To Mix Your Membership Site Content, Use A Variety Of Formats, And Lay It All Out Like A Buffet Spread. Make Members Salivate. Make Them Return For More.
Membership sites are all about variety of content formats in a specialist niche. Different types of content may be suited to the varying tastes and preferences of different people.
Also, you may sometimes find that the same people, when they return to your membership site again and again, like browsing through a medley of knowledge offerings. Sometimes ebooks take their fancy. Sometimes, video tutorials make them want to sit back and watch. Sometimes, they drop by to grab a template or two. Or if they have an hour to spare they may opt to attend a webinar.
People also use different devices – and therefore like different information formats that provide good user experience across devices.
At Solohacks Academy, we believe membership sites should be places of delightful discovery, with the assortment of fare offered like a buffet spread. No matter how much members can consume, there should always be the promise of something more to sample and enjoy – next time.
1. Ebooks and edocs can never cease to be valuable to members and marketers alike
Ebooks and edocs are amongst the most popular knowledge products. Most membership sites like to begin with these. Ebooks allow Knowledge Commerce entrepreneurs to cut their teeth in the business without much risk. Members of membership sites too love these. Ebooks and edocs are usually easily downloadable, and in about a few key chapters, can give you the best primer on any topic.
How are ebooks different from edocs? Well, ebooks, for a start, are usually slightly longer – say, about 10-12 chapters long. Whereas, edocs are much shorter and maybe around 2-4 chapters long. An ebook’s objective is to give 360° information on a topic to make the reader want to delve deeper into any of the areas covered in the book. An edoc, on the other hand aims to give a shorter, smarter answer to a specific question a reader may have.
For example, if you are in the weight-loss niche, you could have an edoc on the specific question: “How many kilos is it safe to lose in three months?” … but you may have a longer ebook on a broader topic like: “Easy weight loss diet and exercise plans”.
There are four key aspects to creating and marketing your own ebooks. Planning and writing your ebook is your first task. Designing your ebook cover is the second one. Once you’ve got the ebook done, protecting it from privacy is your third action point. And finally, you need to decide how best to promote your ebook, so it is visible in your library for members, as one of the attractions.
How do you choose the topics on which to create your ebooks in your niche? Here are a few ideas:
- Choosing topics that educate better is one way of choosing great topics for an ebook. For instance, people love ebooks that explain new concepts to them, or show them how to plan strategically to get results.
- Another way is to offer an ebook that answers the most vexing queries that your target audiences have on your niche subject. Problem-solution ebooks are very hot, because they promise more than theory on a topic – they promise a sequence of solution-steps.
- A third idea is to collate lots of information from different influential people on their ideas around a topic – and create an ebook of how people have practically found answers to a common problem. A lot of the time, audiences love reading case studies, because these have a storytelling flavor.
2. Online courses are a big draw, if they can guarantee some bold, defined outcomes
Today’s online learners want to see courses included in membership sites. Most often courses form the core of membership sites, because they are huge member-attractants. What members like to see is clear results and sure outcomes from courses.
People don’t enroll for the sake of the courses themselves. They enroll for a new improved version of themselves after they take a course. The way most people subliminally evaluate online courses is by imagining what they may become after they have taken and completed the course. That justifies the time they spend learning any long course.
Most people also have problems they are grappling with, that they’d like to have solved as fast and easily as possible. Or they may be aiming to achieve some goals that they have set for themselves, that have become imperative. When they come across a course that promises to solve their problems or meet their goals, they’d like to be sure of results and outcomes before they consider spending money on the membership site subscription that enables them to enroll for the course.
The question is: how do they usually know if a course can guarantee results or outcomes?
- The testimonials of other past students usually helps them evaluate a course for guarantees of deliverables.
- The course curriculum structure often tells them whether the aspects they are looking for are covered – because they may have a shrewd guess about how their problem solution should be structured, even if they aren’t clear about the fine details of the solution yet.
- They may read course reviews or get validations of the course from peers and other networks of friends they have made online.
- They may also compare and contrast the market validations that competitive courses have received before they decide they want to go through your course.
See if there is a good and satisfying way for you to offer result-and-outcome guarantees for your course. Show people before and after case studies (with data) of people who have gone through the course. If you offer your online courses by emphasizing results and outcomes more than any other benefits of your course, you’d go a long way in helping students evaluate your membership and your courses the way they like to.
3. Webinars continue to be among the top five successful knowledge-dissemination formats
Among all content and knowledge formats, webinars are immensely powerful. A Content Marketing Institute study found this: webinars are in the top five effective marketing tactics.
