Running a membership website doesn’t stop when you’ve launched it; you need to continually grow your membership base so you can continue to earn income from your site. In this article, I’ll discuss some ways on how to increase membership signups to your website and widen your membership base so you can keep your website profitable.
Managing a membership site where members pay membership fees is one of the best ways to create a recurring income stream online.
But for a membership site to remain profitable, your membership base needs to be constantly growing, and that means you need enough new members to periodically sign up for your site so you can have a guaranteed income from your site month after month, year after year.
In this blog post, I give you tips on how to increase membership signups to your site and ensure your membership site’s success.
Driving traffic to your membership website is important, but what’s even more important is driving the right kind of traffic.
The more qualified, high-quality traffic you drive to your site, the more members will sign up on your website.
We’ve tackled driving traffic to a blog previously in this article, and some of them may or may not apply to your membership site, but here are the more practical techniques you can use.
Social media. Promoting your membership site on social media can give you access to a wider audience. If you have the budget, you can even take out Facebook or Instagram ads to show to your specific demographic or target audience.
Blog. If you have a blog with even a modest following, it can be a good promotional tool for your membership site, as long as you don’t make it the sole purpose or subject of your blog.
You can have a write-up about your membership site and list down the features and benefits, but a subtler way to do it is to write valuable content that reflects the content that could be found in the membership site and then add a brief note and a link to your membership site at the end of the article.
Beware of making your blog a solely promotional tool; your blog should still be a source of informative, valuable, and most importantly, free content.
Mailing list. If you have a blog, you probably already have a mailing list for it (if not, it’s something you should strongly consider creating).
Introduce your membership site to your mailing list as well. Similar to your blog, tease your subscribers with the type of content they can expect to find in your membership site.
Again, don’t send only promotional emails to your mailing list if you don’t want them to unsubscribe. Keep your emails an excellent resource of valuable, free content and updates from your blog.
To sum it up, increasing the number of eyeballs on your membership website increases the chances that people will sign up for your website, so creating a traffic strategy can be invaluable for your success.
If you’ve previously dabbled in affiliate marketing as a publisher, then you’re familiar with how it works.
Briefly, affiliate marketing involves publishers promoting a product or service, in this case, membership to your website, in return for a commission. It’s like having a sales team advertise your membership site for you, attracting new audiences to your website.
Bear in mind, though, that an affiliate program is not an instant solution; it’s a long-term one. Publishers have to effectively drive traffic to their own sites first before they can successfully drive traffic to your website.
In addition, an affiliate program requires additional technology to manage, and it can be time-consuming to deal with affiliates and manage the affiliate program. Here are some factors to take into consideration when you figure out if an affiliate program is for you.
Publishers. When recruiting and choosing publishers, you can open it to everyone, have it by invitation only, or only have your existing members eligible to be affiliates.
Each option has its own pros and cons, but having members as your affiliates is a good strategy in that you create advocates out of them. Plus, having experienced your membership site for themselves, they’d know who your content and features will benefit the most.
Commission rate. Another factor in the success of an affiliate program is how much you pay your publishers. You can offer a flat fee or a percentage to your affiliates. You can also offer different tiers; that is, offering higher commissions to VIP affiliates who’ve proven their convincing powers.
Again, the commission rate and structure is up to you, but it needs to be attractive enough to your affiliates to make it worth their time and effort promoting your site.
Managing your affiliate program. When you set up your affiliate program, you can manage it right on your website through a plugin (if you’re using WordPress), an affiliate platform (a third-party software dedicated to managing an affiliate program), or an affiliate marketplace (a public website advertising your affiliate program to all who are interested).
When choosing your affiliate system, you’ll have to think about how much control you want to have over it, who your publishers will be (if it’s not going to be open to the public, then having it in an affiliate marketplace won’t be viable), and how much it will cost.
Activating your affiliates. Keeping your affiliates highly motivated is yet another factor in your success in affiliate programs. Ensure that you create a fair commission structure, make it easy for them to share your affiliate link, and give them bonuses or incentives from time to time.
Overall, having an affiliate program can increase membership signups for your website eventually, as long as you don’t expect it to work overnight.
Offers and promotions for membership sites need to be done in such a way that it attracts new leads and new members while engaging your existing members.
Also, for promotions to be effective, you’d also need to introduce a scarcity element; either have it for a limited time only or open a limited number of slots.
Here are the different types of promotions that you can run for a membership website.
Discounted price offer. Discounts can be highly effective when selling products and services, and this can also work for membership sites when done right.
You might be thinking, “What’s there to do right? Slash the membership fee, promote the offer, and watch the new members come in.”
It sounds that easy in theory, but can you imagine what your existing members would feel when they find that new members only need to pay a fraction of what they’re paying?
Yeah, that sucks.
At best, they’ll be annoyed but continue on, cancel their membership and re-sign up for the less expensive membership fee, or just cancel their membership altogether.
This is why you don’t just slash the membership fee for your website hoping to attract new leads and new members. There are ways to do it that would allow you to keep your existing members happy.
First, you can make it a discount on something that your existing members can also take advantage of. For example, you can discount your annual membership fee. Existing members who are paying month-to-month can then still take advantage of this offer.
