When the time came to collect all the amazing women I know and work with into one digital space, I knew I would have to find a low-maintenance, low-budget way to create a turn-key online clubhouse that I could later hand over to a board of leaders within the group. With that in mind I set out in a single weekend to craft The Legendary Women’s ClubThe Legendary Women’s Club website and membership portal.
I knew that if we pooled our resources and started making even one decision a day with a “Members First” mentality, we could help make each other’s lives easier down the road and more rewarding than they are today. The challenge was to create a centralized tool that is easy to find and use, but still exclusive to our members, and low-maintenance enough that it could continue to run endlessly without becoming a burden on those who run it. Now I’d like to share with you HOW the LWC went from idea to reality in just 72 hours. It may not be the path you need to reach your goals, but I hope it serves as an example of what we can accomplish if we have access to the right tools, knowledge, and helping hands.
*disclaimer: Links with a ~ after them are affiliate links. They cost you nothing, but if you decide to make a purchase from that link, the commission goes to support the minimal cost of operating this site.
Step 1: Claim the Land
Setting up an inexpensive and unified online identity by committing to a brand name, buying the domain, and then registering it on every available free social media platform is the absolute first step to your brand’s success. Do your homework and make sure the name you choose is not only representative of the product or service you are offering, but is also unique enough to be available on major social networking sites without being mistaken for an existing business.
I chose to register the LegendaryWomensClub.com with GoDaddy~ simply because I already do business there for my other sites and would not have to learn a new set of hosting tools. I spent approximately $30 setting up the domain and hosting, and will continue to pay about $10/month to continue hosting the site. There are less expensive services out there that require you know more about web site administration, and more expensive services that do 90% of the technical work for you, but this is the solution that balanced my experience level with our available budget. I also registered for Gmail, Google Voice, PayPal, Airtable, Mailchimp, WordPress, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. This covers all areas of communication, accounting, online storage, and promotion we are most likely to ever need for the club, which I’ll go into further detail on below, but I may continue to register on other networks just to block anyone else from usurping our brand identity.
Step 2: Plant the Flag
Now that we’ve claimed our internet land, it’s time to plant a flag… a visual symbol that tells visitors that this is our land. Our space to do with what we like and use how we see fit. It’s important that your flag for your brand is consistent no matter where you plant it, It should be instantly recognizable, giving your nations’ members a sense of comfort and home when they see it.
Now I’m no graphic designer by any means. I write for a living, and no matter how pretty my words are, my artistic skills rival that of most toddlers. That is why I rely heavily on some free / freemium services to help create the custom images I use on all my websites.
The first, and my personal favorite, is Canva.com.Canva is a browser-based design tool that has a deep library of templates for all kinds of graphics with the proper dimensions already built in, ranging from book covers and flyers to social media banners and infographics. They do offer paid features, but even after using the site for a couple of years, I’ve never found a project I couldn’t complete with just their free tools.
I also use smartphone apps like Ripl, SnapSeed, and PicsArt to create engaging and unique images, all for free, for use on Instagram and Pinterest. As long as you have a good eye and a little time to spare, there’s no reason you can’t make your brand image shine like the pros.
Step 3: Nurture the Earth
The core website is the foundation of your brand and the earth from which all opportunities grow. It’s the place you touch base on to center yourself and the place you launch from when you’re ready to take your message out to the world. You have to make sure that it has the structure and tools that will help you make the most of every opportunity. For The LWC, this meant it needed to have all our member information in one place, and easily searchable, accessible, and securable. For this I decided to build the site using the open-sourced and widely popular blogging platform WordPress and a few WordPress plug-ins (like accessories) that are easy to set up and even easier for the end user (that’s you) to use. I could go on for days about the reasons I love WordPress, but let me just sum it up with this: It is hands-down the most simple to use, robust, customizable site building tool I have ever used, and I’ve been doing this since before Angelfire and Myspace were born.
If you do choose to build your brand hub on WordPress, it’s important that you identify what functions you need your site to serve, then look for highly rated plug-ins to help you bring those functions to life. Some of the free plug-ins I have in play here at The LWC are:
Paid Membership Pro – This fantastic tool is the gatekeeper that allows me to lock down areas of the site to serve only to logged-in members.
WPLinksPage – This lets me keep a separate page of link resources from the site’s more traditional BlogRoll
Simple Author Box – This is what makes that cute little section down below where each of you can highlite your projects, promote your businesses, and otherwise learn more about each other.
Dynamic User Directory – This is the tool that takes your profile information and makes our Member Directory so robust and well-formatted.
Event Calendar by Modern Tribe – This easy-to-use system for tracking and displaying events has been a favorite of mine for a while. You’ll see this in
Step 4: Feed the Crops
It used to be that the idea of sales, any sales whether online or off, was met with the cringe reaction usually reserved for slimy used car dealers and door-to-door product peddlers. That was because those scheisters only knew how to sell things one way: Forcefully. They pressed you with product demos and sold you a line of BS about how great the product is, even when it wasn’t and even when you didn’t need it. The internet is quickly changing all of that. Salesmen no longer have to chase customers. The customers are all online already, looking for what they need. Your job is to be available and ready when they look. As a brand, your job is to nurture your reputation until your brand name becomes an authority in the product or service you are selling. And trust me, even if you’re giving it away for free, you’re still selling.
You can help customers choose you when they go looking by making sure your brand name is widely visible and readily approachable. Write informative articles and blog posts on your site (like this one for example) that give your site value. Summarize the points of those posts and share those as tips on social media with hashtags that your target readers would most likely search for. Seek out questions on social media that your brand can answer and get involved in the conversation. It’s a two way street out there and so many companies make the mistake of only pushing their message out, completely overlooking the opportunities to pull potential customers in.
Step 5: Harvest the Fruit
Every brand has an end goal. Whether they are trying to sell a product to consumers, solicit donations to a non-profit, increase RSVPs to an event, or any other venture, that end goal is usually and ideally reached on the brand’s official website. Brands who are betting all their chips on Facebook or other network are missing a HUGE opportunity to remarket to their customers after the initial contact, so it’s important that all of your brand’s online activity somehow serve that end goal; Get the customer to your site and gather their contact information.
While The LWC is too new to really use as an example, I strongly encourage all brands, bands and project hands to employ free tools like MailChimp, Buffer, and IFTTT to draw readers back to your site, and eventually opt-in to your ongoing communications. The true value of what you have to offer lives on your site. Your ability to contact your biggest brand fans should live there too. The way that I usually set clients up is this: Every message you send out, no matter what the channel of communication, should always have a reason to call back to the core brand website. Each of these tools is like bait, meant to lure customers back to the shop, or in our case, the clubhouse!
To see some of the handy blogging tools I keep close by when I go out in the field, check out this collection on my Kit.com profile!
*sales from these links provide me with a small comission that helps keep my business running at no additional cost to you. I appreciate your support!