10 mistakes membership site owners make

Getting your membership site up and running in the first place can be quite a substantial feat – and it can be easy to fall into some common mistakes because there are just so many things to create and manage.

Memberships are a different breed of eCommerce, with a business model that is more than just recurring payments; it’s all about real-world value and the user experience. Naturally, these are some of the areas that might get overlooked in the process of trying to create a self-sustaining membership machine.

So, what are some of the mistakes membership site owners make? Here are 10 of them to think about!

1. Prioritizing new members over existing ones

Memberships are built on a recurring payment model that requires members to feel that they are receiving ongoing value – and while it might be tempting to focus all of your energy on acquiring new members, nurturing your existing relationships is just as important.

Successful membership sites thrive on community and member retention, so it’s crucial that you don’t stop at the sale; aim to build a community around your membership site and create an engaging experience that makes people want to stick around! Not only does this support your business model; it also creates fertile ground for the development of an entire ecosystem that could grow beyond your expectations.

2. Neglecting the user experience

When people pay for their memberships, they want to enjoy the experience – and a slow website, clunky user interface, or disorganized content could take away from that. Poor site design can cost you members, but there are some best practices to follow to ensure this doesn’t happen. Check out our post on membership site design for some tips!

3. Not delivering new content

It’s the fundamental principle of a membership site: customers pay you every month, and you give them ongoing value in the form of new content to consume on a regular basis. But, failing to replenish your content can stop potentially loyal members in their tracks.

The thing is, people (usually) take their money pretty seriously, so that means you need to be sure you’re delivering on the promises you’ve made – at least, if you want to avoid cancelled subscriptions! Consider creating a content strategy for your membership site, so you have something to help guide you, take some of the pressure off of you, and hold you accountable at the same time.

4. Sacrificing quality for quantity

Although we’ve just covered the importance of replenishing your membership site with fresh content on a regular basis, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice quality for quantity. It can be easy to get complacent or feel tapped out of ideas, especially once you’ve been running your site for a while. But, keeping the member journey in mind will help you to create a content strategy that delivers real-world value – the special ingredient that keeps members engaged for the long-term.

5. Not showing face

With the prevalence of online fraud and digital threats, building trust with customers is becoming increasingly important – especially when it comes to things like digital products and memberships. Being transparent is one way to do this; showing potential members who you are builds your credibility and legitimacy as a business, and helps customers feel confident in giving you their money!

Showing face is especially important if you want to build your industry authority, which is one of the best ways to support your membership site. If your members don’t know who you are, and why your advice is credible, they won’t necessarily have the confidence to pay for your site every month.

6. Making big changes too frequently

Let’s face it – there will always be some new trend, topic, or method to incorporate into your membership site. But, you don’t want to change things so frequently that members either miss out, or get confused and disoriented.

It’s generally a good approach to keep things as consistent as possible, so develop a standard style and process and stick to it. Make changes when they’re needed, just try not to overhaul things too often, so that your members know what to expect!

7. Spamming members

You’ll be hard-pressed to find people who love receiving 5-10 emails per day from one company – they just don’t exist. And the last thing you want to do is annoy your members so much with over-zealous communication that they end up wanting to cancel!

This applies in particular to upsells. As a rule, keep them reasonable, and keep them relevant! Remember, your members are already paying (with their money or their contact details) to be a part of your site, and spamming them with constant offers communicates that they are just dollar signs to you.

8. Giving sub-par customer service

Customer service is quite simply one of the most important aspects of running a membership business – but the truth is that it can be hard to come by. Overlooking the importance of good customer service can turn potential members off at best, and get you bad reviews and reputation damage at worst.

Being combative with customers is a surefire way to make them want to cancel their memberships, or not sign up in the first place. Nobody wants to give their money to someone who they perceive to be negative or difficult.

In the same vein, you want your memberships to be easy to cancel. This doesn’t mean you’re encouraging members to cancel; it just means that you respect your members and their money enough to make it easy for them to do so if they choose.

9. Not paying attention to what the community wants

Look, you do want running your membership site to be enjoyable and rewarding, and that includes creating content that you find personally compelling. However, there’s a difference between that and creating content with blinders on.

In order to maximize your membership revenue, you need to deliver content that people actually want. You’re not entirely at the whims of your members, but you should be paying attention to what your community is asking for (and responding to)!

10. Re-inventing the wheel

Just because you don’t want to compromise the quality of your content, doesn’t mean that you can’t repurpose it to create new content! You don’t need to “reinvent the wheel”; there are all kinds of derivative content and products to be created using existing content as a foundation – and that means you can free up valuable time and spend it elsewhere, like improving your site design, working on marketing campaigns, etc.

Mistakes are going to happen

Ultimately, memberships require a lot of trial and error to find out what your members want, what content performs best, what design decisions to make, how to market your memberships, etc. – so, mistakes will happen! But, knowing some of the common things to watch out for can help you avoid tripping up where other site owners have.

What obstacles have you encountered while running your own membership site? Do you have any advice to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy is a content writer at Sandhills Development, singer/songwriter/musician, and founder of Looplicious. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, she's a frequent traveler and animal lover with a passion for creativity and maker culture.

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