Product/content launch. Another promotion you can run is to offer a discount not on your membership fee but on a new product or new content you’re launching on your membership website. This way, both your new and existing members can take advantage of this offer without resenting you or new recruits.
Free/low-priced trial. Offering a very limited-time or limited-slot free trial can allow a sneak peek at your membership website to those who like to try before they buy.
Bonuses. Promotions don’t always have to be reductions; they can also be add-ons. You can add a free ebook or a free one-hour, one-on-one session with you for signing up.
You can also add bonus months when new members sign up for long-term memberships. For example, if they pay for 6 months membership upfront, they can get an extra 1 month free; pay for 12 months and they can get 2 more months free.
The question now is, when and how often should you run promotions?
Technically, you can run a promotion whenever you want. It’s your site.
But we’re all about maximizing the impact of a special offer, so it’s wise not to always be running promotions, otherwise it’s not going to be effective in the long run. One every quarter or every 6 months would work for most sites.
As for the time of year, you can choose periods that are significant to your membership site, like the week of your launch anniversary. Or it could be a holiday, like Thanksgiving/Black Friday, or Christmas/New Year.
You can also choose a period that is significant to your niche. For example, if you’re running a site with online courses for mom bloggers, you might want to run a promotion the week of Mother’s Day.
Contests and giveaways can be effective in convincing people to sign up for your membership site, provided you do it the right way.
Here are some of the things to consider when hosting a contest.
Requirements. Since your goal is to have as many people join as possible, keep the requirements to enter easy to do, or at least not impossible to accomplish.
Requirements can be as simple as merely entering their email address so you can send information to them about your membership site, to a social media promotion campaign where they have to post content related to your membership site on their own social media.
Take note that when you’re hosting a contest on a social media platform, you’ll have to consult their terms and conditions regarding contests and giveaways so you’re sure not to break any rules and get banned.
Guidelines. How complicated your contest rules are will depend on how difficult the requirements for entry are. What’s important is that you are crystal clear about the rules and that you stick to them so that everyone has a fair chance of getting the prize.
Prizes. The two characteristics of an irresistible prize are: 1) it’s expensive, and 2) it’s in limited supply.
But these aren’t enough to be successful in drawing in your target audience. Aside from being irresistible, you’ll need a prize that your target audience for your membership site will be interested in.
Probably the most obvious prize you can give out is free membership to your site. You can do a 1-month, 6-month, 12-month, or lifetime membership prize, or you can even give out all of these prizes with different requirements for each “tier.”
This type of prize is good because even your existing members will want to have it, which means they aren’t left out in the cold.
If this contest is to promote a new course or a new product or service you’re offering, you can also give out a prize related to whatever you’re launching.
Picking winners. Depending on the guidelines or requirements for entry, you can either pick randomly through a digital raffle draw or you can handpick the winner by choosing the best entry.
The random winner works if everyone exerted the same effort to enter, such as simply giving their email address or sharing a link to your membership site on their social media.
But if you require them to put in a little more effort, like posting a particular photo of them and/or posting a caption as an answer to a question you pose (e.g., “tell me why you deserve the prize”), you’ll want to actually pick the best entry.
If you don’t like having to choose just one winner among multiple entries that obviously involved time and effort to create, have your existing members vote on the best entry.
Promoting your contest. Even if you have the best prize ever and all entrants have to do is enter their email address, if no one knows about the contest, no one will join.
Tell everyone about the contest, and I mean everyone. Tease it on your blog, email your mailing lists, post about it on your social media.
Contests are a great way to advertise your membership site and increase the number of signups in a short span of time, so make sure you incorporate contests in your strategy once or twice a year.
If someone makes it to the checkout page of your site, it’s clear that at that moment they were ready to sign up for your website.
But sometimes they get second thoughts, or a nagging question or issue that they can’t shake off, or they got distracted by something unrelated, or they simply forgot their payment details and meant to come back to the page but forgot too.
That’s life, and it happens, and you can’t fault them for that.
What you can do, though, is to try to reel them back in.
Set up your checkout process such that your prospects need to enter their email address first. Then, when there’s no visit to your thank you page/confirmation page, that’s an abandoned checkout that triggers an email to be sent to your prospect within 24 hours.
In your email, you can mention that you noticed they didn’t complete the checkout process and then offer to answer any questions they may have. Or you can tempt them with a special offer if they sign up within a few hours.
Always end with a link to quickly complete the checkout so they don’t have to go through the entire process again.
It’s not foolproof, and some of your prospects might never sign up anyway, but ignoring these almost-members is like throwing away money.
To keep your membership site profitable, you need to consistently expand your membership site. Here’s a recap of the strategies I discussed above.
Here’s a final reminder before you proceed with strategizing to increase your membership base.
You only have a number of hours to accomplish all the tasks you need to do to maintain your membership site, and that sometimes means you’ll have to prioritize doing some tasks over others.
When it comes down to choosing between creating content and increasing your membership signups, always choose content.
Always having high-quality content on your website allows you to attract more members to your site, and keeps your existing members happily subscribed. Remember, it costs more to chase new members than to keep existing ones.
Have you started to recruit new members? What strategies have worked for you? Share it in the comments!
This is the 5th of a 6-part membership site masterplan series. I highly recommend reading them in order.
For your reference, here are links to all the articles in the series:
JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.