The power of a membership website is that it has the potential to increase engagement with an audience. People want to belong to a group; they want to be on the inside. In many cases, people are even willing to pay for the privilege of membership. It’s important to understand that it’s the message, not the mechanism used to deliver the message, that causes people to want to belong.
Unfortunately I see many marketers build unnecessary complexity into their membership offerings. There is a lot of attention given to sequence and structure at the expense of clear messaging. This hurts both webmaster and prospective member. From the webmaster side, every minute spent tweaking the timing and levels is a minute not spent creating relevant content for members. From the member perspective, complex registration and content access rules obscure the messaging.
Messaging is Key
Marketing experts say that successful marketing requires getting “the right message at to the right person the right time”. This is extremely relevant for membership websites, where the message often is the product. With membership websites, simple is smart!
Some guidelines to help you craft a compelling membership website include:
- Keep the offer simple. Use the fewest number of levels possible to communicate with your audience (often this is just one).
- When you use multiple levels, make sure the reason is obvious. For example, a healthcare website may have two levels, one for patients and another for providers. Messaging is clear to the member because he clearly identifies with a specific group. Use of tiers, such as bronze, silver and gold can be confusing and may come across as a ploy to get higher dues.
- Always reinforce member content through email and social media. This brings people back to your website and keeps your content fresh in their minds
Unfortunately many of the membership plugins available today are moving in the direction of increasing complexity in ways that don’t improve messaging. Instead they obscure the message in layers of levels and complex registration processes.
If you want a refreshingly simple and powerful membership system, have a look at my own Member Master for WordPress plugin (currently unavailable). Remember that whatever tool you use, it’s crucial that you start with the messaging and then create the most simple delivery mechanism possible.