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12 Points for Membership Website Success

Does your membership website measure up in all these important areas?

A membership website is not a shortcut to Internet riches. In fact, unless you consider all of these elements and execute each with precision, your membership website or online newsletter will probably fail.

1. Narrow niche—Unless your topic is sharply focused, your membership website will offer nothing extraordinary.

2. Unique information or experience—If other sites offer the same or very similar information—free or paid—it will be difficult to distinguish your membership website.

3. Community—One reason individuals join a membership website is to associate with people who share their interests. A discussion forum or members-only bulletin board is essential.

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4. Exclusivity—If there is no prestige to your online community, with benefits not available to non-members, the perceived value of joining your membership website will be severely diminished.

5. Leadership—Membership website subscribers are implicitly expecting to be led by the site’s editor or leader. Subscribers generally want one personality who wields the baton.

6. Reasons to Join—As with all purchase decisions, a subscriber’s decision to join a membership website is emotionally based. Subscribers need reasons, or a “rational armament,” to justify their decisions. You must state compelling benefits for joining your membership website, as you would when selling any product. Do not underestimate the necessity for “hot button” headlines.

7. Graphic Design—When it comes to appearances, potential subscribers are as fickle as adolescent girls. Your membership website must be attractive. If it looks amateurish, no one will take your content seriously and no one will join.

8. Usability—Simple and quick navigation, plus an intuitive and uncomplicated user interface, are vital to a membership website. If visitors can’t easily figure out how to join, your membership website is dead on arrival.

9. Ease of Maintenance—If your membership website requires three graduate engineers and two webmasters to post content, issue passwords and process credit cards, it is going to be too labor intensive to maintain. Buy or build a fully automatic content management and website publishing software program.

10. Security—If your membership website does not process credit card transactions securely, no one will pay to join. Also, if your membership website does not block username and password sharing, no one will need to pay to join.

11. Metrics—Business management expert Peter Drucker said it over 50 years ago: You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

If your membership website is not designed to generate reports on usability, financial transactions, page visits, etc., you will not be able to adjust your business model toward effective practices and away from the ineffective.

12. Business model – You will not make a profit if your membership website is not based on a viable business model. You must know how much to charge, how many subscribers you need, what renewal rate to use, cost of overhead, etc.

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