Hey, good morning, internet fans, it’s Ryan Perry with Simple Biz Support and today is Thursday which means I have Virginie Dorn with Business Website Center in Petaluma. Good morning, Virginie.

Virginie Dorn: Hello Ryan, happy Thursday to everybody out there.

RP: Yes, yes yes, it’s a beautiful day in Northern California. I think we’re going to be in the mid-70s again so I’m… I’m always excited about that. I’m always bummed that I’m inside working behind a computer screen instead of outside in the sun though.

VD: Ditto! Yes. As you can see it’s very pretty outside but here we are in front of our screens.

RP: Yes, and today, Virginie, because you love programming and you love building wonderful websites, we’re going to talk about a very specific niche website that probably I’m going to guess a very small percentage of people would actually need or use in their business. However, it’s a very powerful website because of the tools that it provides. So, when it does make sense for a business owner to have this type of website they can really generate money on an ongoing basis without even selling a product. That website that we’re talking about is a membership-based website. One of the things that we were talking about before we went on air was the different types of businesses, you know what… What they might want to use the membership website to do so. If you could go through maybe a couple of examples of businesses where a membership website would make sense to them?

VD: Absolutely, so again a membership website is not fitted for every type of business and industry. Saying that, they can bring quite a bit of revenue for the site owner if you pay, if you charge for the membership. So, the one that comes to mind right away would be a directory-type website where a certain type of professionals would be paying for the membership, for the benefit of being listed on this directory. And the end user, the buyers, would be going there searching, let’s say for a doctor or a dentist, a service-based, maybe, professional and near their home and will be putting their zip code, what we are looking for. The qualification in here will be a search result page based on the members. So again the members or professional pay for the membership. The site owner itself collects the money and provides that tool. So that’s the most commonly used membership website.

RP: Okay. And one that just comes to mind ’cause you mentioned doctors would be the 1-800-DENTIST, I think that’s… They have been pretty well branded for a number of years, and so 1-800-DENTIST is a membership-based website. They market to dental professionals, and they basically say, “Hey, for a monthly fee, we will add you to our database,” so that when a consumer calls 1-800-DENTIST and says, “Hey, I need a dentist,” and punch in a zip code of the city, your name comes up because you are a paid member. As soon as you stop paying, you’re no longer in that database, and therefore you do not receive the benefits of that membership.

VD: Yeah, it is pretty much replacing yellow pages books we used to have when we went to the dentists section and found a dentist. Now we go online. Now the site owner that owns 1-800-DENTIST, the money he collects from all his dentist members, he has to use it to market this mega website online, so it’s found by search engine bots and it is ranked 12, so there is a value for the paid members. So there’s… It’s not just get, get, get, you have to give and reinvest some of the membership funds into marketing that particular website.

RP: Right, and then the other one would of course be dating services, they’ve been around for years. The eHarmony, the Match.com, that’s all strictly paid membership. That just simply gives you access to a database of people. So can you give us some examples of taking that eHarmony or that Match where we just have access to the database where you might use that as a business owner to do… Grow your business online through a membership?

VD: Yes, so it’s not just an access to the database or member because there’s usually a matching component. So they don’t give you the list of all members, they actually will take your criteria. For instance, eHarmony will say, “Okay, what are you looking for, hair color, whatever it may be,” and it’s going to match you with another type of member. So the connection is done for an algorithm. You get again search result based on what you’re looking for, but they don’t give you vast access to everybody. But it’s not just for dating services, it can be used for all kinds of crazy concept.

VD: One of our newly released website is called Equine Chemistry. And think of it as a eHarmony for horses, we are matching on this website horse sellers and horse buyers. In this particular example, both types of members pay for the privilege of a membership. So a buyer of a horse or multiple horses would be entering their information as well as every detail they have about their horses and a buyer will be on the website. He may get some search result but in order to see the full detail of each horse that he has been matched with, he will need to become a member as well and pay a fee. And then he can connect directly with the buyer all the way across the nation and arrange some payment for the horse. So, it’s not just matching people, it’s matching needs as well.

RP: Alright, and then one of the other things that you mentioned is that you could actually have multi-levels as far as not everybody’s gonna have access to the same information. You might have a smaller price point, which gives you this much access and a higher price point that gives you this much access. Can you give us an example of how you might use that in a small business?

VD:Yes, yes. I think that’s the weaknesses of most site owners. So people who have that vision for a membership website, then come in our office. They don’t think of multiple plans. They don’t understand the pros and cons and how many plans; are they going to be silver, gold, and platinum? What exactly is included in the plans? So there are different ways to do it. You can keep it simple, that is one plan fits all, the easiest way to launch that type of website, and then as you grow and make more money, then you re-invest on this website and start introducing more expensive plans where people can upgrade. But again, the different plans as mentioned will either give you…

For instance, we have a website dedicated for mortgage lenders across the US, and they have different plans of silver, gold, and platinum, and based on what they choose they can add more realtors under their membership plan. So one plan either can put up to 10. If they reach 10, they will either need to delete a realtor or increase to silver plan, and then and so forth. So it’s sometimes based on the tools and services you get. Sometimes it’s based on the exposure you’re going to get within the site. Typically, the most expensive plan gives you the best exposure when it’s a directory membership site.

