Membership Sites: Myths, Strategies and Tools

A while ago, I had the pleasure to welcome Mike Morrison of the Membership Guys on the 360 Entrepreneur Podcast.

The takeaways from our conversation include:

  • some myths around membership sites
  • the difference between an online course and a membership site
  • the type of content you can use to build member engagement
  • how to approach tools to create, launch and manage your first membership site

What Membership Sites Are…Not

Some entrepreneurs and online marketers may think that creating a high-quality membership site is something that can be done in just a couple of days.

As Mike explained, though it’s indeed possible to build a membership site in a few days, that’s not really common practice. You need to do some research (the best way is by actually joining other people’s membership sites), choose the right tools and strategically plan the content your site will feature.

Another big myth around membership sites is the idea of seeing this type of websites as a passive income generator.

If you have been thinking about building a membership site because it’s a “money-machine”, you’re probably going to be disappointed. You’ll need to consistently put in work, if you want to keep your platform growing.

“People join membership sites for the content, but stay for the community,” Mike said during our interview. He’s 120% right.

People join membership sites for the content, but stay for the community.

This means that your work isn’t done once your membership site has been launched, quite the opposite actually.

When leveraged wisely, membership sites can be an excellent source of recurring revenue, but there need to be consistent work behind them.

Online Course vs. Membership Site — Which One’s Right for You?

The answer to this question really depends from what you want to achieve with your teaching platform.

Do you and will you have the time to consistently be engaged with those who sign up? Is the content going to be available all the time? Is it going to be available right from Day 1 or will it be delivered periodically?

And what about the user’s experience?

There’s seems to be some confusion in the online marketing world, as online courses and membership sites are often use as synonyms.

Typically, an online course is an online training that requires less involvement from the teacher. As soon as students sign up, they get access to the entire repository of lessons.

A student can decide to start from module 1 or from the last one.

There are online courses that give students lifetime-access to the content and others that make the content available for a limited time (8 weeks, 6 months, one year, etc.).

In terms of course availability, doors are usually open for a short window of time and webinars may be used as the tool to launch and promote the online course.

Marie Forleo’s B-School and David Siteman Garland’s Create Awesome Online Courses are some examples. B-School is an 8-week online training, while CAOC gives students lifetime access to the course content. The course content may stay pretty much the same, with a few updates here and there.

In terms of pricing, students will usually pay once (or several times, in case of the payment being split into monthly instalments).

A membership site, on the other hand, periodically provides new content to its members. Students who are part of this community will have to pay — monthly or yearly — to get and keep access to the training materials.

The Membership Guys Mike Morrison’s & Callie Willows’ Member Site Academy, John Lee Dumas’ Podcasters Paradise and Michael Hyatt’s Platform University are some examples of membership sites.

Joining the site may be available only during certain times of the year (Podcasters Paradise, Platform University) or all year round (Member Site Academy).

Generally, though, its content is updated monthly and features additional resources such as Q&A and live coaching calls, lessons by guest teachers, etc.

Content to Build (and Retain) Member Engagement

On the podcast, Mike Morrison talked about how people may initially be attracted to your membership site because of its content, but will stick around (thus paying you the monthly membership fee) because of the community.

In other words, the key to creating, managing and growing a successful membership site is to consistently deliver content that educates, entertains, informs and that strengthen the sense of community among members.

Here are some examples:

  • forum, Facebook group and/or Slack community where people can ask questions and interact with one another
  • live Q&A video calls with guest teachers (other experts in your niche)
  • Ask Me Anything type of calls, where members can ask you…anything
  • user-generated content: sharing some of the members’ success as case studies and teaching tools for others, getting people involved with you (John Lee Dumas, for instance, features some of his Podcasters Paradise members on the Podcasters Paradise Podcast)

So, when planning the content for your membership site don’t focus only on the main teaching resources, but keep in mind things you can offer periodically that will grow the sense of community among your membership site members.

What Are the Best Tools to Build a Membership Site?

If you have been browsing the web in search of an article that talks about the BEST tools to create, launch and manage a membership site you have been wasting your time.

Sorry, but that’s true!

As Mike pointed out, choosing the right best tools really depend on what you need plugins and softwares to do for you and your membership site.

So, before wasting the next hour searching Google for the epic post on the best tools, sit down and make a list of the features you want your membership site to have.

Once you’re clear on that, you can start with you research.

WishList Member? OptimizePress? MemberMouse? WooCommerce Memberships? A different plugin?

To help you with that, Mike and Callie have created the Membership Plugin Comparison Chart — resource that lists the features of and compares the most popular plugins you can use for your membership site.

During our interview, Mike discussed additional things related to membership sites (like pricing and launch) and he also made available an exclusive offer I don’t want you to miss.

So, click here to listen to the interview to get more golden nuggets and benefit from Mike’s offer!