A WordPress membership site is an exciting business idea for many reasons. But have you been wondering how membership websites work?
Membership sites can be creative outlets or highly profitable endeavors that build a community of loyal followers. You can start a membership site from scratch or create one within your current online business model.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the details of how membership websites work on WordPress and how you can get started building one faster than you may think.
If you’re ready to succeed with your own WordPress membership site, continue reading.
What Is a Membership Website?
Membership websites are online businesses wherein a customer gets access to members-only content. In most cases, membership sites require paid memberships and the content is highly exclusive.
The types of content a membership can include are:
- Exclusive videos
- Blogs and articles
- White papers
- A lot more
Every time you add new content to your membership site, your members will have the opportunity to consume it. Each one of your members will have a unique username and password that will grant them access to your members-only area.
Only active members will have access to this content.
Starting a membership website is an excellent way to earn recurring income from the content you post, without needing to find advertisers. Rather, your users pay you directly for the content because they find value in it and can learn from your knowledge.
Is Building a Membership Site a Good Idea?
If the thought of building an online community with your content at the center excites you, a membership site might be the perfect online business idea.
This is an excellent way to build loyalty from your fans and establish authority within you niche. It’ll also keep you actively connected with fans that enjoy hearing from you.
Of course, it’s possible to do all of these things with a basic WordPress site or blog. However, a membership site is a lucrative way to make a living from your efforts.
If you’re already producing digital products on your site, you can use a membership format as a way of supplementing things such as:
- Online courses
- Social media content
- Free videos
- Free blogging
However, it’s important to remember that if you’re not ready to hit the ground running, a membership site may not be the best idea for you. After all, your members will be expecting valuable content from you on a regular basis.
If you aren’t able to deliver the content they signed up to receive, you’ll likely be issuing a lot of refunds and lose members more quickly than you gained them.
Benefits of Owning a WordPress Membership Site
Owning a membership site has several key benefits that can’t be overlooked. Before jumping in headfirst and downloading a WordPress membership plugin to get you started, let’s take a look at the benefits you’ll likely experience.
1. Increase Revenue
If you’re like most of us, you probably want to make more money than you’re currently making. And while you may already be selling digital products on your website, turning it into a membership site will instantly add a lucrative stream of revenue.
Almost every successful business person knows that it’s important to diversify income streams to find long-term success. Think of it a lot like investing in the markets: If all of your money goes into a single investment, you could lose it all if that particular stock crashes.
However, if you diversify, you can much more easily absorb these losses because they can be offset by simultaneous gains.
When you run a business you know that single revenue streams can sometimes dry up very quickly. By diversifying your business model and building a membership area, your financial future can be more secure.
2. Build Loyalty and Trust
Successful entrepreneurs know that people don’t line up and fork over their hard-earned money unless you’ve gained their trust.
When your users trust you to give them valuable, accurate information on the subject matter you cover, they won’t need to seek out the information anywhere else.
A user that pays your membership fee in exchange for your information has already shown you a tremendous amount of loyalty. It will be your biggest job to nurture that loyalty.
If you continue to build trust and loyalty with great content, your members will keep renewing their memberships.
3. No Physical Product Needed
If you’ve ever managed inventory, you know how much of a headache it can be. First, you have to store those products somewhere. Then you have to hire people to sell them and ship them.
Even if you run a dropshipping business where you don’t need to manage the physical inventory, you know dropshipping comes with its own unique set of challenges.
However, running a membership site is completely virtual. It won’t take up space in your office or home, and you’ll never run out of “inventory.” Your inventory is your content, which will always be on your site, ready to be consumed by your members.
Of course, this is definitely going to take work. You’ll need to routinely churn out great content if you want to see your membership numbers grow.
4. Your Site Will Get More Traffic
Running a membership site means that you’ll have access to a lot of contact information from your users. The email addresses you collect are extremely valuable for marketing your site and your digital products.
Use this database to run drip email campaigns to customer segments based upon the information you learn about them. This can help you bolster site traffic to your membership site or other websites that you own.
Marketing through email takes on many different forms, such as:
- Introducing new products
- Providing free content for educational purposes
- Nurturing your leads through your sales funnel
Any one of these strategies will lead to a big boost in site traffic. And as long as you’re delivering value to your members, this traffic will turn into new customers.
5. Increased Authority
In today’s online environment, consumers have direct access to so many different sources of content that it’s hard to know where to begin. That makes authority more important today than it ever has been.
Generally speaking, a lot of people have begun to scale back on how many different sites they go to or influencers they listen to. Instead, people are looking for online leaders that best demonstrate authority.
But what exactly is authority?
Basically, it just means that you’re confident in your subject matter, can back up the things that you claim, and you’re followed by other people.
By creating a membership site, you immediately send a powerful message that you are creating content that has enough value where payment is needed to access it. While this might not sound like a major thing, it makes a big difference when you’re trying to attract your share of the market.
Think about how many emails, social media posts and blog posts you read every day. The reality is that you only have a limited amount of free time. You’re probably not going to waste that time reading content from a source you don’t deem to be authoritative.
By establishing your WordPress membership site, you’ll add a solid layer of credibility and authority that can’t be overlooked.
6. Relationship Development
Developing relationships with customers is a critical piece of the puzzle for success in business. When your members don’t have the sense that they know you personally, they may not hang around for very long.
