BlogMembership The Complete Guide to Membership Sites + How to Build Your Own Membership The Complete Guide to Membership Sites + How to Build Your Own Author: Tatiana Morand June 11, 2021 Contents 🕑 29 min read So you want to start a membership site. Maybe you’re interested in developing a new source of recurring revenue. Maybe you have a lot of knowledge on a specific topic that you’re dying to share with the world. Or maybe you’re already creating content, and want to monetize it. Well, either way, you’ve come to the right place. In my time at WildApricot, I’ve worked with a lot of membership organizations. And although I know starting a membership site can be very rewarding, I also know the path to getting there is long and studded with obstacles. I’ve also learned a lot along the way about what makes a membership site succeed… and what makes it fail. So, in this post, I’ll be sharing how you can get your membership site up and running, as well as presenting some amazing membership site examples for you to get inspired by. I’ve also connected with some successful membership site owners to give you the inside scoop on what really goes into creating a membership website that actually makes money, and everything you need to know before getting started. Ready? Let’s dive in! What is a Membership Site? A membership website is an online community which features gated, exclusive content that only members can access and make use of. (Gated simply means that members have to log in to access it — it’s not available for just anyone to see.) Your site can include all sorts of content, such as online courses, videos, a private email subscription, access to coaching, and much more. You can think of it as a private club for people who are all interested in the same thing, or who are all working towards the same goal. And you can choose to have different tiers of membership and create different content for different levels of payment, or open everything up for one fee. For the site owner (that’s you!), it’s also a great way to get recurring revenue. Which begs the question: what is recurring revenue? Recurring revenue is the income you make from membership dues for the duration of a member’s subscription. If you were just selling a product one time, you’d get only the revenue from that sale. But since you’re continuing to sell access to a membership instead, you’re getting the consistent, predictable income from your members every month. Since your membership payments repeat, and since you’ll be getting them every month (or however often you have your dues set up to occur) from your members, it gives you a source of income you can count on. 5 Advantages of Creating a Membership Site Want to make sure you’re making the right decision before embarking on your membership site journey? Here are a couple of the main advantages that come along with starting a membership site. Recurring revenue. As I mentioned before, creating a membership site allows you to have revenue coming in every month via member dues. Although it’s not just something that happens automatically — you’ll still have to focus on member retention — it’s still a great way to supplement your income in a consistent way. Creating a community. You’ll be able to foster deeper relationships between you and other people who have the same interests as you, and allow them to connect with each other as well. Working from home. If you’re hoping to build a new career that allows you to stay home or travel the world, starting a membership site is a great option. Establishing authority in your area of expertise. If you’re able to sell memberships based on your proficiency in your area of focus, you’ll be able to build a further career or speaking platform in it and potentially expand your reach beyond just your site. Monetizing your content. If you’re a creator, such as a blogger, podcaster, or vlogger, creating a membership site allows you to give your super-fans access to additional content for a price. Do Membership Sites Make Money? Creating a membership site that provides value to members is a great way to make money. Here are just a few ways you can generate revenue with a membership site: Recurring membership dues Additional revenue from special events Additional revenue from premium content or access Donations Selling digital products (ex: templates, checklists, website themes, tools, etc.) Sponsorships and/or affiliate partners What Should a Membership Site Include? Here are the must-have sections and features your membership site should include: 1. About us When potential new members come across your site, this is the first place they will look to see if your membership is suitable for them. A clear and concise About us page will help them understand what you do and why they should consider joining. 2. Membership information Provide a clear breakdown of your membership levels, pricing, and the benefits associated with each tier. 3. Membership application form Make it easy for new members to join by providing an online membership application form where they can select their preferred membership tier, fill in their information, and start using your membership site right away. 4. Online payment processing system The easiest way for new and recurring members to pay their membership dues is through an online payment processing system. Make sure yours is efficient, secure, and connects to your membership management software so that keeping track of payments is a breeze. 5. Member-only area The member-only area is perhaps the most crucial section of your membership site — this is what your members pay for! Give members access to exclusive areas of your site where you provide resources, courses, important updates, and access to other benefits. A member-only area is also where members can communicate through an online forum and maintain their member profile. 