Skip to main content

How to Create a Membership Website

Learn how to create a membership website and the key elements to building a membership website in this guide.

Learn how to start a membership site so you can begin to build a community with your users. Follow these 5 steps to start your own membership website.

Membership websites are a great way for businesses to earn extra revenue while building a community. These sites offer content and benefits to those who become members, giving individuals a reason to sign up in the first place.

Members pay monthly to access the content, meaning businesses have recurring revenue for as long as they're able to keep their members happy with the service. Many different types of organizations have membership websites, including businesses and nonprofits.

Membership websites offer various content, including newsletters, webinars, courses, and perks like discounts and free shipping. The type of membership website you have will depend on your audience.

For example, your membership might offer members exclusive discounts and free shipping if you sell products online. Meanwhile, if you're a yoga instructor, your membership might offer discounts and access to online classes.

If you're not distributing unique content monthly, your members will have no reason to continue paying a monthly fee. However, if you can dedicate yourself to delivering quality content regularly and following your content strategy, you can start to earn money every month.

A membership site is a website that contains content that can only be accessed by paying for membership. Essentially, you create members-only content, which they pay to access.

News websites that require paid memberships are some of the most common examples of membership websites; users who pay for membership can see exclusive blog posts and other membership content. As long as you're delivering a steady stream of content to members, they'll have a reason to continue subscribing to your website.

One thing to keep in mind is that learning how to start a membership website and convert website visitors to members can be a long process. You can't expect people to pay for exclusive content until you give them a good reason to, and that starts with providing free content on your website.

For this reason, launching a business with a membership website is the less popular route; typically, people launch a membership website alongside their previously existing business site.

What are the different types of membership websites?

Before you start a new membership site, it's important to understand that there are different types of membership sites. The most common types of membership websites are open membership websites and closed membership websites.

A closed membership site requires users to sign up and pay to access content. This can be a great way to offer exclusive content and information to your already loyal customer base and existing members.

Another membership model is the open membership site, which is a site with a free membership option. With this model, content is free but members can pay to upgrade to premium plans to access more exclusive content. This can be a great way to draw people into your brand without requiring them to fully commit upfront. From there, you can create multiple membership levels with members only content.

You might use your membership site to offer weekly content releases to members, or you might release a complete online course that people can access after paying a fee. Different types of membership websites call for different types of membership management and web design, so it's important to consider what kind of site you want to create.

Some membership sites even offer free content to basic users. That way, individuals can decide if that content is good enough that it's worth subscribing to.

There are many benefits to building a membership website, including the ability to make recurring revenue every month. Your membership site must manage recurring payments to allow individuals to sign up with their credit cards and allow for payments to be charged automatically.

Of course, you'll also need to dedicate time and effort to slowlybuild membership with pop-up sign-up forms or a dedicated landing page with a form where you can collect customer payment and contact information. Here are the benefits of a membership website:

Additional income

When you start your own membership website, you can receive additional revenue on top of the same services and products you normally offer. For example, a beauty brand can offer membership benefits that include unique content on how to use makeup. Additionally, your income is reliable because you know how much you'll make based on the number of members you have.

Improves customer retention

Memberships make it easy to retain current customers because members spend more money and time with your business. In addition, membership websites are a great opportunity for businesses to communicate with individuals no matter where they are in the funnel.

They also help you build valuable customer relationships because they create a community. Even though your membership may only offer access to new products before anyone else, discounts, and free shipping, many individuals are willing to pay a fee for these perks, especially if it can help them save money in the long run.

Pre-qualified audience

All businesses must have a marketing strategy. However, having a membership subscription site can enhance your strategy because it gives you access to a pre-qualified audience of potential customers already interested in your product and service offering.

You can market your offerings to any of your members since they were interested enough to pay for a membership in the first place. But, of course, when marketing via email to your customers, always have a permission reminder in your emails to help customers remember how they got on your list.

Growth potential

Membership websites have unlimited potential for growth because there's minimal overhead. With a membership site, you can grow the website and your business using content because there is no limit to the number of members you can have.

What is the difference between a membership site and a subscription site?

To know how to start your own membership website, you should first learn the difference between membership and subscription sites. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they're quite different. These sites have a common aspect: users pay for content regularly through a paid subscription. However, that doesn't mean all membership websites are subscription websites.

A membership website can be a subscription site, but that's not always the case. For example, you subscribe to streaming services that allow you access to movies and television shows. However, you become an Amazon Prime member because you have access to unique deals, such as 2-day free shipping.

Other types of businesses can benefit from creating a membership website, too. For example, a music teacher can offer a membership online to individuals who want to learn how to play an instrument, providing them with access to how-to videos and other types of content.

Interested in learning how to start a membership site? You must have a website first. If you have an existing website, you can create a membership aspect of the website or create a new one just for members. Once you have a website ready to start offering gated content to members, follow these steps:

1. Consider your model

Your membership needs to offer something to attract members, so you must consider your offerings and how much you will charge. Depending on your business, you may offer content or deals as part of your membership. Pricing your membership is important because it can deter people from signing up, especially if you don't offer a free trial period to help customers determine whether they should be members.

You can also have different membership levels, allowing people to sign up at a lower rate for less content to determine whether or not they should pay for the higher-level membership. Of course, sometimes it's best to have a membership level to prevent confusion.

2. Create your content

Depending on your business, you'll need to create content. The content can be in the form of articles, infographics, videos, and deals. Having content ready before you push your membership website live will ensure the first members have a reason for staying members for the first month while you still may be trying to figure everything out.

The type of content you create will depend on your membership model. For example, the music teacher we mentioned before will likely create videos showing members how to play an instrument. However, some membership websites don't need to create gated content. For example, if you sell products, you can have a membership website that offers perks instead of content, including free shipping, fast shipping, or monthly deals for members only.