Starting a WordPress membership site will give you the opportunity to create your very own community of exclusive users. Only the people that pay for your content will be able to access it, which causes your members to feel connected to you and to each other.
That’s a powerful thing.
The individuals that sign up for a membership are probably just as devoted to your niche as you are. They’re looking for knowledge and solutions that help them better develop their own skills and talents. There’s a good chance that you’ll come across a future influencer or partner that will be able to help you grow your business.
You’ll probably even come across some people that you’ll want to help further their goals. The membership website business model is a multi-laned highway wherein everyone in the community will be able to work together for a common goal.
7. Enhanced Value
If you’ve never been paid for the content you create, you’ll learn that when you are paid you can put in a lot more time, research and effort into it. This means you’re creating more value in the content you put out.
Earning money for your work gives you a lot more freedom. You’ll be able to use your new freedom on putting together content that truly stands out from your competition. You’ll also be able to dig deeper into research and fully control your own production schedule.
Of course, simply charging a membership fee for your content doesn’t make it more valuable by default. But you will have the ability to inject more value into it because you’ll have more freedom with the creation process.
What To Include In a Membership Site
Not only do you need to know how to make membership sites work for you, but you’ll need to understand the specific content that will best fit your needs within the membership options. You’ll want your membership site to include a good variety of content that will align with your chosen membership model.
The types of content to include are up to you, but will typically be things like:
- Online courses
- Live or recorded webinars
- Videos and blog posts
- Member perks, such as merchandise or digital products
- A forum or community area where your members can interact with each other
- Archived content
- Members-only downloads, such as templates or spreadsheets
Of course, you’ll first need to decide what type of membership model you want to use.
Which Membership Plan is Right for You?
A fixed membership simply means that a user’s membership remains active for a predetermined amount of time. An example would be a 60-day weight loss challenge or a year-long professional class that comes with a certification.
With fixed memberships, your users will normally only pay for the length of membership needed to complete a goal. However, you can still offer community access and refresher courses to encourage members to extend their memberships.
With a product membership, a member will pay to gain access to exclusive content or products.
You’ll most likely need to offer several different products over the course of time in order for users to pay you for a membership.
In a service membership, your members will pay for a given amount of your service each month. This might be piano lessons, weight training, or even learning how to fly a plane.
While this is a similar concept as bookable coaching, a service membership will allow you to provide your members with perks such as an online community and exclusive content.
Combination of Membership Models
The most successful membership websites offer a good combination of all three models. For example, a member may be paying for several coaching hours each month, but also has access to online courses and exclusive products.
Strongly consider delivering your members a good variety of these options. The more you understand the different options the better you will see how membership sites work for your business plan.
Creating and Running a WordPress Membership Site
The first thing to do when it’s time to create your membership site with WordPress is to download and install the Restrict Content Pro plugin.
With this plugin, you’ll be able to instantly turn your standard WordPress site into a site that’s ready to become a full-fledged membership community.
You’re not going to need to code anything, either. This plugin is truly plug-and-play and will give you all of the features and functionality you need to create a membership site exactly the way you see fit.
After you have the technology set up, it’s time to build a strategy.
To get started, simply follow the tips outlined below. You’ll be glad you put in the extra time now, rather than learn hard and unexpected lessons down the road.
– Get Started As Soon As You Can
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of competition in the world of membership sites. If you’re just starting right now, you’re a bit behind the curve.
To get caught up, you’ll want to start your site as soon as you can.
But don’t just throw some random content up on your website and begin asking users to pay for a membership. Starting as soon as possible means creating great content before launching your membership.
Have a good collection of high-quality content ready before you open up for business. How much content you’ll need will depend on the complexity and length of it. As an example, if you launch your site with ten 30-minute long podcasts, you will probably make a great impression on your initial members.
They’ll have a lot of material to listen through, and will really start getting to know you.
Just remember that there’s no magic number written in stone for how many pieces of content you should start with. It’s best to consider things as though you’re the paying customer: Create enough content that you would pay for access to it.
– Learn From the Sites You’ve Joined
There’s a good chance that you belong to a few membership sites. If so, start paying close attention to each site’s content. Also, look at the site’s features and what types of interactions take place within the site.
Pay special attention to things such as:
- Things you personally enjoy about the website
- Things you would consider changing about it
- How the administrator or site owner communities with members and other users
- How much engagement the site gets
- If there’s not a lot of engagement, what would you do to improve it?
Also look at how their navigation works, and the colors and fonts they employ. When you get a feel for what appeals to you visually, it’ll help you with your own design.
– Engage and Interact With Your Members
Being a WordPress membership site owner means being active and present. Ask your members what they think about your content. Reply to their comments (even if they leave negative reviews).
Routinely conduct surveys and polls that show your customers that you truly value their input.
Encourage your members to talk with each other. After all, a successful membership site is typically built around shared ideas and a shared culture.
It’s also a good idea to spark some competition. Invite members to specific goals or challenges that you set. This helps them develop and grow while you focus on creating more great features and content for them.
Learning How Membership Sites Work
Now that you have a solid understanding of how membership sites work, it’s time to get started on yours.
Site security is incredibly important when you’re running a membership site. The iThemes Security plugin will have you completely covered.
Then, the BackupBuddy plugin will be able to restore your site if your work is ever lost or hacked. It’s a powerful tool you’ll wish you had if your site ever goes down or becomes corrupted.
Welcome to the world of WordPress membership site ownership.