Choose A Membership Model By Deciding Which System Will Be Highly Attractive For Your Customers, And How You Will Prefer To Charge Your Subscriptions.
What is a “business model”? It is the method by which your business plans to make money. With membership sites, the model you choose will be the way you plan to make money by charging membership fees from those you enroll.
There are many models by which membership sites can make money. Some ideas are more popular than others. Most often marketers may choose to combine two or more models to make their own hybrid earning model.
Which type of membership site model you choose should depend first on who your target audiences are, and what their convenience and preferences will be. There can also be a difference in models depending on what is at the center of your membership site – it’s main attraction.
At Solohacks Academy, we believe that there is no one model that’s superior to another. But it helps to know the different options you have. Eventually, you have to choose what is more profitable and what feels easier for you to manage, month after month.
1. The All-Access Model To Your Entire Membership Library Of Content
In this model, you make your entire membership site content available to all who subscribe to it. You allow people to pay monthly subscriptions or annual subscriptions (which carry a good discount). You limit nothing to any user, nor defer any delivery of information.
It’s like a buffet spread, where there is so much on the table, that you are confident no member can consume all of it in a month and run away. In fact, this model works well because there is so much fare to be had that people would need a few months of membership at least before they begin to feel as if they’ve even seen all the labyrinths of your content library.
Plus, you keep adding content daily, weekly, monthly to the library, so it seems like an inexhaustible warehouse of targeted and useful information.
What may keep members hanging on for long periods with your site is the prospect that your library is up-to-the-minute, with emerging information from the cutting edge of technology and trends coming up anew every month.
2. The Drip-Feed Content Delivery Model With Monthly New Content Added
In this model, you try to ensure the protracted interest of subscribers to continue with your membership by drip-feeding content into your library, in monthly add-on packages. There is a beginning bank of content that is neither too thin nor too vast, but the attraction is the “schedule of oncoming content” that you advertise.
You can, of course, archive past additions to your library, so that new members feel like they haven’t missed out on the parts they were not there to receive at the scheduled time.
One advantage of the drip-feed model of content delivery is that you can promote the oncoming content as “by popular demand”. You can also make sure there is a bunch of variegated content every month. What you shouldn’t do is to offer all ebooks in January, all short courses in February, and all group sessions in March. Every month there has to be a mix of different kinds of content formats, since people have their preferences, and everybody will get information in the way they like it.
Another key benefit of drip-feeding content in smaller chunks is that it will give your members plenty of in-between time to thoroughly consume content, without feeling overwhelmed by information overload. Ultimately, this improves member engagement and increases member retention rates.
3. The Time-Frame Based Model For Limited Time Membership Usage Of Content
The time-frame based membership site model usually offers membership programs for a specific, pre-defined period. This can be anywhere between a week to a month, to six months, or even 24 months. The way it works is like this. Members are asked to take up a challenge – say, “build a whole blog of 100 articles in under 6 months”.
An attractive benefit is advertised to make the challenge meaningful. For example, you could say, “You can get your content marketing off to a flying start if you have 100 articles ready in your blog for when Google releases its sandbox limitation – and lets your articles free to fetch you loads of traction and traffic”.
With the time-frame based membership site model, you can either charge members a one-time fee or a recurring monthly fee. Much will depend on how long the membership will last and therefore what most target audiences will find convenient. For example, for a 7-day writing challenge, members may prefer a single upfront fee, whereas for a 6-month program, like “learn the secrets of Italian cooking”, members may prefer a monthly subscription option.
For you, the membership-site owner, the time-frame based membership site model is easier to handle and requires much less work. In fact, if this is your first shot at running a membership site, you might prefer this model over others because you’ll learn the ropes faster at less risk. Further, it’s much easier to get target audiences to sign up for membership programs that have a pre-determined start and end date.
4. The Software And Tools Based Model Of Paying For Use As Long As You Need
This is one of the most popular models of membership you’ll find online. Manufacturers of tools and software work on a SaaS Model (Software as a Service).
Take, for example, a keyword research tool. You may need it every day if you are writing a blog post every day, and do keyword research as you go for each blog post. If you are planning to write 26 blog posts a month, you may see the value of a longer period of membership. Or alternatively, you may choose to do all your keyword research in a week, and not need the tool for another 6 months.
You can sign up and pay for as long as you need to use the tool, and cancel membership anytime, no questions asked. You can also re-activate your membership if you need the tool again. Some software and tool site owners will allow you to store your saved data, mined from their tool, for a long time, to encourage you to return to their tool every now and again.
