We are witnessing an ever growing trend towards membership based web sites. This is recognised as an ideal way to build qualified leads for your business. Be on notice however, this is only if done correctly and within the context appropriate to your membership and business.
It is probably important to recall the basic principals of why groups of people formed clubs and associations with a member base. It was all about bringing together people of like minds and common interest to share experiences and support each other in achieving shared and individual goals. Most importantly it was about building relationships amongst the memberships.
Now there are “closed” memberships who maintain a strong air of secrecy but these are the exception to what we are discussing here. Most groups work form a platform of open sharing.
These principals are most important to keep in mind with your member based web site. The value to your membership must lie in the relationships you develop and your web site is merely the tool that enables you to deliver to this in part as well as other aspect of value delivery.
There are of course certain exceptions where it comes to web sites that exist for the sole purpose of selling products. However, when examining some of the more successful of such web sites, most of these still build relationships, be they electronic or virtual based, through Blogs and Forums for their members.
In looking at the most successful member based websites you find a common trait runs through them consistently. They all give away a lot of information and resources for free or vey little investment. There is the free eBook, the free Newsletter or the free software. These are the teasers. The value to the owners of such sites is to obtain your contact details so they can keep in contact with you pushing their messages, sharing information creating a sense of belief in you as an expert in your field, building trust and accepting you as an authority. The real value to them comes in the follow up where they seek to have you purchase the higher value offerings. This isn’t underhanded. It is just good business sense and marketing.
If all you set out to achieve is to conscript members offering nothing of value till you get their money then your chances of real success will be limited. Your goal should be to establish yourself as a trusted authority in your area of expertise. There is no better way to gain that trust than through the open sharing of information and resources. Of course for those who are prepared to pay, then offer the premium or added-value features and benefits.
The commercial realities of doing business and marketing have changed with the internet. Once we were protective of our knowledge and resources and never giving away anything. We now operate from a new paradigm. With the advent of the internet and with such free access to so much information, businesses now need to operate form a perspective of open sharing. You still maintain protection over your IP but now businesses give away so much.
By operating from this new context, businesses are more readily able to establish themselves as an expert in their field building trust and confidence with their market. Win their hearts and minds first, then you shall in time win their business.