6. Integration with your MMS Make sure your membership site integrates seamlessly with your membership management software. Doing so will allow you to automate adding new members to your database, updating their information, processing payments, giving access based on membership level, and communicating with your members through emails and newsletters. 5 Amazing Membership Website Examples to Get You Inspired If you’re looking for membership sites ideas, check out these five examples. As you’ve seen, I’ve included quotes throughout from membership site owners who have been successful in their respective niches — now it’s time to see exactly what they’re doing right! All five of these sites are quite different, so no matter the membership site idea you have, I think you’ll find inspiration here. 1. SEO Blueprint SEO Blueprint is a course-style membership site aimed at sharing Search Engine Optimization techniques that you can’t find anywhere else. For those of you who aren’t familiar with SEO, I can confirm: it’s a discipline that’s constantly changing, and there are a lot of players in the space sharing content. So how is SEO Blueprint distinguishing itself from the crowd? Well, Glen Alsopp, the site owner, is well known in the SEO space, and even before launching the site he had built an audience via sharing insights in his Facebook group and throughhis website— meaning that when he launched his paid membership site, he had a long list of fans ready to sign up. Another tactic SEO Blueprint uses to build demand: only opening membership at certain times. This creates the impression of scarcity and allows new members to feel like they’re part of an exclusive cohort whenever they get access. It also allows each member cohort to learn and collaborate together more easily than would be possible if members are constantly joining and are at different places in their journey throughout the course. Another unique aspect of the course is that, as participants go through the course, they can see all of the questions past users have asked and all of the discussion right beside the course lesson. This both lessens the support load on the course administrators as well as providing a key social networking aspect without members even having to leave the lessons — a great example of creating a community. The last (and most important) thing SEO Blueprint is doing to be successful? Consistently sharing great content. “Honestly, I just wanted to create content that I know interests me personally, and that has been a good indicator as to whether other people would find it interesting as well,”said Glen. “If you are in a space long enough you’ll know what everyone else is talking about and what kind of content is repeated all of the time (to the point that it gets a bit boring). I just make sure I covered things that aren’t written in every other course or niche-relevant blog, and knew I stood a good chance of people really enjoying the content because of that.” If you can do the same, you’ll keep members around for the long haul. 2. Plant You Plant You is a paid membership site geared at sharing easy, healthy, plant-based recipes — as well as a great example of knowing your niche inside and out. As a new vegan, Carleigh Bodrugh was having difficulty finding vegan meals that were simple, inexpensive, and didn’t require a lot of complicated ingredients… so she decided to share her own. The takeaway here is that if you’re speaking to people who have the same challenges as you, you’ll always know what kind of content to produce to solve those challenges. Plant You is also an example of a simple but effective membership. Every week, members get just one thing: a plant-based recipe and ingredient list for the week so that they can easily follow along and not need to worry about figuring it out for themselves. The site also includes a lot of free recipes, which are also shared on thePlant You Instagram, so that new visitors can see if the platform is right for them. Finally, since the price point to join is low, this is an example of a membership site that’s all about the volume. And since it’s no more work to have 50 members or 500 if you’re sending them all the same content, once you know what kind of content you’re creating, you just have to double down on building your audience. 3. The Marketing Fix The Marketing Fix provides marketing and website advice to overwhelmed small business owners who are looking to learn how to stay on top of their marketing. This is something that founder Melissa Love is very familiar with. “I’ve been working in the photography niche as a web designer for 10 years so my existing audience tends to be heavily dominated by photographers and other small creative businesses,”she said. Given her experience, she knows how to appeal to all of the needs that these businesses have, and her messaging perfectly reflects these pain points in order to appeal to her target market. She also provides more than just a membership. Her main website,The Design Space, is a great example of a site that provides a lot of different options for its target market. If someone isn’t ready to commit to a membership, or if they realize they don’t have the time and just want to hire someone to build their site instead, that option is provided. Taking this approach means that you’re broadening your audience, and thus your potential revenue, by suiting a lot of different needs. It also allows you to get a lot more life out of your content. If you already run an online consulting business or have created courses before, creating a membership site is a great way for you to repurpose your existing content to suit multiple audiences and to get more life out of it. “I was previously selling a ‘How To Build Your Own Website’ course so having a membership was a natural progression,”said Melissa. And the value her site provides isn’t limited to her own expertise, either. To sweeten the deal, she provides perks from expert partners that members wouldn’t be able to access any other way. Partnering with other websites and experts in your niche is a great way to open up both of your audiences to each other and to provide extra value. Whether it’s through Q&As and guest speakers or additional activities and discounts, there are many ways you can develop partnerships to benefit your members. 