A membership community is a way to create a way to build an online hub for recurring revenue. Software as a service, or SaaS, is a form of membership. You’re probably aware that Microsoft Word, Adobe tools and many online subscriptions follow this subscription-membership model. When interviewing Veena Prashanth, co-creator of the membership software Digital Access Pass, we defined what is entailed in creating a membership community, why we need a plugin and how to manage products. We also delved into learning management systems and the LMS she has now created for DAP. Membership communities work extremely well along with online courses and she answered the question, Why?
In this article, we will talk about the 5 w’s, the what, why, where, when and how of membership platforms and membership communities. We will start with defining what a membership community is.
What is a Membership Community?
A membership community is a place that holds exclusive content. It is protected content behind a virtual wall. The only way you can obtain that content is through a member portal where a member needs to sign in with a password.
Think of a gated community. You either have a physical key to get in or a mechanical keypad. The same principle works for a membership site. You have a password that lets you access exclusive content. The amount of content will vary and can be customized according to the business and membership level.
Why a Membership Community?
A membership community allows you as an entrepreneur to create content that can generate residual income. The content can be dripped out in stages or available all at once. There are many options, depending on the type of program that is developed. Most content access can be completely automated.
Membership software, when set up correctly on the back end, frees up the originator from sending links, passwords and even content on a continual basis. The content is already created and new content can be added to at any time. And the program is formatted to send a link to reset a password or allow the user to update billing and other information. I’m assuming most everyone is familiar with the process of resetting a lost password!
Where to Put a Membership Community
A membership community can be hosted as a plugin right on your WordPress website. I use Digital Access Pass as the membership software plugin I use on my website. I like having ownership and control of my database and platform. There are other WordPress plugins, such as Wishlist, Membership Press and others that both have benefits and good ratings. My biggest word of advice is to launch a program you won’t outgrow. After comparing and following reviews of the top sites, I made the decision to go with DAP and have been extremely happy with the constant upgrades and stellar customer support with Veena and her team.
There are other places you can start a form of a membership community, such as Facebook and other social media platforms. However, I’m throwing out a word of caution if you entirely build your membership on another platform. You don’t own those contacts. They can disappear fairly quickly with a change in the platform’s algorithms or rules. I’ve known groups that have been suddenly shut down. Starting over is a tremendous amount of work, plus it’s hard to scale.
When choosing a WordPress hosted platform, speak with your web developer as to what you need to have on the back end of your website. I needed access to a C-Panel on my server, but every platform is different. I would strongly advise you to choose a platform with good customer support. Most have a done for you option, which I suggest is best for most. I’m fairly tech-savvy but I spend more time than most need to spend on tech issues. Because I help others with tech , I have found it’s helpful for me to have first-hand experience on how to troubleshoot.
When to Start a Membership Community
You can start a membership community at any time. Some start very small with a very low entry point, such as $7 a month. As long as you have something of value to offer, you can create a membership community. The trick is not only to gain members but keep members. What you start, you should be prepared to continue. This is where many find themselves caught in the cycle of content churn. To keep members engaged, putting out new content can get exhausting especially if it’s daily, weekly or even monthly.
Members in a membership community can also face exhaustion with overwhelm. Remember, your members only have a certain number of hours in their day. More content is not always better! But engagement and encouragement are always a huge plus for a membership community. When starting the music membership, Learn Music Again, I knew I needed to have the attitude of taking on a group of private students. This takes focus as I take each member’s growth seriously and want to make sure they are gaining value. As they experience success and the joy of learning, there is a better chance they will stay on as members!
How to Start a Membership Community
First, define what problem you’re solving, then outline your solution. It is a very good idea to create a free download as a lead magnet that is directly related to the type of community you are building. With downloads, you will obtain contact information and can build trust as you put out additional content and build your membership community.
I created a piece of free sheet music for my music membership that was at the intermediate level, which is the target level of musicianship for my ideal customer. I know most don’t have the time to be a part of multiple groups so I wanted this group to meet a specific need. I also wanted to be able to continue with the monthly content I was offering. I like the mindset of Start before you’re ready! You can learn and build in phases as you go!
Veena’s main word of advice, and one I hold true as well, is to start small. You can launch a membership community basically overnight. She launched her Membership Site Lab with one Sales Funnel Simplified course. Her site has grown from there. There is no magic formula, as every membership community will look different. I strongly suggest you consider a membership community. It is definitely a big part of future business as many are regrouping, reinventing and restarting. Check out: Digital Access Pass
Four principles to leave you with: Don’t be afraid of the tech. Create a solid plan. Pursue a quality membership platform. Start! I wish you much success! And make sure you check out Learn Music Again music membership!