I have some experience with and love for the membership web site model. But you need to understand that this type of site fits some niche markets much better than others. And really, there are some niches that probably aren’t a good fit at all for a membership site.
I would suggest thinking about your potential membership subscribers and what is best for their needs/wants/desires in the niche.
Remember WIIFM. What’s in it for me. That’s what your prospects want to know . . . not what is best for you, the vendor or business owner.
My experience is that paid membership sites work best under the following niche conditions:
- If there is a timeliness or urgency factor – do you need to get the word out quickly? A good example would be a stock market advisory service. Your clients want to know, right now, what they should do in a very volatile market trading environment. I don’t think you have this in the anxiety niche or some other “non time sensitive” market – you could sell your information in an ebook and it would be just as good next year as it was this year or last year.
- If there is a massive download library. Are you offering 10,000 downloadable images? 10,000 sewing patterns? 1,000 video tutorials? A membership site would make sense here. Again, I don’t think a lot of popular niches would qualify.
- If there is a community of people that feed off each other or want to communicate back and forth. A private paid forum site could be the means they use to engage one another. The example here would be a cruise site for senior citizens that want to discuss with other seniors the best cruise lines, where to go, what to see, what to take, things to avoid, how to find discount cruise packages, etc. Some niches are perfect for this type of member connection . . . but others may not be.
- If there is a tight-knit group of owners. I’m thinking Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners, Airstream trailer owners, Porsche owners, etc. These people feel comradery and kinship. They want to be friends with like-minded people. Ask yourself the question: Do my niche participants desire to talk amongst themselves to socialize, help and support each other? If so, that’s a good thing and it signifies that your members will be active and engaged. Be sure to have a membership platform that allows subscriber interaction.
- If there are forms, templates, resources that you offer in a particular subject niche. You don’t want to sell these individually, but for all your members (and their monthly fees, of course) you want to give them access to your library or vault. This type of niche is a good candidate for a membership site. In fact, it may be the most popular reason for creating and running a membership or continuity web platform.
- As a licensed professional or association site where others in the profession (CPAs, counselors, architects, engineers, etc) hang out together to learn about specific occupational news, events, best practices, etc. Or the subject could be the “Jelly of the month club” – You know what I’m talking about. You give your subscribers something special each month that appeals to them and maybe saves them some money or helps them learn a skill. It could be a magazine or newsletter or a physical product like a tie, a set of razors, or a pair of socks. Obviously, the type of product or content that is going to be delivered will largely determine if the continuity plan will work in the niche.
- Challenge event or period during which you’re giving instructions and maybe keeping track of progress. A private paid membership site makes sense as you engage your members and they pay to have you “coach” them along. This reasoning is pretty straightforward: you need a platform where you can deliver lessons, or updates, or instructions and they need to be available when it’s convenient for the member.
- Guest or expert coaching. Here, you do not provide all the content. You invite niche experts or guests to supply your subscribers with what they want. It’s a convenient platform for “pushing” expert advice along that can be valuable and unique to your site. In this case, the site owner doesn’t not have to be the expert . . . but rather his role is that of organizer and facilitator.
- Courses, step-by-step instructional material, curriculum, etc where you publish your content in an orderly, “this first, then that” fashion. Surely you have noticed that there is some overlap or blurry distinctions between some of these reasons for choosing a membership site. In this particular instance, the reason for your membership platform is the fact that it’s a perfect solution for a set of related instructions or curriculum. The participant can come to the site and pick up where he left off the last time he was here.
- As a marketplace. Sometimes a paid private marketplace is a great way to bring supply and demand together at one web site. Active collectors, for example, (like coin collectors) will pay to have a site where buyers and sellers can interact. In addition, there are membership sites that act as a marketplace without charging a membership fee. These “free” memberships can derive income from fees from advertisers to place their products on the site, a commission on products sold, or paid advertising space.
No doubt there are other great reasons to create and run a membership site. But if you can’t match any of these reasons with the circumstance of your own niche and products, most likely the membership business model is not appropriate for your niche.
To your online business success,