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The 10 Steps To Creating A Successful Membership Website

Why You’re (Probably!) Marketing Your Membership Site Wrong

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Mistakes To Avoid When Creating Your Membership Site


Tips To Promote A Membership Site

Optimise your sales funnel and you’re prepping the ground for a higher conversion rate. It’s that simple.

But the usual sales funnel model, where a prospective customer is led through various stages towards the moment they part with their hard-earned cash, works best for one-time purchases… and not memberships.

When you’re marketing a membership site, there’s a completely different model you can use that optimises customer retention beyond the initial purchase, meaning your buyers stick around.

First, let’s look at the usual sales funnel.


You might have come across this acronym before.

AIDA stands for Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action; the four stages of the sales funnel.

Through the Awareness stage, prospects don’t usually know what it is they need. Ads, social media and blogs are great marketing methods for getting your name out there and curating interest and intrigue. 

Once your potential customer notices you, they flow through to the Interest stage. They want to know more about you and what you’re selling. They might have already subscribed to your mailing list, so this stage is all about nurturing the relationship and building trust. By telling your prospect why they need you, and embedding the benefits they’ll receive, you can create a deep excitement that will spur them to buy later on.

Next stop is the Decision stage. It might sound like your prospect is ready to buy, but don’t halt your efforts just yet. Keep putting the time in, keep sending relevant content and be sure to have a strong sales page on hand.

In the AIDA model, the last stage of the funnel is the Action. It’s crunch time, and your prospect will either convert to a customer… or they won’t. If you’ve optimised your funnel, a prospect who doesn’t buy will hit the tripwire of a nurture email sequence that could reroute them back into the funnel when the time is right.

What’s Wrong With The Normal Sales Funnel?

A regular sales funnel looks just like the one you’d find in your kitchen. 

Prospective customers enter the funnel at the top, flowing down through the stages of their buying journey towards the base of the funnel where they (hopefully) buy your goods or services. 

Unlike a kitchen funnel, a sales funnel can spring leaks. It’s crucial to spot these holes in your buyer’s journey so that you can guide leads gone astray back into your funnel; in marketing ‘no’ quite often means ‘not now’, so if the marketing is good, they’ll buy from you eventually. 

This stuff works. But a prospect reaching the end point of your funnel, and becoming a customer, is generally making a single purchase. Perhaps you might take their money more than once if the same customer likes you and comes back for something different. 

At this point, the purchasing lifecycle has ended. Job done. Time to find new prospects and repeat the cycle.

The problem with this is that when you’re trying to sell membership, it’s a subscription service. When someone subscribes to your site, you have to repeatedly sell to them to keep them on board. The lifecycle goes on.

So what’s the solution? 

The Bow-Tie Funnel: Optimising Customer Acquisition And Retention

We know that going through the process of attracting and acquiring new customers is most often far more expensive, and time-consuming, than retaining existing buyers. Failing to recognise this and remedy it leaves businesses in a pit of lead generation with empty wallets.

Enter the bow-tie marketing funnel. A double, sideways version of the traditional funnel that is consumer-centric.

This model includes all of the stages of the traditional funnel that focus on acquisition, but it continues after that first purchase, working towards retention, loyalty and future engagement. The moment of purchase falls directly in the centre.

This second part of the funnel that comes after the point of purchase describes the other half of your customer’s journey. These stages strengthen the trust they have in you and your brand, guiding them towards becoming surrogate salespeople. This mirror image funnel opens out again also to signify a broader range of products and services you might be able to offer your loyal buyers in the future.

How To Market For A Retention Model

The four stages of the right-hand side of the bow tie, if you will, are:

  • The Adopter
  • The Loyalist
  • The Advocate
  • The Brand Ambassador

And here is how to market effectively through each stage.

Engage The Adopter

Do away with buyer’s remorse by taking proactive measures to make them feel good, and even a little smug, about their purchase.

Bonus material, an invitation to join a private members-only Facebook group or something else related to your product or service are all strategies that can help. You can also recognise their purchase publicly on your social streams, welcoming them into your community. Anything that feels exclusive and highly valuable will make your new member feel positive about signing up.

Boost The Loyalist

The biggest difference between an Adopter and a Loyalist is that the Loyalist has had time to think about their purchase and come back wanting more; they might be buying again or upgrading.

One method of retaining customers in the Loyalist stage is by offering tiered membership packages with very clear value drivers. People will only pay regularly for something that offers them direct value, so make it obvious what that is for each tier.

Creating these tiers means you maximise profits by engaging multiple buyer personas, WITHOUT forfeiting their individual needs. 

Incentivise The Advocate

Advocates have made that conscious repeat purchase or upgrade in membership. They’re at the stage of wanting to sway other prospective buyers, perhaps through a review or testimonial. They might even champion you on social media.

To encourage positive action from the Advocate, give them stuff! Make it worth their while, and make them feel special. This might look like early access to new material in exchange for a video testimonial, or any other incentive that is relevant to your brand and your customer’s membership. You could even bump them up a membership tier for free, or at a reduced rate, as long as you’re getting what you want in return: your advocates need to be finding you customers.

Make sure to keep in close contact with your Advocates, too. They need to feel like they matter, (because they do). Did they send you an email? Make sure they receive a personal reply from you. Did they tweet you? Take the time to tweet back! 

Celebrate The Brand Ambassador

Brand Ambassadors are your most important customers. They sing your praises full-time, virtually and in real life. They know your story inside out and promote your brand and offerings 24/7.

Anyone reaching Brand Ambassador status deserves a hefty personal acknowledgement. They need to know just how special they are. What type of rewards make sense for your top customers? What can you do for them or give to them regularly, (remember, we’re thinking about retention here – we want them to keep doing what they’re doing), to show your deep appreciation for what they do? An exclusive offer to join the gold+++ tier, reserved for Brand Ambassadors only? A personalised gift?

Tighten Your Bow Tie To Keep Customers Happy And Recruiting

The bow tie model works if it’s done well. If you mine every single stage of the funnel for information to improve your customer’s journey, you can optimise the whole double-sided mirrored beauty and generate a steady and bountiful income. 

Done right, the bow tie funnel is the way to market membership, because membership isn’t your regular one-time purchase product. Members buy back into your cause with every subscription payment they make. Keep them happy, boost them up, and they’ll bring others on board for you.

Ready To Take Your Membership Idea To The Next Level?

Have you got a membership website idea but you’re not sure how to move forward with it? Maybe you’ve already got a funnel but need to patch some holes. 

Whatever the stage of your business, Memberlab can help. Book a call with our experts today to begin truly optimising your customer journey.

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10 Steps To Creating A successful Membership Website

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