How To Start a Money Making Membership Site – Part 4

Did you read lesson 1, lesson 2 and lesson 3 completely and downloaded the free membership software (SiteManPro) and installed your FTM site yet? If not, then go back and do that first. There is no point in continuing if you have not acted on the previous lessons yet. So, please go back and read and act on those lessons first.

Still here? OK, I assume that you have done everything that I asked you to do so far in this coaching. Let’s dive into our next important lesson…

Creating a Stream of Content

As the owner of an FTM site, content is your bread and butter. So long as you keep offering valuable information to your subscribers, they will happily keep handing over their hard-earned cash to you, month after month. But as the quality of your work starts to drop, so, too, will your earnings.

Creating a steady, ongoing stream of content for your site is no small task – but this is the one thing that you absolutely need to get 100% right or you can forget all about that dream of residual income.

The Importance of Planning

At the very beginning of this series, in the first lesson, I likened FTM sites to an online university degree, in that they teach you a complete content package over a defined period of time.

And as any graduate of a decent university will tell you, the key to progressing through your studies is to have a planned curriculum that gradually progresses from introductory-level courses all the way to expert classes and steadily builds and expands upon the content of previous courses.

In this respect, FTM sites are very similar – a good FTM site will cover beginner-level material first and gradually advance to more challenging topics, culminating in a complete package at the end of the course.

This makes content planning an element of paramount importance. You don’t want to jump the gun and skip right ahead to advanced stuff – after all, you have to account for all the beginners in your audience. But at the same time, you cannot afford to be seen milling about in the same place for too long and covering the same content over and over in different words – doing so will instantly convince your subscribers that you’ve run out of content and that now you’re simply regurgitating what you already know in a last-ditch effort to stop them from unsubscribing.

Creating an Effective Content Plan

The first step to planning your content is to define the duration of your course. Put the “fixed” into “fixed-term membership” – will your site last 12 months, 6 months or 3?

Next, you need to define your mission statement – at the end of the course, what do you want your subscribers to know and be able to do? Normally, this question should already be answered somewhere in your sales letter (after all, if you don’t know what you’re selling, you’re in serious trouble.

For example, if I had to write a mission statement for this coaching series, it would be something like this:

“To provide new marketers with all the required tools and knowledge to set up, market, monetize and manage their FTM site.”

The mission statement already tells us quite a few things:

  • This coaching is aimed at beginner marketers who have never built an FTM site before
  • This coaching seeks to cover the following topics:
    • Technical set-up
    • Marketing and promotion
    • Monetization techniques
    • Customer management methodologies

Once you have defined your mission statement, you will already have an outline of content that you need to cover, as exemplified by the bullet points above. For example, if you run an FTM site on underwater basket weaving (yes, I love this crazy example), here are some of the areas you might want to cover:

  • Basket weaving techniques
  • Tools for weaving a basket
  • Underwater survival techniques (you don’t want your customers to drown and stop paying you, do you?)

As soon as you’ve defined the sub-topics that you need to discuss – think of them as core classes that constitute mandatory elements of your curriculum – you then need to define the order of precedence. Remember, ideally your lessons should build upon each other, which means that you need to provide a solid foundation first and then gradually elaborate upon it.

Once again, let’s take this course as an example. The first lesson discusses the basics of FTM sites – because if you’ve never worked with one before, then it’s probably the first thing you’ll want to know. The next lesson discusses the science of picking the right niche – because you can’t really set anything up until you’ve chosen a market for it.

The next lesson discusses the technical set-up – because once you’ve picked the market, what you’ll probably want to know is how to set everything up. The course then elaborates on creating content for the site (because once the technical side has been taken care of, you’ll want to have some content before you market it).

Can you see the logic behind it? When your content delivery is spread over a 12-month period, it is vitally important that it is structured in a way that subscribers can easily follow. After all, what are the odds that your customers will want to know how to monetize their site when they haven’t got the foggiest idea how to set the whole thing up in the first place?

Finally, once you have decided upon a delivery plan for your content, then – and only then, it’s time to get writing. When crafting your content, keep the following in mind – you want to have a steady stream of content on a weekly basis, as opposed to spikes that happen once a month. 12 pages of lessons delivered every week creates a lot more perceived value than a 48-page mammoth class sent out at the end of each month.

