If it feels like every business you know is starting a membership right now, you’d be right. Membership sites are having a moment—and it’s not hard to see why. Whether they’re creating a community for bloggers, offering exclusive access to legal templates or teaching people how to invest in rental properties, membership site models (where users pay a fee each month for access) can offer business owners regular income. That’s a welcome reprieve from the feast or famine cycle a lot of entrepreneurs experience—and research shows that income definitely adds up.

Before you go all in on creating a membership site, it’s important to know what you’re in for. “Membership sites are long-term relationships—not quick flings,” says Rachel Rouhana, founder of Haute Stock, the premium visual content membership for female entrepreneurs with thousands of paying members. “You have to treat your customers like you’re in a committed relationship or else they’ll break up with you and move on.”

Rouhana has been running her seven-figure membership site since 2015 offering an exclusive library of curated stock photos, customizable templates and more to her members. If you’re thinking of starting your own membership, here are her three strategies to succeed.

1) Be One-Of-A-Kind

“The best membership sites solve a specific problem for a specific group of people,” says Rouhana. “If you want to build a successful site, you have to narrow your niche and effectively communicate who your membership is—and isn’t—for.” Not only will this help you create effective marketing campaigns to attract new members, but it will also make managing the membership experience so much easier.

For example, a membership site that teaches marketing to business owners is quite broad, she says. Instead, consider narrowing down to online marketing strategies for location dependent businesses, such as realtors or restaurateurs.

When Rouhana started Haute Stock, she had her niche in mind, as well. Instead of launching a regular stock photo site with millions of images, she focused on a particular audience (women business owners) and a particular aesthetic (feminine and beautiful). “I knew nothing like it existed at the time,” she says. “I made it easy for members to quickly find on-brand imagery rather than spending hours searching through stock photos that weren’t a good fit for their brand.”

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2) Focus On Retention As Much As Acquisition

Most online businesses are hyper-focused on launching their latest offer and getting new customers in the door. But membership site owners should be focusing on retaining current members just as much as marketing to new members. Research shows that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase your profits by up to 95%. “Without a game plan for retention, you’ll be losing more members than you bring in each month, leading to an unsustainable business,” says Rouhana.

Providing stellar content is the easiest way to keep people around. “Consistently have conversations and survey your members to ensure you keep a pulse on their needs and wants,” says Rouhana. “Your members are looking to you to solve their problems quickly and easily. That’s what they’ll continue to pay for each month.”

Another strategy for upping your retention rates is making it easy for people to leave. It seems counterintuitive but actually works. “Think of members who want to cancel as taking a short-term break, rather than leaving forever,” says Rouhana, who notes that Haute Stock has a high reactivation rate. “That means not burning bridges with members who want to cancel. Make the cancellation process easy and automated, ask for their feedback on how you can improve, and keep communicating so that they can come back if your membership is a good fit at a later time.”

3) Design A Rock-Solid Structure

It’s important to figure out your content strategy early and establish a schedule that your members can rely on. Haute Stock members get new visual content every Monday. “Members look forward to weekly releases and many have said that it feels like Christmas every time a ‘new release’ email hits their inbox,” says Rouhana.

You may choose to release new content every month or even that you won’t have new content at all, but rather offer monthly coaching calls, or a weekly community challenge.  Whatever you decide, be sure to structure content based on both what is best for your members and what is sustainable for you.

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