4. This is Bracket Racing This is Bracket Racing is a great example of a site that’s extremely niche but that perfectly serves its target market. (In fact, it’s so niche that I didn’t even know what it was before coming across this site. If you did, congrats!) If you want to learn how to drag race, it’s a great resource that can show you all you need to know. Additionally, because Luke Bogacki, site owner, is a winner in the space, he has name recognition as well as the expertise to know how to create the right content. He also has connections with other experts in the space, meaning that he can reach out to them for content in ways that other people wouldn’t be able to. “Membership to his community features private interviews with industry leaders, video training, audio downloads, a private Facebook group, and more,”said Jacob. The extent of content being shared demonstrates how determined they are to cover every aspect of the sport and be the ultimate resource in their space. They’re also doing a good job of publicizing their site using free content. For example, publicly available on their website is a frequently updated podcast about the industry. Having a podcast or blog on your site is a great way to showcase your expertise and give potential members a taste of the value you offer so that they can judge whether or not your community is right for them. 5. Directive Institute Directive Institute is run by Directive, a consulting firm that specializes in digital marketing for B2B software companies. Their track record with multiple well-known software companies, shared on their homepage, shows that they know what they’re talking about, and gives them trust and credibility in the space. Potential members can try out their course for free to begin with, giving them a taste of what they can have with the full package. Once they’ve been convinced that it’s the right fit, they get lifetime access to all of the digital marketing lessons available so that they can learn at their own pace. This is great for people who don’t know which aspect of digital marketing they want to specialize in, or who want to have the chance to continue learning for a longer period of time. Need extra convincing to sign up? They include a pop-up on their homepage with the names of their latest students. This shows anyone who’s on their homepage and considering it that they’re not alone on the site, and provides the social proof necessary to help people convert. If you’re looking to see more great membership sites, check out our list of 25 solid membership website examples to get you inspired. How to Pick a Niche for Your Membership Site For some of you reading this, there will already be a niche you’re passionate about. The choice of topic for your site will be easy. For others, who are just hoping to start a membership site in general, this part will require a little more thought. If you fall into the latter category, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself before getting started. 1. What Audience Have You Already Developed? A common theme from successful membership site owners is that they’ve already demonstrated their expertise by building an audience elsewhere. “Before I launched my membership website, I had already built up a following as a plant-based food blogger both through my website and social media,” said Carleigh Bodrug, Founder & CEO of Plant You. That means that they’ll likely have a ready-made customer base who will be ready to purchase their membership as soon as it launches. That’s how it worked out for Carleigh: “My social followers and readers then became customers.” That’s not to say that it’s mandatory to build an audience before launching, but it will help increase the number of paying members you have more quickly and confirm that you’re headed in the right direction with your membership site idea. 2. What Value Are You Going to Provide to Your Members? To get potential members to sign up for your site, they have to see value in it. That’s because if they’re able to find all the content you’re providing for free elsewhere, there’s no reason for them to sign up. So, how can you do that? Well, in some cases, you’ll be solving a problem for your members that they can’t solve any other way. In others, you’ll be helping your subscribers learn. And in yet others, you’ll be filling a hole that you noticed within your target market. “I noticed that many people were searching for simple plant-based recipe solutions, so it was a natural fit to develop a membership site with a plant-based meal plan subscription,” said Carleigh. Since she knew her audience well, she knew that this was an existing issue that she could solve with her content. Additionally, it’s important that you be seen as an expert in this area. If you’re not, potential members will ask themselves why they trust the information you’re sharing in particular over what someone else is sharing. “Far too many people are trying to build an audience without having a unique viewpoint of what they’re teaching or doing,” said Brendan Hufford, creator of 100 Days of SEO and Director of SEO at Directive Institute. There’s a lot of repetitive, junky content out there, and if you contribute to that, members will quickly be able to sense it and jump ship for a site that provides more value. 