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Membership site marketing: 5 ideas to increase membership sales

If your membership growth is sluggish, these five proven strategies will give you the push you need to accelerate growth and revenue.

Let’s say you start a book club.

A friend joins.

Between the two of you, things run pretty smoothly.

But eventually, you start to repeat the same recommendations and run out of tried-and-true authors to read, and you need new blood to keep the book club alive.

Which means you have to start fielding potential recruits.

Your membership website is the same way -- except instead of your next binge-read, it’s your income on the line, and those recruits are customers.

So you have to market. You have to hit the ground running and hustle to get more people in the door so your website doesn’t stagnate and dash your dreams (along with your revenue).

But take heart. If you’ve got your membership software figured out, you’ve done the stressful part. The marketing is a piece of cake, and we’ll show you how today.

First though, let’s have a quick fireside chat just so we’re all on the same page:

How do you market a membership website?

Membership websites aren’t that different from marketing your online courses . In fact, you can use many of the same tactics with little-to-no augmentation to promote your membership website. In some cases, the strategies are identical.

But the critical part to remember about marketing your membership is this:

The best marketing strategies work in synergy with other marketing strategies. There’s nothing wrong with only focusing on one thing -- like blogging and SEO -- but to make the most out of your efforts, you should be tying in as many marketing activities as you can.

Professional marketers juggle a lot of priorities in their day to day , and they’re all aligned to different forms of marketing.

For example, just in this list of their top priorities, you can see multiple forms of marketing.

  • Content marketing: blog creation, content distribution, creation, and long-form.

  • Visual marketing: infographics

  • Video marketing: how-to videos and webinars

  • Search engine marketing: growing SEO

And that’s not even considering the various channels where they have to invest their funds. Those are just as diverse as their priorities, with the majority of professionals investing in their websites, email marketing, event marketing, and field sales.

And you should, too. But, before you hit the backpedal, that doesn’t mean you have to use so many buzzwords that your hair starts rocking some yellow and black stripes.

You can dip your toes into marketing as slowly and gently as you need, and even just a few strategic decisions can help your bottom line.

Finding your software and creating your membership website was the grunt work. Marketing is just the polish you need to give it a shine, whether you're launching a new product or buffing out the dents on an existing product.

So, how do you market a membership website?

In as many ways as you can. Here are five of my favorite methods.

#1. Create a testimonials page on your website

Do you know why we like to show off our members and their experience on our examples page ?

Beyond the fact that they’re all fantastic, inspiring people (this is an actual fact), when they talk about their experience, they give Podia social proof through their testimonials.

It helps humanize the products we’re offering and persuade creators to take the leap with us. Or, put another way, it gets the humans on the other end of the screen to trust us enough to commit to learning more about us.

That’s why we love sales page testimonials for online courses and membership websites.

But unlike online courses, a membership website has to make a much stronger case. You’re not just talking about how this one product can help a customer right now, you have to defend how your membership can keep supporting them month-to-month or year-to-year, whether it's a resource cache type of membership or a mastermind group .

And for making that case, we recommend including a testimonial page by itself as part of your membership website.

We do it, and Flexjobs, a subscription-only job board for flexible work, does it too .

Did I mention that testimonials also drive more organic (free) traffic to your page , thereby extending your marketing reach? Nice, right?

If you don’t have enough testimonials to fill up a page, you can still get the benefits of a well-placed testimony by placing them directly on your pricing page the way Statista does for their premium membership.

Podia’s website builder makes this a breeze to do, by the way. For the best results, set your testimonials up with a visual layout.

AdEspresso ran an experiment pitting testimonials against highly visual ads, and the ads consistently outperformed the testimonies because of their visual format.

Fortunately, this is something else that Podia has you covered on.

As an example:

Bottom line:

If you have enough testimonials to compile a page, make one and show off your membership program’s benefits and real-life users.

If you don’t, you can still build trust by putting it on your pricing page directly. For the best results, include an image of your user -- it’ll resonate more with visitors than text alone.

#2. Promote content on Facebook

Free marketing efforts like the first tip can work, but they aren’t going to give you overnight success.

Rapid growth requires rapid expenditures, too.

Fortunately, it comes with a tidy ROI, as well. Paid promotion on Facebook helped garner results like the below for one marketer’s client.

Granted, these results are far from typical, but Facebook has a long history of a strong ROI for marketers from every walk of life.

Specifically, Facebook ads -- not promoted posts -- have the most consistent backing, though both can be appropriate, and promoted posts are much cheaper.

The sales difference between a Facebook ad and a promoted post was a little over $4,000 for one team. So it costs more, but it provides more, too.

Which is probably why 95% of professionals say Facebook advertising gives them the best ROI of any social media platform and costs less than other channels.

You can advertise your membership with the platform, but you might also want to consider advertising your free content . It’ll rope more people in than a direct sales pitch and help you nurture otherwise cold leads.

And, thanks to Facebook’s Audience tool, you can reach over one billion users with your content.

They may not be ready to join your membership program yet, but there’s a good chance they’re prepared to get something free.

Becky Mollenkamp uses this strategy with her online courses.

(She’s pulling in $10,000 with her membership , by the way. Just thought I’d mention that.)

You see the same thing with Rachel Ngom’s free Pinterest masterclass .

Facebook advertising isn’t free, but it’s more cost-effective than promotion programs on other social networks, can reach over one billion users, and if you give potential customers an incentive to click -- like free content -- you’re that much closer to bulking up your membership.


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#3. Drive organic leads with Pinterest

We mentioned how blogging and SEO can help you earlier, but you can drive just as many leads -- for free -- with a well-optimized off-site presence.

Which is a fancy way of saying you should grab some keywords, put them up with some pretty pictures, and start pinning on Pinterest.