In addition to content, don't forget to include a user login form on your website that allows members to log in to access the content. You might use it as a pop-up to access exclusive content, prompting sign-ups while reminding existing members they need to log in to access the content. 

3. Find a plugin or platform

You can turn any existing website into a membership site or build a whole new website just for members. When comparing membership plugins vs. platforms, choose the best one for your membership model. Depending on your needs, you may not need the most robust tool available. In addition, the platform you use may depend on your current website because your membership website must seamlessly integrate with it, especially if you want to offer content or perks to members on your website.

No matter which route you choose, your membership website should integrate seamlessly with your CRM to ensure your members get exclusive access to deals and content. You should also be able to segment your audience by subscriber level to ensure your customers are getting targeted emails.

Additionally, your plugin or platform must allow you to accept payments. Once users sign up for a membership, checking out and paying should be as straightforward as possible for them. If you have different pricing and membership tiers, make sure to include a pricing page on your website.

4. Publish and market

Once your membership website is ready to go live and you already have content waiting for members, you can publish the website and begin marketing your membership. When marketing your membership, you'll need a sign-up page with information about what customers can expect when they become members, including pricing options and benefits.

Next, you can start marketing your membership website to your current customers through email and posting on social media. Because your membership website is new, even your most loyal customers won't know if it's the right choice for them, so consider reducing your membership pricing or offering a trial membership to get more people to sign up.

5. Monitor performance

Once you push your membership website live and begin marketing it, you must monitor its performance to ensure it's working well for your members. For example, if your membership website is slow, your members might cancel their memberships because they have issues accessing the content. Meanwhile, if your membership website doesn't offer all the perks you discussed in your marketing efforts, you can't expect members to stick around.

If possible, consider installing heatmaps on your website to get a visual understanding of how people are using it. You should also use analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to determine the most effective content types. With a little research, you can find even more website design tips for small businesses

Additional membership site considerations

As you develop your membership site, it's essential to consider various factors beyond just content and functionality. Legal and compliance, community management, and diversifying revenue streams can help your membership site succeed. Let's discuss these crucial aspects in more detail: 

Legal and compliance considerations

One of the most important aspects of running a successful membership site is ensuring that your website complies with legal requirements and protects both you and your members. Addressing data privacy concerns is essential, especially with regulations like GDPR and CCPA in place. 

Implementing robust privacy policies, obtaining necessary consent for data collection, and securely storing member information are also crucial steps. Additionally, having clear terms of service agreements that outline member rights, responsibilities, and dispute resolution processes helps set expectations and mitigate legal risks. 

Community management

Building a thriving community within your membership site fosters membership engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

Strategies for effective community management include:

  • Creating opportunities for meaningful interactions among members.
  • Facilitating discussions and collaborations.
  • Providing valuable resources and support. 

It is also essential to regularly moderate community activities to ensure a positive and inclusive atmosphere. Nurturing a vibrant and supportive community can enhance the overall member experience and strengthen loyalty to your site. 

Diversifying revenue streams

Relying solely on membership fees may limit your site's revenue potential and financial stability. Exploring supplementary income opportunities can help diversify your revenue streams and ensure long-term sustainability. 

Consider offering premium membership tiers with additional perks or exclusive content for members willing to pay more. You can also explore monetizing your site through affiliate marketing, sponsored content, online courses, or digital product sales. By diversifying your site's revenue streams, you can maximize profitability and create a more resilient business model for your membership site. 

Building a thriving community

Building a thriving community within your membership site can foster engagement, satisfaction, and long-term success. With effective community management strategies and a business model that makes users want to become members, you can build a successful membership site.

Using tools like Mailchimp's audience management and engagement features can enhance your community-building efforts by allowing you to segment your audience, personalize member communications, and automate outreach to keep members engaged and informed. 

With our e-commerce and marketing tools, you can streamline revenue generation efforts to maximize profitability and drive growth for your membership site. 

Membership website FAQs

How much does it cost to create a membership site?

The cost of building a membership website can vary based on several factors. You can either use a website builder or hire a professional, both of which often cost money. You also need to pay for domain fees and hosting fees, as well as any marketing campaigns you're running. Building a fully functional membership site can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be if you stick to the basics.

How much should I charge for my membership website?

Deciding how much to charge is one of the key parts of learning how to start a membership site for a business. Before you decide on a price, you should research your target audience and figure out what competitors charge. You can also offer different membership tiers or plans, which can include offering savings on 6-month and 12-month membership purchases.

What should you look for in a membership website builder?

When you're using a membership website builder, you want it to offer all the functionality your website needs. In order to create a membership website with various membership levels, your website builder needs certain functionalities for a smooth process.

The features you should look for in a membership website builder include:

  • Content management system (CMS)
  • Membership plugin options
  • Payment processing
  • Integration capabilities
  • Customer support
  • Pricing
  • Customization

Your dedicated membership website builder should have all of the capabilities needed to create a basic membership site, such as premium membership plugins that allow you to fully customize your site and integration capabilities to connect your social media accounts.

Any organization can benefit from creating a membership website, helping them bring in additional revenue on top of their existing product and service offerings. However, the type of membership program you build will depend on your target audience and the type of business you run.

Not all membership types will help you succeed, so you must determine the types of content that your customers will pay for. In some cases, you might not need to create additional content, and your customers will be happy to become members for exclusive perks.

However you decide to frame your membership website, you can use Mailchimp's tools to create elegant landing pages that convert your customers into paying members. From there, you can use our email marketing and automation tools to improve customer retention and engagement to boost your monthly revenue.

Dive deeper into the data

Subscribe to get more marketing insights straight to your inbox.

Share This Article