As such, do not hesitate to break your content down into easily digestible chunks. Aim for small weekly morsels of information rather than a mammoth meal every thirty days. Not only will you create additional perceived value, but you will also keep your customers engaged by giving them something new to do every week.

This, in fact, is one of the dangers of monthly delivery plans – all the excitement and enthusiasm will start to wane after the first few days. Before too long, your customers will start giving up on what they want to accomplish through their membership – and that means lost profits for you. A weekly stream of content creates the perception of activity and does not give your subscribers time to lose that spark of enthusiasm they get after each content delivery.

Writing Compelling Lessons

Lessons lie at the heart of your FTM site – they are the form in which you deliver value to your subscribers. So if there’s only one thing you were to get right about your FTM site, make sure that well-written, compelling, effective lessons is it!

The good news is – you can create interesting content, even if you are not a professional writer (I will cover a number of outsourcing strategies later in this chapter). Bottom line is, people are paying you money for information, not the quality of your writing – nobody cares that you’re not Charles Dickens so long as you can get the point across.

The single most important thing to remember about FTM lessons is that they need to be action-oriented. Every new weekly update you provide must give your readers steps that they need to take over the course of the week. Theoretical material is fine, but it should never constitute the majority of a lesson’s content (if you desperately feel the need to cover the theoretical basics, you’d be better served by offering it as separate bonus material – more on that later).

Here’s a simple litmus test to determine whether your lesson is action-oriented or not – after you’ve written it, ask yourself: upon reading this information, will the subscriber discover what steps they need to take next? Or will they understand why they should do things in a certain way? If the answer is the latter, then your lesson is not action-oriented enough and it’s time to get back to the drawing board.

There is a very simple reason for this seemingly undue emphasis on action – if you’re seeking to retain your members for the entire duration of the course, it is vitally important to keep them as engaged as possible. Your customers are far less likely to unsubscribe if every single week they have new steps to take, new techniques to implement and new strategies to follow. Giving concrete, solid, actionable information to your subscribers increases perceived value, improves customer engagement and lowers unsubscribe rates.

Since each of your lessons is unlikely to be longer than 10-15 pages, it is vitally important that you get to the point as quickly as possible and don’t waste time beating around the bush. For this reason, I suggest you always start your lesson with a page-long introductory section, where you explain to your readers what they’re about to learn.

On this note, let me add the following – keep the content of your lesson laser-focused on one topic. Do not make the mistake of covering additional content simply because you feel it is relevant – even if it is, you’re better off using this idea for future lessons rather than trying to cram all of it into one.

Developing Supplementary Content

Everyone loves free stuff. No, really – if you’re paying for something and you get something else on top of that for free, you will usually appreciate the gesture – even if the bonus material is little more than a 10-page handout covering major IM theories or a quick progress checklist related to the material provided during the course.

While some may think of supplementary content as optional, I strongly encourage you to make it a mandatory element of your FTM site. The reason – bonus material often massively increases the perceived value of your service, without major investments or expenses on your part. It’s a great way to show your subscribers that you care – and that you’re willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to overdeliver whenever possible.

Better still, you don’t have to do it regularly (since no one expects you to hand out free bonuses in the first place) – but writing up a quick free report once a month can do wonders for customer relations.

Here are some ideas on the type of bonus content you can provide:

PLR Articles

By far, this is the easiest method. If you’ve got it in you to write a whole 12-month course on a specific topic, then you certainly have the knowledge and the writing skill to bang out 10 quick, effective articles for your members (see the section on Article Marketing for more information on crafting winning articles that sell).

Most of your members are bound to appreciate the gesture, since it saves them the trouble of writing these articles yourself. Better still, they’re unlikely to take you more than a few hours to write – and if you really don’t feel inclined to do it yourself, you can easily hire a writer to get them done for you for only $5 a piece (check the Warrior Forum – the place is brimming with aspiring writers who will happily create quality content at very affordable rates).

Theoretical Frameworks

As mentioned earlier in this series, your lessons should be action-oriented. While theories certainly have their place in your course, they should never account for the majority of your lesson content.