Along with the tool, you usually get training on how to use it, and are supported by a ticket-based help system should you have any problems. Occasionally, the tool-maker may have webinars or sessions to show you some new features, or discuss some innovative use cases, when you can mingle with other users of the tool and have mutual discussions.
5. The Academy Based Model Of Sequential Graded Learning And Certification
This model would work exactly as a college would in the physical world. There may be a host of short courses available for those who want brush-ups or upskilling of their knowledge. There would also be the main course with a very extended curriculum that can be covered in 6 months to a year with a recognized and valuable certification at the end of it.
The easy part of running a model like this one is that you can follow the ways used by colleges to provided graded learning. For instance, if a student completes the first three modules, he gets a Diploma or equivalent. If he completes six modules, he can get upgraded to an Advanced Diploma. If he completes the whole course of 12 modules he can get a Full Certification in the topic.
Ideas are endless. But the marketer’s aim in all cases should be to encourage the student to continue with long stints of learning of many of your long and short courses.
Some academies for certain professions (e.g. for organic gardening teachers or acupressure specialists) can also provide a host of new skills all the time, to learn via short courses, so that students who already know the topic can keep up with the latest game in their niche.
Short courses can be at times open-ended on enrolling dates – and the main course of your program could have fixed enrolling dates so eager students are made to wait a bit because seats are limited and enrollment dates come around only twice a year. Ploys that make people wait to join are a good idea sometimes, because it seems to add a lot of heft to the courses you offer, and to your brand as an academy that is much sought after.
6. The Mentored Consulting Model Around A Specific Guided DIY Project
A classic case of this model of mentored consulting around a DIY project is promoted by a top book-publishing services agent in India. How it works is like this. This book-publisher’s aim is to get more new authors to write and sell their books – fiction or non-fiction through the publisher.
But he knows that many new book authors find the jargon in the book publishing industry a bit difficult to fathom, and therefore daunting. Plus, the prices of many other book publishers are as high as the sky. They say to authors, “You just write the book and we’ll do all the rest (editing, designing, printing, publishing, legalities, marketing, everything) for a fee (a very fat one!)”
To make life easier, this smart book publisher offers to guide and mentor new book authors through the entire do-it-yourself (DIY) journey of the author – who does everything himself. This includes book planning, writing, editing, formatting, designing, printing, publishing, legalities, PR, and marketing.
This publisher’s model is of “mentoring through the DIY book project” on a membership basis. He says to customers:
I will be charging you a monthly subscription to hold your hand through the entire process of creating a book from scratch and eventually selling it all across the world. You’ll be using all the facilities my company offers for printing, designing, legal and other services, but you’ll make all the decisions.
What other publishers are charging you a fat lumpsum for, I am allowing you to pay over 12 months or more, so you won’t find the budget too heavy at any time in the next 12 months. Further, since my monthly costs are fixed and agreed between us, and absorb all book production costs within the fees, you’ll have no other unexpected invoices or unhappy surprises.”
Not only are his member-authors reassured and thus eager to begin their books, but they also become confident to go through the process again and again with his help, and using his facilities, as they know their costs are limited to the monthly fee over 12 months. They don’t mind the monthly fee being a tad on the higher side, because they know that all costs are absorbed in it. They go on to write several books, and the publisher has thus created a model of recurring income from a small set of loyal authors he helps, again and again.
7. The Monthly Podcast Magazine Series With Scheduled And Surprise Interviews
If you’ve noticed, podcasters seldom stop with one podcast. They usually plan for a series – maybe they plan for a podcast every week, or every fortnight, or every month. What makes the podcasts interesting is that in each podcast they may interview someone who has become immensely successful, to let listeners hear his story and his advice.
Whenever there is scope for creating a series – like these podcast interviews – it’s worth considering a subscription payment model from your customers. People like to pay at an affordable monthly rate for services that are regular and they can look forward to at a certain periodicity – and where the content is really top-class.
If you want to take this model of membership further and see that your listeners don’t cancel after a few episodes of your podcast, you may like to say, “My scheduled podcasts will be every Tuesday evening (and you can mention your guests and the times of airing), but there are going to be some sudden surprise podcast too in between the scheduled ones, with secret mega-guests whose names will be revealed only one-day before the event. Plus, the recording of that event will be on only for a week thereafter.”
By bringing in such elements of unexpected bonuses, your regular customers won’t like to cancel subscriptions as easily, out of the FOMO factor (Fear Of Missing Out). Try this. I know this model has worked wonders for quite a few of the best podcasters who have hundreds of monthly subscription audiences on their rosters.
