Having a website that’s well-optimized for conversion often means leading people to take action. And that’s usually signing up for your email list or joining a Facebook group.
Registering for a membership is far less common, but if you think about it, seems like a much better form of conversion. Amidst all the options we have right now for ways or techniques to convert people, perhaps you should look into creating a membership website.
This post should tackle what they are, what you’ll need to make one, specifically on WordPress, and what kind of businesses would benefit largely from having one.
What is a membership site?
A membership site is any kind of website—may be e-commerce, subscription site, community-building blog, etc—that allows users to register their own profile to gain access to more exclusive, useful content.
A membership website is quite a unique platform for delivering your content and message. It’s different from the other more common medium of email because you already have premium content that users will immediately have access to once they become a member, instead of having to wait for a new email every week or so. Who has access to that content, you have full control over.
Still other forms of content like e-books don’t have the exclusivity of members-only content. They can be passed around, whereas login information is not usually, if ever, shared. Typically, payment seals the deal between the owner of the website and the user.
Membership Site Models
Membership sites come in different models. This will determine what type of content you’ll deliver or what members will get out of it, and how often you update. Each also have a corresponding strategies that can almost guarantee conversion.
- All-In Access – If a visitor likes what they’re seeing for free on your website, they might be willing to pay for premium content that they feel they’ll get something out of. An access pass in the form of a membership will give them a pass for all your exclusive content that could collectively be worth too much if purchased at one time.
- Content Drip – A content drip model is the opposite of an all-in access pass model in that instead of giving out the content all at once, it comes one by one at regular time intervals. This model works best if you have thoroughly in-depth content, so that users have time to absorb every piece of content and follow along if it’s chronological.
- Online Course – Information products are not dead. It’s one of the most efficient modern ways online entrepreneurs could keep income. An online course model can either be an all-in or content drip kind of membership. If the latter, users will be at different stages at any given time, dependent on their progress or on the time of subscription.
- Service Subscription – Some service-based businesses could create a subscription model that productize their service. In this regard, you will have to deliver your service based on the frequency set on the membership level or plan.
- Product Subscription – A product subscription allows a retail or e-commerce business to deliver their product based on the frequency a user wants to receive them. This model is commonly employed by businesses that sell products that can be easily repurchased to encourage buyers to continue buying from them, using discounts as lead magnets.
- Online MicroCommunity – Everyone is craving belonging to some extent. That’s how community moderators could monetize membership in an online community.
- Time-based Fixed Membership – A fixed membership is one that has a definite end. Most of these models usually don’t end unless users actively cancel their membership. A fixed membership gives access to content to members only for a given amount of time.
- Combination Model – A combination model is simply any hybrid of these models mentioned above. An online course is an example of a combination model but it has its own specific elements. Whatever your business is, you can combine these models to have a unique set of membership levels or plans.
How to Make a Membership Site On WordPress (via Plugins)
WordPress may not be equipped with the essential functions and elements needed for a membership website, but you can choose from tens of plugins that make it easy to set one up. If you follow the video from start to finish, you’ll learn how to do one very quickly from scratch.
However, if you already have a website and are just looking to add a membership function and create membership plans, you may choose a plugin and do it yourself. To make it easier for you, I’ve picked the top 3 plugins for membership functions. And later on, as we go through the essentials of a membership site one by one, I’ll also indicate if the 3 plugins enables them.
MemberPress is the leading plugin to add membership functionalities to your WordPress website. It’s packed with features that are important, as you’ll see from the list below. In addition, the pricing is perfectly complementary to the set of features you’ll get.
- Unlimited members and memberships (multiple members per membership allowed)
- Unlimited restricted content
- Member profile/dashboard
- Front-end registration form
- Subscription and payment management
- Custom trial settings
- SSL on registration page
- User roles
- Stripe & Paypal integrations
Unlike MemberPress, Teachable is an independent platform from which you can set up a membership site through a Teachable subdomain. But you can also integrate it into your WordPress site if you already have one.
This tool is best used to create online courses and enable memberships to access the modules, lessons, webinars, or whatever your curriculum consists of. There are thousands of instructors that use this and they earn up to millions because aside from their courses, Teachable provides a unique and excellent learning experience for the students.