This, as suggested previously, makes them a fantastic topic to discuss at length in your bonus content. Since bonus material is, by definition, optional, no one will fault you for spending too much time on theoretical information and not enough on hands-on material. Better still, you can easily relate it to the materials covered so far!

Checklists

For some strange reason, everyone loves checklists – and while I personally have never seen much value in them, I can understand how someone would find them helpful for organizing their thoughts and keeping track of their progress.

Since you are offering a lesson-based FTM, relevant checklists can be remarkably easy to create. Simply take the content of last month’s lessons, consider what steps subscribers are expected to take to implement it, write them down in MS Word, put it into PDF and voila – you’ve created a valuable bonus for your readers in about 20 minutes!

PLR Reports

PLR reports are a great tool for encouraging opt-ins to a mailing list. However, speaking from experience, I often find writing them to be even more frustrating that the main book.

This makes PLR reports a great offer for your subscribers. As usual, you can either outsource them or write them yourself. A report shouldn’t be more than 7-15 pages long (and if you’re feeling particularly generous, you can even hire someone to design an attractive e-cover for it). Such reports provide great value to your subscribers at relatively low cost to you.

SIDENOTE:
Let me give you a nice resource where you can pick such plr products. In fact, this is the new marketplace that I started in collaboration with top authors and developers.

Go to http://www.NicheRat.com. Here, we’re building a marketplace of writers, authors, developers and coders who will create top quality content and products for people like you. You can take these products and use them to create your own products or you can simply use them as is and sell. The biggest advantage of this niche products marketplace is that every product is 100% original and is not going to be available elsewhere. And that means top quality product.

Currently, there is only handful of products, so if you do not find what you are looking for, just enter your email address on the home page and bookmark that site. We inform all subscribers every time we publish a new product.

Outsourcing Strategies

Let’s face it – sooner or later, you will find yourself with better things to do than write content on a weekly basis. Maybe you want to spend some time in the Caribbean enjoying the hard-earned profits from your FTM site, or maybe you’re just feeling burnt out after months and months of non-stop writing.

Luckily, I don’t think you need me to tell you that the Internet is full of inexpensive outsourcing options. Here are some to get you started:

  • E-Lance
  • Rent a Coder
  • Warrior Forum
  • SitePoint Marketplace
  • Digital Point Forums

E-Lance and Rent a Coder are great for finding remarkably inexpensive writers. Because these sites operate on a bidding system where independent contractors bid on a project you post, a race to the bottom is inevitable. As a buyer, you will realize enormous savings simply by allowing interested contractors to outbid each other and offer the lowest price possible just to get your project.

Unfortunately, the old saying that you get what you pay for is all too relevant in these situations. Very often, you will find writers willing to produce 500 word articles for $1-2 each; in most cases, however, the quality of the end result will be horrific. It is not uncommon to receive work that is either not original and/or contains an overwhelming amount of grammar mistakes. In a lot of cases, these articles will be written by non-native speakers of English – and while I haven’t got a problem with that as such, it does become an issue when their limited command of English impacts the quality of the final product.

In contrast, Warrior Forum, SitePoint Marketplace and Digital Point all offer better quality writers – but at premium prices. Of these three, Digital Point offers the cheapest options (although quality often suffers as well).

Warrior Forum is, by far, the best place to look for writers and service providers – while you will pay premium price, you can’t beat the quality that comes with it. Considering how much money your site earns you every month, investing an extra $50 in a quality writer can be well worth it (remember, this content will be read by your paying customers!)

One other thing you need to keep in mind – never outsource urgent content (for example, if you haven’t got anything written for next week’s mailing, which is due in a few days). Things happen – writers disappear, submit low-quality content or produce work that’s different from what you expected. But the simple truth is, your members don’t care that you’re having outsourcing issues – they paid for weekly content, and weekly content they expect, by hook or by crook. So if you find yourself with a looming deadline, grab a mug of coffee and get writing – it’s better to spend a night creating winning content for your customers than invent excuses for not delivering information that your clients have paid for.

Furthermore, if you decide to play the outsourcing game, there is one thing you absolutely need to invest into – Copyscape.com. You never know when your writer decides to take a few shortcuts here and there – until, that is, you find yourself reading a cease & desist letter and facing a potential lawsuit for copyright infringement. Always use Copyscape to ensure that the content your ghostwriter submits is original – it’s pretty affordable, especially considering how much headache and legal fees it can save you in the long run.

