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7 Reasons Why Your Membership Website Sucks

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Membership sites are arguably one of the best and most consistent forms of online income. If you do it right, you stand to make a fortune. However, so many people are pulling their hair out, trying to figure out why no one wants to be a member and why the people that are members don’t hang around very long.

I will take some of the guess work out of it for you. Here are seven reasons why your membership site probably isn’t as good as it could be.

How To Improve Your Membership Website

You Are Not Accessible

When people join your membership, they want to feel like they have personal access to you. By creating a membership site and then backing yourself out completely from communicating with the members, you are removing one of the biggest factors that could keep your members around for a very long time. Not too long ago, someone told me that “access was the new thud”. The “thud” referred to the added perceived value of your product or service when your customer received a “big box of stuff” in the mail (The “thud” being the sound it made when you dropped the box on your desk). The “thud” or “big box of stuff” used to be something that drove the perceived value of your product or promotion through the roof. These days, giving your members the perception of having personal access to you is the new way to build in that maximum perceived value.

Being active in your forum, personally responding to emails from members, and offering webinars or conference calls can go a long way in making your members feel like they have personal access to you, the expert.

You Are Not Staying In Tune With What Your Members Want

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they are creating membership sites is that they create content based around what they want to talk about as opposed to creating content based around what your members want to learn. As people with a lot of experience and knowledge in the niches in which we teach, we often forget how much we know and how far we have come to learn the things that we are now teaching. It seems to be a very common mistake that we, as content creators, teach over the heads of our members.

If you want to ensure that your members stay with you for a very long time, it’s important to bring yourself back to their level and remember some of the struggles and stumbling points that you encountered when you were getting started. I find that doing a monthly survey of my list and constantly engaging the members in my forum helps keep me in touch with the content that they want from me and the pace at which I should teach it.

You Are Not Engaging Them Through Multiple Forms of Media

If you really want to build the maximum level of engagement that makes your members feel like you are really taking care of them, you need to avoid relying on only one form of media. We think it’s so simple to just crank out video after video and slap it inside of a membership site. If you’re good at creating videos, that’s a great start… But it’s not going to keep them coming back craving more. Video may be your favorite way to teach or to learn but I would be willing to bet money right now that it’s not ALL of your member’s favorite way to learn.

Experiment with adding written articles to your membership. Make text transcripts and audio versions of your content available. People love the options. Personally, I love audio content because I can listen to it while driving or while out for a walk. If video is not my preferred form of media for receiving content, I guarantee you have some members that have preferences other than video as well. Make sure you stay in tune with these needs by giving them options.

You Are Trying To Drip Feed Your Content

When you really think about it, does drip feeding all of your content really make sense? Let’s say that you have a membership site with drip-fed content that’s been online for six months… If you’re creating content right now that you are really excited about and really passionate about, it’s only going to be seen by a small minority of your members. Members that are getting in to the site today are seeing your oldest (possibly outdated) content while only the few members that have been around since month one are seeing the stuff that you just created and are really excited about… What happens two years from now when you still have a few members hanging around that have been there since the beginning? You’re still creating content that could potentially only be seen by a handful of people.

Drip feeding make sense if you’ve created a six month course or training that has a specific end date. In almost every other case, you should avoid falling in to the trap of making all of your content drip-fed. You will regret it in the future.

You Are Not Setting Milestones For Your Members

While I believe that drip-fed membership sites are a bad move, I believe that milestone-based incentives are an excellent move. If you give your members some sort of bonus to stick around and keep coming back, you will see your retention go through the roof.

I like to offer bonuses to my members once they’ve been a member for sixty days (the refund period), once they’ve been members for six months and once they’ve been members for a year. The bonuses must be worth sticking around for though. I can not stress enough how important it is that you offer some killer bonuses for reaching these milestones. You can offer hour long consulting calls, access to full products that you’ve created outside of your membership, physical versions of your content shipped in the mail, or even be willing to purchase cool toys for them once they reach a full year. Offering up these incentives will definitely keep people encouraged to stick around and pay attention.

Your Barrier To Entry Is Too High

There is nothing wrong with having membership sites that run $97 per month or more per member. In fact, that seems to be a pretty standard price point these days for membership sites. However, $97 is too high of a price to pay today.

