Niche content membership websites are one of the fastest growing areas of internet business. There are thousands of individuals and small businesses making significant revenue from a wide range of subjects. However like in any area of business there are some sites that struggle and others that fail. From my experience these are the ten most common reasons for failure.
Print publishers – newspapers, magazines and newsletters – have perfected the art of generating income from content. Hundreds of years of publishing experience are crammed into every edition.
Ignore these lessons at your peril!
Success Tip: Buy a newspaper and magazine. Make a list of what you learn under the headings:
Sounds like it contradicts point #1?
Well it doesn’t really.
Most of the things that print publishers do need to be done by online publishers to succeed.
HOWEVER all these activities need to be done differently online. They need to be adapted to the way the internet works. They need to meet the needs of web users.
Let me give you some examples:
Success Tip: Learn from print publishers, but adapt everything they do to meet the expectations of your online audience.
The natural tendency of membership website owners is to hide all of their content behind password protection.
This is a mistake.
Every content website should make a percentage of its information free.
This serves several purposes:
Success Tip: Make at least 20% of your content free and update it regularly
Design is important.
You only get one chance to make a first impression.
A good design says ‘This site is professional’. Prospects want to subscribe to a professionally run website.
Success Tip: Invest in a professional design. It will pay you back many times over.
So many online businesses sell features and not benefits. Telling your audience you have the world’s largest wine database or that your stock tip website is viewable on a mobile phone is fairly meaningless.
However telling your audience that:
These are benefits and they mean something to your potential buyer.
Success Tip: Whenever you mention a feature on your website, you should always think about the benefit that it has for your prospect. Even if it seems obvious to you don’t assume your visitors will take the time to make the connection.
People rarely find a website and immediately reach for their credit card. They tend to want to get to know the site over time. Build trust slowly… and only then do they subscribe.
The problem is over 90% of visitors, even if they like what they read on your site, will never return. They will be lost prospects.
Success Tip: Your website’s number one goal should be to get visitor’s email address. Once you have this you can build a relationship through a newsletter, offers or interaction.
Internet users have information overload.
The number one reason that members let their subscription lapse is they find they don’t have the time to read all the information provided.
The number one reason that members renew their online subscription is they feel part of a community.
Creating a sense of community is a critical part of running a successful membership website.
Success Tips: Create community amongst members using a forum, a member directory, comments, classified ads and offline events
Many membership websites prosper with a single revenue stream, namely paid subscription.
However many others never reach profitability because they take too long to build their member base. These sites can often survive by having additional revenue streams.
Success Tip: Ensure you have multiple revenue streams which could include advertising, sponsorship, a job board, paid directory listings, affiliate marketing, pay-per-view content, paid downloads, a store selling ebooks, DVDs and merchandise, events, courses and webinars.
People buy people.
When people sign up to a website they are not only buying access to the content they are buying access to the editor. Yet many websites lack personality and voice.
Fun and engaging people often lose their charisma, personality and style when the put pen to paper.
Success Tip: Give your website and content personality. Write in a conversational style as if you are having a one-to-one conversation with your reader. Also use all the capabilities that the Internet has to offer. Mix text articles with audio streams, video clips, downloadable reports and podcasts. Multimedia is what sets the net apart from print publications and allows you to have fun with the way you get your message across.
It is common sense, but worth saying anyway. If all the information that you are offering is available for free on the web, then people won’t pay for it. Period.
However there are some exceptions, for example:
Success Tip: Do research before starting a site and find a niche which is not well covered.
If you already have a site which is not getting customers as quickly as you would like, search the web to re-assess what information is available. Possibly re-think your niche.
From my experience these are the ten most common reasons why membership websites fail. The good news is all these failings are easy to put right.
Above all successful membership website owners are focused, determined and persistent.
And they get their reward …
Never lose site of the fact that running a membership website based on your passion is one of the best business opportunities in the world. Work where you want, when you want and make a substantial and growing income.