The membership site. It is considered by many to be the “holy grail” of online business models.
Many like it because of the recurring revenue. The recurring revenue is most definitely nice. It adds a level of sustainability and predictability to your business. I mean, the big mega-launches are sexy and all, but I'll take a nice steady stream of revenue every month over a mega-launch any time.
But, membership sites go way beyond recurring revenue.
In fact, I believe that pretty much any blog owner who is selling digital products of any kind should be turning their site into a membership site. There's a reason why I place the membership site onto my Blog Monetization Model so firmly.
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So, let's talk it out here, shall we?
I'm going to give you 6 solid reasons why you should be turning your blog into a membership site if you intend to make a real business out of it.
Reason #1: Ebooks Are So Yesterday
Ebooks have been the default first-level product for awhile now. Many people still default to the ebook.
But, stop it. Just stop it.
If you're selling fiction or some other casual reading product, then sure, sell it as an ebook. Do it on Amazon Kindle. It is an amazing platform. But, for those of us who create real reference content and training content, the ebook is just a terrible platform.
- It is difficult to reference or find things.
- There's no two-way interaction.
- There's no multiple mediums – and many people don't learn as well in pure written form.
- The concept has been cheapened by so many people giving away ebooks for free, so you have a built in price cap.
An ebook just isn't a good customer experience.
Now, take that same information and build it into a membership site. Now you have interaction, the ability to have multiple formats, the ability to update it much easier and keep it fresh, AND the ability to price it outside the confines of the perceived value of a book.
Reason #2: Simple For Your (Repeat) Customers
People often associate membership sites with recurring billing, but realize that that's just one application of the platform.
A membership site is simply any site where there is access control to certain protected content. And you can have multiple sets of protected content (for multiple products) and you can choose any form of billing you wish (one-time payment, payment plans, or ongoing recurring billing on any interval).
The whole time, however, your members will have one, single account. Whether they buy a recurring program, a one-time product or a whole bunch of one-off products… you have one account which gives them access to all of it.
This is also beautiful for earning repeat business. They buy one product and you can easily upsell them into additional products. All in the same account.
Imagine a strategically engineered environment where your customer is browsing a product they already purchased. They see other related offers. If it is right for them, they can buy it with a single click. You can even do that with free member levels.
Reason #3: Turns Your Blog Into A Real Business Platform
I'm a huge fan of the concept of your membership site and your blog being the same site. This is how the Blog Marketing Academy is built, using MemberMouse as the platform. The Lab is the training side of the Blog Marketing Academy… and it is all right here on the same site.
This means that every single person who comes to your blog is now, essentially, in your place of business.
They're in your store. No need to send them off into separate sites and make things confusing.
With the right membership site platform, you can even provide one-click purchase ability to your members. If they're logged in, they could be on your blog reading anything and if you give them an upgrade option inside that blog post, then can purchase it with one click. No need to go through a whole new checkout process. MemberMouse provides this ability if you integrate it with Stripe.
This also gives you another interesting option…
Reason #4: You Can Provide Premium Content Via The Blog Itself
When your blog IS the membership site, then you have the option to build in “upgrades” throughout the public blog content.
Sure, you'll still have those courses that stand off by themselves. But, could you offer some kind of “upgrade” to every blog post? Some downloadable bonus? Regular readers will see a message saying they need to be a member to access it while logged-in members with the right access level will immediately see it.
This helps turn every blog post into a marketing opportunity.
There are actually a lot of marketing opportunities available to you when your blog is the business platform.
Reason #5: Provides A Lot Of Product Flexibility
The way to make more money is to make a lot of offers. If you're just a one-trick pony with your one product, you're going to have a harder time increasing revenue.
With your blog set up as a membership site, you can structure content into a number of different packages. You can have an army of different products out there of various kinds. Some one-time buys and others recurring.
You can also do product splintering. Simply take some course or module out of your site and splinter it off as a front-end product. You don't have to re-post it… you simply change the access permissions for it.
This is what I do internally for a few of the courses which are available inside The Lab. While LAB members can access everything, a few of the courses are available as stand-alone purchases. I've splintered them off from the main membership for that purpose.
