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7 Tips for Creating and Running Your First Membership Site

7 Tips for Creating and Running Your First Membership Site

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?

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    • 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.

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    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.

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      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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      3

        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.

        uscreen
          Some 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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          Last Updated on September 18, 2019

          11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

          11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

          Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

          Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

          “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

          While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

          The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

          What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

          The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

          1. Cloud Computing

          “Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

          There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

          This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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          2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

          Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

          Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

          his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

          3. Data Management

          All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

          We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

          However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

          4. Scheduling

          Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

          An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

          5. Financial Skills

          These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

          While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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          6. Research Skills

          These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

          Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

          So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

          If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

          If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

          7. Marketing Skills

          While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

          Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

          While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

          8. Network Security Specialist

          Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

          So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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          9. Communication Skills

          At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

          Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

          10. Computer Programming

          I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

          11. Graphic Design

          As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

          Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

          That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

          Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

          You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

          Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

          Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

          Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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          This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

          You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

          But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

          Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

          In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

          Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

          And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

          The Bottom Line

          We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

          We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

          We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

          As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

          More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

          Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
          [2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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