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This article was originally published in Inc. To read that version, click here.

Every business must attract and grow a user base. You could have the best idea in the world, but without users, there is no revenue — and without revenue, there is no business.

You are an expert in your respective domain. You understand the ins and outs of the space you operate in and the pain points in the market. So, why not take that knowledge and repurpose it into a membership site to better engage customers, increase loyalty and generate even more revenue?

What do I mean by a membership site? I mean a digital portal where, based on your strategy, customers can access content about specific subjects related to the industry in which you operate. This is generally a mix of educational and informative content such as courses, white papers, webinars and more.

This idea is becoming more popular as a primary or complementary business line in an organization. Having built these sites for organizations, I suggest you consider a few key things before creating your own.

Determine how you can add value.

The point of a membership site is to drive value for existing and new customers. The benefit to you is that you will have an engaged community that is loyal and more likely to purchase from you.
So, like most things in business, make sure you address a problem your members are having and create a solution that helps them solve it.

Create a solution that works for your members.

When you implement a paid (or free) membership solution, chances are the members are busy people who are focused on improving their businesses. They are using your solution as a tool to help them achieve this goal. That’s why quality matters.
Your messaging needs to be clear and concise. Navigation needs to be intuitive and easy. And your site needs to offer value in order for people to stay engaged (and continue paying).

Before you market your solution, create a plan around this. Determine what your messaging will look like, how often you will communicate and how frequently you’ll make updates or add content. I also recommend implementing marketing automation where possible so the manual burden is reduced.

Create a solution that works with your business case.

Build a platform that supports what you want to accomplish. Too often people overlook the importance of making sure the technology and software used to create the platform are right for what they want to accomplish.
Scope out and summarize what you envision the future features/functions to be so the team building the platform can make the right decisions from the start. Some basic things you might want to consider include:

  • What type of content will be in your membership portal?
  • How often will data be backed up?
  • How many members will you have?
  • Will you be able to scale your servers in the event there is high demand?
  • Will the site be able to load fast and run smoothly for users?
  • What type of data and analytics do you want/need?
  • Will people use the site on mobile? If so, is it optimized for mobile?

Build a valuable brand.

This is something I encourage every single business I work with to do no matter what. Your brand is one of the only things that sets you apart from the competition — so make it good.

A membership site can be a great core business or complementary product to an existing business line. However, you need to ask yourself why someone would pay to be a member when, chances are, they could find a good amount of the content you’re providing online already.

The answer is because they trust your brand to provide high-quality and credible content that can give them an edge, and they like the idea and benefits of being part of an exclusive community and the convenience of having everything in one place.

Determine your monetization strategy.

This is something that can evolve over time, but determine how you will monetize your membership site, what success looks like and how you will measure ROI. Here are a few common monetization strategies:

  • Offer a recurring membership fee-freemium model, where you have some free content and other content that requires a paid membership.
  • Monetize through advertisements/sponsorship.
  • Upsell extra features or services to your core business.
  • Mix and match the tactics listed above.

A membership site can be a great way for your business to grow and retain loyal customers. Spend time thinking about how this can best fit into your organization and how it can add the most value.

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