The term “webinar” comes from the words “web seminar”. Webinars have the feel of a 45-60 minutes classroom – a video tutorial – where the speaker lays out a structured or semi-structured presentation of his topic. He also invites questions from participants, that he can answer.
By the end of the webinar there is usually also a good discount offer on some product the speaker may wish to promote or sell. This part of a webinar sweetens the deal for those who’ve invested time attending and listening to the webinar.
The problem with webinars may be that you are an already overburdened solopreneur in Knowledge Commerce. Your content creation workload is always enormous. You may thus have no bandwidth to be conducting live events like webinars to push your membership site value a notch higher. Right?
Well, there’s a smart solution you can use – by creating “evergreen webinars”. What’s that? Evergreen webinars are webinars where you don’t need to run regular live events, but you can achieve the same results as if you did. They are pre-recorded and run. These days evergreen webinars do a fabulous job of offering the experience of live webinars, complete with audience interactivity simulation.
With evergreen webinars you can either schedule them (say, for four fixed times every day) or make them “on-demand” for those who want to attend at any time of their convenience.
4. Group events like masterminds, workshops, or Q & A sessions, are big favorites
There are a lot of members who don’t have the time or bandwidth for going through 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 masterminds.
Most often the additional attraction of such events is that members can be part of a group and learn more than they would in a lone-learning course, if they can chat along with other attendees of these events.
Many marketers use group events like masterminds, Q & A sessions, and workshops to supplement courses, but it’s also possible to make these events into standalone highlights on your membership site. People know that if they were to pay for attending these events one by one the costs may be too high – but if a monthly membership fee gave them access to a regular schedule of one-hour group-learning events every weekend, the deal may be cost-efficient.
The difference between all these types of group events is this:
- 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 three above – or even offer a mix of all these 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.
5. A busy community-revving forum is an absolute must-have on any membership site
People like the feel of interactivity and bonding alongside of learning online alone. So, most membership sites create forums. They place these within their sites. Or often, they ask members to join “exclusive” closed Facebook Groups.
There are two issues about creating community forums that marketers need to beware of:
- One: If you have too few students (as most people have when beginning their membership sites) you will feel defensive about this. I know of marketers who have to keep pretending to be various students. They do this to keep forum conversations going.
- Two: Once you create a forum, you think members will intermingle. You think you can be relatively free of having to support the forum. But in truth, you still have to moderate the forum, answer queries every day, and keep the bustle going. If you have a forum, be ready to be its daily energy-agent. Or if you have some members more pro-active than others, see if they will agree to take turns to be the forum moderators. Many members like to be given such responsibility.
It goes without saying that every forum must have strict rules. Make members understand the etiquette and decency you expect on your forum. Also remember to say that affiliate-product-selling is not allowed on the forum, or you will have members pushing products at each other.
A “daily drop of a brainstorming question” is a brilliant forum-enlivening idea for marketers. Make sure you pop into the forum each day, for a couple of minutes, and leave one new question on your niche topic that you’d like your members to wrack their brains on. It will make you look like a leader whose mission is to awaken others to think about the many topic-related issues. Tell your members that there are no right and wrong answers, as these questions from you are for encouraging brainstorming. When you pop by the next day to leave a new question, you can comment on a few of the answers members have left to your previous question.
This idea of “dropping a brainstorming question” every day is great both for you and for members. You’ll learn more about your members and their problems and delights, and improve your understanding of their psychology. Members will look forward to your new questions to answer, and feel attracted to visit the forum often. They will also feel your subtle presence in the background of the membership site, without your having to devote all your time to customer-nurturing.
After all, if you’re a Knowledge Commerce marketer, your aim is to create several knowledge products – and not spend all your time handholding students from just one product such as your forum.
When you add your questions to the forum, make sure you stay with your niche topic in general. Don’t get too specific to one part of your niche topic alone. You want everybody to be participative in answering these questions, including both newbies and old members, who may all be working with different parts of your membership library.
6. Downloadable tools, software or apps, on a trial mode, are seen as incredibly useful
One idea that most members seem to love getting from membership sites is downloadable free trials of useful tools, software, or apps. You may wonder why they would prefer getting these from your membership site instead of from the websites of these tools and apps directly. The reason often is that you may be able to guide people better (with your expertise) on the pros and cons of many tools. Your word is what your membership site customers may be relying on heavily when they opt to try out these tools or apps.
If you haven’t thought of it, you should aim to become an affiliate for the various tools and other work-assistance resources associated with your niche. This may take a bit of ferreting to find good resources that complement your niche. If you have a good collection of tools, you can make money additional to membership fees by enticing your members to try out tools that pay you affiliate commissions if there is an eventual sale after trial.