- Multimedia lectures
- Learning tools (quizzes, forms, certificates as a reward to students)
- Student list segmentation
- Advanced custom pricing options
- Stripe and Paypal integrations and multiple currency transactions
- Smart user dashboard
- Marketing tools (coupon codes, affiliate programs)
- SSL certificate for login and checkout
- Google Drive, Dropbox, Zapier integrations
Restrict Content Pro
A way simpler alternative to the first two is Restrict Content Pro. The main premise of this tool is to “lock away your exclusive content and give access to your valued members.” Essentially, that’s what membership sites do.
The advantage of Restrict Content Pro is that you can achieve any kind of membership model you want for any business. As long as you’re set on an idea, and a membership plugin is all that’s missing, Restrict Content Pro will be able to provide for what’s lacking in WordPress.
- Unlimited subscription plans/packages
- Extremely easy setup
- Discount codes and flat-rate discounts
- Easy members management
- Members email list
- Several payment integrations
- Performance reports
What you need for a membership site
Now that you only have 3 choices for the best membership site plugins, make sure that you’re making an informed decision by going through what essential features you need for a membership site. Unless otherwise stated, each of the 3 plugins have these features. However, there might be slight differences in how they deliver that feature.
Members will share sensitive information with you when they enter their credit card information or other during payment. And they will continue giving you that information every time they login or checkout.
Passwords, their credit card numbers, and other sensitive information like that must be encrypted so that no one, not even you, can see them. That’s what the SSL certificate is for. If you can get this for your membership website, your members will be much safer for it.
Membership levels or packages
One thing I didn’t mention about all-in memberships is that they usually only have one price. That wouldn’t work if you offer a high-value membership, and there’s little to no opportunities of expansion.
Before you announce your membership site, make sure you have different levels of membership or packages to give users a choice. This will combat objections regarding prices or available content. With plans, they will know they can always get access to more information for a higher price, but at the same time, have an option to pay less if they can’t afford the higher value memberships yet.
Of course, there should be corresponding prices for every package. Make sure this is justified. Some people would go as far as to indicate how much everything is worth for a one-time payment before saying how much the membership plan pricing is. This technique will justify in your target member’s mind that what they’re paying is a bargain.
Content restrictions are important to keep access to the members regulated. You wouldn’t want to show exclusive content to those who didn’t pay for it. Some of the plugins above have a system set in place for this, while other alternatives have the password protection function in place to only let those with authorized login details in. This could also be a good technique to encourage existing members to upgrade their membership to gain access to more content.
Different levels of content
One main difference of a membership site to other forms of conversion (for example, opting in an email list) is that you need to have content ready for members to access once they get in. This members-only content is also what you will use to entice users to convert. Make sure you’re not giving away a lot of free content, but also make sure that what members will get are actually something of big value that they can get a lot of gain from.
Sign up and login forms
Though WordPress allows users into a regular WordPress website, what it lacks that membership sites require is a front-end registration page. This is like the login pages in social media sites. This is important because a lot of people wouldn’t want to go through the complicated interface of the admin page.
User profile pages
Individual user profiles are also important for the same reason that members would be better able to manage their account if they have their own dashboard. From here, members can access all the other pages like online course lessons, progress reports, community chats, their subscription plan, or whatever is relevant to their specific membership plan. Out of the 3 plugins, Restrict Content Pro is the only one that doesn’t explicitly endorse this feature.
Payment method and process
Just as e-commerce websites need to have their order and payment process polished, you also want to make the registration and payment method easy to accomplish. Since a lot of people exit websites on these steps, you’ll want to make this as quick and easy as possible that users will have no opportunity or time to change their mind.
Email sequences and segmentation
With a membership site, you’re like hitting 2 birds at once. In addition to making them a member of your site, you can also get their email, at which point they can be added to your email list. That’s why I said membership seem to be a better form of conversion. Once they become a member, it will also make more sense to receive your emails, so you’d most likely have better open rates and engagement.
Membership sites are not at all complicated. With the plugins, you really only have to follow the steps (base it on the essential features mentioned here) and you’ll be all set to promote your membership plans.
At this time, the best course of action for membership sites to make the most for you is if you create information products. There’s always something people want to learn. Find a niche, build your authority on it, and members will flock to you.