E-learning is a profitable business these days. According to statistics, by 2024, the e-learning market will grow by as much as 38 billion dollars. By 2025, the global e-learning market is expected to be worth 325 billion.
If you’re a knowledge entrepreneur, now is the time to monetize your talent. One of the best ways to do this is by creating an e-learning membership website.
Moreover, almost 70 percent of American consumers have multiple subscriptions. With so many people eager to join websites, an eye-catching one that offers relevant content will surely not lack subscriptions. You just have to choose the best option for creating a website with membership and user login.
This post will offer you the basics. It will walk you through the main advantages of a subscription website. Then, you’ll learn why a learning management system (LMS) is the most effective solution to creating an e-learning membership website. Finally, we’ll talk about the main LMS features and tools you can use while building your site.
The advantages of creating a membership website
Why should you employ a subscription model for your e-learning business? Among other benefits, this type of website allows you to gain access to your target audience, promote customer engagement and interaction, become an authority in your niche, and ultimately, generate steady revenue.
Here are the major benefits of creating a membership website:
Target the right audience for your courses
One of the biggest advantages of running a membership website is that it allows you to reach out to a pre-qualified audience. Let’s take cooking courses for example. If this is the type of content you want to sell, then your courses, website content and blog (if you decide to have one) will include keywords that are relevant to your niche.
This is how people who are interested in cooking will come across your website. These people already know what they want. They don’t need a subscription to a meal kit delivery service or a reservation to a restaurant that sells the best tagliatelle, they want to learn how to nail that recipe to impress their friends and family.
Seeing how relevant and engaging your content is, readers might want to stay up-to-date with your work, despite not purchasing a course from you just yet. Hence, giving them the possibility to become members allows you to keep them hooked.
Make your marketing and upselling efforts worth it
Through marketing strategies such as regular newsletters, discount offers, or free webinars you can later convert subscribers into customers without struggling to qualify them as leads. Once they join your community, their status is clear – these people represent your target audience.
It’s just a matter of time before you can convert them. More so, if you set a paid membership system, rest assured that people who’ve already invested to become members are willing to pay for quality content in the future. They are the best target for your upselling efforts. These are the prospects who are ready for a one-on-one coaching session, an e-book, or an exclusive webinar.
Establish a stream of recurring income
Revenue-wise, a membership site is a good idea. If you want to make a living as a knowledge entrepreneur, you need a steady source of income. This is exactly what your website can do for you.
A minimum membership fee of five dollars per month won’t put a big dent in your audience’s budget. However, for you, this recurring revenue can help you create better, more engaging, and complex courses that require material resources and equipment such as cameras and video editing tools. Then, your subscribers will benefit from them. So, it’s a win-win situation.
However, you don’t necessarily have to put a price tag on your subscription. You could opt for a free membership instead. This can also be a good strategy as more people will be willing to join your community if it’s free of charge. Another alternative is to establish a paid subscription only for certain areas of your website. For example, you can offer free access to most sections and only charge money for subscriptions that also grant permanent access to certain courses.
No matter how you proceed, a membership website has major benefits in the long run, whether you generate a passive income from monthly subscriptions or you grant free membership and charge for your courses.
Boost your relationship with customers and create a community
When you build a membership website, you create a community of like-minded individuals. All those who become members have something in common – passion or necessity to learn more about your field, whether you offer cooking, finance, personal development, or self-help courses.
Those who choose to subscribe are committed to your niche. It’s likely that many of them will become your paying customers in the feature. Conversely, some might have purchased and enjoyed your courses already. As a result, they’ve decided to join the community.
And since everyone is already on the same page, it’s important to leverage their shared interests. For this, you need to constantly offer your audience fresh and relevant content (new courses, blog posts, webinars, e-books, etc.).
Furthermore, promoting interaction within your community is a great way to further engage members. To do this, you can create groups or forums (LMSs allow you to do this). You can also chat with your followers directly from your website.
Allowing members to interact among themselves will further increase the sense of community and trust. This will help you consolidate your customer base, strengthen your position as a field authority, know your audience in-depth, and consequently, create more targeted courses.