Pinterest users frequently use the network to plan for purchases, and with 40% of them having a household income of $100,000 or more, they can afford to.

Other exciting things to note about Pinterest is that the demographic skews about 80% female. So if you’re trying to reach women -- like Becky does -- then you’ve got a solid place to start in Pinterest.

But returning to our strategy, using keywords on Pinterest isn’t just smart off-site optimization . It’s a proven strategy for generating more sales, helping small business Brilliant Business Moms pull in $15,000 in product revenue.

Although your product is different, you can use the same approach to drive free traffic and increase your chance of lead capture.

Creators from every industry have made it work for them.

Such as this pin by retailer and education provider Atly.

The best part about this strategy, though, is its longevity.

The average pin can live for months , or even years, driving traffic straight to your website without any additional work on your part.

Take this pin that was posted in 2015 and still ranks in the top results for “women entrepreneurs.”

As for how to find keywords to attach to your pins, it’s easier than you think.

And it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

Just pop over to Wordtracker .

Plug in a keyword to act as a “seed” so the program can suggest different variations for you. If your pin is a graphic about the benefits of your illustration membership, for instance, you might search for something like:

Then hit “search” and give it a minute to populate.

By default, the first search is run through Google, but Wordtracker’s own database combines multiple sources, so toggle that menu to change it and update the results before you dive in.

Here’s what our results look like. On one side, you have the suggestions column with alternative topics or related keywords, while the results themselves give us possible keyword terms based on how competitive they are and how often they’re searched.

Sort through them to find keywords that are relevant to your pins and have a desirable level of search volume for your business, and then add them to your pins to drive leads back to your membership website for months -- or more -- to come.

Easy as that.

#4. Create explainer videos on YouTube

We love content marketing that we don’t have to do twice. If you sell online courses or digital downloads, you probably already have this strategy ready to go.

If not, you can create video tutorials based on content from your blog. People vastly prefer learning about your products through video, so why not cater to that and create an explainer video to tell them about the benefits of your membership?

Or, if you’re feeling really industrious, create a video tutorial that teaches them a new skill (for the same reason that you’d promote free, rather than paid, content on YouTube and on Pinterest -- because people are more willing to commit to it).

Amy Porterfield does, as well as using her channel to upload her podcasts.

Add in the fact that YouTube can increase your organic traffic back to your website (which means giving you more opportunities to land leads) and among 18-49-year-olds, at least 80% of them will watch a YouTube video in the next month, and it’s a clear recipe for success.

There’s also this to consider:

Embedding that same video on your membership website’s landing page can improve your conversions by as much as 80% .

Growing a channel on YouTube isn’t as hard as you might think, either. Checking out the competition, finding good hardware to shoot professional-quality video , developing a theme, and staying consistent in their posting times helped one channel balloon up to 500,000 views in 10 months .

You can do all that easy.

And you wouldn’t be the first to do it, either. Justin Jackson, whose Mega Maker membership helps developers and designers create, is a great example of using explainer videos and tutorials to generate interest.

You already have the power of video marketing at your fingertips if you’ve dabbled in online courses before, so why not use that power to market your membership website?

#5. Host webinars (And then gate them for members only)

Our final tip for the day is one we’ve talked about a lot in the past when we've focused on online courses: hosting webinars to make sales.

But we’re going to flip the script a little today.

For membership websites in specific, you should host webinars, but then gate them after the first 24 hours in a members-only area.

Mobile Monkey does, turning their inactive webinars into on-demand content for members only.

Rebekah Allan also used this scarcity-based marketing strategy with her webinars to drive her memberships numbers up to nearly 300 .

This strategy works even if your audience consists of other business owners, as might be the case if you have a membership website dedicated to teaching others industry skills.

Business-to-business buyers choose on-demand replays over live webinar events 84% of the time .

But if that’s not enough to convince you, this should be:

Webinars are such an effective strategy for membership websites that the American Marketing Association (AMA) -- the people whose entire goal is to out-market each other -- uses them to drive renewals and bring in new members.

If the AMA benefits from it, then there’s a good chance your membership website will, too.

So host a webinar. Invite as many people as you can. Then gate it -- at least your top tier webinars -- behind a members-only area and drive up registrations with a call-to-action on the webinar page.

Your memberships will thrive in no time.

Membership marketing isn’t magic (But you are)

Creating a membership website is exciting. It offers you the chance at a sustainable income that can help you ditch the 9-to-5 and become your own boss for good, but no matter how well you’ve calculated your membership site price and set up your membership site model , you still have to market it. Just keep this in mind:

  • Selling a membership program is the same as marketing any other kind of website. You get the most benefits when you combine different marketing strategies and interweave them. Synergy is the name of the game here.

  • Membership programs need more social proof than most products -- after all, they have to make the case that they’re not just worth it now but will be worth their cost in the future, too. Give your website social proof through testimonials to help.

  • The best marketing is free, but the fastest marketing isn’t. Promote content through Facebook ads to drive up your lead acquisition. Although you can advertise your membership directly, content will reach more people and earn more prospects’ clicks.

  • What happens when you combine a prolific social network with a data-backed video marketing strategy to sell more products or memberships? You end up with explainer videos and tutorials on YouTube. It’s easier and cheaper than you probably think.

  • Finally, host webinars to drive up lead generation, but really help your memberships thrive by gating those webinars as members-only content after the first 24 hours. It’s worked for other membership sites and can do wonders for yours, too.

Marketing isn’t for everyone. I do it for a living, and even I’ve got mixed feelings about it half the time, but you don’t have to adopt a marketer’s buzzword lingo to help your membership website thrive. You just need a few tactical decisions, a little bravery, and a lot of hard work.

You got this.

About the author

Lauren Cochran is the former Director of Content for Podia. She still drops in to say hello and share cat pictures from time to time.