Software Options for Membership Websites
The software or framework is where content delivery and membership management is handled. As with anything technical, you have many choices as to the platform and even operating system that you can use to build your membership site upon.
Your choices include but are definitely not limited to the following:
Linux Web Server
• Membership software – such as Amember, Digital Access Pass, Wishlist – enables you to lock down content and manage your membership base.
• WordPress + membership software – an affordable and reliable combination for content driven information products.
• vBulletin + membership software – a time-tested combination for a private community forum.
• PHP + membership software – for creating a Web-based service product on a Linux webserver.
Windows Web Server
• Visual Studio.net – create powerful Web-based software or house informational products. Utilizes a built-in membership API for member management.
Another Payment Gateway
In addition to PayPal, Clickbank is another option to easily receive credit card payments online. They do support recurring subscriptions and are relatively easy to set up.
However, if you do use Clickbank, you need to watch for customers doing self referrals. This means that they are using their own affiliate link to purchase your product and will receive the 50-percent affiliate commission (or whatever you choose to set it at), in essence giving them half off the price of your service.
If it’s the occasional member self-referring, it’s not that big of a deal. However, if you have more than 10 percent of your customer base self-referring, it results in a substantially reduced monthly income.
Depending on how much of your service you want to outsource, staffing can take care of a lot of other tasks as well. Depending on their skills, staffers can take care of content creation, programming, member subscription management, affiliate payments and even month-end accounting tasks.
If you do decide to outsource some of the work, make sure you are closely monitoring the work as well as the staffer until a trust level is reached where you can depend on them to take care of their business in a high-quality and courteous manner. This outsourcer is an extension of yourself and you want to make sure that they are representing you and your service in the best way possible.
Soft Launch Strategies
During the soft launch, you are going to rely on your own marketing resources to promote your product online, over time. A good way to soft launch is to utilize forum marketing. Forum marketing is where you establish yourself as an expert in that niche by participating in niche-specific public forums and advertise your service in the signature box below your forum posts.
Another effective way to siphon traffic is to read related blogs in your niche and leave well thought-out, value-packed comments and include a link to your service from the name field. Blog commenting can result in trickle traffic over time and is a good way to diversify, but should not be your only means of promotion.
More About Maintenance
One little secret trick that we do at our forum is to send out weekly email updates highlighting the best threads of the previous week on a Sunday night. Doing this on a Sunday night, when a lot of people are starting to think about work, means you are one of the first things they are thinking about as their work week begins.
It keeps you relevant and keeps your retention rate much higher than if you did not email weekly updates.
About the author: Corey Bornmann is the founder of AffPortal.com, a suite of tools for Internet marketers, and he currently runs four membership-based websites.