What membership site models will be the most profitable for your business? (Yes, you can combine more than one!)
It’s a question you’ll need to answer in order to create a membership site that will enhance and grow your current business. There are different types of online course sites and experiences you can create based on your strengths as a teacher, leader, and business owner… and what your ideal customers are willing to invest in, too.
In short: the type of membership site you choose can make or break your offer, and affect conversions and the long term sustainability of your site.
Before we get too far, let’s get on the same page about our definition of a membership or course website: A membership site is a place where free or paying members can log in to access their content, courses, and community. You can charge a one-time fee for access or build in a recurring revenue stream with monthly or yearly payments.
Table of Contents
- 7 Types of Membership Site Models
- How to Choose the Best Membership Site Model for Your Business
7 Types of Membership Site Models
In this guide to membership site models, you’ll see the leading membership site types along with membership site examples for each one.
1. A Community-Focused Membership
The community-focused membership site is all about facilitating strong relationship-building among your paying members.
Some of the identifying features of a community-focused membership include:
- member directory, where users can search for, and connect with, one another.
- Forum, so members can easily carry on group discussions.
- Masterminds, where members receive a high level of support, feedback, and resources.
- Accountability tools, so members are empowered to follow through and achieve their goals.
- …or other “people-driven” benefits.
There are a number of things to think about when creating a community focused membership site, from membership goals to mapping out the engagement interaction paths that will be available inside your membership site.
The best part about this type of membership is that people are more likely to stay with you as active paying members once they’ve made great connections in your community. You might be interested in a WordPress member directory plugin that allows members to customize their profiles, opt out of the listing, or connect with each other more easily.
Example: Tara McMullen’s What Works community.
2. The All-You-Can-Eat Education Buffet
Think of this style of membership as the Netflix of online learning: a member joins and has access to a bunch of content from day one. It’s a library of courses that continues to grow over time to incentivize current customers to stick around and attract new clients, too.
You can do that using quizzes that guide people to the right next step. Or, you can connect them with the appropriate material by offering sophisticated search functionality, or even giving recommendations based on previous courses they’ve enjoyed.
Many education buffets offer a wide range of topics to attract a large client base. However, when you’re just getting started, it helps to have a focused outcome in mind that appeals to a very specific audience (rather than trying to be a jack of all trades).
Focus on getting a targeted set of courses done well, and branch out from there. You might also want to hire someone to help from a digital marketing and tech set up perspective.
Example: BrainPop‘s online learning portal for kids.
3. Coaching and Accountability Membership
This type of membership is often called group coaching, and it packs a lot of value for the participants.
There are a few different ways to offer coaching and accountability with this model:
Generally, you’d offer live office hours or coaching calls where members can show up, ask questions, get support, and accountability. You can also create opportunities for the coach or leader to keep track of participants’ progress, encouraging them if they get stuck along the way.
In our busy modern world, there aren’t a lot of places where you can get individual attention from someone with a lot of expertise… at least, not without breaking the bank.
If coaching is something you love and you want to help your clients achieve their goals (without putting a cap on your earning potential), this might be for you!
Example: Erika Lyremark’s Mark’d Mastery.
4. Done for You Resources
This type of membership offers a big time savings for its members by eliminating time-consuming work and offering a resource that can be used as is or with minor tweaks.
If a teacher, ministry leader, or blogger needs new content each week and can simply take your material and tweak it… They’ll stay on board to save time and keep getting your new materials.
It’s a no-brainer for the right clients, and if you’re drawn to this type of membership it’s likely because you’ve BEEN your ideal client so you can create the best materials for them.
This type of membership will see you creating a lot of consistent content, so think through the best way to organize it from day one.
Anything that saves people time is highly valued, and if you’re already seeing interest, you know that the demand is there. All that’s left is a matter of marketing it properly to get the word out.
This type of membership tends to be extremely stable, because of the recurring needs of your specific set of clientele.
If you’re already doing the work creating this type of content, and people are asking how you do it or if you ever offer it… then this might be a great type of membership site for you to offer.
Example: Lesson plans created by teachers on Education.com.
5. Retainers and Other Service Memberships
The best way to describe this type of membership is a client dashboard. It can be used to facilitate the process of onboarding a new client… Or, you might use the membership site after the services have been delivered, as a way to stay in touch with a client and offer additional training or resources.
It’s set up to communicate with your clients, retainer engagements, and other services… so you’re freed up to focus on the service itself, whether that’s interior design, copywriting, or health coaching.
Depending on which step of the client process your membership site will take over, you’ll want to create a map of the steps that you generally take when signing up a new client, while you’re working with them, or after you wrap up an engagement.
This is a no-brainer type of membership for freelancers, agencies, and anyone who works with clients already. It’s also a great way to onboard 1 on 1 coaching clients, and build in a clear process to keep everyone on the same page.
Example: SnapCopy uses credits to manage client copywriting projects.
6. Internal Training Turned Into a Profit Center
As your business grows, you’ll start to amass a lot of internal knowledge that you want your whole team to become familiar with. Having a membership site to host internal training, onboarding videos, exercises, and other resources is extremely efficient.
You can keep track of who on your team is up to speed, and easily bring in new team members and help them onboard quickly. Tracking metrics like this means you’ve got a finger on the pulse of your business and team’s growth.
If you’re working with a team, you’ve probably already started recording short training videos for how to do certain things in your business, or run weekly/monthly training sessions that are recorded. You might have even started to create a company wiki to house this information.’
Example: Digital Marketer turned their own internal company training into a paid certification program that they’ve continued to improve and earn from.
7. The Dripped Content or Dripped Release Course
Some membership site models are a natural fit for things that happen every month or every week. For example, you might be creating a new piece of content to match the astrological changes happening each month.
Or, you might be launching an online course that would be better consumed over time, like music lessons that must be mastered before moving on.
Doing this type of membership might mean you need a drip course plugin, or other way to release content over time if you’re not creating it live each month or week.
Example: Whole Woman by Sarah Jenks is a monthly membership that follows the cycles of the moon with dripped content, and also combines other elements of the membership site models above.
How to Choose the Best Membership Site Model for Your Business
In the end, you know best who your current clients are and what you can offer as a benefit to help them grow.
Don’t be concerned if none of the options above feels like the “perfect fit”. You can always mix and match to come up with the perfect balance of materials that will engage your clients and bring in a stream of recurring revenue.
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