consume. You don’t need anything more then your keyboard and computer to create text lessons, so as long as you already have these things (I’m guessing most of you do if you’re reading this now) then there is no other set up costs. Apart from pictures, but even then you can get free stock photos from Flickrr.com and other such sites.
As long as you don’t mind writing, this is a very real option for you. While some people may not be able to access video or audio lessons, the majority of your audience should be fine with text lessons.
- Video Lessons.
Another option is to deliver your content via videos. This is becoming increasingly popular for a number of reasons. Firstly, some people simply like creating videos. If you are the confident type who isn’t too keen on writing, this is the perfect option for you. After a bit of pre-planning, you can go in and create your video within a few takes. This can save a lot of time if you work efficiently, so many prefer it to slaving over a keyboard.
Some consumers also prefer video, and the visual type of learning it encourages. This is mainly the younger generation who grew up watching online videos and have become accustomed to it, although it is preferred by some older generations too. Be warned however, there are still a lot of people who would prefer text lesson and can’t watch videos online. This may be due to a slow internet connection, limited bandwidth (They can only use so much data before their internet cuts out), or other such reasons.
Be sure that your specific audience is largely comfortable with video before you go about making a video course. If you don’t check and they don’t take to it, you could lose a lot of sales for this reason alone.
- Audio Lessons.
If you don’t want to show you face but also don’t want to type out text lessons, offering audio lessons is an option. Depending on the niche you’re in, audio lessons could also benefit your members. If your members are generally busy types who don’t get a lot of free time at home and are always working, this could be ideal for them. They could download your audio onto their mp3 player, or burn it to CD. They could then listen to your audio on the way to and from work. This is the ideal time saver for these people, as it allows them to be productive during a time where all they would be doing is driving or reading the paper on the way to work.
However, once again, some people may have issues with being able to download audio and listen back to it. Make sure you ask your target audience before you go down this route.
If your have created software, then this is what you will be delivering to your members: The use of your invention. You may want to also include text, pictures and videos to help explain how to use your software.
- Offline Postage.
If you are offering your members a physical product as part of their membership, you will most likely use offline postage for product delivery. This is pretty self explanatory; You have a product they need which can’t be delivered online, and you send it to their postal address.
- A Mixture Of The Above.
There’s nothing to say you have to stick to just one of the above methods of lesson delivery, sometimes you may feel to do more then just one. You may offer part of it via text lessons, then things you have to explain visually you show them via video. You may also need to deliver them a physical product such as their membership card and welcome goodies, so you can send these via post.
When it comes to content delivery, the type you go for is really down to you. You’re the one delivering the course, so you have to use whatever means you feel is best for getting your message across.
Having said that, you should also bare in mind who this audience you’re aiming your site at is. If you have a website which will attract a lot of older members, you may opt for delivering your course via text. This is because it will be the format a lot of older people will be used to, and make it easier for them to consume your content. If however your content is aimed at people who need to learn a lot of information on a very tight schedule, you may want to offer your lessons in audio format. This will allow your members to consume your content in their car on the way to work, or on their personal MP3 player while traveling.
If you can, it can be a good idea to provide your course in more then one format. Instead of putting all the different format options under one bundle and one price, why not charge for each different format separately? As in you charge one price for just your text lessons, then a separate price if people want to buy the video version of these same lessons? It’s taking you longer to produce the course on your part, so why not charge for both versions separately?
I know people that have done this that have went on to see a lot of people buying the package of both their audio and text course. One person offered both parts for $47 each, but a combination of both of them for $67. This will make sense for a lot of people to get both for a reduced price (Over buying them both separately), and you will essentially make more money from your content.
Before you go for offering more then one type of content for your course though, simply create one (E.G. The text course) and launch that how it is. Once the core of your course is complete and you have more time, then create the next version (Audio or video etc) and relaunch your course with this new option. This will mean you still get your course out there as soon as possible (Time is money people) and you have an excuse to relaunch a second time round. Nice.
Free Or Paid Membership Site?
Although so far in this lesson I have promoted membership sites as being products that people pay for in exchange to join, there is another way in which we can use these sites. We can give away free memberships in exchange for people’s email addresses!
This is all part of the ‘building a list’ thing (Which we will look at more fully in lesson 5), and being able to communicate with this list regularly.
While you can still build up your list when any paid members join, the thing about this is the numbers. You will get a LOT more people signing up to a free membership then a paid one, so you will be able to build your list a lot quicker.
As you can see, there are reasons for creating both types of members site. If you offer a free membership, you will be able to build up your list faster then ever before. The idea of being part of something bigger is an attractive idea to a lot of people, so giving them the chance to be in your ‘inner circle’ free of charge will get you a good amount of sign ups.
On the other hand, we want to make money from our customers, and a recurring income at that. A paid membership site will achieve just that.
What I personally like to do to solve this dilemma, is offer a site with both free and paid membership options.
You can offer your normal blog posts as the free membership. I like to show half of my posts to everyone, and tell them if they want to see the other half they have to sign up as a free member (You can do this using the software I’ll be revealing next lesson). This gets people hooked into reading the post, and just as they’re getting into it, they’re told to sign up if they want to continue. If they’re hooked, they will sign up and you’ll get their email address for your list. This will be a highly targeted customer, as not only have they found your site and started to read it, but they are also interested in the niche enough to take that extra step and sign up.
From here, I like to up-sell them to my main membership site. A course which has all the information they could need on the subject, and lessons / products far advanced to the free one they’ll see.
P.S. Usually I don’t up-sell them straight away. Instead, I send them some good quality material to build up the relationship, and leave a few links lying around to the full membership. After a few weeks of them being signed up, I send them a direct promotion for this product. By this point they’re usually very comfortable with me, and for some of them this direct promotion stating benefits is enough to get them to take the plunge. If not, I keep sending them good quality information and leaving links to the course here and there. If the product is right for them, they will sign up when the time suits them.
By already being a free member, they’ve shown that they are an action taker. They aren’t proven buyers yet, but they’re more likely to be interested in your product then someone who won’t even sign up to your free membership.
Free memberships are a great way for people to get into your system, and help get them accustomed to how you run things. From here you can let them know about your paid option, and really build up a relationship with them.
Of course, you can use just a free membership or just a paid membership if you want. But using a combination of both options is a strategy I’ve found that works very well.
This lesson is continued in Lesson 2 Part 2: Ideas On How To Run A Membership Program.