So, you’ve decided that you want to embrace the subscription business model. You’ve got a great idea that you believe will sell, and with 15% of online shoppers signed up for more than one subscription, you feel confident that yours will be the next one they add to their list (Forbes).
But now that you’re diving further into the process, you’re not entirely sure what type of membership management system you need.
Whether you’re planning to purchase an off-the-shelf software solution or build your own system altogether, you’ll need to have an idea of what is best suited your business, so you can start heading in the right direction.
To get started, you’ll want to ask yourself one important question:
What will your users gain from joining your site?
In the following, we’ll breakdown the different benefits you might offer and what membership and subscription systems are best suited for each offering. From there, you can gain a better idea of what type of membership management system is right for you.
Possibly the most popular benefit offered by many membership systems is content. Whether you’re a fitness guru who’d like to offer fitness guides to your site’s members, or a marketing professional looking to offer tools and insights that’ll help boost sales, you’ll need a system that allows you to easily share and manage content with your customers.
If you have a website, you probably already have what you need: a content management system (CMS). Your CMS allows you to store and manage the content you offer your customers online. Some popular examples include Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, and Magento.
The platform you choose will heavily depend on your organizations’ needs. Three important things to consider when selecting your CMS are 1) customization, 2) scalability, and 3) flexibility.
Check out our post: Drupal vs. WordPress in 2019: Choosing Your CMS.
Maybe your customers can become members online, but the benefits they receive are in person, such as admission to events. Perhaps your organization hosts monthly events where entrepreneurs can gain skills to improve their businesses, or you offer weekly yoga classes to members. Either way, your members will need to be able to register for the events or classes they plan to attend.
For an organization that hosts events, you’ll need event registration software, which will allow your members to RSVP to the events they are interested in. On the other hand, if your organization focuses more on offering classes, course registration software may be a better fit.
Both types of software can easily be integrated with your CMS. You may consider looking into what plugins are available for apps like Eventbrite. Whether or not there’s an existing plugin, you can hire a developer to integrate, or build entirely new, registration software for you.
Not every event you offer has to be in-person—in fact, you may choose to host events online, such as webinars or online courses. Some organizations go as far as to offer official degrees or certifications online with course modules, quizzes, assignments, and more, while others simply offer webinars, tutorials, and other supplementary learning resources.
Depending on how comprehensive the courses you plan to offer are, you may need a simple course delivery system or a more complex learning management system (LMS) to manage the materials you provide. Both function much like a CMS but are specifically designed for providing educational materials and tracking student progress.
There are many existing LMS platforms out there, such as Moodle, Schoology, and Lessonly. But if your business idea doesn’t fit within these offerings, a custom LMS is always an option. For instance, HubSpot, the popular inbound marketing company, built their own custom LMS to support the free courses they offer on HubSpot Academy.
Membership systems aren’t just about online content, courses, or events: Sometimes they offer the benefit of physical products. If you’re hoping to follow in the footsteps of organizations like the Dollar Shave Club or BarkBox, you’ll need a system that allows members to select membership levels based on the product package they would like to receive.
In this case, you’ll need a blend between a CMS and an ecommerce system, or an ecommerce CMS system. The only difference between a standard CMS and an ecommerce CMS is that the primary content on your site will be the products you offer, rather than downloadable content (e.g. eBooks, guides, etc.).
Most CMSs have plugins available that will allow you to turn your site into a subscription system with different membership levels. For instance, it’s possible to create a membership system with CMSs like WordPress or Drupal. However, the help of a developer is often required when building a complex ecommerce CMS system.
Sometimes, the benefit of being a member is simply receiving an official affiliation with that organization. You may offer discussion boards, notify members of upcoming organization events, and more, but these systems are often the most simple, as there is often little content involved.
Especially if your organization is a non-profit (maybe a charity or a political group), there’s no reason to make things complicated—all you’ll need is a simple membership management system. This system likely caters to basic users, including the ability to update one’s profile and payment methods, as well as the ability to view the organization’s latest news.
Some off-the-shelf examples of membership management systems include Wild Apricot, Member Planet, or YourMembership. For smaller organizations that need something simple, tools like these should be sufficient. However, in the case that your organization has very unique needs, building a custom membership management system is likely the best bet.
A Blend of Everything
Have something a bit more complicated in mind? Are you hoping to offer your customers content, online courses, merchandise, and more? It can be done, but there may not be a plug-and-play system available for you to build it yourself.
If you’d like to create a unique system that’s tailored to your business’s unique needs, we can help. At ClikFocus, we’ve created custom-tailored membership systems for small to enterprise-level businesses, and we’d love to do the same for you.
To set your project into motion today, reach out to us.