If you lower the price that people pay today, you’re much more likely to get them to jump on board. Telling people that they need to pay $97 now and then continue to pay $97 every single month to stay a member is a tough sell. However, telling people that they can take a test drive today for $1 or for $5 is a much easier sell. It gives them the opportunity to get inside and see that you really do offer them a lot of value and that what you deliver is worth much more than the $97 per month that they will eventually pay.

Play around with offering trials of $1 or $5 for the first month just to get them inside. Once they have access to all of the valuable content that you’re offering, they are going to have a real hard time canceling and losing everything you’re providing for them.

You Are Not Reactivating Cancelled Members

It has always been said that the easiest person to sell to is an existing customer. If that’s true, one of the next easiest sells is to someone that was once a customer. While running your membership right now, what do you do with the people who cancel? In almost all cases, you’re letting them walk away and never hear from you again.

What you should be doing is adding them to a list of cancelled customers and then following up with them. Offer them bonuses, discounts, and special access to you for coming back and giving your membership another shot. You will be surprised at how responsive this tactic can be. Over time, I have managed to reactivate about 25% of the members that have cancelled just by offering incentives to come back and give us a second chance. If you’re not doing this, you are leaving money on the table.

Running a membership site can be a very rewarding and profitable endeavor. If you get it right, keep your members engaged, and constantly strive to provide high quality content, you will find yourself running a very successful membership site with customers who absolutely love you. Don’t make the mistakes above and you are practically guaranteed to build a following as well as a satisfying income for years to come.

Matt Wolfe has helped create and build two hugely successful membership sites that currently serve close to 5,000 members combined. He discusses his journey and how to build successful online businesses over at his personal blog, You can also take a look at Matt’s membership site all about using WordPress to create your websites over at



  1. ZPTsotetsi says:

    Great post Matt, talking about the right post at the right time from the right blog. I’m actually testing some ways of including a membership area for one of my site and this is really what im looking for. I’ll be re-reading this post again and again to understand it further.

    1 question, what do u think of portals and how it can be monetized?

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “portals”. Are you talking about Portals 2, the game that just came out? Or are you talking about something completely different?

      If you’re talking about the game… Games are some of the easiest niches to monetize. You just need to work out strategies and tips that you can sell to your community. Build an exclusive forum for people to share strategies and charge a small monthly fee to stay a member…

      I’m not sure if I’m on the right track with what you were asking or not… But that’s my $0.02.


      • ZPTsotetsi says:

        Thanks Matt for your reply, I was referring to a membership site. I’m actually working on something like for both mobile and web and for web I have been playing around with adsense. But for mobile don’t have any idea how to monetize it. I was thinking of setting up a download link for fee or give it for free and use mobile ads service, what do you think?

  2. Fazal Mayar says:

    Great stuff Matt. I think membership sites can really be a great source of income if you provide value to your customers and as well as good support. You can make money for the long term.

  3. Jay Mueller says:

    Hey Matt,

    Good solid advice that I can use with my new site. So far I’ve only been adding content when I get the chance and not really advertising it. I have yet to add my forum, but I’m going to your WPC site and review your video on how to do this for free.

    Another great post with super content. YOU ROCK!

  4. Thanks Matt for a good post!

    This is relevant to what I am looking to do in the near future so I’ll keep this in the bank 🙂

    Just wanted to ask is there necessarily a need to have a forum on a membership site in your experience? Can we stay in tune with members via a comments/suggestions page?



    • A forum may not be 100% mandatory but I think that it adds much more of a community element. If you just allow discussion via comments on content pages, you’ll restrain the conversation to only what’s going on in that particular piece of content. Opening up a forum allows members of the community to chat about whatever they want and really get to know each other. Once people get to know each other, they won’t want to leave the community. This place has become a community of their friends and this is how they connect with each other. They don’t want to lose that.


  5. Dennis Edell@ Direct Sales Marketing says:

    I’m with ZPT, I’ve been thinking along this lines for some time now; excellent tips!

    I’d even add something to the multiple forms of media.