Tools, apps, and software that can ease the workloads of your target audience may get ready buy-ins, if you are able to show people that the time they spend “doing-it-themselves” is a form of wasted money – or in other words, time saved with tools is money saved.
The other arguments you can use are that tools often do more than just assist people – they also enable an error-free workflow, and they teach people practically about the subjects involved in their usage tasks or processes. For instance, using an SEO tool teaches people a lot about SEO that is very useful and actionable knowledge. The value of the trial, therefore, has to factor in the learning curve the tool provides, in addition to saving time.
In terms of affiliate commissions, tools and apps usually pay anywhere between 15%-30% commissions on average, and the better-quality, top-of-the-pile tools or apps could have price tags of $99 or so per month on average. Tools are often paid for as monthly subscriptions for usage by buyers. In such cases, you will also earn your percentages of the recurring monthly payments.
To market tools well as an affiliate, you have to realize that people may not readily feel a need for such programs. The costs may look prohibitive if people don’t yet fully understand the features and functionalities of the tools. But you’ll have to ask yourself if you can make them feel they need a tool to achieve the best results. On your membership site, if you are able to convince them that this is a useful first step to easing their workloads or achieving goals, that will be great. But the need may not naturally exist – and it may have to be seeded into the target audience.
7. Short tutorials, that take an hour to learn something special, are much appreciated
You don’t need to have all long courses. Sometimes short tutorials that take an hour or two to learn something special, are much appreciated. These can be part of your regular repertoire, or offered as special extras.
Members especially like short tutorials on topics that are about oncoming technology. They may not want a whole course on, say, “YouTube Shorts” (or topics that are just emerging) but they sure may like a sneak peek at what all the new hoo-ha around this topic is about. A “What’s Happening Now” kind of tutorial event may attract a lot of attendance.
The other kind of short tutorials that are incredibly popular are the “how-to” courses. Whenever you go through tutorials online, you’ll find that you are instinctively drawn to give the “how-to” kind of tutorials a second look. What is the consumer psychology that makes them an irresistible magnet?
Experts say there could be two key reasons:
- People feel that how-to tutorials will get straight to the action points rather than waste their time on introductory spiels. They expect to see practical, useful, immediately-actionable steps to a process, rather than the why’s and wherefore’s of it. They figure that knowing a process is more important than knowing all the conceptual intricacies of a process. Besides, who has the time these days to listen to long-winded courses? People are already speeding up unwanted portions of video courses to get to the “actionable stuff”.
- Technology is the No. #1 factor that gets people flummoxed. There are so many evolving technologies that are updating old ideas, that the learning curve of every consumer has to keep pace. In learning about technology, you have to learn by doing. There is no other way to truly upskill. The constant change of technology is highly visible in the many tutorials online on “how to do SEO”, for instance. Every time Google updates its algorithms, there is a new need to know “how to do SEO”. This is how, even if people have read many “how-to” articles on a subject before, if they see one more article or a tutorial on the same topic, they will still go for it – in the expectation that there may be something more to the process to make success faster.
When planning your “how-to” short tutorials for your membership site, you can go with our simple 4-step formula … it works for us every time:
- When solving a problem, first describe why the problem occurs. Try to list the reasons. People may find a point of identification with one or more of these reasons.
- Then explain your range of solutions. For each solution say why, and then how.
- After that, state what can go wrong with the solution – and if it does, how to solve it.
- Finally, give something extra for those who are willing to take more risks. Show them a 5X or 10X solution.
8. Cheat-sheets, checklists, workbooks, and planners have perennial appeal to members
Cheat-sheets and checklists have evergreen appeal to members. They feel like handy tools when you have to get processes done, and you can download a checklist or cheat-sheet where you can have the sequence of steps to follow like a ready-reckoner. These kinds of business aids are downloaded a lot – and besides, they are easy to create too.
Pack your membership library with a lot of checklists and cheat-sheets for every kind of project or process your target audiences will find useful. See that all these items are strongly branded with your signage. That’s where the extra value-perception lies.
Workbooks and planners are a bit different from cheat-sheets and checklists. Cheat-sheets are like to-do lists where you can tick off actions as you complete them. Workbooks or planners help you strategize, by throwing up questions that you have to think about and answer to yourself. You are forced to articulate your thoughts as you work through the questions.
The sequence of answers you give yourself may give you insights into what strategy may work for you. Workbooks and planners are thinking aids, and are just as much downloaded as cheat-sheets and checklists. Again, make sure your workbooks and planners look like strongly branded high-value resources.