3. What Kind of Content Did You Want to Share? This will be heavily dependent on the topic you’re talking about, but should be guided by your own interests and passions. If you can find a way to differentiate yourself from other people in your niche, you’re more likely to find success as people will see your content as more helpful and special. Figure out how you can create video content, worksheets, or activities that can genuinely make a difference in someone’s life, and start from there. 4. What Should Your Membership Site’s Price Point Be? It probably goes without saying, but membership site pricing varies greatly depending on the kind of content you share as well as the niche you’re in. Many membership sites allow their members to start with free trials so that they can get a taste for what purchasing the full membership is like. One way to determine how much you should be pricing your membership is also to do a little bit of competitive research. “Through market research, I was able to determine that other meal plan membership sites had a price range of $5.99 – $11.99,” said Carleigh. “The $7.99 price point made sense because it meant it was no more than a price of a coffee and a bagel or a movie ticket. It’s a sweet spot that allows people to see enough value in the membership to commit month after month.” By choosing a price that falls close to ones in your market, you’re ensuring that potential members don’t feel like they’re being priced out (if it’s too expensive) or that your membership isn’t as valuable (if it’s too inexpensive). And remember, the price you choose doesn’t have to stay the same forever. “I think when you’re starting out, price it a bit lower than what you would love to charge a few months from now,” said Glen. “You can always increase the price later, but past members are going to be annoyed if your pricing becomes lower one day.” Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start working on the format of your membership site. 8 Types of Membership Sites That Make Money You Can Choose From Depending on your goals for your membership site, there are a lot of different kinds you can choose from. Here are some of the most common, and the reasons you might pick one over another. 1. The Continual Content Model With this model, members periodically get access to new content as it’s developed. This is one of the most common types of membership sites, as it encourages members to stay for the long haul to continue reaping the rewards of being part of your site. This type of model might include membership tiers, or it might be an all-in-one subscription. You might also choose to use a “drip feed” type of model, in which members get access to different content depending on how long they’ve been members. For example, let’s say you’re running a membership site on cooking with matcha. You might choose to give members access to the first, easiest set of recipes in their first month, and slowly progress throughout the most difficult ones the longer they’re subscribed. 2. The All-in-One Subscription With this membership model, your members pay one flat fee to access all your content every month. This is what Plant You does. There aren’t any membership tiers; members simply pay one flat fee every month to get access to all of the meal plans being shared. This works well for memberships that are quite simple, and allows you to easily predict revenue growth by member growth since everyone is paying the same amount. It also works well if you have a wide library of content, and you want to allow members to pick and choose it themselves (rather than establishing a clear path for them like in the first model). 3. The Freemium Model This type of membership site allows members to try out a free trial first before signing up for a paid subscription. Alternatively, members can start out on a free plan and get access to some, but not all, of the features your membership offers. The hope is that members who are currently on a free trial or free plan will eventually transition over to a paid plan once they see the value in your membership. As opposed to the all-in-one model, this works better for memberships that have several different kinds of content being shared (so that you can more easily segment what is free and what is paid). 4. The Coaching Membership In this type of membership, you as the site owner (or people in your employ) are providing individual, 1:1 coaching to your members. This is a good type of membership if your members require very specialized or personalized knowledge, or if you’re trying to grow your consulting business as well as your membership. However, given that coaching hours require you to spend one on one time with individual clients, you won’t be able to scale it to the same degree that you can other types of memberships. For that reason, it’s most common (and most advisable) to offer coaching only to the highest tier of your membership and present it as a premium. On the plus side, though, if you’re well-known in the space, you’ll be able to charge premium prices for your time — much more than you’d be able to do if you were only providing content. 5. The Online Course This is another one of the most common types of membership sites. Members join in order to get access to online courses (usually in video format) to help them develop a skill or learn about an area of interest. You might choose to offer a few courses on related subjects and charge for them all, or allow members to get access to one course once they’ve finished the first one… or just let them see everything at once and pick and choose which lessons they want to follow like this example from SEO Blueprint. 