Tips on Starting a Membership Site

By Lynette Chandler

Have you decided to start a membership site and are plain confused with all your options? How important are all the different features? What should you have in your site? To help you get going, here are a few key features that you should look for.

Automated member management.Any membership manager will sign people up, collect payment and allow access to private areas. But a good membership manager will do all that and also revoke or suspend access automatically when payments do not come through or the subscription is canceled.

Affiliate systemHappy members are the best sales force you can ever ask for. Why not take advantage of that? Look for a system that will allow you to make members into affiliates automatically and the flexibility to sign up non-member affiliates if you choose to.

Choice of payment processorsYou'll often find low priced membership site managers that will work well but will only take PayPal. When it comes to payment, you should always give people a choice. Though PayPal works well, some people do not like it. Also, despite their large network, people in certain countries still do not have access to PayPal. This unnecessarily limits your distribution.

Easy content managementThis is perhaps the most important outside of member management. You shouldn't be locked into one way of managing your premium content. There are some systems that have built in content management systems. This is good if you are very new to website building.

The down side is, you're locked into one way of managing your content. When you outgrow the system or would simply like to move on, you'll have a huge task at hand moving your premium content.

Ideally, you should look for a system that allows you to use:1.Popular site building tools like FrontPage or Dreamweaver2.A popular third party content management system of your choice
Multiple membership levelsThis is one area where many systems are lacking. Multiple membership levels is just smart marketing. Even if your current plan is a single level membership, a system that can handle different levels will ensure it'll be able to grow with you.

CustomizableWho wants a site that is just the same as the other? Choose a membership manager that will allow you to customize the look and feel down to the smallest detail.

Extend-ableMany membership managers are all-in-one built in systems. They cannot communicate with other software like forums, mailing list managers and help desks. This can severely limit what you can offer your members. An extend-able system can help you make your membership site more attractive, valuable or easy to manage.

So far, we've only covered short list of features. For some sites, certain things in this list may not be all that important. One thing is sure, membership sites are not like one time purchase products. They are dynamic and ever changing because members will constantly suggest new things. So you really want a membership manager that's scalable. Choose one that's flexible enough to allow you to add on, remove and shape your member's area as you go along.

Lynette Chandler helps small businesses utilize technology in their marketing and every day business. Discover how you can use technology to your business's advantage at

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