Membership Website Best Practices

There are a number of different ways to provide information, content and services to your membership.  A “members only website” needs to be a part of that. If you already have one then great! Let’s look at some ways we might be able to improve on what you already have, so we can better serve our members. If you don’t already have a website, that’s okay. Starting from scratch and doing something right the first time is often easier than going back and trying to make changes one at a time.


Growing up, my youngest daughter’s favorite place to eat was the buffet. Every Sunday after church, we would all take turns deciding where to eat and she would always say “I want to go to the Golden Corral!” Which is great one or two times, but sometimes I really don’t want to go to the buffet. Here’s why: You get to the buffet, and you pay up front. You go pick your seats, grab a plate and then you are staring down this overwhelming amount of food. You have the salad bar, with everything you could ever want on your salad. You have the soup bar with at least 12 different types of soups and pastas. Then you have the entrees with three types of shrimp, five types of chicken, steak, you name it- it’s there. There is also the vegetables, the dessert bar, the ice cream station. There is A LOT going on.


Here is the problem with this kind of website: It’s so much more than just the buffet. Imagine walking to the buffet restaurant, paying for your plate and then sitting down at a table with everything from the buffet already on your table. Where do you begin? Maybe you want to start with a salad, but which type of salad? Your members are telling you “I don’t know what to do with this buffet sitting right in front of me.” Of course, if you are the chef or the manager, or in our case, the business owner; we say “Of course you do! Look at all this great food! Here, try this steak, try this soup, then move on to dessert.”


Our members need to be told what the first two or three things they need to do so they can best utilize their membership.


Now, some of you do a little bit better with your membership websites. You have the buffet, but you provide context and instructions. Some of you even have a menu to order off of. Have you ever been to a buffet where you can choose the buffet and/or order off the menu? Like you can order the salad bar, but order off the menu. Or just choose the salad bar, or just choose the menu?


Some membership website function in this way. They say “Here are all these options here, but you need to request these additional tools or these additional services to add on to your membership.” Not all of these things have to come at a cost for your member. You can have extra tools that are free, but they need to be requested. Or maybe for a small or low fee you can add some additional services. This is a great way to monetize your membership base that you already have because this tells you and your members “I want to add this resource to my membership, and I’m willing to make an investment for that.” When someone is willing to pay to have access to that tool or content or service, they’re going to take the initiative to use it.


The next type of membership website is the menu-only website. With this type of membership website, your members have to request everything they want to use. Some of the tools and resources are free, some are for a fee, but everything has to be requested. Some kind of engagement tripwire has to be triggered. Maybe they “click here” to unlock this part of the website, maybe they have to add it to their “cart” and check out.


I am sure a lot of you are wondering what type of membership website is the best. I can’t answer that for you.


The best website for your membership is the one that brings clarity to your members.


People always say “no” to what is confusing. People cancel their membership because they don’t know how to use it. The quit because they don’t understand how to find the tools and resources they need. The best way to serve your members through your website is to bring them clarity.



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About Scott Whitaker

Scott is an expert in creating and building membership programs within businesses, giving greater value to customers and multiplying income. Using his "Seven Systems of a Healthy Membership Program," he will help you get new members, increase retention and structure your membership program for long-term growth.