6. The Fixed Term For this kind of membership, members are only signed up for a certain time period. After that, they either “graduate” from your membership and retain access to the content, or no longer have access to the content. For example, the 100 Days of SEO membership has a 30-day challenge that potential members sign up for. Following the 30 days, members retain access to the content and can reuse it in other forms. With this model, the recurring revenue aspect is lessened, so it could also be used as an entry offer or as a way to get people interested in your membership upfront and develop a further relationship with them with bigger offers later on. 7. The Product Bundle This one can be applied equally for virtual or physical products, but is most commonly used with physical products. For example, maybe you want to start a box of matcha-flavoured snacks and send it out to subscribers every month. You could create The Matcha Membership to connect matcha lovers worldwide, and send them all sorts of matcha goodies every month. (Okay, I just made this up, but now I really wish this was a thing.) This will require more overhead than virtual products, since you’ll have to curate, coordinate with vendors, and figure out the shipping for the products you’ll be sending out. Alternatively, if you decide to stick to the online world, you could also publish an online magazine that’s only available to members every month (accompanied by checklists and worksheets that they can use). As with the other kinds of memberships, if you’re choosing to do it virtually, it can be an add-on to other kinds of memberships. You can also use a product bundle in exchange for an email signup to intrigue potential members and get them into your funnel, like this example on This Is Bracket Racing. This is known as a lead magnet because you’re attracting potential members (leads) with free content to start. Once they’ve subscribed to your email list, you can continue sending them content that they’ll find valuable in the hopes of getting them to convert. (And note that you can use this tactic no matter what kind of site you’re creating! In fact, I’d recommend you do so.) 8. The Online Community Many membership sites will involve some kind of community element so that members can network and work together on the goals your site is helping them achieve. Including an online community can work well with any of the other kinds of memberships described because it’s one of the best ways to connect members and build engagement. “People come for the content, but stay for the community,” said Brendan. That means that regardless of the kind of content you’re offering, consider adding an online forum, starting a Slack channel, or creating a Facebook group, so that members have somewhere to congregate and chat. Additionally, as you can see, there’s a lot of overlap on the different kinds of memberships you can offer. It’s not one-size-fits-all: depending on the type of content you want to offer, your area of expertise, and your audience, you can pick and choose elements of all of the above memberships to create the right fit for your membership site. For more information on setting up the perfect membership model for your organization, check out our full post on the topic. How to Choose a Membership Site Platform Once you’ve decided the niche you’ll be in and what kind of content you’ll be making, the next step is actually building your website. There are a lot of different membership website builders out there that you can use to build your site, all of which have their pros and cons. However, depending on the type of membership site you’re creating, you’ll have different requirements, which will allow you to narrow down your platform. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while you’re looking at the different membership website options out there to help you pick the right one for you. (Or, you can just start a free 60-day trial of WildApricot, the #1 ranked membership website builder, today!) 1. What’s Your Budget? This is probably the number one question: how much can you actually afford to spend on your membership site? When you’re first shopping around, one of the first things you’ll want to consider is how the platforms you’re looking at charge. Some platforms charge depending on your number of members or contacts. These types of software are typically all-in-one, so all the features you want are included from the get-go. This type of billing structure works well if you know you’ll need all of the features included. Others bill depending on the features you want (for example, an online store or mobile app might be extra). This can work well if you’re only planning on using a few features (or don’t know which ones you’ll need yet). Finally, if you’re looking at using a platform like WordPress with membership plugins, in which you choose the plugins you want to install, you’ll be paying individual fees to a variety of vendors. The total cost will depend on which plugins you’re planning on installing. Many platforms may also feature hidden costs (for example, mandatory set-up fees that aren’t included in the product price), so be careful when you’re looking around to ensure that everything you need is covered under one umbrella. And remember, even though there are a lot of software options out there, it doesn’t have to be too complicated either. The most important thing is that you’re able to provide maximum value to your members. “Don’t feel bad keeping it simple,” said Jacob Murphy, Website, Marketing, and Systems Coordinator for This is Bracket Racing and owner of Digital Cuda. “You don’t need a flashy tech stack of 100 apps and plugins you need to coordinate. Pick one really awesome method and go with it — one that lets you easily deliver amazing information and value.” We’ve also collected some data on how pricing for different membership management systems compares, so you can see which one best fits your budget. 