The popularity of membership sites has been on the rise for a couple of years now, both with inspired individuals wanting to put a price tag on their specialties and businesses looking for a way to branch out and bring in new customers. Regardless of your reasons, taking up a membership model is one of the best ways to create a positive buzz around your business while enjoying the boons of recurring revenue, creating your own working environment, bumping up your niche authority, making content you care about, and connecting with your community.
While all this has a nice ring to it, starting a membership site is not an easy path but rather one paved with missteps, miscalculations, and business lessons learned the hard way. One of the main mistakes startup entrepreneurs tend to make is putting all their attention on starting the site but forgetting about the meat of the matter which is the “membership” part, because without it a membership site becomes just a site. Since a membership site can never have enough members, owners of such sites should make it their mission to attract new members (and keep the old ones while they’re at it).
As your membership site grows you’ll have to try out new tactics to draw in new members and keep the membership numbers going up. Fortunately, there are more than enough tricks to boost up your membership out there, so let’s start with at least 10 of them.
1. Make your membership site easy to find
What’s the point of heaving a masterfully made membership site bristling with smashing content and superb member benefits, if no one can find it? Therefore, the first step towards boosting your membership is making sure your site can be easily found. You can start by ensuring that your site and the content you fill it with are search engine optimization (SEO) friendly.
A site considered SEO-friendly usually combines an eye-catching (and catchy) name with a top-level domain (such as .com, .org, or .co.uk.), uses a trustworthy web host (strong on security, speed, and support), offers a user-friendly experience (by choosing the right colors, intuitive page layout, adding in-depth information, and so on), and by utilizing a good SEO plugin. Although most membership platforms provide SEO optimization if you’re not using one of them you'd probably want to install an SEO plugin.
For instance, if you’ve paired your membership site with the most popular open-source content management system (CMS) out there (you’ve guessed it, it’s WordPress), besides installing one of the membership plugins you should also include some for SEO optimization (like Yoast, All In One, and Rank Math). With its help, you’ll make your site pop up more often among the search engine results, attract more relevant users, and get the membership numbers up.
2. Offer a free trial or a money-back guarantee to everyone
Although the concept of free trial (or a money-back guarantee) is nothing new nor revolutionary, nowadays it has become a necessity in all sorts of online businesses. In a membership site business, it is one of the best ways to let your site sell itself, as well as to let the potential members get comfortable with your site without the need to worry about busting their budget.
In case of a free trial, your aim is to (over)deliver the goods to make sure your potential members turn into actual ones. It can be done by unlocking some parts of your site for them, or by providing access to complete content but for a limited time only. Either way, giving them a “sneak peek” into your offer is one of the best ways to attract attention and create a nice buzz about your business.
If you wish to back your membership plans with a money-back guarantee, make sure your refund policy is presented in a transparent way, leaving no place for confusion. This is a particularly good move for those who are new in the business since it will show confidence in your site to the potential members while giving them a chance to try out what it has to offer without any risk.
3. Simplify the sign-up process
Another way to get more sign-ups is to make the sign-up process as simple as it gets. Most folks don’t enjoy filling out seemingly endless forms with their personal information, passing through verification processes, or trying to convince the almighty algorithm that they’re not robots. Therefore, to avoid making them bored out of their mind (and giving up on the sign-up altogether) focus on a form including their name, email address, and password. This is where a pop-up sign-up form can come in handy since users won’t have to navigate to another page to fill in their information. Although it sounds like a small thing, it will speed up the process significantly making the users more likely to complete it.
However, if they wish to take you up on the free trial offer (given you actually offer one), or to become paying members, then you’ll have to ask for additional information about the billing. In any case, just remember to keep up the good work by keeping it simple.
4. Add live chat support to a membership sales page
Although having a live chat support channel is always a good idea, it’s particularly handy to have it on the membership site’s sales page. It goes without saying that your sales page should showcase all perks of being subscribed to your paid plan (or plans) as clear as day. However, no matter how comprehensively the content of your sales page is presented, there is always going to be someone who’ll want to know a bit more. This is where the most convenient customer support channel (yes, live chat) can come in handy.
By clicking on the chat button, your potential members will be immediately queued to chat with customer support staff (if you’re short on staff, you can be the one-man staff). So, no need to fill out a tedious contract form, write an email while trying not to fall asleep, or yawn through a phone menu only to doze off when placed on hold. The point is, the more time users spend searching for answers or waiting for support to respond, the less likely they are to stay on the page and make a purchase.
What’s more, adding live chat support is a good way to win the trust of your potential members since it will show them that customer support is on standby if they have any questions or concerns.