8. The Monthly Event Model Of Webinars, Masterminds, Q & A, Or Workshops
There are a lot of customers who don’t have the time or bandwidth for going though online courses that take days or weeks to finish. They may like doing all their learning over weekend one-hour workshops, or Q & A sessions or webinars, or masterminds.
Most often the additional attraction is that you can be part of a group and learn more than you would in a lone-learning course, if you can chat along with other attendees of these events.
Many marketers use webinars and Q & A sessions either to sell courses or supplement them, but it’s possible to make group sessions like webinars, masterminds, Q & A sessions and workshops into paid for events. If people were to pay for attending these events one by one the costs may be too high, but if a monthly membership fee gave people access to a regular schedule of weekend one-hour group-learning events, the deal may be attractive to many customers.
The difference between all these types of group events is this:
- Webinars are usually lectures on a topic. They help the instructor explain conceptual and strategic ideas to audiences.
- Masterminds are usually brainstorming sessions. A hot topic is debated or ideated upon by the group of attendees, and moderated by the instructor.
- Q & A sessions are those where the instructor invites queries from attendees well in advance. He then answers these queries during the hour-long sessions.
- Workshops are essentially demonstration sessions when an instructor may explain a whole process step-by-step. Usually, these sessions follow a “watch-me-as-I-do-it” style of teaching.
You can specialize in one type of event of these four above – or even offer a mix of all these four formats for variety. Either way, make sure to create a lot of pre-buzz and post-buzz for these events, which increases their value-perception.
9. The Community Forum Model For Fostering Belonging And Interaction
A paid online community site gives members access to a private member’s area. The idea is to create a place exclusive to people interested in a topic (like digital marketing, gaming, photography, or personal finance), where they can have conversations with other people. The private member’s area can be enhanced by adding on forums, chat rooms, and discussion boards. Some community forums even have a job board, email updates, or events all year round.
In this model of subscription-based membership, you can charge a monthly fee for access, for as long as members want to belong to the community. Most community forums get customers who want that sense of belonging to special interest groups. They love interacting with other people passionate about the same topic, and most of all they love sharing experiences. You’ll find a lot of user-generated content on community forums, so the forum owner has little work to do but moderate the forum for etiquette and smooth running.
If your community forum takes off, you can make a tidy sum of money each month from subscriptions, because very few people really like signing out of a place they feel as if they own online. It becomes “their hangout” and the go-to place whenever there is some idle time to spare. Deep friendships are made there, that people loathe leaving.
If you have a lot of members for your community forum there is a secondary way to earn other than just by collecting monthly membership fees. You’ll find that good money can be made from selling ad space and from the sale of affiliate products. So look for greater opportunities to leverage your membership numbers.
10. The Hybrid Model Combining Ideas And Elements Of The Other Models
A hybrid membership site model is just what the name suggests. You can put together ideas from any of the other models to customize your own model, that you find easy to manage and profit from.
Here are two hybrid models of membership sites I have recently come across, that may give you some ideas for starters:
One membership site offers a very popular course in “blogging for profit”. The course involves a fixed fee for one year’s worth of learning and adapting the course to your needs as a customer. You can pay this fee as an annual fee (at a discounted rate) or as a month-by-month subscription. A minimum of three months’ subscription is payable upfront in case you choose the monthly payment mode, so that the course-owner doesn’t have to fear that you will pinch his courseware and run away within the first month itself.
After the course, you can choose to be part of the community of students who are using what they learned from the course to progress in their businesses. This community membership fee is slightly less than what was charged for the course, but it provides a way for students who have become friends to continue bonding.
There is another membership site that charges a monthly fee to members who are budding entrepreneurs, who want to get help from others to brainstorm ideas or do mutual social sharing of each other’s blog posts. If you have infographics or images, you can post these for others to see if they want to place these on their websites. you can also offer guest post pitches to others. For as long as you are a member, you have access to other people’s resources, brains, and company. Whenever you need help, suggestions, or some visibility or social publicity, you can reach out to the group where everyone is progress-minded.
Most interestingly, there is a “skills exchange forum”, where members who want to outsource skills can do so with one another. They can buy and sell skills, or even can set up “reciprocal help” deals. The site owner makes money in two ways. One is, of course, the membership fees paid monthly by members. In addition, the site owner also takes a cut from the skills exchange deals – for creating a facilitation space, as well as for vetting skill-owners and grading their skills.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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- How To Handle Customer Service In Memberships … 10 Savers
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