But it’s very important for site owners when they have this vision of developing membership website to have a business plan, and clearly define the different plans they’re going to offer right on the first day of launch. And are they charging monthly, are they charging yearly, are they giving little upgrade options for each plan? How complicated do they want to make it. And that description usually is not there when we first start, but they need to start thinking of those things before they even talk to a webmaster.

RP: Right, yeah. And then the one with the mortgage lender made me recognize also that a lot of software companies… If you’re a budding software person and you’ve come up with the greatest new ‘It’ software, is a lot of times they will have different levels depending on the number of users, or in my industry we do a lot of things based on the number of websites. They’ll provide information about a website and you’re only allowed to have access to 10 reports, or 10 websites essentially, and if you want 20, then you need to go to the next level. So definitely software developers, they’re just selling a product for $99 and that’s it. You do not have any ongoing revenue coming in. You could sell it for $10 a month, and at the end of the year you’ve got a $120. Plus if you did multiple tiers, you could offer different levels of service. I think…

Trying to think… Microsoft is very good at that. Intuit QuickBooks, they have multiple products that you can buy into at different levels. And even Microsoft, a few years ago they released Office 360, which was subscription based. Basically, you pay $100 and you get access to their office suite of software. And I think from a consumer point of view, it always frustrates me that now I have to pay $99 a year in order to have Windows when I used to be able to pay maybe $200, and I could use it for five years before I really got to the point and you needed to upgrade. But if you look at it from the business point of view, if you could generate regular on-going revenue, even if it’s only $10 a month… But if you could do that in an automated way through a website that manages everything, because if the credit cards expires, the membership turns off… If the people turn their membership off, they lose access. If they sign up online, it’s all automated.

You could have a new client right now as we’re talking and you wouldn’t even know it until you got the email, but that credit card’s been charged; therefore, money is in your bank. So even at $10 a month, if you have a 1000 clients, that’s a good chunk of change that you could be bringing in every single month. And the other one I wanna talk about, because we’re running out of time, is there’s a lot of guru’s out there, a lot of ninjas out there that are digitally selling products, services. Back in the day you would have to fly somewhere and see a guru live at a large convention center. With internet marketing, people are doing webinars. They are pre-recording videos or podcasts, or even providing digital content. Maybe it’s a ‘How To Build Your Own Business Plan,’ and it’s got worksheets and PDFs, and pictures, and descriptions. Those are all digital products that can be stored on a server and given access based on a membership site. Correct?

VD: Yes, so those are becoming more popular. And I think you were right on about the recurring revenue, especially if the site owner intends to sell it at some point, develop the membership site. The recurring monthly revenue is what is going to make it a sellable business, not the one-time sale, otherwise you’re always chasing the next sale. So I do agree you’re better off charging five to 10 bucks a month, getting a 1000 users and keeping them on for years and years, that’s how you make money online.

RP: And the other thing, I’ll give you a little extra tip that I don’t think a lot of business owners think about, but the database is really the gold mine of business moving forward.

VD: Yes.

RP: So by getting people in, even if it’s at a smaller price point, by getting people in you’re collecting their e-mail information, you’re collecting their name, and now you have a certain level of trust. If they’re willing to spend even $10 a month with you, you’ve earned a certain level of trust and now you can start e-mail marketing other programs, other plans. And then let’s get into affiliate offers where you start working with other people that are in similar industries. It’s really easy to grow your business through a membership site.

VD: Yes. And I think… You mentioned affiliate program, there’s also another another way of getting an extra source of the income, is advertising. So once you get a very big database of members, people, bigger company are going to be interested in spending some money to have a little logo on your website so that’s usually on phase two of your development. Now you’re well-established and Bank of America wants to put their logo there so you charge them for that benefit.

RP: Yeah. And it makes sense for the advertiser because if you’re doing a membership site it’s gonna be a very specific group of people and that group of people is gonna have similar likes for the most part. Therefore, it makes it really easy for the right advertiser to come in and connect with those people. So, yeah, I didn’t even think about that.

VD: Yes. And the targeted audience, that’s what all great marketers are looking for.

RP: Yeah, totally. Alright, wonderful, Virginie. If people are interested in a membership site, I’m assuming these are a little bit more involved than just a regular website, I can just imagine the database that has to be created behind it. Where should they go to get more information about the services that you provide?

VD: Well, you can either call us in California, our telephone number is 707-794-9999 or you can e-mail us info@petalumawebsite.com.

RP: Alright, wonderful, Virginie. So, that is our live chat on Google today talking about membership websites. As always, Virginie, I appreciate your time and I hope you have a wonderful afternoon.

VD: Oh, thank you.

RP: Alright, take care.

About Ryan Perry

Ryan Perry has taken his 10+ years of business ownership and hands-on marketing skills and focused them on online marketing. In April of 2009, he started Simple Biz Support with an emphasis on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Ryan is propelling local business websites to the top of Google, Yahoo and Bing resulting in increased market exposure and revenue for his clients using a variety of internet marketing tools including blogs, article submissions and video. Additionally, Ryan speaks and vlogs (video blogs) about internet marketing, educating business owners how to effectively use various SEO tools and techniques to promote their business on the internet. Ryan currently resides in Santa Rosa, CA. Connect with Ryan on Google+