Membership Sites
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Newbee Mistakes That Will Tank Your Membership Site Project

Don’t start your membership website project with a thorough review of your membership site vendor’s website documentation.  Many first timers mistakenly start their projects all focused on the membership site tool itself.  They look through Memberium, iMember360, AccessAlly, WPFusion or other vendor’s website documentation.

  • They review the membership level interfaces to Infusionsoft.
  • They watch their vendor’s online tutorials.
  • They learn how their tool interfaces with Wordpress.
  • They study the shortcode documentation.

This is a lot of work.  It’s also a BIG MISTAKE.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a Memberium Certified Implementation Partner.  I built my first iMember360 membership website four years back.  My team and I have built dozens of sites using both of these.  We’ve experimented and built sites using AccessAlly, WPFusion and several other tools in the space including Kajabi.  We depend on the website documentation these vendors provide. We could NOT do our job without them.

However (and this is a BIG “however”), starting your membership site project focused on the vendor’s website documentation is just plain wrong place.

As “membership” as your site may be, it’s still a “website.”  It’s focused specifically on making your content available to your members.  You’ll want to optimize your content so it’s easy to consume. You’ll want it to emphasize upselling products to your members.  But you must keep in mind that you are building a website.

So like any website project, the design of the site is critical.  And this design must serve as a foundation for launching your site now and later on as you evolve and enhance it to meet your business needs.

One mistake we see many first timers make is to build a combined www and membership site.  They build their www site to the world and their membership site to their member audience as one.   There are a few reasons why this is a bad idea.

First, the purpose of your www site is to promote you and your business.  It’s designed to educate visitors on what you do.  It needs to establish you as the credible expert.  You’ll want to add testimonials, case studies and examples to build your credibility and establish you as trustworthy.  It's also likely to include blog articles showcasing your knowledge and attracting qualified readers.

NOTE: People buy from people they know, like and trust.  Your www site needs to introduce you and showcase you as that likable and trustworthy resource.

The audience that makes it to your membership site has already jumped these hurdles.  At a minimum, these people trust you enough to opt in for something on your membership site.  It's likely they paid to get access.  The thinking when designing your membership website is that the www site did its job.  The membership site now has to do its job which is:

  • To make the content easy to consume,
  • To keep your audience engaged and
  • To upsell your members on additional products and services you offer.

If you try to build the two sites as one, you’ll have conflicts over these two competing objectives.  Organizing your menu and navigation so it serves both audiences will be tough.  You’ll have issues displaying the right menu items depending on whether the member's logged into your site or not.   You'll have to make decisions between including menus and content on the site based on what you know about the visitor.  (Click here for part 2 of this articles where I explore designs we have seen work well for our clients.)

Another reason building these as two sites instead of one is Wordpress plugin conflicts.  We are NOT an fan for using a lot of plugins in any of the websites we build.  We work to minimize the unnecessary use of them.  We follow best practices and they have enabled us to avoid issues that turn up when the plugins “don’t get along.”  (Note: What we've seen is that plugin conflict errors that popup are difficult to resolve.)

What happens when you build your www and membership sites as one is you double the number of potential conflicts.  The Infusionsoft membership site tools, and this includes Memberium, iMember360 and the others, are all built as Wordpress plugins.  That’s how they integrate with Infusionsoft and how they make their shortcodes available.  Building two sites, meaning you have two separate Wordpress installations, minimize the chance of there being plugin conflicts.

In part 2 of this article, I review specific membership site designs that have worked well for our clients.  You can click here to get to it.