Lastly, let's also bear in mind that you're not stuck selling information products. A good membership site platform acts as your ecommerce setup and customer management system, too. You are able to sell services, coaching, even physical products if that's what you want to do. Generally, a membership site isn't the best avenue for physical product sales, however it can technically be done.
Reason #6: You Can Concentrate On What You Do Best – Content
Chances are, if you run a blog, you're doing it with Wordpress. You're used to creating content in Wordpress. So, why not just do ALL of it that way?
It is just easier.
Instead of spending a ton of time trying to design some fancy ebook, you just use your own website as your delivery mechanism. You concentrate on the content, not the format.
Not only that, but since you're creating a lot of content anyway, it actually helps to speed up the process of making premium content for your customers. That's leverage.
My Personal History With Membership Sites
I got into the membership site game pretty early on with my original technology blog. I created a program called “PCMech EDU”, then it later became “PCMech University”. It was a site with contained all my tech training products from PCMech in one place in digital form.
When I got into the online marketing space in 2009, I came out of the gate with a course called Blog Masters Club. While this was a standalone course, it was delivered via a membership site. You could purchase it as a one-time purchase of $497 or 6 payments of $97. And that product did very well. (Blog Masters Club is now only available to members of The Lab).
As time went on, I create a number of new standalone courses. Each one had its own URL and its own site set up for it (using Wishlist Member). And I set up a recurring billing option called “Inner Circle” for any of my customers of other courses to purchase for ongoing mastermind and help from me.
This splintered approach using Wishlist Member was a bit of a maintenance nightmare. Customers would need profiles in a bunch of separate sites. Also, Wishlist Member didn't always work very well. :/
Fast forward awhile and I made a pretty big strategic decision…
I decided to combine all of my courses into one product and stop all these different offers which were spread out all over the place. That program was called the “VIP” program here at the Blog Marketing Academy.
Now, there were hiccups in the beginning, to be sure. See, the training portal used to be separated from the main site which meant it was all off on a little island by itself. And, we built on top of PilotPress (which works with Ontraport). There were a number of usability issues with this setup.
Also, revenue was down for awhile, to be honest. There were times when I wondered if it was a mistake to combine everything like this.
But over time, I realized the problem wasn't necessarily the strategy, it was the execution. For one, the platform I was built on was a huge pain in the ass. In theory, managing everything inside of Ontraport was attractive. But, Ontraport is a solid CRM, it is NOT a membership platform.
Secondly, separating all the premium content onto a separate site made it a lot more difficult to do effective content marketing.
I later discovered MemberMouse. It really did change the entire Blog Marketing Academy, both the front-facing site, the customer experience, and also how we manage things behind the scenes.
My Current Business Platform
Here is the current set of tools which power pretty much my whole business today:
- MemberMouse – my membership site platform. I didn't think I'd say this, but forget Wishlist Member. Click here to read my review of MemberMouse.
- Thrive Architect – Best. tool. ever. You can design any kind of page you want, regardless of your theme, and all without diving into HTML code.
- Memberoni Theme – This site and the way courses are organized are built on top of the Memberoni theme, created for members of Member Site Academy. To be clear, however, I have heavily customized this theme so what you see here now is quite different than what other Memberoni users may have.
- Gravity Forms – Members can send me information and it is integrated with their user profile. So, if they're logged into the site, the forms know who they are already.
- Drip Email Marketing.
Of course, I use other auxiliary systems that don't have anything to do with the guts of the membership site itself, but in essence…
This is how the Blog Marketing Academy is built.
And the 6 reasons above are why I built it this way.
I know some like to tell courses on Teachable or outsource their membership sites to other systems, but those 6 reasons are why I'm a huge fan of having your membership site and your blog be the same site.
If you're serious about growing a digital training business that will scale up, then I recommend you go this route as well. Sure, there are other options for software out there and that's fine. But, the turning your blog into a membership site is an ideal business platform if this is the way you intend to go with it.
It literally turns your blog into the business.
Not many blog owners can say that as they screw around with Adsense tags all day. Those funny people. 🙂
Ready to take your next step?