Membership sites are an excellent choice to build passive income, but you have to put in the time and build your reputation as an expert before you can be successful with this model. The only way it would be possible to be successful when you are first starting out is if you have chosen a niche that is incredibly timely and in demand. Without a huge market crying out for the product or service, it is unlikely that you could build a membership as an unknown entity.
Once you have the credibility to attract members, all you have to do is create a strong enough incentive to get people to sign up once – and every month thereafter PayPal (or a credit card) will automatically charge the member – and the cash flows in.
Don’t let that deter you from putting the model in your business plan, because a well-established membership site based on your proven expertise can become a deep well for providing recurring income or as the [typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”16″ size_format=”px” color=”#0f07e6″]Blog Marketing Academy [/typography] calls it, a “continuity” income stream (which I like better). They go on to say, “Without continuity, you are in the position of constantly looking for your next sale, your next product, your next hit. With continuity, you are building stable bedrock on which to build a lasting, ongoing business. And, while you can still release new products, the idea is that you are building a SUSTAINABLE income stream.”
Doesn’t that sound great? Do the math. With 25 members paying $10.00 a month (which seems to be the basic going rate right now), you would receive $250 in your bank account each month like clockwork – tick tock! Some memberships are considerably high with the average around $27.00 a month. If you could build your membership to 50 members at $27/each, you would have $1,350 a month in you continuity income stream. But, remember that as the monthly fee increases, the value expectation of your members also increases.
Just to be clear, this is not a model that you put in place and immediately forget about while the money rolls in. It requires quality products, solid planning and a vigilant site manager in the beginning. When the plan is in motion, everything is in place, a rhythm is established and a team is set to handle the day to day (plus ongoing product development when you get big enough), it will begin to feel like a fairly easy way to create a sweet continuity income stream.
Name recognition can impact the monthly membership fee you will be able to charge, which is another reason to wait to establish this model until you have some recognition as a leader in your niche.
Once you have your membership fee in place, it can be difficult to raise it – at least for members who have been with you from the beginning. One way around this is to set memberships to run for a certain length of time – one year, two years, etc. Or you could establish membership tiers such as “Silver” – “Gold” – “Platinum.
The third possibility would be levels of training, “Novice” – “Intermediate” – “Advanced” – “Master.” The tiered plan gives you more latitude in pricing. As an individual advances, they will expect to more personal attention from you – such as small group coaching or one-on-one coaching.
There are a variety of formats from which to choose. It depends on your personal style and expertise. You could offer any of the following, or combination of the following:
• Courses and Training
• Coaching (Personal and Business)
• PLR (Private Label Rights Content)
• Social Site
• Dating Site
• Resource Sharing Site
Let’s look at an example. If your previous life was that of a graphic designer for an advertising agency, you have a wealth of experience to offer in “How to” courses. These could be text, video, or audio-based (or all three). The lessons could be spaced once a week, with supporting monthly Q&A sessions and taped Webinars for “pick and choose” topics that they could access through a “Resource Center.”
As long as you sustain the quality and offer materials and resources that help them increase their knowledge and skills, it is possible to retain members for quite a while – and of course, you should be signing up new members continuously.
Another strategy would be to offer a series of weekly lessons for a fixed period of time; e.g., mastering a skill-based software such as Adobe Illustrator in 24 months. I recently attended a webinar that offered a year-long course promising very specific outcomes if I were able to commit four to six set hours of time each week to the assignments.
In order to be successful, this model must provide a user-friendly format that is easily accessed and offers quality resources and products on an on-going basis.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”18″ size_format=”px” color=”#9c1616″]Delivery Programs[/typography]
There are reliable, highly-reputable delivery programs (plug-ins) to help you with the technical requirements of a membership site. WishList Member is one that you could explore.
To start, you would want to build a single membership site to test the waters and master the skills and techniques for using the delivery system effectively. When you have it perfected, and feel that it works well for your business, the next step would be to buy a multi-license and create more membership sites.
A WishList Member license for a single site carries a one-time fee of $97.00 and includes a year of free updates. A multiple license costs $297.00 for unlimited sites. After the first year, you will pay only $47.00 annually for updates. It is an excellent service.
If you decide that a forum-style membership site would be a better choice for you, a popular delivery system for that format is aMember Professional.
• Free set up and installation
• Multi-payment options for your members (Clickbank, PayPal, 2Checkout and more)
• Integration plug ins for both WordPress and vBulletin (a forum platform)
• Integrated and dependable HelpDesk
• Easy protection with high security levels
• An affiliate program – for you as an affiliate
• Run your own affiliate program through aMember Professional.
You can feel comfortable in knowing there are quality programs available to help you when you are ready to implement a membership site (and you probably should at some point). You may have already determined that regardless of how great the above systems are, you must first have a fantastic idea to make a membership site successful.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”18″ size_format=”px” color=”#9c1616″]Paid Newsletter[/typography]
A paid newsletter is something that you may also want to consider in connection with your membership offerings. The delivery programs we discussed above also have the capability of delivering paid newsletters. They can be included as part of your membership subscriptions, or they can be sold separately as “stand-alone” subscriptions. These could be sold to people who want to receive information from you, but cannot afford a full membership or are not quite ready for a full membership.
If your membership site is still in the planning stage, but you are ready to offer a newsletter, an autoresponder service such as AWeber or MailChimp can deliver it for you in the interim. AWeber runs about $19/month and MailChimp is free (but, you must have an Amazon account).
Newsletters do not have to be paid subscriptions. Many people use them to generate traffic, but regardless of whether they are paid or not, they must deliver value. You NEVER want to waste anyone’s time. Everything you put out there should be worthwhile – remember, you are building your brand and you want it to be stellar.
If you decide to offer a paid newsletter, the quality must be amazing. You cannot charge for anything less than premium quality information. The layout must be professional in appearance; the articles must be in-depth, insightful, and extremely well-written; and you must be willing and prepared to provide optimum attention to subscriber requests and questions.
The success of a paid newsletter depends on accuracy, timeliness, and reliability of the content, which must contain at least one gold nugget in every issue that will make the paper something they can’t wait to read.
As a point of information, popularity of membership sites is extremely high, but some marketers are finding that subscription newsletters are not as easy to sell as they have been in the past; but, that does not mean that it would be impossible to make it work for you. Personally, I prefer the model which includes the newsletter as a perk of membership at no extra charge.
Want all of the information? Begin at the beginning: Building an Online Business.
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