Growing your membership is a combination of good marketing and removing usability errors.

Membership packages are a popular choice for educators because they open up the possibility of regular subscribers who will not only stick around on the promise of future content, but who will become active contributors to your community. They’re also popular course options for learners, who often aren’t just looking for instruction and guidance, but peer support as well.

However, just because membership packages are popular doesn’t mean it’s easy to get learners to sign up. Whereas learners may shop around for one-off course options—and even try what various educators have to offer—few want to join multiple membership communities. This means they’ll be scrutinizing your course more thoroughly as they decide whether to sign up.

Getting learners to sign up is a mountain to climb, but once they’re part of your community, they’re more likely to stay. Here are some tips to get them over the hurdle.

Marketing: Help more people discover your course.

In many ways, increasing membership signups is much the same as selling courses for any other e-learning program. The biggest difference is what you’re selling. Membership packages tend to have a different value proposition than one-off programs, so you’ll need to know how to differentiate yourself to make the strongest case.

Make a clear value statement.

What does your membership package offer that other courses don’t? Why should your learner choose you instead of someone else? It’s surprising to me how many membership packages can lose the thrust of their messaging by focusing too much on what and not enough on why. “Learn to write a short story” is fine, but “join our writing community for writing goal check-ins and thoughtful critiques” is so much better.

Promote your course on your blog and social media.

Spend enough time growing your membership package, and you’ll start to see the success stories roll in. Talk to your members about sharing their stories. Ask for reviews, and maybe consider running a survey to gather stories. Maybe you can even offer to have some of your members publish their successes on your blog.

Create a newsletter sign-up to nurture leads.

Newsletters can help you stay in touch with reluctant learners. You may have a lead who’s interested in your course, but isn’t ready to pull the trigger. Running a compelling newsletter can help you stay top of mind while also demonstrating the quality of your content.

Offer a trial period.

Even the most interested learner may hesitate to sign up for membership on your site if they can’t try it out first, and the very reluctant are unlikely to give your course a try without a test period. A trial period gives you a chance to prove yourself without demanding a big commitment up-front.

Include a discount or a bonus mini course.

Another way to win over reluctant learners? Offer a course discount, include bonus content, or create a free taster course. You can even create a referral program to encourage learners to spread the word to others in their network.

Usability: Remove the barriers to entry.

Any friction that learners experience when interacting with your course is likely to lower their interest. The trick with usability is that most of us only notice it when it’s gone. After all, the whole point of optimizing usability is that it creates a slick, seamless experience for the user that is simply irresistible. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Make your CTAs obvious.

A call-to-action (CTA) is the industry term for the various buttons and hyperlinked text on your website that is meant to elicit an action from your user. If you want users to sign up for your course, you need to make sure your CTAs are bold and unambiguous. Get rid of plain hyperlinks that read “click here,” and use designed buttons with specific instructions like “sign up for the course.”

Optimize your copy to be succinct and readable.

As a content writer, I know the temptation to put paragraphs of text on a page. And if you’re writing a blog (ha!) or a lesson, that is perfectly appropriate! After all, users have come to you to learn. However, on your customer-facing pages, you want to be sure you aren’t burying your message in paragraphs of text. This is especially true on sign-up pages!

Remove unnecessary fields from your registration form.

Speaking of your sign-up page, make this as short as possible. If you can get everything you need using their name and email, do it. Excess form fields not only make a learner feel like they’re doing a lot of work to get your class, they can also bother first-time learners who don’t want to hand over a lot of personal information to someone they don’t know. Keep it short, and have your learners fill in more profile information after they’ve registered.

Eliminate any extra or inconvenient steps in the checkout process.

Checkouts are complicated. It’s taken decades for companies to improve payment technology in ways that are both more secure, and less cumbersome for the user. You’ll probably be handling this process using an ecommerce plugin, so we recommend taking your time to carefully assess the checkout options that plugin allows. Our recommendation, by the way, is WooCommerce. We even built an integration for it!

Send automated confirmation emails when the process is complete.

Finally, once the registration process is complete, you should send your learners an email not only confirming their registration, but giving them next steps. MailChimp and Convertkit are good options for this, and can be automated using our Zapier integration.

Win over new members, and they can be with you for a long time.

As we said in the beginning, the biggest difference between a membership package and other online courses is that membership packages win customers over for the long run. Convince a new learner to sign up, and they could be with your community for years to come. That loyalty is worth a big investment to win over.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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Thanks for the useful advice – really helpful! Do you have any guidance on integrating with third party membership plugins? We currently use Paid Memberships Pro which seems useful for allowing us to restrict access to other content on our site, but it makes the whole sign-up process a little more awkward. Thanks!

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