February 27, 2019
Over the past few years, we’ve helped dozens of clients get into the right membership platform. This is no mean feat given the growing number of SaaS platforms rolling out to fit every conceivable niche within the membership platform market. PC Magazine has its review out of the best Membership Systems for 2017, and called Capterra has their list.
With so many features and bennies to sift through. How do you keep from falling into analysis paralysis?
By focusing on answering the following 7 questions, you’ll radically thin out the number of platforms from which to choose.
Start by spitballing answers to two questions: What functional purpose does the site provide? What is the profile of a typical member of your site?
Write out the definition of why your site exists. You might say something like “This site exists to serve the growing community of those qualified to repair drones.” While that may feel like an entirely intact statement of purpose, it’s hardly enough to go on for picking a suitable platform.
Here’s an example of a defining statement that works:
The purpose of XYZ Site is to offer a mix of free and paid training content for those wishing to become certified in drone and remote control aircraft repair. Membership dues are paid on a monthly or yearly basis. Discounts are applied to annual subscriptions. Members will interact via moderated forums. Content will be provided as a blend of text, video, and HTML5. Courses will be CE certified by ABC Organization. Additional courseware may be purchased and added to a member’s home screen, as it becomes available. Tickets to upcoming live events will be sold through the site. The site will integrate with QuickBooks, and accept payments…
Well, ok, we just made that up… but you get the point.
We mentioned in the example above that members are, “those wishing to become certified in drone and remote control aircraft repair.” That’s a good start at defining who your members will be but to determine the membership platform; you’re going to need to dig a little deeper. The next question we ask of our clients is to profile for us the site’s average member. Who are they? How old? What are their likes and dislikes? In what part of the country do they live? What type of car do they drive? Married? Kids? What makes them tick? This might sound irrelevant; however, we find that the more thoroughly you understand your target audience—even at the granular level—the better you’ll be able to pour them into a membership site they’ll want to be a part of. Which is the point. Right?
Once you’ve tackled the above 2 questions, then you need to get into the following:
This is where a lot of people can get tripped up. We mentioned in the example mission statement (above) that the site will need to integrate with QuickBooks. Not all platforms do this. If this is a requirement, you’ll want to investigate this very carefully as part of your selection process. Also, keep in mind if you’re using QuickBooks Online or Desktop. There are very different integration requirements for both of those.
What other integrations are vital to your operation’s workflow? Will you need to integrate with a 3rd party CRM or mailing list manager (e.g., Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Aweber?)
Additionally, will your membership site need to take online payments? How will this be integrated? Will you have specific gateway requirements such as PayPal, Stripe, or Authorize.net?
When you launch, will you already have members that have been imported from a previous implementation? If so what is the onboarding process of the new platform? Does it allow batch uploading? Then what are your growth projections? Are you expecting tens of thousands of registered members, or will this be more of a niche project? Know the number. Forecast how quickly this number is going to change.
Does your project require industry-specific business logic, or will you only require standard features? How about users? Are they to be segmented into groups with different site access requirements? Will you be running custom promotions for subscriptions or products? Will you need to track custom usage metrics/analytics on your users for marketing or access management? Will you need to generate custom reports on these metrics?
Who is going to be running the show? Will you have a staff involved in moderating the community, answering support tickets or will it be just you?