Building Revenue Streams - Part Four:
For any community to be self-sustaining it will need to have some type of revenue stream(s). Even volunteer based communities require funding to keep relevance and growth. There are always trade-offs with how to approach this since visitors do not want to be blasted with more ads than content and advertisers want to have the best possible exposure. With the same token not everyone that adds value to your community is willing to pay to be a member. Picking the right model and strategy can significantly affect your success or failure.
- How do I plan to build my membership model and how does it fit with my base user?
- How much would members be willing to pay for each tier of benefits?
- Where would I place advertising or sponsorship?
- Are there limitations on or conflicts with certain types of advertisers?
- How will I manage the transactions?
- What disclosures or legal disclaimers are required?
- Will I have affiliate, partner or reseller programs?
- Where does my community add value to an advertiser?
Once you go through the exercise of asking the right questions you can then set a starting point for determining which approach to roll out and perhaps when might be the best time in your evolution to do it. You will also soon find out that once you start collecting money you take on new risk and responsibility. You will need to make sure you develop articulate documentation and legal notices so you can effectively manage all expectations for your revenue building programs.
Security, integrity and liabilities
One of the first things to make sure of is to have the right business structure in place to facilitate any legal responsibilities with donations or fundraising. Are you able to manage and protect the private information that users will give you through any transaction processing? What disclaimers or legal notices are required for accepting money for your service or subscription offering? These all should be discussed with professional advisers to make sure you are protected and that your users/members/advertisers are protected.
Building a membership program
With Joomla there are many extensions that can help you configure and manage an effective membership program. Make sure that you have a well thought out membership plan so the extra steps of gathering profile information do not deter folks from joining. One challenge with most membership programs is the point of entry. Many sites these days offer FREE memberships to get folks in the door and then once the users find value the hope is they will join. You will need to make sure you are offering enough value without “giving away the farm” sort of speak. If you get folks to join and they are among a few, it will be like going to a party and finding an empty room. In this case, you better have some guests show up soon or they will leave and never come back or worse they will reflect negatively in social circles that may scare folks away. Develop a tiered approach to membership with clear guidelines and benefits so you can encourage folks to join, tell their friends and keep coming back. You also need to make is a relationship of choice so they can easily unsubscribe. If you have a disgruntled member you want them to go away quickly and quietly without disrupting the rest of your community.
Building an Advertising program
With Joomla there are a lot of tools to help you manage and track an effective advertising program. One of my favorites “AdAgency” can be found at www.ijoomla.com. When you use JomSocial for your community there are social analytics tools kind of like having your own internal Google analytics built into Joomla but specific to your community interactions. These tools can help you prepare reports and statistics for enticing advertisers once you have momentum and built some traffic. Remember the fact that often humans want to be in the “Cool Crowd” or involved with the “next best thing” offers opportunity if guided properly. Sometimes you can let some high profile advertisers in for a free introductory placement since it can attract other high level advertisers and grow momentum. Even if you do not have the traffic right away, with good projections and a realistic (Believable) strategy you can often convince advertisers to jump on-board for the longer term benefits. It can be helpful to have enough rotation of advertising when you launch your program so there is a sense of demand for the space even if you include internal ads in the mix. You also need to make sure ads have a consistent graphical integrity so they do not make your site unappealing to your visitors or it can work against you.
Building an affiliate/partnership or reseller program
Building a affiliate/partnership or reseller program can be inbound or outbound in nature. If you are selling products or services or membership you can offer discounts, coupons or referral fees for help selling these offerings. There are a lot of tools that can be used with your Joomla portal that will help you manage an affiliate program with your site. One good affiliate solution we have used is idevaffiliate by http://www.idevdirect.com. Perhaps you are not selling anything but you want to offer your partners opportunity to discount their products and services. Perhaps in this situation you may try some type of classifieds extension. In any case you will need to make sure you have articulated all of the rules and requirements to make clear and realistic expectations between everyone involved. There are a lot of affiliate opportunities on line for Joomla CMS. Many of these existing affiliate and partnership programs or networks are as easy as signing up for them and placing links within your content. Note: If you sign up, make sure you keep an eye on them since they do not always fulfill their payment promises and you may have to hunt them down for payment. Be careful since how you present these and what you offer could impact the integrity of your community. Once you start down this path you may want to build a simple spread sheet to keep track of all of the URL’s and user names and passwords since they all require some type of registration.
For more information on Building Communities with Joomla CMS see other related articles in this series.
Part One: Starting with a plan
Part Two: The right tools and user experience
Part Three: Marketing, Audience and Incentives
Christopher Nielsen is the CEO/General Manager for www.cnpintegrations.com and will be a featured speaker at the Joomla Day Chicago event August 10th 2012.
For more information on the myPugetSound.net Case Study presentation about building communities with Joomla! CMS visit: http://joomladaychicago.com