Category_Forum Administration, Category_Other, Joshua Farrell, Premium Membership, Premium Upgrades, Sam, Sponsorship -

Premium Membership

Premium Membership can be a successful earning for your forum, paying the bills and keeping the lights on. WebHostingTalk premium membership runs at $49.95 annually, VIP membership is just $15/ 6 months and some forums offer lifetime membership (two large Mybb forums offer Premium for $18/ life). The difficulty is finding the compromise between respecting the average user and making premium a compelling upgrade. Members purchase premium membership for a few reasons:
  1. To give back to the community.
  2. To command some respect on the forum.
  3. For financial gain or value.
What is the right time to start offering Premium Membership to a userbase? It can be tempting to provide a Premium Membership offering from the moment of the launch of the forum, dreaming of the riches as you sell lifetime Memberships for just an affordable $29.99. The clever use of the psychological pricing will surely ensure that members are bamboozled into thinking this represents a good deal; vip status on a shiny new forum with little activity. Offering a Premium upgrade this early in the life of a forum stinks of desperation. Members are not certain that the forum will even be around for three months, let alone a lifetime. The right time to introduce a Premium option is when you can satisfy those who make the payment. The three reasons members upgrade are important here. In order to give back to the community, there must be a "community".
ForumPromotion is an excellent way for a forum to gain members and activity, but a board filled only with ForumPromotion members will not encourage an upgrade. A forum needs to have its share of interesting and knowledgeable characters, it needs to be engaging and it should be well thought-out and designed. What are some ideas for Premium Member benefits? It is easy to appeal to those wanting respect in return for their upgrade. The following could be the basics for a Premium Membership.
  • A Premium/ VIP user board.
  • Control over their own threads and posts (The power to delete and edit for longer periods of time).
  • A Coloured/ Bolded Username. (Sparkles do not hurt either).
  • Custom Rank.
  • A Premium/VIP feedback area.
For those people who see Premium Membership as a pure transaction here are some ideas.
  • Advertising Potential - WebHostingTalk allows regular members to post in their hosting advertisement boards weekly, Premium Members posts every 6 days and corporate posts every 3. An increased frequency of posting ad threads can have a positive impact on sales, providing the community is large enough and it therefore makes financial sense to upgrade. Free Advertising on the board index (perhaps capped by impressions) could also make an excellent offering.
  • Increased PM space - If a member is conducting business transactions on a forum then their PM box may have filled up with conversations. Increasing PM space will further facilitate their ability to do so in the future.
  • Unique Products - DigitalPoint, founded by Shawn Hogan, was created to support clients of their products. Creating unique products is the most difficult part for any forum owner to accomplish, but it could be very rewarding. Time and/or Money is required. Some ideas for products to be offered to Premium Members are: software, ebooks, t-shirts, graphic services, or article writing.
  • A Useful VIP Board - A VIP board with some industry secrets, tips and methods can leave members salivating, with their mouse poised on the Pay Now button. It will help if members are reminded of the resources in the VIP section, that are unavailable to regular members.
There is the potential for a forum owner to ask for sponsorship for product offerings to Premium Members. An arrangement may be agreed upon where the Forum Owner and the Product Offerer split the profit from the Premium Membership 50:50. What price should be charged for the upgrade? WebHostingTalk Corporate Membership sets the pocket back by $1200 annually with a number of webhosts choose to upgrade to Corporate. The price of Premium will depend on the advantages gained from the upgrade and the size and age of the forum. Monthly, Annually & Lifetime: Lifetime and Annual memberships tend to be more enticing as it allows the user to pay and forget. Forums do successfully offer Lifetime upgrades, despite it appearing as though this would be of little benefit long term. The member churn rate must be high enough to profit out of offering a lifetime upgrade. Forums with a high churn rate tend to be based on controversial niches: hacking, debate, religion. The benefit of offering a Monthly membership rate is the ability to change the price if the benefits of upgrading have increased or decreased. Premium & Regular Membership: It can be off-putting for regular members to see Premium Members having "too- much". The tight-rope that the forum owner must walk to appease both regular members and Premium members is difficult. There is no advice that can be given here. Internet Marketing forums, such as the WarriorForum, are almost Premium only and are still very successful. However, doing the right thing for your regular members should persuade them to give back to the community and to you.

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