9. Podcasts, interviews and audiobooks, have become increasingly popular formats
Audio-led content is a magnet for members who like to download these and listen to them when driving, commuting, or just lounging around at home or in the outdoors. Audio content is highly portable and mobile-friendly – and can be carried around in your pocket to listen to when the mood gets to you.
Of the audio-only formats, podcasts score high with members on membership sites. One of the compelling reasons why podcasts are so absorbing and foster loyal listeners is because they can be very interactive.
Most marketers don’t see how interactivity can be built into podcasts. But it’s quite easy. Podcast hosts can include audience polls, answer questions, and take “calls,” just like a radio show. This helps pull listeners into the show and makes consuming the content feel more like an interactive experience, rather than an inactive listening to audio.
Podcasts with interviews are additionally attractive for listeners. You can include two kinds of interviews on your membership site. You can invite top influencers in your niche to answer your questions on topics of high interest. You can then convert these interviews into videos or podcasts. Alternatively, it would amp up your own brand power to include videos and podcasts where you have been interviewed by other experts. See that your site carries a good number of both types of interviews.
Make your podcasts slick with good signature music to open the recordings. Branding is nine-tenths of the game.
One other version of audio content that is fast growing in value is audio-books. Audiobooks are voice recordings of the text of a book – for when you prefer to listen to rather than read. They can either be full versions of books, or abridged versions. You can listen to audiobooks on any smartphone, tablet, computer, home speaker system, or in-car entertainment system.
Audiobooks, curiously, have become very popular, especially with 25-to-34-year-olds. This surprises most of us marketers who would have thought they’d be more popular with an older generation that finds it hard to read books on mobiles. But why are they so popular with the youth? In a word, the advantage is “multitasking”. More book readers are preferring to listen while performing other daily tasks, such as commuting to work, running errands, or going to the gym.
10. Weekly email newsletters, with member news, should be key parts of your repository
Newsletters are making a huge comeback in the digital space. For membership sites, they are more than just regular emails to your members. Weekly newsletters that offer “roundups” can become key to your member contact arsenal. Typically, newsletters should have a lot of topically-clustered information. In a world of “emails-as-letters”, these should be “emails-as-mini-magazines”.
Marketers often ask what kind of roundups should be included in weekly newsletters. Here are some ideas for membership site owners:
- Product updates: Newsletters are great for reminding people about the existence of your key products. Include in your newsletters anything new about your membership site products. You may have some new testimonials … or some new uses for the product … or some new product variations … or some new add-ons … or even some new pictures of product use sent in by users.
- Event announcement: Use a part of your newsletter to announce events … like webinars, mastermind classes, or other high points in your membership site calendar. These should have a buzz. They should give lots of event details and signup details.
- Blog updates: Newsletters can also be a great way to round up all your blog posts of the week and present them as “What’s happening on our membership site blog”. The idea here is to show small excerpts of your blog posts with their visual thumbnails. Then give links to the actual blog posts on your site to read more.
- News announcements: You won’t always have something to announce. Don’t force the issue and make every little happening on your site an announcement. Your newsletters will lose value. Save announcements for big or newsworthy goings-on. You can use announcements when you’re adding a new feature to your membership site … or when new people are joining your team or panel … or when you have big interviews coming up with influencers … and so on.
- Seasonal wishes: Don’t ever forget to send out very lovely and warm wishes on your newsletters for Christmas, New Year … and other red-letter days. Members always feel like you’ve remembered them personally, no matter how many other such emails they get. Make sure you also include birthday wishes to members. These always feel extra-special.
- Member news: Another great idea is to have a corner of your newsletters for publishing successful events in your members’ lives. Call for a round of applause from everyone when a member’s business hits a high point. Let every member become an inspiration for other members and encourage them to share their “big days”. Show members that you care what happens to them, and how they prosper as members of your site, deriving value and ideas from your knowledge products and services.
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.
This post is part of a series that elaborates on “How To Create A Membership Site Online For Knowledge Commerce“.
Other related posts you may like to read are these:
- How To Create A Membership Site … 10 Quality Ideas
- How To Choose A Membership Model … 10 Smart Options
- How To Launch Your Membership Site … 10 No-Fail Tips
- How To Improve Your Membership Retention … 10 Easy Ways
- How To Price Your Membership Profitably … 10 Sound Methods
- How To Handle Customer Service In Memberships … 10 Savers
- How To Measure Membership Metrics … 10 Ideal Indicators
- How To Grow Successful Membership Sites … 10 Vital Traits