Hiring a Ghostwriter

When hiring a ghostwriter, it is vitally important that they have the right experience for the job. Simply because they call themselves a writer doesn’t mean that they have what it takes to write, say, an e-book. If you need an article writer, ask them if they have any article writing experience and ask for references and testimonials; if you need a report writer, do the same.

For instance, I once hired a ghostwriter for a 40-page e-book. The person in question had works published in the offline world, was a poet and generally seemed like a wise investment.

Or so I thought. The final product was a book that was suited for offline publication, but not online distribution. It consisted of elaborate flowery prose, paragraphs that spanned pages and a multitude of ideas that, while briefly touched upon, were never properly discussed. In short, it was a disaster of monumental proportions – which is how I learned the painful lesson that just because someone can write doesn’t necessarily mean that they can produce quality online content.

Finally, when working with a ghostwriter, I find it helpful to be as specific as possible in terms of what I want the final project to look like. When I hire a ghostwriter, I usually provide them with a PDF file specifying the desired outline, formatting, typeface, font size and page count. Never make the mistake of simply asking for X number of pages – for all you know, you’ll end up with 40 pages in Verdana 14pt double-spaced (and with enormous margins as well!) If you want to control the length of the final product, ask for a specific word count instead.

With that said, if you’re working with a quality ghostwriter, it sometimes pays to let them have a bit of creative freedom. In fact, whenever I provide an outline to one of my writers, I always do it with the caveat that this is simply the content I would like to see included and that they are free to add their own research to it, so long as they cover everything specified in the outline.

Leveraging Feedback

As you will discover later in this coaching, providing too many avenues for two-way communication with your customers can actually be detrimental both to your profits and to your long-term customer relationship management efforts.

With that said, whenever you find yourself hard-pressed for new content, your existing subscribers are often one of the best sources of inspiration and ideas you will ever find.

In the final analysis, your site is all about creating value for your subscribers. Speaking from experience, however, I can tell you that, very often, it’s very difficult to step back and spot gaping holes in your content. Sometimes, you need an extra pair of eyes to take a good, hard look at what you’re offering and see where your content falls short.

And what better pair of eyes can you think of than people who have paid to access this information in the first place? Potentially, they’re your fiercest critics – and also your single biggest source of new ideas.

This is why I strongly recommend actively soliciting feedback from your existing subscribers. The simplest way to do it is to create a straightforward web form on your site and ask subscribers to use it if they have any suggestions on what they would like you to cover throughout the course.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to handle all the technicalities of setting up HTML-based pages, you can simply ask your subscribers to e-mail you with their suggestions. This, however, has the disadvantage of creating expectations of two-way communication (we will cover this in the “Coaching” section later in this course).

Furthermore, if you decide to offer a coaching service – as you most definitely should! – a great way to come up with new content ideas is to simply see what problems your customers are having and what questions they’re asking you. If you spot an issue that keeps coming up repeatedly, or a question that’s so out of the box that you had never thought of addressing it until you were confronted with it, then you pretty much have your content idea there and then.

Better still, since you’re providing a coaching service, you’ve probably already offered a solution to this problem. In other words, you’ve done all the research and created all the content you need to turn to produce a full-fledged lesson – now all you have to do is package it as a PDF file and list it for your subscribers to download!

This concludes this week’s lesson.

Again, if you haven’t read lesson 1, lesson 2 and lesson 3 , downloaded the SiteManPro and installed your FTM site yet, then go back and do that first. There is no point in continuing if you have not acted on the previous lessons yet. So, please go back and read them and act on those lessons.

SIDENOTE: Do not be a lazy person. Membership sites are lot of fun, plus lot of money. I have just launched my new membership site (but this time, not a FTM) at SiteJerk where I am providing written and video tutorials for web masters and small business owners. Since I have an extensive experience in using web based software, developing them, coding, programming, etc I am enjoying writing for SiteJerk. In other words, I am a living proof of everything I am teaching this coaching series. I just love membership sites.

