In its simplest form, a membership site is a gated part of your website that members pay a monthly subscription fee for in order to gain access to exclusive, premium content.
That said, membership sites come in all shapes and sizes. Some are online communities of people who share a common goal while others offer members training material, online courses, or access to premium products.
Finding the right membership site model for your business can be a daunting task – especially with the sheer number of options available to you. With this in mind, in this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular types of membership site models that you can use to launch your own online business.
Let’s get started!
#1: The Content Drip Model
One of the most popular membership site models you’ll come across is the content drip model. As the name suggests, content is released at regular intervals which makes it easy for members to consume and keeps them coming back for more.
Members pay a monthly subscription fee in exchange for access to the gated membership site from where they can view or download premium content.
Membership site owners following this model create a schedule for delivering content to members. In this way, members don’t get all of the content at once – instead, the content is released at specific intervals.
The key benefit of drip feeding content in smaller chunks is that it gives members enough time to thoroughly consume content without feeling overwhelmed. This also improves member engagement which helps increase retention rates.
The great thing about this membership site model is that you can have memberships open all year round. Whenever a new member signs up, their start date begins. Assuming you’ve scheduled to release content every 15 days, members will be able to access Batch 1 immediately, Batch 2 will be released 15 days later, Batch 3 will be released 15 days after Batch 2, and so on.
This way, you don’t have to worry about filling up seats before you launch your membership program. With the Content Drip membership site model, you can drip feed content to members based on when they sign up for a membership, specific calendar dates, on their activities, or manually.
#2: All-Access Pass
Some membership sites follow the All-Access Pass model which gives members access to everything as soon as they sign up. This membership site model is great for instructors who offer online courses or business owners selling digital products. In most cases, members pay a one-time upfront fee to gain access to the content.
One of the key benefits of the All-Access membership model is that it gives members the flexibility to learn or complete activities at their own pace. For example, if you were to create an online course as premium content for your membership site, you’d give students access to the entire course when they sign up.
This membership site model requires less oversight as compared to the Content Drip model since you’re essentially releasing all of your content at once. Some membership site owners choose to provide some sort of bonus content regularly (for example, once a month) to keep members engaged. This allows them to charge a monthly subscription fee (instead of a one-time fee) and increase member engagement and retention rates.
#3: The Time Frame Model
The Time Frame membership site model offers membership programs for a specific, pre-defined period – usually ranging from a week to six months. Typically, members sign up with these types of sites to achieve a specific goal at the end of the time period. A 30-day writing challenge is a popular example of the Time Frame membership site model.
With this membership site model, you can choose to charge members a one-time fee or a recurring fee depending on how long the membership will last. For example, a 7 day weight-loss program might charge members an upfront fee whereas a six month learn to cook program might offer members a monthly subscription option.
Compared to the other membership site models on our list, managing a Time Frame membership site requires much less work. In addition to this, it’s easier to get people to sign up for membership programs that have a pre-defined start and end date. This is definitely a great option for anyone who’s looking to build their first membership site.
#4: Online Courses
The online course is perhaps the most popular membership site model. The idea behind it is simple: members pay a monthly subscription fee or a fixed price to get access to your online course(s).
Online courses usually consist of a mix of different types of content such as training videos, audio lectures, articles, quizzes, and downloadable resources. This membership site model also gives you the option to set up a forum or discussion board.
Depending on your online course, you might consider releasing content in chunks (for example, one lecture at a time) or all at once. With this model, many membership site owners adopt an activity-based content delivery approach. What this means is that members are required to take a prerequisite course, pass a quiz, or complete an assignment in order to get access to the next lecture.
The Online Course membership site model is hugely successful because it gives course creators the flexibility to deliver engaging and valuable membership experiences. For students, having access to a private, members-only forum is often reason enough to continue paying for their membership – even after they’ve completed the course material.
#5: Paid Online Community
A paid online community is essentially a membership site model that’s similar to social media websites and forums. Members have access to your private member’s area as long as they continue to pay the subscription fee.
For those unfamiliar, a paid online community site gives members access to a private member’s area where they can have conversations with other people about a specific topic. The private member’s area may have forums, chatrooms, and discussion boards where members can interact with one another.
In addition to this, some online communities also offer email updates and organize annual events for member meet ups.
You can choose a specific topic or niche to build your paid online community around. For example, you might build a platform where people can talk about digital marketing, gaming PC builds, or personal finance.
#6: The Product-Based Model
Membership sites are also great for selling digital products and downloadable goods. Many online businesses use the Product membership site model to sell access to videos, plugins, themes, and downloadable resources (such as industry reports).
Members pay an upfront fee or an ongoing, monthly fee in order to gain access to the premium products. For example, content creators who produce videos on a weekly basis might charge members a nominal monthly fee to watch exclusive content whereas a developer might consider charging members a one-time fee for lifetime access to a collection of their plugins.
Some membership site owners make their products available through a private member’s area while other choose to email a copy of the digital product to members along with a unique license key.
#7: Productized Services
If your business revolves around delivering services to your customers, creating a service-based membership site can help you take your online business to the next level.
The productized service based membership site model works best when it is focused on a niche market and is mostly used by entrepreneurs who provide one-on-one services to customers. These include consultants, online coaches, tutors, web designers and developers.
As an online coach or consultant, you can offer members access to a members-only portal in exchange for a monthly fee from where they can download protected content like checklists, reports, worksheets, and downloadable resources. If you’re a web developer, you might create a collection of high-quality templates or code generators that members can use on their own sites.
The main idea is to break free from the classic, freelance feast or famine cycle and productize your service to generate a stable, recurring income.
Launching a membership site is a great way to build an online community, sell information products, and generate a recurring income.
- Offering new content on a regular basis or drip feeding content adds continuity to your membership and allows you to charge a monthly fee.
- On the other hand, giving away access to all of your content at once or setting up a membership program with a fixed start and end date is easier to manage though you’ll likely have to charge members a one-time fee.
We shared some of the most popular membership site models you can use to start your own membership site and take your online business to the next level. It’s also worth mentioning that you can combine elements of different membership site models to deliver more value to your site’s members.
Are you thinking of using any of these membership site models for your own online business? We’d love to hear from you so let us know in the comments section below!