When you first started your WordPress blog, you were probably dreaming of creating a passive income online. What could be better than building a business that makes money even while you’re on vacation, spending time with your family, or while you’re sleeping?
Yet, as it turns out, building a membership site is no easy task. First, you need traffic. Then you need dependable technology. Then you have to convert your visitors into paying members.
Even if you get all these right, you still have keep your members happy so that they’ll continue to pay their membership fee every month. No matter how easy the marketing gurus make it sound, building a profitable membership site is something most new entrepreneurs fail miserably at.
Step #1: Use Simple, Scalable Technology
This sounds simple enough, but if you’ve ever tried building a well-integrated WordPress membership site without investing a lot of money into hiring a programmer, you know how frustrating it can be to get the technology in place. Even if you find a good membership site plugin, you still have to integrate it with your ecommerce solution.
Then, if you want to turn your members into affiliates (a must for building a residual income online), you need a plugin that tracks affiliate sales and allows you to pay your affiliates. I know marketers who have spent hours, weeks and even months searching for these solutions.
Thankfully I’ve suffered a lot of this trial and error, and I can save you the time, money and energy by telling you where to get the technology you need. WPMU DEV makes three user friendly WordPress plugins for creating membership sites:
The Pay Per View Plugin allows you to sell content subscriptions or to sell one-time access to specific pieces of content, such as webinars or training videos. You can also use this to sell downloadable products and give the user a window of time to download the product. It also integrates seamlessly with Paypal and can be programmed to do so within a few minutes.
With the Membership Plugin, you can choose the content that your members will have access to by creating custom levels. You can also program incremental upgrades and allow memberships to “mature” over time.
Add the Affiliate plugin and you can also set your members to instantly receive an affiliate account where they can track their statistics including the leads, sales and commissions generated through their affiliate link.
All three plugins integrate with Paypal and since they’re created by the same developer, they integrate seamlessly with one another. Once you have the technology you need, there are two more very important steps you’ll need to take…
Step #2: The 7 Most Important Words in Marketing
“Build things that do things for people.”
These are probably the seven most important words for an entrepreneur who wants to create a passive income. Let’s be honest, a good membership site just can’t be built by selling content alone. Even if your content is second to none, someone will repackage it and build their own membership site or information product with it.
Just check out the Freelance sites like Guru.com, Elance and Osdesk.com, they’re full of requests for freelance writers to repackage content from somewhere else on the internet. A lot of these marketers might even give the repackaged content away for free. The moment your members discover how to get the same content at no cost, you’ll lose their business.
So if you want your customers to pay for access to your membership site, you need to make it addictive. You do this by creating something that does something for your customers. For a good example of this, check out Mark Ling’s membership site Affilorama. Mark doesn’t just sell content, he also offers dozens of tiny software applications that help marketers create ads, perform keyword research or brainstorm ideas for new products.
Again, build things that do things FOR people. Most of us are generally pretty lazy and will quickly become addicted to anything that helps us get more of what we want in exchange for less effort. If your product does this, people won’t even think twice about paying you for it every month.
Here are a few more examples…
Facebook connects people.
Pandora creates customized music libraries for people.
Google finds information for people.
Yelp delivers trustworthy reviews.
If any of these companies started charging even $9.99 a month for access to their services, do you think a lot of people would still use them? Of course they would, because they’ve become addicted to them. Just imagine deciding to never access your Facebook account again, just to save $9.99 a month…not a chance!
People are creatures of comfort and convenience, and once they experience a luxury, that luxury can quickly become a necessity. Want to build a residual income? Create something that will make your customers’ lives easier and more comfortable…something they can’t live without.
A good exercise is to imagine your customer going over their bank statement every month, deciding where they can “cut back” on their monthly expenses. If you can reasonably imagine your customers looking at the charge for your monthly membership site and saying to themselves:
“No WAY am I cancelling that!”
…you’ve got a solid product. If not, meditate on these seven words until you come up with a solution:
“Build things that do things for people.”
If you’re diligent in applying steps one and two, step three will put the icing on the cake…
Step #3: Customer Service is Your Strongest Marketing Tool
If you want to create a profitable membership site or subscription product, the most important investment you can make in is to create an amazing customer service experience. This is so powerful that it can even give you an edge on the multi-million dollar companies, many of whom cut corners by automating customer service or by outsourcing it to low budget call centers.
Creating a great customer service experience means responding quickly to customers’ questions or complaints and by making yourself easily accessible to them. Most important, it means investing just as much time, energy and money into keeping your customers happy as most marketers invest into finding new business.
We’re living in the age of Social Media, the age of “digital-word-to-mouth-marketing” if you will, and customer service is what most consumers talk about when they rant, or rave about their experience doing business with a company.
Ironically, customer service is also the most commonly neglected “marketing” tool for businesses who are trying to be more “efficient” by short-cutting customer service. As a start up entrepreneur trying to build a profitable WordPress membership site, you’ll probably need to do a lot of things on a very slim budget; but the one place you should never cut corners is customer service.
If you have dependable technology and an addictive product and if your customers are blown away by how friendly, helpful and responsive you and your staff are, you’ll have an unfair edge even over the big companies like Amazon.
Best of all, when you have a great relationship with your customers, it will be easy to ask them to post reviews, and we all know that most consumers look for reviews from other consumers before they buy a product or service.
So don’t wait another minute.
Go to the links below, get your WordPress plugins and start asking yourself how you can create an addictive product or service. Once you have these taken care of, building a profitable membership site and a residual income will simply be a matter of going above and beyond by giving great customer service
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