2. What Features Are Crucial for You? Many membership website platforms aren’t designed to offer much beyond simply managing your membership, so if you’re planning on expanding, you’ll want to make sure that your platform allows it. For example, many of them don’t offer a strong learning management system. Others don’t have an online store option. Taking the time to jot down which features you absolutely need or will need in the future will ensure you don’t have any growing pains when you decide to add new options to your site. 3. How Much Support Will I Need? If you’re a very technical person, you might want to go for software that’s very DIY. However, if you’re not, you’ll want to make sure that the platform you’re choosing has the support you’ll need to get up and running. Some platforms offer setup for a fee, which can help you create your site faster but might not be necessary if you’re already a tech whiz. Different platforms also offer different levels of paid and free support depending on how much you pay. Some have live chat and others don’t. This can be one disadvantage of using a platform like WordPress that requires a lot of different plugins. If one thing goes wrong, you might have to reach out to a variety of support teams or risk a total tech meltdown if your systems don’t play nicely with each other. 4. How Are Payments Processed? You’ll want to make taking payments as easy as possible for both you and your members. For example, if the site uses a third-party payment processor, members might find that they’re being led to a different site. However, this adds an extra layer of complexity that can dissuade them from signing up. You’ll also want to ensure you’re receiving the payments as quickly as possible — no one wants to wait a whole month before getting their payouts. You’ll also need to ensure that the processor being used is PCI-DSS compliant so that members can feel safe and secure when submitting their payment information — and so that you don’t have to worry about your hard-earned sales being stolen! 5. Is It Mobile-Friendly? If any software platform you’re buying isn’t mobile-friendly in 2020… you have a problem. That’s because now more than ever, people are accessing content via their phones. (You might even be reading this post on your phone right now!) This is definitely true for your potential members as well. You want to make sure that they can access your content on-the-go if they want to, so when picking a membership platform, make sure that it’s possible via the website or via a mobile app. 6. Can You Have a Custom Domain? To ensure that members have the best possible experience, you’ll want to keep the branding consistent across all your channels. And nowhere is this more important than on your website. The most important way you can do this is by having a custom domain with your name as the URL (yoursite.com rather than yoursite.thenameofthesoftware.com). This will give your website a much more professional look, and reassure members that your business is legitimate. 7. How Secure Is It? Because you’re going to be storing a lot of member data, security is of the utmost importance. One way you can do this is to ensure your platform allows you to have an SSL certificate (meaning that your website starts with https rather than http). You’ll also want to make sure your platform is following data security laws such as GDPR so that you can be sure they’re keeping your personal information safe too. This also ties into data security within your team. Your platform should allow you to grant different levels of access, so that once you expand your operation you’ll be able to give team members different permissions (for example, giving someone access to the email editor, and allowing another person to create online events in your calendar). For more information on how to pick the right platform, check out our Consumer Guide, which compares all the features available in the top membership management platforms so that you can pick the right one for you. You’re All Set up — What Next? So, you’ve brainstormed membership sites ideas. You’ve picked a niche. You’ve built a website. You’ve created some content. Now you just have to wait for the members to roll in, right? Sadly, that’s just not the case. You’ll still have to put in the work to continue creating content to attract new members, as well as engaging and retaining the members you already have. But don’t worry. There are ways to get more members all while engaging and retaining your current members — and if you keep reading, I’ll share them with you! How to Get More Members As we’ve already discussed, ideally you’ll already have built up a community before setting up your first membership site, so that you know the idea is somewhat proven. It also makes it much more welcoming for members who are completely new to your content. “Nobody wants to join a membership and come into a ghost town,” said Brendan. “Don’t launch your membership until you have an audience that will support 100-200 people joining right away.” You can find over 100 ways to get new members in this post, but here are a few to get you started: Ask current members to invite others they think would be interested (in exchange for a freebie like branded gear or a free month for each member they refer) Create Facebook