    One of the highlights of memberships for many people is the feeling of “exclusivity”, feeling “elite” and what not.

    Set up all separate and private accounts just for members…twitter/facebook, and any others…not to mention messengers if you use them, Yahoo/AIM/Skype, etc…

  6. Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing says:

    Interesting post — I both belong to a member community, AND am in the process of setting up a membership community on my site right now, so this is highly useful information for me!

    I love your tip of offering bonuses at 60 days/6 mos…nobody’s done that for me in my member community and I think that’s a great idea. I’m thinking maybe a free one-hour group consulting call or something to keep people interesting…. and totally agree with you – people join membership clubs for access, so you have to provide it, or it’s going to get stale pretty fast.

  7. Onibalusi Bamidele says:

    Really great post Mike,

    I especially love the point of not drip feeding your membership site content and giving people regularly updated content. I believe we always grow and get more results and by updating your membership site regularly your subscribers will be able to get more results.

    I’d like to know your thoughts on which brings better results (in terms of how much you make) in a membership site and an ebook?

    What do you think?

  8. Nate @ Strayblogger says:

    That’s an interesting take on drip-feeding content. I drip feed content on one of my membership sites, and then on another one I don’t drip feed anything… like you said, it just depends on the situation.

    Using a 4.95 first month offer is money though; that will get a lot of people in that wouldn’t have signed up otherwise.

  9. Marion Ryan says:


    That is such an informative post about membership sites, great tips and so useful to learn from your experiences.

    I’ve been thinking myself about the forum bit and understand why you say what you say. My belief around them has always been that they are hard work to get going and get people commenting. How many members would you say you need to get a lively forum going? In the past and even currently I’ve used Google Groups to get a community feel going though this has drawbacks too (some people are averse to seeing 4 or 5 emails from the group on a particular day).

    Would be great to get your thoughts.


    • Matt Wolfe says:

      Hi Marion,
      It really doesn’t take much to keep people engaged. As long as you get in there and you get a couple of others in there to help keep things moving, you’ll find that it works really well. I have myself and two moderators (one of which is Jay Mueller who posted above). We all get in the forum and just make sure to keep conversations moving and keep people interested. Eventually the forum will just take on a mind of it’s own and require less and less effort on your part.


  10. Hey Matt,
    Good work. We are putting together lessons for piano. What do you think as far as business model for creating a forum along this line allowing members free content (lessons)?
    I realize this is open for debate, but…I’m just looking for your opinion on the basic business model: piano lessons for joining forum versus selling the lessons once to each customer.

  11. Matt,
    Sorry. One other thing.
    What kind of time frame are we looking at to get a forum well trafficked (all things being equal)?
    Thanks again.

    • Matt Wolfe says:

      Hi Dakota,
      Personally, for the piano site, I would sell your lessons at a one-off price and then, after the purchase, give them an upsell to become a member of your community. You will sell more of your product to people who just want the lessons as well as build a community of people who really want to engage with others on the topic…

      As far as time frame… It could be all over the place. It really depends on what methods you use to build traffic and how well you engage the traffic. There are some great posts here on IncomeDiary as well as over at my blog ( that discuss building traffic to your site.

      Hope that helps,

  12. Hi Matt,
    Thanks so much for your response. I have another question.
    By one-off, do you mean giving a discount for the package and then upselling them into the community?
    And also would I be marketing this separately if one was for a forum and one was just selling the package outright?
    Thanks so much for your response ahead of time.
    I love this site but will be checking your’s also.
    Piano Lesson Girl

    • Matt Wolfe says:

      I would set it up where you have some free piano lessons. After they have viewed a few of your lessons, you charge them a one-off fee to access more lessons (Maybe $47 or something). As soon as they purchase these “premium” lessons, you send them to another sales page immediately asking them if they want to join your community (your monthly membership).

      That’s how I’d do it…


  13. Great article, thanks Matt! I’ve looked into Optimize Press and Profits Theme as options – not sure the latter has a forum. Do you have a cost-effective software solution that can cover everything from marketing (squeeze pages, sales pages, etc.), to membership and a forum? If not, do you have a preferred combination? Just want to make sure I’m not missing anything.


