7 Ideas to Build a Better Membership Website

Building a membership website isn’t rocket science, but it is easy to create a membership site that isn’t successful. Some of the obvious reasons for failure might include poor marketing, bad price points, weak design or a lack of a unique value proposition.

If those issues are covered, membership website managers, designers and developers may want to consider these tips to push their site to a higher level of success. 

 

1. Every page can sell

Designers love to create a masterpiece when they design a home page. It’s often the first thing a design client will approve, so much attention is paid by both parties.

The problem with the inordinate amount of effort put into home page design is that search engines will often link to other inner pages located in the site’s structure.

Because one of these pages might represent the initial page that the members of your site may encounter:

  • The join link or join button should be prominent and easy to find on every page of the site. It can be in the header or primary navigation; sidebars also offer an opportunity for promotion.
  • Each of these pages can be treated as a landing page of sorts. They should be well-designed and information-rich. Note: If your site is already up and running, Google Analytics can tell you what pages are points of entry aside from the home page.

 

2. Explain membership levels clearly

Consider offering a visual comparison matrix for your membership levels to make the buying decision easier. Check out some innovative comparison graphics.

Also note that offering an excess of membership levels can confuse the user and cause them to abandon the process of joining. In other words, don’t cause paralysis by analysis.

 

3. Unclutter your membership sign-up page

The membership join page probably produces more income for the site than any other. These pages can be surprisingly poorly designed though. Heed these tips:

  • No one likes long forms that remind you of filing out your life’s story before visiting a doctor. So keep the number of fields to an absolute minimum on the page where you are collecting your money. You can ask for more information later.
  • It is important that you position the sign-up form at the beginning of the webpage where it will be visible without the user having to scroll down. This area is commonly called “above the fold”. If necessary, additional text such as information, explanations, features and benefits and so on can be included below the membership form, but not before. 
  • Don’t make members hunt to find dues prices  
  • Offer easy-to-understand payment options that are clear about the commitment or term.
  • Don’t have videos, ads, repeating animations or other things that may make sound or motion on the page that may cause the user to be distracted or annoyed.
  • Remove excess information from the page — the member has one job on this page and that is to fill out this form.

 

4. Analyze and tweak emails within the membership journey

Analyze and tweak emails within the membership journey

Your membership software may provide default text for system emails, but the last thing you should do is to actually use that text!

Emails like the welcome email, upgrade email, renewal email, past due notice, failed payment notification and renewal thank you email each provides an opportunity to show care to members.

Make these encounters with members unique and relevant to what they may need at their place in the membership cycle. Some content that makes sense to use in these system messages include:

  • Personalized content like the member’s name and their business name too if it makes sense. Names can be used in the email subject line to grab attention. Make note of what other system tags or merge fields are available to embed in these emails; these can also help personalize the message.
  • A testimonial quote from a fellow, happy member. This is especially relevant in a dues notice email.
  • A hyperlink to a page where the full set of membership benefits are listed.
  • On a failed payment email (which applies to auto-recurring credit card payments that didn’t go through), including the last four digits of the credit card that was attempted to be charged. This card number might ring some bells with the member if it has recently expired or been cancelled due to fraud. In that case, the member will know that the card issue is their problem and not necessarily a failure of your website.
  • A button or link to the page where the member should go to login to make payments or edit their profile.
  • A point of contact for members with questions or issues to reach out to.

 

5. Create an autoresponder campaign

Most membership management software provides its own email system or integration with an email marketing platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact.

Once a member joins, you can dump a load of content on them in the welcome email, but it makes more sense given today’s short attention spans to dole information out in bite-sized chunks. Use the best tool available to you to automate these communications through an autoresponder campaign or marketing automation.

The campaign can be triggered when each member joins and will begin to send messages to each registered individual at the specified number of days after joining has occurred.

Give some thought as to how soon the series should start and how far apart the messages should be sent. You can even consider creating a different email campaign for each membership level if you have content specific to that level.

Noting that each membership website has a different constituency and that these topics may not apply to your membership model, here are some content ideas for an autoresponder series:

  • Message 1: Feature your best member benefit and explain how to they can utilize it; include a testimonial quote related to that benefit.
  • Message 2: Send a screenshot with a link to a “how-to” video or other types of video content that would be relevant to your membership.
  • Message 3: Feature a lesser-known benefit and share a story of how it made a difference for a member.
  • Message 4: Ask how you are doing in the eyes of the member. You can include a survey link (perhaps with a reward for completion) or ask them to simply reply to the message. Be sure that if you ask for message replies that someone is actually checking and responding to the “reply to” email address.
  • Message 5: Discuss annual events for members or training opportunities they might enjoy.
  • Message 6: Mention how a member can choose to become more involved with your organization such as volunteering or perhaps through choosing a higher level of membership with more benefits. Offer opportunities with a wide variety of commitment levels for best results.
     

6. Tag your members

Your membership platform probably has endless ways that you can classify members. They can be classified by demographics, job titles, experience, certifications, location, preferences, length of membership and more.

The fields and tags you choose to set up will vary according to your membership model. Ideally, members can do this work for you by classifying or tagging their profile on their own with the necessary information you need (after they’ve paid, of course).

Standardizing their choices through the use of labels, tags and drop-down menus will help you exponentially more than data entered into a generic text field.

Data obtained can be leveraged to enrich your organization and improve the membership experience in the following ways:

  • Use stats about your membership such as “30% of registered users have the title of CEO,” to sell advertising or sponsorship opportunities.
  • Display a directory of all of your members (private to members or available to the public on your membership site) that can be searched by geography, type of business or other relevant fields.
  • Create unique communications and programming for specific groups of members. For example, “We found that 20% of our members are involved with XYZ, so we are forming an XYZ discussion group in our membership forum.”

 

7. Don’t forget to integrate (and streamline processes too)

You may be wasting a lot of time with manual processes if you are not taking advantage of the integrations your membership system offers.

  • Are you downloading data into spreadsheets to export elsewhere? Dig into the system or ask for a training session to make sure you aren’t doing things the hard way.
  • What other software services does your membership software integrate with? There should be a page on the system’s website listing all integrations. You may not see your favourite software listed (for example an accounting platform like Quickbooks or Zero), but it may be worth changing systems. Tasks repeated on a monthly basis can take a huge amount of time in the long run.
  • Find out what reports can be emailed to you so you don’t have to generate them on your own. If you have a report format that is difficult to create each month or quarter, give it a second look. Do you really need to present all of that information or present it in the way that you have always done? There may be a better way.

Hopefully, these seven tips can help grow your membership base and take your profits, retention rate and membership website to the next level.

Amy Hufford

Amy Hufford has worked in association management and membership technology for more than 20 years. She writes for MembershipWorks, and has had experience with more than 10 systems in her career thus far.

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