You’ve got a membership site. Maybe you’re using a free blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger. Maybe you’ve got a self-hosted blog on a premium platform like Shopify or HubSpot. Either way, you’ve got memberships that you can use to grow your business.

You’ve probably spent a decent amount of time thinking about your membership tiers, crafting the structure and content of your membership plans, and deciding what benefits you’ll offer to your membership group.

Here’s the rub: despite all your hard work, your membership tiers are probably not doing what you really want them to do. And that’s frustrating, because you’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to building these membership tiers.

To make your membership tier work for you, you need to look at it from a different perspective. In this article, I’ll walk you through a different way of looking at your membership tiers, showing you how to design an efficient membership plan that will help you grow your business.

The Three Ps of Membership

When it comes to your membership tiers, you’re primarily concerned with three things:

  • Payment
  • Promotions
  • Protection

These three Ps dictate your membership tier’s entire strategy. When you design your membership tiers, you’ll want to think about how you can achieve these three goals effectively.

To start, let’s take a look at the first of these three Ps: Payment.

Payment

This is where you’ll spend most of your time, designing your membership plan, as you’re essentially creating an all-encompassing membership program. Once you’ve set the prices for your individual membership levels, you can move on to the next step.

The first and most important thing you’ll need to decide is how you’ll collect payments from your members. There are many different options when it comes to collecting payments, so let’s dive into the different types of payment plans available to you.

1. Single-payment plans

If your members want to join your membership program, but don’t want to make repeated payments, you can offer them a single payment option.

With this option, you’ll want to design your website or app to collect the full price of their membership before letting them access your content or offering them any benefits (e.g., restricted-access content, discounts, etc.).

You don’t want to over-deliver on content or perks in this scenario, or your members will feel like they’re getting ripped off. So make sure you’re delivering value in the right way, at the right time, and for the right price.

2. Recurring-payment plans

If you have an ongoing need to collect payments from your members, you can offer them the two-part membership plan.

With this option, you’ll want to first set up a payment source that will automatically charge your members’ credit cards on a regular basis (e.g., monthly, weekly, or daily).

You can create a recurring-payment plan where you’ll charge their cards once every month or every quarter, and the amount will vary. For example, if you have a $100 monthly fee, you’ll want to make sure you’re collecting $100 from each of your members every month.

This type of plan is usually the best choice for restaurants, online stores, and other businesses that need to continuously generate revenue. So if your members are buying your products on a regular basis, this is the kind of plan you should go with.

3. Billing-up-front plans

If you have a one-time fee for your membership (e.g., when you first sign them up), you can offer them the traditional membership plan.

With this option, you’ll want to design your website or app so that new members can immediately pay the membership fee when they join your program. Once they’ve paid the initial fee, their credit cards will be charged annually or every month (depending on how you’ve set it up).

This plan is great for a business that is looking for long-term, engaged members. So if you’re running a university, an NGO, or an entertainment company, this type of plan will suit you.

When Will You Charge Their Cards?

Once you’ve decided how you’ll collect payments from your members, you can put into place a schedule for when you’ll charge their cards. You want to make sure that you’re not jeopardizing the integrity of your business by over-using their credit cards, so avoid charging their cards too frequently.

You want to charge their cards once every three months, or once a month if you’re running a small business. It’s also a good idea to email them ahead of time to let them know when they’ll be charged. This way, they have time to make any necessary adjustments to their financial accounts.

Protection

When you’ve got a membership site, you’re always going to have members trying to hack you or raid your database. So you need to have certain measures in place to protect yourself and your content.

The most effective way to protect yourself is to use a security certificate, which gives your website an extra layer of credibility and protection. A security certificate allows your site to pass the basic tests that a big-name certification agency might give it (e.g., Let’s Encrypt, VeriSign, etc.). Essentially, it’s an all-around good idea to get a security certificate for your website, especially if you’re looking for better credibility and protection when promoting your site.

Once you’ve applied for a security certificate and been approved, you’ll need to install the certificate on your site. You can use the simple Let’s Encrypt tool to do this automatically, or you can install it using an automated tool like the Hummingbird Content Guard.

The advantage of using a security certificate is that, once set up, it requires very little maintenance. You just need to check the box to ensure the certificate is installed correctly and then, from time to time, you’ll need to renew it.

Promotions

This is where you’ll put in the effort to attract members to your program. Once you’ve got them in your membership site, you’ll want to earn their trust and loyalty by constantly offering them new things to do or say.

The easiest way to do this is by using digital advertisements, like Google AdWords or Facebook Ads. When someone clicks on an ad, they’re taken to a page that offers them content curated from across the web. For example, let’s say you’re running a blog for financial advisors and you decide to promote a blog post on your site. When someone clicks on that link and joins your membership program, they’ll also be offered personalized advice from one of your financial advisors.

These types of digital advertisements are proven to be some of the most highly-effective ways to attract, engage, and retain members. Don’t expect your ads to pay for themselves, but you’ll surely earn back what you spent on your membership in the long run.

Putting It All Together

When you’ve got a membership site, the most important thing to do is to combine all these three P’s into one cohesive strategy. This is going to help you form the basis of your membership plan and make sure you’re setting prices and delivering value to your members at the right time.

You can start by looking at the big picture. What are you trying to achieve with your membership site? Who is your audience and what do they need? What are your members trying to achieve?

Once you’ve got your four-quadrant analysis in place, you can move to the next step: creation of your membership tiers. What are your options? How can you maximize your resources to generate the most revenue? What’s the most relevant and effective way to serve your audience?

Let’s say your goal is to generate $10,000 a month from your members. You’ve got a four-quadrant analysis that points you to increasing revenue through membership plans. Now that you know where you’re headed, let’s look at the creation of your membership tiers.

Start With The Basics

As you’ve probably guessed, the first step is to create the four basic membership tiers: