Membership sites come in a lot of different flavors. Some of them do recurring billing while others are just a delivery vehicle for a one-off product.
There are a bunch of different reasons why you’d probably want (or need) to set up a membership site in order to jump start your online business.
In fact, this is why I currently have six different membership sites in operation. Only two of them are recurring and the other four are traditional products where I simply used a membership site as the delivery vehicle.
But, there’s always that story of the first one. 🙂
Being that I’ve been in this business for so long now (14 years and counting), I seem to have a knack for being able to tell the story of how to do things which is was incredibly hard to do. And, this one is no different.
This was my first membership site over on PCMech.com. We called it… PCMech University.
Why I Created PCMech University
In the technology space, banner ads is pretty much the de facto way to make money with a site. And that’s fine, but… I wanted something more.
I had spent many years on PCMech sell one-off products. We actually used to have an commerce store where people could buy DVDs and ebooks right from the store. And, yes, we actually shipped DVDs. One of those DVDs (Build Your Own PC) was actually filmed right in the living room of my house. 🙂
But, selling one-off products is a lot of work. We’re constantly in the hunt for new customers, or ways of attaching existing subscribers to buy who hadn’t already. See, once a subscriber had bought the product, they had it. There wasn’t enough for them to buy after the fact. For that reason, we ended up running specials, discounts, things like that…. all in an effort to push more sales out of the subscriber base.
I wanted to build up the in-house revenue stream. Depending on ad networks isn’t a secure business model – not to mention that they all take a percentage of the revenue being generated.
So, a membership model made sense.
Get a new member and they’ll continue to pay, over and over. And, it was an in-house revenue stream, not something I needed to split two-ways with anybody else. It also added much better predictability and control to my income.
How We Set It Up – The Hard Way
We all make mistakes. And one of mine was the way that I initially set up PCMech University.
See, today, we can use Wordpress. Tack on Wishlist Member and we’ve got ourselves a functional membership site.
But, back then, that wasn’t an option. Plus, I had this “university” thing in my head and I thought things needed to be run like a school.
So, I ended up setting up on a content management system called Moodle. Moodle still exists to this day – and I don’t know how it has developed in the last few years. But, it was complicated. It creates “virtual learning environments”. It is actually a pretty powerful piece of software, but it comes with its share of headache, too.
For the membership portion, I set up with Amember Pro. Now, Amember still exists today and its actually a pretty powerful option. Its very flexible and you can use it to do almost anything you want. Of course, the trade-off to that kind of flexibility is that it, too, is complicated.
So, I set up with Moodle and had Amember protecting the whole thing. As for content, we initially started out by digitizing the 4 or 5 DVDs we had produced and threw those into Moodle as online courses.
How We Launched It
We didn’t do any kind of “product launch formula” launch for this thing. In fact, I can’t say we did any kind of really structured, professional campaign. Looking back, it looked more like “winging it”. 🙂
Essentially, I just started dropping hints about it in the weekly newsletter. And, whenever we did something new in there, we’d make mention of it in that newsletter.
I did do some initial content explaining what the program is, why we’re doing it, and why people should join. That content was on the blog and sent out to the mailing list. Then, as we released new members-only content, we’d use that as a reason to promote. For example, we would digitize another DVD and then announce it and then THAT would be a reason to join.
We also used to do a weekly live video stream on Ustream, where Rich and I would basically just talk about technology news and give our opinions on things. And, a few times I would use that live show to run a time-limited special offer for the University membership. That worked pretty well, actually. I told them they had to join while the show was on the air and that I’d remove the deal after we go offline. One evening, it generated about $700 in revenue during an hour-long live stream.
The Big Take-Away’s… And How This Applies To You
The story of my first membership site was a story of trial-and-error. Honestly, we did a lot of things wrong. The marketing had little structure to it, and we get it up in the most complicated way.
Today, things are much easier.
Today, you can set up on Wishlist Member using Wordpress. It is SO much easier.
But, aside from that…
PCMech University was most obviously NOT in the “make money online” market in any way. And I made it work. Hell, the tech market isn’t exactly the easiest niche to be in to do things like that, either. Did that site go on to make me a fortune? No. But, it did just fine and it added a lot more dependability to the income from PCMech than existed before.
You can do this, too.
A Little More About The Workshop Starting Next Week
I’d talked a bit about the new master class: Membership Sites Academy Master Class.
It starts next week, and the entire point of the workshop is to draw from my experience with membership sites to help YOU jump-start the creation and marketing of your own.
I started the PCMech University in late 2007. Today, I run six different sites, all powered by Wishlist Member. I can – and will – help you get off the ground, save you needless wheel-spinning, and set you off into a clear direction with your membership site.
This master class will be going over the technical part of setting up, helping wade through the options found inside of Wishlist Member and OptimizePress. But, we’re also going to be talking about how to market your membership site… and how to run it day-to-day.
And there will be a LOT of opportunity for Q&A. That’s a big part of it.
So, I’d love to work with you. But, I can’t help you out if you don’t enroll in this Master Class. 🙂