After many crappy BAD (oh and I mean bad) failures, and small successes that turned into bigger successes, wanted to give back to this fantastic forum.
Here are my steps to running a successful niche membership / forum.
TIP #1 - A GOOD NICHE
You gotta have niche where people craving for information. If you see something or a product selling well, chances are a membership site will also go very well and people will pay good money for this. I have sneaky secret here. I have some successful ebook sites, and you will notice your ebooks sales hit a peak and then slow down. Who cares, i get all my info from my ebooks, spin it and add even better hard core info and that gives me great niche content for my membership sites.
The best place I look for ideas is ebay, and that 43things website, to see what people are craving for. There you will find people asking for things in bold (which means it is the most sorted after) As I write this I see the three most bolded are "be a better friend" "write a novel" "get in shape" Wow, That can really get the juices flowing, and I already have a ton of niche ideas just from these group of words, but I guess you get my drift.
amazon > Top sellers also has a great series of topics that are hot and people are whipping their credit cards out to buy. So that is a good way to research as well.
TIP #2 - HEY! DONT BE GREEDY NOW!
The mistake I made with some of my sites is being to greedy. Dont think you are going to kill it with your $97 sites straight away. Start off small, make mistakes and learn from a smaller project first. Infact if you have cheaper membership, more people are likely to join and your stick rate is better. I found this out pretty fast.
Start off with membership prices of 9.95 - 14.95. In all my testing these worked well. 19.95 also did very well, and the stick rate was good too.
Once you have a handle on this, then you can go onto bigger and better things. Dont start off big. I did this several times and failed miserably. Remember it is about helping people, and over delivery. Once people see that you can carry your own, they will follow you and buy everything you offer. Become your prospect or ask your friend or partner what they would pay per month when you show them your membership site and the contents each person has access too.
Just don't be greedy! That never gets anyone anywhere in IM.
TIP #3 - SEE THE FUTURE FROM DAY 0
Even before you set up your membership site. Ask yourself. Do you want to keep it? Do you want to sell it? Are you just using it to test? Is it just a money spinner or a real business?
Why ask these important questions? well it is simple but has to do with clickbank and paypal. Remember when you use paypal for your membership sites, your users are subscribed to an email address only attached to you. So if you sell the site later on to another person, they will have to get all the users to unsubscribe and resubscribe to their paypal address. You wont be able to sell the site.
However if you are with clickbank, all that will need to happen is a change of vendor nickname and the money and monthly payments are all the same. Nothing else will change, so as long as the buyer has a clickbank name, all is good. But it seems in my testing there is usually a higher refund rate with clickbank and its recurring function. So you can see there are many pros and cons you must weigh up from day one.
TIP #4 - DAY 1 NO GHOST TOWNS ALLOWED!
Make sure from day one, people can see other members, can interact and have lots of stuff to read. This is important as you do not want refunds straight away and you want to get them thinking they have done the right thing to join your awesome site.
I like to have sticky posts, forum threads and other reports say at least 5 x 1000 reports and other info for users to sink their teeth into from day one. If you are charging lets say 14.95 p/m that should be enough. Then you just have to make sure you are updateing about 2-4 times a month.
If you are a good writer and can come up content do this yourself. If not I suggest you look through this forum and hire content or ghost writers. There are many talented ones you can hire for an extremely good price. They can come up with stuff for you to post, update. You can literally have 12 months of content in advance ready by doing this (outsourcing).
TIP #5 - HOW TO GET MEMBERS FLOODING YOUR SITE!?
Without visitors and traffic how are you going to get paid right? good question! You can write articles, or PPC. But I do not really do this. I join in other forums and notify others about my memberships. But only those I am good friend with, and well known characters there too. Until recently I learned the quickest way you can flood your membership sites with members are from doing these 4 things :_
1) Work in an affilate program, with good commissions.
2) Give away say a free 7 day trial. 7 day seems to work the best for me. But you have to test this of course.
3) Price your membership low, to entice people to join. (remember funnels, low price to join and then add a nice price back end product or coaching later! )
4) Pay others to advertise your site, text banner ads on other forums. This works very good, but you have to make sure you keep watch and put your ads in front of very targeted sites. With highly targeted audiences, the most likely to join and pay for your service / membership you have on offer.
Do these 4 things combined and you will have a buzzing membership site with lots of money coming in each month.
Another secret is to get more target traffic is go to other people selling niche ebooks in your field. I actually purchase their product. I email them saying that their product is ok, but give them tips on sales copy and other ideas. I then ask them if they would like to help their members out, to put a link to my free 7 day trial on their thankyou page when people download their free ebook or product. I think about 40% of people I bought products and offered this took me up!!!! So well worth my time and effort and I get lots of new members this way, which = $$$ in the long run.
TIP #6 - REVERSE ENGINEER IT STUUUPID!
Don't go looking for people who want to join your site. Look for people selling sites and services such as yours. Especially those making a living out of it.
I have made alot of money by first finding a clickbank product / ebook similar to mine. Going over to google and typing this product with "" the inverted quotes. You will see a list of review product sites show up for this product. These are merely clickbank affiliates trying to sell these clickbank sites and get affilate sales. All you do is simply contact these site owners, blogs, reviewers and ask if they would like to advertise your membership site as an affiliate. You do not get much more targeted than that, if you are after someone looking to sell your site, but doesn't know it yet!!! LOL.
If they say no, its their loss. There are hundreds of others I have found in google just by doing this simply 1 minute exercise. The whole thing is to work smarter, not harder when getting your traffic.
TIP #7 - NOW FOR THE HOME RUN!
After thousands of dollars, hundreds of subscribers, I have finally worked out that all your users will come under these categories.
1) "Im gunna screw this guy, and keep signing up for the freebie trial Nyuck Nyuck" - 5%
2) "Its sounds ok, I am gunna stay a while and see what this is like" - 30%
3) "This stuff is helping me, I am gunna stay on board, I have more to learn" - 50%
3) "OMG! This stuff is effing awesome I want this guys babies!" - About 15% of people.
There might be a few others but you get my drift. On minute occasions you will probably peeve people, have mediocre people, but then you have the people who are addicts and crave your stuff and even email you asking when the next update is. Make sure you help them. I call them the addicts. They are awesome.
Ok you have people subscribing for your free 7 dayer! Then they think, I am gunna stay, then after a month or so if they are thinking, "This guy is a freaking genious" You have done your job well. But how can we now make more money from them. Most people stop here, but stuff that! Let us now HIT THE BALL OUT OF THE PARK....
You have monthly income coming in....CHECK!
But lets put that on steroids. After a certain time period....I say a few months I email people and ask them if they want to get lifetime access and wont have to worry about the constant recurring income they can get lifetime access of a once only payment of $97. They actually think you are doing them a favour and most of the addicts and other members will take you up on this offer. It can add lots of money to the money already coming in.
The second thing ....and this is a BIGGIE is that you can now add your backend to your sales funnel. Even some really good marketers miss out on this. You can offer A bigger membership, more private one-on-one COACHING, video products etc.
I normally just stick to one on one coaching ($500 - $997) and people lap it up, especially the addicts I talked about before. Infact if you are doing a good job, some people will even start begging you for more of a one on one experience. But Coaching works well, and making sure you email members and let them know about this, and whenever you have an important update that needs to get out.
OK so what are you doing still reading this. Go and create that membership site you have always wanted to start. Earn some money so your mrs can go and blow it on those expensive crappy looking shoes she has always wanted.
Good luck with it all