As a launch special, first 500 members can sign up for just $4.99/mo. Go check it out. You will never want to cancel your subscription, and you will learn so many new technicalities in setting up a website.

Next Week – Marketing Your FTM Site

As an Internet Marketer, there is one simple truth that I am sure you already know – no matter how expertly written your copy is, how attractive your graphics are and how incredibly valuable your content is, none of this matters if you aren’t putting it in front of the right eyeballs.

This lesson, then, seeks to address this very issue. By the time you are done reading it, you will know all there is it to know about driving targeted traffic to your site and getting your first few subscribers.

And, better still, we are going to break with tradition here and start our examination of traffic methods by discussing a method that most beginner marketers are loathe to use…

Stay tuned!!


18 thoughts on “How To Start a Money Making Membership Site – Part 4”

  1. Planning is definitely plays massive role for any sites or blog success including membership site.

    Without proper planning we will definitely be lacked of focus and unable to create the membership site for example as soon as possible.

    With delay, we will not only lost our time due to our unfocussed attitude, we will possibly lost huge income opportunity as delays come with uncertainties and risks.

    How about one day if there is new site that is being launched that have the same niche with us? We will definitely suffer huge losses.

    For me, the key of everything is planning. Without it, nothing will works. Simple planning is way better that no planning.

    Do you agree, Deep?

  2. Heide says:

    I agree in that membership sites are an excellent business and marketing model.

    And a site is a good as the service or information provided to each member.

    The idea of providing a service in installments I think works great for most internet users since they get to learn something step by step and with a support system behind them.

    I think a nice tool to go with the information series are work sheets or check lists.

    Looking forward to part # 5.

    Cheers,
    Heide Holtz
    http://smartersites.net

  3. Heide says:

    Following your series closely. Looking forward to part # 5.
    Thanks.
    Heide

  4. Heide says:

    Thank you. I have been following your lessons from the beginning and I really enjoy them.

    Membership sites are definitely a good business and marketing model.

    Also for most internet users starting a online business it is better to receive all the information in installments than a whole chunk at once. It also gives them a support system.

    I think that work sheets are an excellent tool to go with any information or step by step series.

    Can´t wait to read part 5 next week!

    Cheers
    Heide
    http://blog.smartersites.net

  5. Jenny says:

    Thanks, John for the information. This is great, specially now that I am looking into creating a membership website soon. Most likely by January of next year.

  6. Cool article.
    Although it took a bit long time to understand, the information was accurate and superb.

    Keep up the work

  7. Richard says:

    Thanks once again. I have scurried through the first 3 articles. I will reread them again plus this one.

    Oh man, I can only do so much.

  8. AffPortal says:

    Great Article Jon. SMP is such an awesome resource. I had been looking at different solutions like aMember and a couple of wordpress plugins but I will give this one a shot first for my next PPV membership site.

    Best,
    Corey

  9. ouchs says:

    Wow nice long informative writeup!

  10. I particularly find it exciting to see that you are taking your readers to the road you have followed & implemented successfully to produce significant results. Because, finally, that’s all actually counts.
    John,
    It might not be as simple as you chalk out, but I firmly believe that no matter how hard it turns out to be to fail, but that’s only way to success i know. Your encouragement does give that dots the beginners need to connect to succeed.

  11. videostar says:

    The post really shows the way to success.It contains many actual tips that maybe very useful on it.

  12. Hi John,
    This is the best guide by you to create a membership site like Yaro Stark.
    Even their are many other ways to start membership community like Darren Rowse which he has just launched.
    Yes membership site is also the one of money making way by publishing the content in step by step.
    Really awesome long post.

  13. Ms. Freeman says:

    This post is really really really long! LOL 🙂

  14. fas says:

    Another very important and valuable reading. Good stuff. Very long, yawn!

  15. Make money says:

    Nice information but to make money the first step would be to have lots of web traffic.Once you have lots of traffic then there are so many great ways to explore and make money.

  16. work at home says:

    Before Its looking hard for me for build one membership site. But now Its seems not so tough after reading this article. Thank you John

  17. Just back from holidays / vacations and catching up with things here and on other blogs. Excellent article like always Deep, you really got me inspired to start my own membership site! SY

  18. James says:

    Is the next part out yet?

Comments are closed.