Getting the Most out of a Membership Website
A popular business model these days is the membership website. Membership sites work by offering a regular feed of valuable and exclusive information, special offers etc. in return for sign-ups and (optional) payment of a fee (monthly, annual or lifetime membership).
It’s a win-win situation for the site owner who gets it right - make it easy for people to join up and participate, give them access to content that no one else can see, develop a loyal base of visitors and, potentially, a regular income stream for your business.
Various membership software solutions exist on the market, but before you leap in, you should decide on the essential features you need your membership site to include. There'll also be many desirable options which will enhance your site and make it easier to run.
Basic Security and Access
- At its most basic level, a membership site should provide logged in members with the appropriate access to protected content, and restrict access to content that a user isn’t entitled to see.
- It will give members a set of unique login details to access the members’ area.
- You might want to add extra safeguards, such as email verification during the sign-up procedure.
- Look for membership software that does much of the work for you. For example, Kontrolit’s Members Module saves you time with automated processes like creating invoices and sending up to four reminder emails when membership is about to expire.
- Busy sites will need to remove as much of the manual admin process as possible, so features that manage member sign-ups, renewals and payments are essential.
Features that improve your income
- Offering exclusive products to members that aren’t available to anyone else is a great perk of a membership site. To do this you'll need to be able to integrate the membership functionality with an ecommerce shop.
- Once members see what a great site you have, they’ll want to upgrade to the next level. Make sure your site can handle that easily without too much manual effort on your part or your member's.
- Events, courses and conferences are great opportunities to create additional income on membership sites. Does your software allow you to promote events with listings or a calendar, manage registrations online and take payment?
Features that give you extra flexibility
- The more information you gather about members, the better you can understand their needs. You’ll benefit from creating bespoke forms for member sign-ups, collecting testimonials, feedback, surveys etc. Check that your software can handle this.
- Don’t want to follow the traditional Bronze, Silver, Gold membership format? You’ll need a system that allows you to create as many membership levels as you want and set the access level to different content on your site.
- You might also have your own ideas about the duration of membership: 1 month, 1 year, a fixed period or lifetime. Your membership software should offer a range of options.
- Some membership systems will figure out the pro-rata cost when a member joins mid-month or mid-year. This is a useful feature that will save you some admin time.
- How about features that add value for members? For example it’s a good idea to integrate the members' area with a members’ directory, so they can see other members' profiles and contact details.
Handling payments is key if you're hoping to make money from your membership site. Check what payment systems your software can integrate with, ie. Paypal or, if you have a busy site and a merchant account, you may want to consider Sagepay or PayPoint to lower your overheads.
How do you want to vet new members?
You might want to automatically approve anyone who applies for membership or you might want to check them out first and approve them manually. Make sure your membership site allows you to choose and notifies you when there's an application awaiting your attention.
If you need something a little bit different, can your software be customised to build in extra features that aren’t available “off-the-shelf”? If you need bespoke work, a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get" approach might not work for you.
Kontrolit develops websites with a comprehensive Membership Module, including all the features mentioned here. We're happy to talk to you about bespoke options to suit your business.