You probably think of your website as your audience’s gateway to your business. Online, they can get to know your brand, learn about your services, come to recognize your expertise in your industry, contact you, discover how to connect with you via social networks, and maybe even shop for your products. After all the time you’ve spent to create a robust web presence, you might be asking, “What’s the point of restricting access to my best content?” and “Will anyone actually pay for members-only access?”
But from non-profits to media outlets, from franchises to ecommerce websites and beyond, the advantages of a membership-only area of your website are plentiful, whether you already have an active community or you are planning to create one.
3 Member-Side Advantages of a Members-Only Section
- Exclusive Content – You know what’s better than great content? Great content that not everyone has access to, of course. Advanced education materials like web articles, ebooks, or videos; podcasts or audio files full of industry guidance and breaking news; and contests and webinars that only members can enter are all huge draws—and for good reason. Enabling your members to be at the top of their game helps them succeed.
- Community Collaboration – The problem with public discussion boards is that anyone, professional or not, can jump right in. Spam can pile on; the tone of conversations can take turns for the worse; the line between fact and fiction can be blurred. Open conversations have their time and place, but with a members-only forum, an immediate sense of community is established, and with the right moderation in place, a collegial tone can be easier to create and maintain.
- Restricted Sharing – Online privacy issues are always complicated, so having a safe space to share information can be a blessing. For example, a Membership Directory full of email addresses and telephone numbers might not be something you want to make live on your website, but having this contact information at your fingertips might make business move more smoothly for everyone; the minutes of your last board meeting don’t need to be public, but sharing them with members via your website can allow you to skip additional email communications. There’s a lot your community would like to see, but that doesn’t mean the entire world has to be privy to this information.
3 Business-Side Advantages of a Members-Only Section
- Income Generation – The earning potential of a members-only area probably comes first in the minds of many. This restricted-access section can be an added benefit of a larger membership, hoping to entice more people to join, or it could be the single reward for becoming a part of a community. Whatever your organization’s implementation plan, know that if you build it, they will come. If you create a member experience that is of true value, your membership numbers will grow.
- Multiple Membership Levels – If different users need different levels of access, that’s not a problem at all. For example, if board members need to see the previously mentioned meeting minutes, that doesn’t mean your entire community needs to. If well-built, the members-only section of your website can be smooth and dynamic, offering exactly what is needed to exactly who needs it.
- Tracking Member vs. Non-Member User Behavior – Analyzing user behavior on your website through tools like Google Analytics can be invaluable, but with a members-only area, you can watch how different users interact with your website in meticulous detail. What is the behavior of a member as they move from page to page? What is the behavior of a non-member? Learning the interests of both groups can allow you to optimize what is free and what is not to get the most bang for your buck—both for you and the paying member.
Many have initial hesitations about member-only areas and restricted access sections of websites. The internet is based largely on the free economy, after all. There is a lot of content out there that no one has to pay for. But if what you have to offer is unique and personalized to a specific group or industry, a membership-only area can strengthen your reputation, your community, and your bottom-line.
The potential for long-term growth is only limited by how much effort you put in. Choosing the right web strategy can make all the difference.
Concluding Members-Only Area Advice
- Make sure the members-only section of your website is responsive. Mobile-friendliness is essential in today’s market.
- Take the time to choose a web development partner who can personalize this area to be everything you want it to be.
As for all the other pieces to the puzzle, take the time to listen to what your members are saying—what they are asking for directly and what you can gather reading between the lines. Remember, a members-only area is for the members first. The advantages on your side play second fiddle.
Questions about how your organization can best utilize a members-only area? Contact us today!
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