ads to retarget anyone who’s visited your site and remind them of your offers Create a promotional video and ask your members to share it Add testimonials from satisfied members to your website to show social proof Sponsor a virtual event in your niche to spread the word about your membership You can try any of these ideas on an ongoing basis to try and increase membership, but don’t forget to keep trying to engage the ones you already have. And to do that… How to Engage Your Current Members One of the most important things you can do to encourage engagement within your site is building a community that members can network within and learn from. An active community is often a huge benefit of being part of a membership site. Allowing people to bounce ideas off each other and connect with each other on the topic they’re passionate about will help them stick around. Although it can take some work to build (and ensure people are actually discussing the topics inside your membership) it’s worth it to keep members around for the long haul. To do this, you can start by creating topics of interest within your discussion area and asking members further questions when they reply to draw them out and encourage other people to respond as well. It’ll take a little more moderation to start, but once your community grows, you’ll see that some members will step up and become a lot more active. Just don’t leave members to fend for themselves at first. “New members need a lot more handholding than you expect and need their first 3 months mapped out in simple terms,” said Melissa. This is true not just for the community aspect, but also for content creation: the other key to keeping members engaged. To ensure that you’re sharing the right kind of content, it can help to plan it all out in advance. “I have a rolling 12 month calendar of visiting experts timetabled and the monthly topic determines what I’ll create for the membership and what I’ll share on social media too,” said Melissa. Keeping your content fresh will ensure that all your members can find something to enjoy, no matter when they joined. It also means that you’re able to adapt to new discoveries and trends in your field so that your content never goes out of date. “We focus on a different marketing activity every month,” Melissa continued. “Facebook ads, copywriting, content planning, Instagram strategy, etc.” If you’re providing different kinds of content, whether it’s broadening their understanding of a particular niche or deepening it, members will continue to see value even if they’ve been around for a while. Jacob agrees. “We’ve had great luck just relentlessly giving value and entertainment to the industry,” he said. “Maintaining a constant level of awareness in the niche keeps us at the top of people’s minds.” The verdict is in: there’s no secret sauce to engaging members. To keep your membership site vibrant and interesting, you really just have to commit to building useful content and keeping it updated on a regular basis. You also have to ensure they have a community to discuss all of it with and bounce ideas off of. Are these things easy? Not at all. “It’s definitely not a ‘passive’ income. You have to put in a lot of work to keep members happy and engaged,” said Melissa. But in the long run, it’s worth it to keep members around. For more advice on engaging members, check out our expert tips on building member engagement. How to Retain the Members You Already Have The activities you need to do in order to engage members are very similar to those you need to do to retain them. The most important thing you can do is simply to focus on providing value, no matter what. “If somebody trusts me and sees what I’m offering, they’d be insane NOT to sign up, at least for a few months,” said Brendan. Aside from making it very clear what your value proposition is right from the beginning, you have to stick to the value proposition you’re creating. If your members feel like they’re not seeing enough value from your membership, or they’re not getting what they paid for, it’s easy for them to up and leave. So, to keep them around, stay true to your purpose. Make sure you’re continuing to provide the kind of content they signed up for, and are giving them the value they were initially looking for — or even a little bit more. “Try to do something a little bit more than your membership platform allows (whether that’s WordPress, Podia, Teachable or WildApricot),” said Glen. “From something as small as personally welcoming every single member one by one, or linking to outside Google Sheets where people can collaborate, or similar. Try to think outside the box on what you can add that surprises people.” And if you’re looking for more ideas, you can find them in our guide to member retention. If you can give just a little more than your members expect, they’ll stick around and keep your member community vibrant for years to come. And with that being said… We’ve come to the end of this post. I hope it helped you figure out how to run your very own membership site! If you’re ready to start building your site, you can start a free 60-day trial of WildApricot. And if you have any further comments or questions, drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. Related Membership Articles Membership 🕑 9 Min Read How to Create a Member Referral Program that Actually Works Tatiana Morand Nov 28, 2023 Membership 🕑 7 Min Read Membership Card Template: How to Create Membership Cards In 3 Minutes Tatiana Morand Jul 23, 2023 Membership 🕑 10 Min Read 10 Member Appreciation Day Ideas + 6 Quick Steps to Show You Care! Sonia Urlando Jul 21, 2023 The Membership Growth Report: Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents Get the report now!