What’s the difference between a membership website and a marketplace?
Having your own membership website can be more beneficial for your e-learning business than selling courses on a marketplace. Platforms such as Udemy have their advantages too and online educators often start by selling courses there. These platforms help you market your courses and already gather a huge audience of potential buyers. However, they also have some drawbacks that might stand in the way of a successful e-learning endeavor:
- Here, you compete with numerous other course creators who sell similar materials. Only on Udemy, there are over 70,000 instructors selling over 150,000 courses;
- You need positive reviews to be able to generate more sales, and gathering them takes time;
- You have to pay the marketplace a large share of your earnings (in some cases you’re only left with 50 or 25 percent)
- You can’t access your customers’ contact information – the entire communication is carried out on the platform, and you won’t be able to view learners’ email addresses, so you can’t market other courses to your already-established audience;
- There are lots of rules and policies that limit your options (some platforms even limit the number of messages you’re allowed to exchange with your learners);
- Promotional materials usually can’t include links to external sites, not even your YouTube channel;
- The courses you create on these platforms are not very customizable, so you won’t be able to stand out through their design.
With an LMS, on the other hand, you have full control over your content and how you choose to brand your courses and promote them. Moreover, you instantly get access to your learners’ contact details once they become members. Besides, you don’t compete with anyone else, and in most cases, you end up paying less as this system works based on a fixed monthly fee, not a percentage of your sales. So, you get to keep most of what you earn.
Why use an LMS to build a membership website?
If you’re ready to learn how to build a membership website, prepare yourself for an exciting journey, but arm yourself with patience too. There are different membership website builder solutions out there. A simple Google search will reveal dozens of providers. Moreover, each builder has its features and advantages, so it’s worth doing some prior research to make sure you choose the best software for your pockets and needs. So here are a few reasons why an LMS is a great venue for building a membership website:
As a knowledge entrepreneur, you might not want to spend hours looking for the right membership website builder. This process will take a while if you’re not a technical person who has built a website or at least a landing page before.
Moreover, after you find a tool that seems suitable for your needs, you’ll also have to figure out how it works. Therefore, you’ll need a few more hours or even days to check out its features and learn to use them. The whole process can be interesting and constructive, but it requires a lot of time and this might be something you don’t have or you’d rather spend it on creating more course materials.
So, you need a solid tool that’s designed for instructors and online knowledge entrepreneurs. This tool also needs specific features that will help you set up, advertise, and sell courses.
Learning management systems (LMSs) are created for educational purposes. Hence, they focus on the specific needs of instructors, trainers, teachers, and independent course creators. LMSs require minimal technical knowledge and allow users to easily create, promote, and sell courses.
Great communication tools
LMSs also have different communication features that allow you to keep in touch with your learners, create groups or forums and automatically ask for feedback. These are just some of the elements that help you create and promote online courses.
More so, these features enable you to constantly cater to your audience, discover their needs, and nurture their interests. In the end, it all translates into creating the specific type of content your customers are ready and eager to invest in.
Easy learner account management
Learner account management is made easy through a learning platform. The whole purpose is to facilitate course creators’ work and help them deliver content in a streamlined way, with little manual work. And all this is possible thanks to powerful automation features.
How does automation help you manage subscriber and learner accounts? For example, by immediately creating an account for anyone who buys a subscription or a course. Doing this eliminates all the hassle of looking for a different account management solution. The whole process is automated and you only have to check your dashboard to see how many new subscribers you have. Obviously, you can also get notifications once a person signs up or purchases a course.
When someone buys a course from an LMS, they automatically get an account that allows them to access that content. Alternatively, instructors can also create learner accounts manually, within seconds, if learners prefer this option. In this case, learners only have to provide an email address, then click on an invitation they receive via email and set up a password.
