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My membership site is up, now what do I do?

In my last article in JCM, I worked really hard to convince you that regardless of what business you are in, or even for non-business sites, you need to have a membership component to your site. Assuming that I did a reasonable job, you either have one in the works or are at least planning one.

Now you want to know the most effective way to use membership in your own website, right?

Answering this question is exactly the focus of this article. There are many combination of ways to help your business by incorporating membership into your site. Here are 5 perspectives to spark your creativity and help you focus your plan…

ONE - Disseminate information
Give ’em what they want! The core purpose of your membership site is to give (or sell) valuable information, services, or products to your membership.
Make it the go-to place to get everything regarding the topic of your site by creating a central repository of the information and resources you offer.
Even if you email or snail mail some of the same information, let the recipients know it is all available on the site, but only if they are a member. You won’t be sending ALL the information or resources by email or postal mail, after all.
You can even make the archived information searchable as an added bonus. For example: I am a member of an organization that mails out a substantial physical newsletter every month and I keep each issue. However, they also maintain a members-only part of their site where they have archived and cross-referenced every issue of the newsletter. I often input searches of the archives and read newsletters published before I was a member. But if should I quit, I only have the physical newsletters I saved so there is clear incentive for me to continue as a member.
Ok, now you have the basic idea… what else can you do?

TWO - Dole out information over time
In my last article, I talked about giving your members compelling reasons to stay close to you, or ‘building a fence’ around your followers. Here’s an easy technique to get that started.
Present an offer to “Sign up for 10 tips in 10 weeks.” Using Joomla’s smart publish up/down capabilities, you can let the membership site unlock an additional webpage automatically each week for the 10 weeks.
Here is a twist on making this offer pay that I recently saw used quite effectively. The website offers the ’10 tips in 10 weeks’ for free, but if you want all the tips right now, you have to pay. This is an excellent income generator that does not leave anyone out but feeds on excitement.
If the information is perceived as valuable and you’ve written your marketing copy correctly, you will always get a certain percentage who will pay in that scenario.

THREE - Training, Courses and Learning Systems
Membership sites lend themselves very well to presenting learning material. For example, you can use the “dole out information over time” method to teach a multimedia course.
To foster engagement and motivation, you can require your students to take and pass a quiz before the next module is revealed.
A really smart thing to do is to map the quiz answers back to parts of the course so that you can send the students directly back to the part of the module that they didn’t fully grasp.
While your membership system may be able to do all you want on its own, you can boost your capability for engagement by integrating a Learning Management System (LMS) into your site. There are many LMS extensions available in the JED like iJoomla’s Guru or King Product’s LMS King. Check out what’s there and get the right one for you.

FOUR - Multiple levels at different fees for different access
Whether the different levels are stand-alone or hierarchical, having multiple levels helps your members find the right level for them at the right price point.
One common scenario is multi-tiered hierarchical membership such as Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels, each at different price points. You then have the opportunity to upsell your best members to a higher level where they get additional benefits well worth the extra cost.
With Joomla’s hierarchical user groups it is exceedingly easy to let Silver see all the Bronze information, Gold see all the Silver & Bronze information, and Platinum members see it all. We frequently do this in the membership sites we create for our clients.

FIVE - Free or Paid…or Both?
The answer depends on the purpose of your membership site and how it fits into the larger scheme of your products and your marketing.
Don’t think that this question only applies to businesses trying to grow; even small hobby-related websites can have an inexpensive paid component to cover costs and deliver information that would be to expensive to give away.
I know of a quilting membership site that had a wonderful free membership, but some things they supplied to members actually cost them money, so they also had a low-cost paid level that allowed them to give amazing value for a very reasonable rate. It was a win-win solution.

Ready to do it?
We have built many membership sites in Joomla using JoomFuse as the membership extension and Infusionsoft as the sales and marketing automation platform. We have only scratched the surface with what we could do with some of the other extensions for both Joomla and for Infusionsoft.
I think you will see there are endless combinations of ways to design your membership site. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
But the reality is… membership sites are the way to go!
Reach out to me with questions or comments; I’d love to hear from you. Next month we will present several case studies of membership sites that are alive and thriving. See you in September!

Originally published in Joomla Community Magazine.