So you pick out a fantastic program name, structure your membership tiers, and get ready to launch your membership website.
Then, in the dead of night, you wake with a cold sweat and realize:
You still have to create the content to populate those tiers and give your members something to sign up for. You know there are tools to manage membership websites, but where do you even start?
If you’re like me, it takes at least two cups of coffee to exit the near-panic and come up with a plan.
But since no one should have to drink that much coffee that late in the night except writers on a deadline and students approaching the dreaded finals season, I’ve decided to share my plan -- along with examples -- for content types that you can create for your membership website.
#1. Downloadable resources
How often do you look for templates online when you need to create a new workbook or throw together a professional form?
Pretty frequently, right? I do it all of the time. You can find me in Typeform’s theme gallery anytime I need to create something sleek without sinking too much money or my day into it (or worse, harassing the designer).
Not a template person? No worries. Downloadable resources don’t strictly have to mean templates and forms, though those are some of the most classic examples.
If you sell digital downloads or have just thought about it, any type of content that falls under that umbrella can be turned into a downloadable resource for your members. Ebooks and infographics, for instance, also qualify.
Ebooks are especially helpful if your demographic skews towards women, in fact. Nearly twice as many women read ebooks as men.
And the success for creating short ebooks in Google Slides -- part of the free suite we recommended in the first section -- has been demonstrated. One entrepreneur uses it to create all of his lead magnets (short, sweet ebooks that help him build his email list).
Copyblogger uses ebooks as a flagship offering for their membership program, too.
Worksheets and guides are also a popular staple for downloadable goods on membership websites.
You can see an example of this via the “Quick Wins” perk of the Smart Insights’ membership program.
As for topics to address with your downloadable resources, go back to the drawing board and look at your audience personas. What type of resource would help them accomplish their goals with your membership?
Would it help them to track their progress? Put together a checklist for them or a workbook.
Does your membership provide business consultations? Build up an editable spreadsheet for them to input their data and run through important metrics.
Are they trying to start selling courses? Provide a sales copywriting swipe file for them.
You get the idea. If it’s helpful for your members, it’s content you should create..
#2. Mini-courses and tutorials
Speaking of being helpful, is there anything better than a step-by-step guide that actually backs up its advice with data and steers you in a clear direction?
(Probably, but I’m biased about data. It’s sort of my thing.)
Blog Biz School’s Chantel Arnett is the master at combining this kind of content with downloadable resources. Check out what she offers:
When her content isn’t directly usable in the form of templates, it’s applicable by offering a quick, pointed education on material relevant to her audience.
Fortunately, mini-courses and tutorials don’t necessarily have to be major time drains to produce.
They can be as simple as screen share videos where you walk members through a specific series of tasks -- such as performing a skill with a program or even how to prepare for an interview -- or exclusive how-to type blog posts where you outline processes in detail.
But for the best results, incorporate video as much as you can. Video learning provides on-demand training and improves learner retention, among other benefits.
Plus, it’s much more mobile friendly than a wall of text, which is important when you consider that 67% of learners use their smartphones to access learning materials.
Chantel isn’t the only one who’s seen success with this type of content through a membership, either. MarketingProfs uses tutorials and video learning as a mainstay of their resources for members, as well.
Did you notice how they also include other elements found on this content list? If MarketingProfs’ two-time best-seller and marketing mastermind Ann Handley is doing it, you know you’re on the right track.
And as a bonus, Podia now lets you track a customer’s progress through your online courses, which is all the more reason to implement this content type when you consult the research behind using and assessing video-based learning.
Like before, you can create your tutorials and walkthroughs with the same resources you use for your other creations. Shooting professional quality video on your iPhone (or Android) is a cinch.
The content topics and inspiration will (again) come down to what’s useful for the people accessing it.
Luckily, with the ability to track your tutorials and mini-course success with multiple data points -- not just the comments and feedback from members, but the actual progress of users as they move through files -- determining what’s helpful is easier than ever before.
Not all content has to be static, however. If you’d rather engage members more directly, consider this third type of content for your membership website.
#3. Interactive content
The snag with downloadable resources and mini-courses is that they’re inherently passive. No matter how charming you are, they’re still inert material where the user’s primary interaction is through observation.
It can get dull -- for them and you, especially if they've signed up for a lifetime membership.
It also adds more onus on you as a content creator to produce more in-depth materials.
The solution? Liven things up with interactive content like quizzes, live webinars, and polls.
That's one of the best membership site tips we regularly heard from the experts we interviewed, anyway, and they're not alone in that opinion.
88% of professional marketers say that interactive content sets their brand apart from other businesses.
And as a membership site owner, the same will be true for you. While other memberships are sticking to guides and blog posts, yours will stand out in the sea of sameness, differentiating your membership from the pack (something all successful membership sites have in common, by the way).
Plus, it’s great for improving membership retention, as well.
Unlike the other materials, however, you should avoid being too scholastic with interactive content. While a quiz on the concepts covered in your mini-courses might indeed be helpful, your audience chose a self-paced course for a reason.
At the minimum, they probably don’t have the free time to emulate a more traditional classroom experience, even if they do want it.
So instead, try to keep your interactive content -- particularly quizzes -- on the light side, similar to what you see below.
If your membership is for fledgling marketers, for instance, you might create the following quizzes:
- What your favorite burger toppings say about your best marketing channel.
- Pick five colors, I’ll tell you which marketing great you are.
- Are you a Don Draper or Walt Disney? Find out in two minutes.
Of course, this tongue-in-cheek type of material might not resonate with your audience, but therein lies the rub.
Because it’s interactive, your audience will let you know if that’s the case and you can change direction.
On the more serious side of things, live webinars are another form of interactive content you can produce for your members. As the name implies, this is material that you’ll create in real time, but the preparation should be done in advance.
Every month, he chooses a new topic of relevance to his audience and uses it to engage his audience with a live seminar.
Because live webinars can be so time-intensive, his schedule is an ideal one to emulate for people who want to dig in deep to interactive content without overburdening their workload.
Quizzes and polls, on the other hand, are more forgiving and can be created and published at any time. Once a week should be a solid starting point, but if your members start pulling back or showing low engagement, consider spreading them out further.
Then, top off your content with a dash of the spoken word.
#4. Podcasts and audio files
This last form of content is part-interactive and part-downloadable resource, but such a different content form than what we’ve discussed so far that it deserves its own quick mention.
And as a major bonus, podcasts are monetization-ready content that are low commitment and easy to produce -- all you need is a mic and a plan -- while having some of the highest engagement factors. After all, 80% of people who listen to a podcast listen all the way through.
That’s a pretty far cry from blog posts that average 37-second read time, no matter how long they are.
But this is the best part about this kind of content:
Audio files, such as pre-recorded voice-overs and weekly podcasts -- which are usually live and later uploaded as recordings -- have had great success being monetized as podcasts for other membership website owners.
Amy Porterfield makes use of them as well, implementing many of the same strategies that Justin employs by keeping subscribers entertained with expert interviews, discussing relevant topics and trends in her industry, and providing actionable advice for listeners.
Audio files and live podcasts are an easy, cost-effective type of content that you can create for your membership website ahead of time and on a recurrent basis, and with such high audience resonance, they’re definitely worth adding to your arsenal.
To make the most of them, invite industry speakers and other creators, cover trends in your industry, and jam-pack a session with action-oriented advice for your listeners.
Loose lips might sink ships, but for membership website content, they’re the perfect floater to keep you at the top of the customer satisfaction waves.