Starting up a membership business online: what you need you know
by Mashum Mollah Starting a Business 07 September 2019
The classic entrepreneurial stereotype focuses on risk-taking, though most entrepreneurs prefer to invest their resources in a proven strategy. Membership websites with a business model based on subscriptions, are popular for startups and are generally seen as safer bets. There are many reasons behind the success of this category, but primarily:
- You can buy off-the-shelf membership software to build your membership website. Custom development or code knowledge is not necessary.
- Some membership platforms integrate with popular, easy-to-use content management systems like Squarespace, Weebly and WordPress. Some tech-savvy entrepreneurs feel confident enough to use a membership website builder with these platforms to avoid hiring expensive programmers.
- Given the factors above, the cost to try out an online membership business concept can be quite low, especially if the membership software offers a free trial.
And membership management software is not just for startups — nonprofits, clubs, chambers of commerce, associations and networking groups also couldn’t live without it.
Challenge: Selecting the right software the first time
Answer: Identifying the right Software for your Business Model
In terms of software products, there are platforms, which can accommodate all forms of membership business models. These software and models are also flexible enough when it comes to offering diversified solutions and services. Examples of software in the membership management space include:
- Event listings platforms
- Member directory software
- Member CRM
- Product subscription e-commerce platforms
- Chamber of commerce software
- Gym software
- Church software
- Software for Membership management of content subscriptions
- Software dedicated to Learning Management
- Tools to help manage organizations and associations
- Club software
- Event space rental platforms
- Co-working membership platform
You might find that the more specialized the software is, the more expensive it will be.
Once you have a type, create a spreadsheet to document research
- Must-have features and nice-to-have features (one feature in each column)
- Ongoing fees
- Integrations (with services such as your accounting software, email marketing platform and more)
- Payment gateways accepted and their per-transaction fees (note if the platform charges on top of that fee).
- Setup costs
- Availability of a free trial (document free plan limitations as there usually are some)
Challenge: Keeping Investment Low
Answer: Selecting a membership software with the most complete set of features, which you will ever need.
The key at this stage of your business is cutting costs. This means you cannot have one software for every different aspect of your business. If you do your research, the best software companies have started innovating on all-in-one software solutions for businesses. If you are into the business of memberships, like a Gym, or a Grocery Chain, you might be interested in a website, which offers:
- Members-only content
- Payment options and billing options for members
- Member directory
- Registration for events and an updated calendar for members to keep track
- Shopping cart
- Contact Forms, Surveys, and Questionnaires
- Communications tools
- Tool for Monthly Reports
Software providers have come up with many innovative all-in-one platforms, which can help membership-based businesses. This not only helps in driving the costs down but also adds to the efficiency of business operations. In terms of cutting manpower costs, a platform, which can do it all in one place is great, as it can be handled by one person.
- If you are looking to sort errors, problems, and hindrances, one software shows it all to you at one place.
- This also helps in maintaining a proper structure for reports and assessments.
- You can also use the software to help your members get the most. This will also prevent them from being confused.
Challenge: Growing membership numbers
Answer: Start social
It is imperative for all businesses to establish their social media presence. In addition to engaging and growing your fan base, brands can approach social media from a direct sales perspective. This helps in spreading the word about your brand with audiences that already follow your industry.
- It is important for brands to create videos and publish them on social media. Videos have a higher engagement rate than any other forms of media. You can also use Facebook Live to create authenticity and credibility about your brand.
- It is also imperative to consider using social media from a lead generation and sales perspective. Always have a form on your social media along with your website links. This will encourage people to visit your website or sign up.
- Social media is great when it comes to paid advertising. You can set apart a small budget every month and create membership campaigns on different profiles. This will boost the engagement of your page in a steady fashion over time.
- It is important to understand who your followers are and how you are going to address their points of pain.
Challenge: Can I quit my job yet?
Answer: Wait before leaving your job. See some concrete results first.
Famed entrepreneurial and Finance Publication, Fortune reported in a study that ninety percent of all online businesses fail. Some of the major reasons that were found in the report are:
- Marketing problems.
- Bad timing (someone beat them to the idea or consumer not yet ready for concept).
- Lack of market for product/service.
- Pricing issues.
- The incorrect team involved.
- Insufficient funds.
- Poor customer service.
Given these factors, it is imperative that your current sources of revenue generation keep working at full speed.
It is important that individuals hang on to their current sources of revenue generations and incomes for a while. Balancing your current employment and giving it your all in your new business can be taxing, but it can lead to great victories, learnings, and accolades in the future.