How to create a membership website with an LMS
Besides what software you’ll use to build your site, there are several other questions to ask yourself before creating a membership website. First, you need to carefully consider what type of courses you want to sell. This involves creating a buyer persona for your online courses. The type of membership you want to provide is also important (free, paid, mixed). Finally, you have to choose the best LMS for your needs. And the easiest way to determine this is by comparing LMS features.
Once you’ve sorted out all these, you’re ready to start building your membership website platform. In the world of LMSs, there are dozens of vendors and hundreds of features that make each platform unique. However, in general, these are intuitive tools that work similarly. So, here are the main steps you’ll take to craft your e-learning membership website:
Choose the website’s design
LMSs provide all the tools you need to easily create an e-learning website even with minimum technical skills. So, they offer a suite of ready-made themes you can choose from. Most LMSs also rely on a simple drag and drop interface and allow you to customize your site by:
- Choosing different colors;
- Creating a personalized logo;
- Customizing your URL;
- Using picture carousels, image blocks, and video content;
- Adding different buttons (help, social media links, etc.).
Create your courses
After you’ve defined your sites’ structure, the next step is to create your courses. This is the lengthiest part of the process, depending on how many courses you have and how complex they are. Each course can include different modules which, in their turn, are made up of different sections.
You can blend photos, video, and audio content with written text. You can also add all sorts of extra resources such as files, guides, or eBooks your customers can download. To track learner progress with an LMS, you can choose from different types of assessment (quizzes, written assignments, etc.).
Moreover, to make your course more engaging, you can also add gamification options (trophies, badges, or certificates learners can collect as they progress through the course).
All these elements make online courses more effective. Not surprisingly, statistics show that e-learning increases the information retention rate from 25 to 60 percent.
Configure your website for e-commerce
LMS e-commerce features allow you to sell courses and subscriptions to your audience. As website visitors browse through your catalog, they can purchase and enroll in a course they like. To make sure they can do this, you have to enable the payment gateway options for your website.
Many LMSs support different payment methods such as PayPal, Stripe, PayU, Flywire, and others. Then, you need to set a price for your courses and, if you want, set up discounts.
Choose a subscription method
To enable visitors to purchase course bundles or subscriptions, check out the subscription plan options your system provides. Most LMSs allow you to combine two or more courses (or ditigal media, such as an e-book) into one subscription plan and create different plans with various prices.
You have the freedom to set your own prices depending on the content’s length, complexity, the amount of time you’ve invested in creating the course, etc. The process is quick and easy. From your dashboard, you can configure or change subscription plan prices within seconds, and the changes will automatically reflect on your website.
Moreover, you can also choose to add a free subscription plan. In this case, you will simply have to set the subscription’s price to zero. There are different advantages to offering free membership. One of them is the fact that you allow your audience to get familiar with your content before purchasing a paid plan.
Read more: Selling online courses using INDIE
Enable visitors to become members
If you want to offer a free membership plan, simply to gather your visitor’s email addresses through a landing page and send them regular newsletters in order to convert them into paying customers at some point. You will be able to do this automatically, within the LMS, by sending one single email to your entire subscribers list.
Otherwise, your visitors can simply purchase online courses or subscriptions and they’ll be asked to set up an account. Additionally, learning platforms integrate with tools like Zapier and MailChimp, which facilitate customer management and communication. Also, you can configure your site so that each paying customer is automatically added to your email list.
Leverage marketing tools
Finally, to make the most out of your membership website, use the existing marketing tools your LMS provides. Most systems offer you the chance to improve your site for SEO purposes by using different keywords or meta descriptions. They also allow you to track your traffic and set up affiliate programs for your membership website platform. Ratings and reviews are also essential for an efficient marketing strategy and an LMS helps you automatically collect customer reviews.
An e-learning platform can help you turn profitable website membership ideas into reality.
These websites help you target the right audience, allow you to create a community of learners, keep in touch with them, strengthen your online presence and authority, and ultimately convert members into paying customers.
Ioana Solea is passionate about e-learning and writing. She’s been working as a foreign language trainer for over a decade and as a blogger for almost as much. Some of her favorite blogging topics are training and marketing strategies for knowledge entrepreneurs.