One of the most consistently requested features in our website setups (WordPress based) has to do with membership sites, and one of the most consistently re-considered services is also, setting up membership websites.
I don’t have anything against them (in fact I love them), but I do have a suggestion for those building their website, or looking to launch a product with a membership site that will rapidly speed up your production, and allow you to bring in sales almost immediately without a traditional membership setup.
It’s a sudo variation of a membership site that is mostly transparent to your users but easier for the creator.
The problem with a “real” membership site is development and management. There’s the typical e-mail flow that needs to be set up, and copy written, but then there’s also the technical back-end to support members, sign up, usernames, passwords, checkout, possible repeating payment and the cost of the membership site software itself. It’s a lot to handle, which most owners don’t realize until they get into it and if this is your first or second product, or website, I don’t think you should do it.
- You don’t want to spend $1000 on development, which you can easily do (and probably will) with a system, and working with someone to set up the system, and then make sure it’s exactly how you need it, with split payments, or tax requirements, or with reminder e-mails, or levels of access, or whatever idea you have.
- You should test your idea more rapidly to validate it, and gauge interest. (lean startup)
- You don’t want to learn a new system, and don’t have time to manage more.
- You’re likely still building the content that will live behind this payment/membership wall, and you don’t know what it looks like there yet.
There’s a simple way to be lean, fast, and easily validate your idea for content that belongs behind a membership site, and you should do it first. Here it is.
Use a Simple Password Protected Page, and Send the Password to Buyers
I can hear you saying now…
- That isn’t professional! (not true by the way)
- People will share my password!
- I can’t block people who have stopped paying or asked for a refund!
- I have more than one page of content!
- I need more options!
I know you love your content, and it may seem like I’m telling you NOT to build a membership site but I invite you to consider that these things don’t matter unless you expect to have over 100 sales immediately and are already doing a few thousand hits a day to your site. If that’s the case, spending $1000 on setup, and taking the time to learn real membership software (or paying someone to) shouldn’t be a problem for you.
…but if you’re an online business owner that is still growing or just starting, with perhaps a few hundred in your mailing list, and launching your first couple of projects, wouldn’t you rather have sales, actually launch, and find out your program is gaining so much popularity that people are TRYING to get into it?
Consider this, if you’re doing enough sales that you need to block people, and you find users sharing the password, you’re having a good problem, and can take the appropriate actions with the sales you’ve already made, instead of wasting energy and money protecting something that may not even need it.
You’ll skip almost all of the technical setup, money and time it takes to create a membership platform (even one of the easy WordPress Plugin variations like Wishlist or aMember) and immediately test if your product is viable enough to build out into a more robust system later.
In addition to this, you can still market and treat this product like a membership site, because to your user, who is mostly unaware, it will look the same, especially with the few small tricks below.
- Use a series of password protected pages that all take the password from the page located hierarchically above it using the plugin: FT Password Protect Child Pages
- Customize your password protected page login with the plugin: Password Protected Enhancement
- Make your password nonsensical and look randomly generated in the payment notification e-mail you setup, something like “E1H3XTT”. This discourages users from sharing.
I know this isn’t something you’d expect to hear from a business who sets up technical back-ends, websites, and fixes IT problems, but it’s the solution that often times is your best course of action to actually make your product idea a reality and you money. Your business running smoothly is the idea, and starting with less complexity can be a good start.
IT Arsenal uses this very system to soft test product ideas, it’s quick, painless, and yields results, I hope you consider it next time you’re contemplating a membership site to validate, and earn sales quickly. Once you do that, move on to the more capable, complex, and suitable membership platforms.