    • Matt Wolfe says:

      Hey Chris,
      A combination of OptimizePress for your theme, Wishlist Member or Digital Access Pass for your membership script and Simple:Press for your forum. Simple:Press is free and works great with the membership scripts. Wishlist Member and Digital Access Pass are interchangeable for me when it comes to the script (I mostly use Wishlist though). And nothing beats OptimizePress for the sales pages / squeeze pages / membership layout.


  14. Stephanie says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. The not accessible and not using multiple forms of media really strike me as mattering most, at least to me.

    One thing I hate is having a forum where the owner of the membership site isn’t getting involved. I belong to one, and the owner is bad about showing up. It seems that she got a lot of people to upgrade to lifetime status, and they love the forum, so she doesn’t have to spend as much time there as she really should. I know she’s busy, and has children to care for, but when she only posts comments every month or two, it feels like she’s not involved. I hate that. If I’m signing up for a membership site, I want the person offering it to be around, at least every other week.

    I also find that sites that rely too heavily on videos can be annoying. I know video is the big medium right now, but some of us aren’t in positions where it’s easy to access, or we’re in an environment where the noise of a video is unwanted. Plus, some videos are so outdated it’s not even funny. sometimes, I want decently written words, and maybe a few up to date screen shots, in addition to the videos.

  15. Hey Matt,

    Wow mate this is a really thorough post that shows your experience with these things and I have to say that you have really come along way since the days of autopilot formula thingy.

    This post is especially timely because I am putting together my own product at the moment and one of the options I have been tossing up is whether to add a membership section.
    Your post highlights some excellent reasons as to why I should as well as giving a good introduction into what to watch for.

    Great stuff Matt- A genuinely engaging and informative post, thanks so much for sharing.

  16. @johnoflynn says:

    Hi Matt
    This is really good stuff that people often miss. I’d suggest this was a definate read for anyone starting a membership site or IM product site.

  17. Gary Parenti says:

    Hey Michael,

    My Membership site is Free with Affiliate Links applied to a few of my Products..I really don’t care if I make any Money from this,I have the chance to meet some really great people from just providing a Hangout for friends and acquaintance s…Heck,Jacki Herer’s Daughter joined and as far as I’m concerned she is a Celebrity…I’m sure you have heard of Jack Herer…My Membership Site

    A Follower,

  18. Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 says:

    In reference to the first reason why your membership sites suck, one cool way I’ve heard about remedying this is by using a WordPress theme called buddypress.

    Of course, this presumes you’re using the WordPress platform for your site, but what this does is it gives your members an exclusive, mini-facebook-like environment where they can all interact with each other and you like they do on some of their favorite sites.

    I’ve yet to use this but the guy behind Internet Business Mastery, Jason Van Orden, turned me onto this and he uses it for his site and has found his members love it.

    After reading your list, I’ve been reminded once again that this is something I need to look into. Thanks for slapping it to the surface. 🙂

  19. Wayne Lambert says:

    Hi Matt,

    Great post. I’ve just finished developing a 75 video traffic generation membership which I’m expanding rapidly.

    In your opinion, is it better to index the content with the search engines, so people arrive from the SERP’s but then possibly bounce which google sees as a negative content vote against your domain, OR is it better to not index that content and drive traffic to the blog and then offer membership from there through things like Popup Domination and header offers.

    Would be interested to hear your take on this.



  20. Great post Matt… It is really interesting… Love the information you shared… Thanks for the post…

  21. Paul butler says:

    Great article Matt,
    these are keys to long term success with your membership site. I like the idea to have multiple types of media other than video such as audio downloads. thanks for the ideas.
    Paul butler

  22. Julio Ruiz says:

    Great Article Matt.

    Membership sites area a great way to get monthly income, but the essense to keep clients paying is communication with them and between them, so i think a forum is a very good complementing resourse to a memberships site.

    i`ve personally stayed more in membershipsites that have a forum where you can find people who can help you any moment.

  23. Jerrick says:

    Mostly will give up to become a member if there a barriers there. I would not like to register as a member if need to fill in too much detail and too much request.
    Try to some call to action to let them become your member, or not they will not find out what the point of being your members and what the priority to be a member.

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