What Do All Profitable Membership Sites have in Common?

The goal of membership websites is to acquire and retain members. This usually means delivering two sides of the same coin — valuable content such as a free blog or other content that converts visitors into subscribers. Let’s look at best practices of profitable membership websites, including some easy, small adjustments that can fuel profits on your own site.

1. A blog and fresh content

Public blog posts help you capture new members; they will drive traffic because of these search engine ranking factors:

  • Regularly updated content.
  • Increased use of relevant keywords in a meaningful way. This is especially important if you also create links between your posts.
  • Higher website page count.
  • Shareable content.
  • Increased dwell time on your website.

Members join to gain access to benefits and content, but they stay because they have found value. Generate valuable, password-protected, members-only content regularly and have a mechanism in place to let members know about it. Whether it is blogs that are automatically sent out as emails through RSS-to-email, autoresponder emails, drip emails or an e-newsletter, there are many ways to stay top-of-mind with members.

Depending upon the focus of your membership website, your members might like to see content such as:

  • Videos that demonstrate “how to” or industry news.
  • Results of a salary survey in a slideshow format.
  • Information about industry trends that your website or organization is in a unique position to collect from its members.
  • Statistics on the organization’s activities (e.g. “We held 20 Facebook Live events last year reaching 5000 viewers.”)
  • A report on membership demographics.

2. A focus on analytics to evaluate progress

It’s easy to lose focus when you are busy putting out fires and generating content, but the best membership websites stay on top of their stats. Some key metrics (when applicable) to track include:

  • Overall revenue
  • Number of past due and new members
  • Upgrades/downgrades
  • Event registrations (if applicable)
  • Shopping cart revenue
  • New subscriptions and unsubscribes to your email list
  • Forum page views and number of comments/discussions (if applicable)
  • Page views; look for similarities between your most successful blog posts or pages.
  • Social media followers on each channel.
  • Referring websites. Seek out guest blog post opportunities on websites that are already referring traffic to you.
  • Click through rate for your top 10 keywords that don’t include your brand name (available from Google Search Console)

If you are losing progress in a given area, consider if you need to rewrite or add content, create additional member benefits, film videos, improve email communications or other solutions to reverse course. 

3. A strong push for automatic recurring payments

The most profitable membership websites have a revenue stream that is predictably stable or growing. Your revenue will be higher with automatic recurring payments than one time payments. If you are asking a busy member to take action such as logging in to enter their credit card information again for renewal, you have created friction in the renewal process. Think of some of the things that can go wrong:

  • The member forgot her password and doesn’t want to go to the trouble of using the forgot password feature.
  • Or maybe she requests a password reset, but the reset email goes to her spam folder and she doesn’t think to go there to look for it.
  • The member types in her credit card incorrectly and gets an error message. If she’s in a hurry, she may get frustrated and not complete the transaction.
  • The member decides she’s too busy to respond to the email in the first place.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer one-time payments, but incentivizing auto-recurring payments isn’t a bad idea. The easiest and perhaps most attractive incentive is a discounted membership rate for auto-recurring credit card payments. Offering the option of one-off payments may still be a good idea, especially for new members who may not yet fully understand your value and are reluctant to commit. 

Take steps to further reduce renewal payment friction

If you use Authorize.net as your payment gateway, consider using a service like Authorize.net’s Account Updater. It helps you avoid interruptions to scheduled recurring payments and unnecessary decline in income. Account Updater automatically checks for and updates account numbers and expiration dates for cards on file.

4. Failed payment emails and past due notices with a marketing focus

Profitable membership websites see each email communication — even those as mundane as a renewal notice — as an opportunity to remind members of value or potentially upsell a higher membership level. Set up your membership management software past due emails to highlight some things that you know members find valuable. Your failed payment notice could feature some important statistics or speak to some point of pain the member is experiencing. Instead of having the same email content for each notice that is sent two, five or 15 days out, customize the content to use different appeals. A benefit that is impressive to one member may not mean as much to another. You could choose to focus on a different benefit in each past due notice. Member testimonials also make great fodder for renewal reminder emails.

5. Fearless solicitation of member opinions

Some leaders are reluctant to survey their members, worried that it will stir up possible feelings of dissatisfaction. If your member analytics indicate any negative trends, a survey sent to your membership database could be the fastest way to identify problems. Possible survey topics:

  • Ask non-renewing members what you can do better.
  • Ask attendees what you can improve after an online event.
  • Consult recent new members about what they like about your organization and what benefits or content they are not using. This can also be an opportunity to educate them.
  • If sending a survey to the full membership isn’t your style, a focus group of key members could serve a similar purpose.

Do you have other ideas to increase profitability on a membership website? We’d love to hear them! Leave a comment.

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