5. Run a referral program
Why bother hunting for new members, when your current members can do the job for you if you push them in the right direction. Since people tend to trust their friends more than salespeople (and understandably so), sales made through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth are the simplest to make. What’s more, they’re cost-efficient and beneficial for businesses and customers alike. This is why many membership sites choose to run a referral marketing program, and you should too.
By offering your members something in return, a referral program will stimulate them to invite their friends to subscribe to your site. This can be something as simple as a one-time discount, or perhaps a free membership plan upgrade, referral fee for a percent of the revenue, access to premium stuff, or special status in the community. No matter what it is, it’s critical that your referral partners feel they’re getting more than their fair share for investing their time to boost your membership.
6. Get into social media marketing
This is a no-brainer since most of your current (and potential) members are already hanging out on social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). However, there’s no need to get on every single platform but to figure out where your hopefully future members are spending their time and engage them there. Besides providing a deeper insight into your site and its content, you should utilize the tools that the majority of social media platforms now offer to add live events, host challenges, and do polls. Basically, anything that will attract the attention of your potential members, get them involved, and make them want more.
If you’re willing to invest some money into your social media marketing strategy, you could add paid ads to the game. They’ll increase traffic to your site, build brand awareness, improve engagement with your social media page or posts, encourage online discussions on your business, and ultimately boost your membership.
7. Make all your subscribers a part of an online community
If you don’t have an online community already, we suggest you should create one and make it a major part of your membership content. For plenty of folks, being a part of a safe, creative, and ever-growing community of like-minded individuals is more important than the membership site’s content in itself, and we can see why. It brings people from all parts of the world together, gives them space to share ideas, engage in brainstorming, form friendships, and makes them want to stick around. In simple terms, an online community adds an extra value to everything your membership site has to offer, so it’s a smart choice to invest in one as early as possible.
By making all your subscribers a part of this community, you’ll give them a closer look into the social aspects of joining your membership site, and a reason to keep coming back for more. You can also add community-building sections within your community such as “share your success story” where subscribers can tell their stories and celebrate those small victories together.
8. Have fun gamifying your site
Perhaps you’ve heard the term “gamification” but you’re not completely sure what it is, so let’s make it clear. Gamification can be described as an act of applying game-like aspects and game theory to non-gaming areas of activity, mostly as a part of a marketing strategy. It usually includes collection points for completing certain tasks, a ranking system, an option to unlock achievements and earn badges, and an opportunity for the users to “level up” and upgrade their current rank.
The purpose of gamification is to offer users more control over their experience, make them more engaged with the content, inspire competition and collaboration with other members, and give them a sense of achievement for interacting on your site on a regular basis. It’s obvious why this could play an important role in membership retention, but if you’re offering free trials to newcomers (as advised) it could also play a role in turning your potential members into the actual paying kind.
You can gamify your membership site without a hitch by installing a gamification plugin (there are loads of them for WordPress), checking out a few how-tos, and not forgetting to have fun.
9. Collaborate with other content creators
Even though it may seem somewhat counter-intuitive to partner up with competitor content creators (particularly if you’re competing for the same audience), sometimes it can be a win-win situation for both of you. If you’re just starting out and struggling to grow, instead of trying to win members away from the competition you can suggest cooperation and see how it works for both of you. It can be a good opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and failures, study the strategies that work, and do creative collaborative work with the aim to bring your communities together, promote each other’s work, and master cross-selling.
On the other hand, if you’re not too keen on the fact that you could be waking up every morning and checking if you’ve got a knife in the back, you can collaborate with content creators you’re not competing with, although you should share some connection with them in terms of content.
10. Justify the cost of the membership
If you set the price too high it will turn away even the most inquisitive among your potential members, and if you set it too low it could make your products look too cheap to be good. To avoid that you'd want to find the middle ground between the two.
One way to get the price right is to create multiple membership tiers (we would go with three) and start with something so budget-friendly anyone can afford it, add a happy medium plan, and then drive up the price with the premium membership. However, keep in mind that each of these tiers needs to provide plenty of bang for the buck to keep the old members happy and stimulate new ones to sign up.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to choose between creating content and boosting your membership, give priority to content because high-quality content will sell itself. On the other hand, prioritizing member recruitment will bring short-term success but won’t guarantee member retention or the survival of your business in the long term.
There it is, 10 pretty easy tricks you can use right now to boost up your membership. Remember, bringing in new blood is vital for the success (and sheer survival) of any membership site, so it’s important to constantly come up with new strategies that will keep the numbers going up.
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Mirza Bahic is a freelance tech journalist and blogger from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the past four years, Mirza has been ghostwriting for a number of tech start-ups from various industries, including cloud, retail and B2B technology.