A lot of people ask about the tools that we use in our website and how can one build a membership-based site.
For DigitalFilipino, I think being able to build a community through traditional mailing list, provide relevant content, and activities regularly organized since 1999 were important to its initial value recognition. I consider them as the first layer of community building.
In June 2003, we started offering free online workshops that engaged our community members better and provide initial introduction to paid services. It was offered to anyone interested at large.
Instead of keeping a database of email address of online students, and communicating with them one by one whenever you have a new lesson or announcement, I put all the lessons in an auto-pilot mode using an auto-responder.
For DigitalFilipino.com, we subscribed to GetResponse after getting recommendations from several friends.
Its features include personalization of emails, unlimited follow-ups, import and export features, send a broadcast email to your entire list all in one shot, attach files to any or all of your autoresponses, track your leads and responses, 19 different domains names to send from, send HTML-enhanced messages, own "confirmation" screen, selective broadcasting, block unwanted email addresses, bounce-back management, activity reports via email, among others.
I have no regrets so far as it has enable me to automate all communications I make to my target audience. I was able to create separate automated communication to current clients, prospects, free online workshop participants, among others. It's market segmentation in an automated manner.
Growing the mailing list though would require that you keep some standards on how you maintain it and I have three basic rules on this.
By December of 2003, that is the time I decided to launch my members-only website after discovering WebsiteWizard. I have four other websites hosted there and very much happy with its features so far. However, to make a membership-based site like mine sustainable requires being aggressive and work on offerings that will be hard to get from elsewhere. That is, trying to create a blue ocean whenever possible.