Membership sites like Netflix and Spotfiy are a major part of everyday life now, allowing us access to a huge range of entertainment at our convenience.

However, while these may be two of the most popular businesses built on a subscription model, there are countless membership sites online, like Uscreen, offering users a massive variety of products and services and providing you a great platform to host your online videos. From specially-prepared food to niche gift-boxes, the membership model has redefined our consuming habits – and it’s here to stay.

Want to launch your own membership site? It’s not easy, and the competition is fierce, but with enough work you can reap impressive rewards.

What should you do before you start?

1. Study Membership Sites You Use

Research is, of course, a key part of launching any business – you need to pay attention to the practices used by enterprises you admire if you hope to echo their success.

Study Membership Sites

Depending on the products or services you intend to offer through your membership site, you may well be subscribed to leading businesses in this sector already. What can you learn from them?

  • Structure: How easy is the site to navigate? Are users guided from one page to another in a logical way?
  • Content: What type of images and videos do they integrate? Do they feature introductory videos? How many blogs or articles do they publish each week?
  • Community: Do they have a forum, and if so, how is this set-up? How do they cultivate a sense of personality and stand out among the competition?

Learn from the best and worst alike – if you explore a membership site that doesn’t work, ask where it’s gone wrong. How would you change it to improve users’ experience?

Study good sites, and make notes of what works and why. Focus as much on fundamental elements (presentation, site architecture) as on smaller ones.

2. Embrace Your Inexperience

When you’re just starting out in business, you can easily feel a little lost at sea.

Well, you’re not alone – even the world’s greatest entrepreneurs had to start somewhere, with no guarantee of success. Richard Branson, who surely needs no introduction, said it best: “the best way of learning about anything is by doing.”

Few sites are perfect at launch. All businesses need time to grow, to improve, to evolve. Why should your membership site be any different?

Placing high standards of quality upon your business is great, but avoid making them too high – you’ll only cause yourself more stress, and besides, you can’t really know whether certain things work until you see them in action.

By launching the site as a work-in-progress, you can gather crucial feedback from users (via forums or submission forms) and build a gradual following while tweaking it. Offer subscribers a low fee, and make sure they know their opinions will help to dictate how the site evolves. This doesn’t mean you should take a lackadaisical approach, but rather, you can start generating revenue and building momentum while getting the site to where it needs to be.

3. Consider Free Subscriptions for Influential Users

As with any business, membership sites can flourish with good worth of mouth. Whether this comes from telling friends over coffee or posting links in forums, organic user-generated marketing is free and highly effective.

Reviews are another way in which your site can reach a wider audience – an influential blogger or website in your niche can recommend your business to their followers. However, in order to do this, they need something to base their views upon.

Free Subscriptions

So, why not offer free subscriptions to influential figures? Ask them for an honest review of your site, and make it clear there are no strings attached: if they dislike it, they’re free to say so; if they love it, they’re equally free to tell the world. People will be able to recognize an insincere review, so the writer’s impartiality is vital.

Make your site the best it can be as a launch model, and then reach out to influencers.

4. Foster a Strong Relationship with Your Customers

Now more than ever, good customer service is vital. The internet has given consumers more of a voice, and word of bad experiences with a business can spread in mere hours, posing a real risk to reputations.

Fortunately, business-owners have more ways in which to provide great service than ever. Social media, easy video uploads, and email provide convenient communication to resolve issues and put a face on your business. According to a survey by RightNow, 73 percent of consumers cite friendly customer-service as an element able to make them ‘fall in love’ with a company.

Create introductory videos and webinars on your site, either hosted by yourself or employees – welcome your users, and make them feel valued. Social-media engagement is a must, and not just to promote your products or services: respond to questions and criticisms as readily as praise.

Remember: except in very few cases, competitors will exist – don’t give your prospects any reason to choose them over you. You could even create specific groups on Facebook to discuss issues with consumers, and gain valuable feedback to improve your services.

5. Structure Your Site to Balance Content and Aid Navigation

As your business grows, you’ll add more and more content to your membership site. Depending on your niche, this may include more blogs, videos, articles, webinars – the more there is, the more potential there is for confusion.

Use clear categories and to ensure every type of content, product, and service can be found within seconds. The longer a user has to search for something, the more frustrated they’ll become, and the more likely they are to leave.

Present links to your latest updates on the homepage, and make it clear what users can expect to see. Also, don’t forget your old content – link to past posts or media when relevant.

6. Invite Customers to Get Involved

Remember we talked about fostering a sense of community? Well, hosting competitions, group challenges, or events from time to time is a powerful way to do this.

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For example, if your membership site is based around gift-boxes (such as Chococurb, Birchbox), why not run a competition with three-months’ worth of boxes up for grabs? Why not pose a challenge to members, asking them to submit their own ideas for future products or services, with a prize incentive?

This helps members to feel recognized, engaged, and part of an exciting community – rather than just faceless customers.

7. Evolve to Suit Your Growing Membership

As we’ve already established, great customer service is a must. Listen to your subscribers’ opinions and complaints – change aspects that don’t work, and prioritize those that do.

Does it mean you appear less knowledgeable and in-control if you ask customers what they want from you? No. It shows you understand that your membership community is integral to the business, and know that your site should suit their needs perfectly.

As this is your first membership site, don’t be afraid to explain to members that your business is still growing, and needs constructive feedback to become what you all want it to be. Provided they get quality service and outstanding treatment in return, many consumers will be happy to answer questions (as long as they’re kept short and sweet).

How to Get Started

Uscreen is a great option for those looking to launch a video on demand website. They offer a user-friendly platform perfect for a huge range of applications.

uscreenSome of Uscreen’s features include:

  • Reporting & Analytics
    As we discussed earlier, to give your customers what they want, you need to know about it first. Uscreen’s reporting and analytics program gives the power to track members’ progress and activities, letting you know which videos are most popular, and which types of content gain the best traction (helping you to improve future content).
  • Scale Globally
    Uscreen is powered and managed in the cloud, so they are able to scale to suit demand and traffic-requirements. They have powerful CDNs (Content Delivery Networks), enabling you to broadcast streams across the globe instantly, for uninterrupted viewing.
  • Stream and Download Videos
    Cross-device access is a must for maximum customer engagement, and Uscreen’s Stream & Download feature enables your members to watch videos at their convenience – at any time, in any place.
  • Custom Storefronts
    With a completely customizable storefront, you can organize your videos as needed, in chapters and episodes. Subscribers can enjoy fast access and easy navigation.

Starting a business of any kind is never easy, but with the right amount of planning, drive, and willingness to evolve, you can achieve success. Just be prepared to pay attention to feedback, engage with your community, and put members’ preferences above your own – without their subscriptions, your site simply cannot succeed.

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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