Choosing a membership model: 8 examples that work
Creating a membership website allows you to solve your customers’ problems over the long-term, but it requires some planning. In the second chapter of this guide, we’ll look at 8 of the most popular membership site models alongside some real-world examples of the best memberships the web has to offer.
Unlike online courses, which solve a specific problem or pain point for your students, most memberships are ongoing.
That means (with just one exception, which you’ll learn about below) that solving a finite problem that can be solved in a few weeks isn’t enough.
Fortunately, that still leaves you with a world of options.
Here are just a few of the ways that you can model your membership:
One of the most common membership models is the Content Update Model.
In this model, members pay you for access to content that you publish on an ongoing basis.
Examples of Content Update Model memberships include:
Behind-the-scenes updates about what you’re working on, like Mackenzie Child’s live recordings of his illustrations:
Curated roundups of (and commentary on) content your members will find interesting and valuable, which is how I structure my own membership:
Or video lessons, like the artist Robert Joyner offers to budding painters in his popular Painthog Membership:
The Content Update Model depends on your ongoing publishing to succeed, so be sure that whatever topic you choose for your membership, you’re confident that you can create enough content to offer value to your community over the long term.
Unlike the Content Update Model, the primary value offered with the Content Library Model is access to an existing collection of content that was published in the past.
See, for example, how Becky Mollenkamp offers her entire content library to members of her Own it Crush it VIP Membership:
Of course, you can combine both content models, offering members access to past and future content.
If you’re a coach or consultant — or want to become one — the Group Coaching Model, like the one Justin Jackson uses, is a terrific way to grow your business.
The reason this model is so powerful comes down to one simple word: scale.
If you do ten coaching sessions per week at $50 per session, and each session lasts one hour, then you’ve earned $500.
That’s great, but now those ten booked hours are closed; you can’t earn any more money from them unless you raise your rate.
Now imagine if, instead, you offer group coaching at $30.
The possibilities for that hour become a lot more interesting, as you can book two ($60), three ($90), five ($150) or more clients.
A Group Coaching Model membership is a simple way to deliver this service, allowing clients to sign up for regular coaching sessions with you. Plus, they’ll get value from your content updates, member community and more.
If you offer professional services like design, consulting, writing or anything where you’re paid for tasks or time, then a Professional Service Model membership is worth considering.
The way the model works is this: clients buy a monthly or annual membership that includes a pre-determined scope of work each month (or year).
For example, drum teacher Jared Hoffman sells drum lessons this way through his Drum Club Membership:
This benefits both the service provider and the client as it creates predictable, recurring revenue for the provider, while letting the client guarantee availability in advance.
If you already have other digital products like courses, ebooks, templates, cheat sheets or any other downloads, the Product Bundle Model can help you get more of your products into people’s hands.
Rather than trying to convince your audience to buy multiple products from you, you can make it easy for them by bundling two or more products together, and offering them with a Membership subscription.
Chantel Arnett, of the Blog Biz School Membership, offers members a huge array of her other products in one fell swoop:
Besides being a standalone membership model, offering a product bundle is a powerful way to convince prospects to join any type of membership.
In a Community Model membership, members get value from being a part of a community of like-minded people who share a goal. (Note that mastermind groups also tend to follow this model, though they can occasionally include elements of other models.)
To succeed with this model, you’ll need to manage the community to ensure that posts stay on topic and members stay engaged, and these types of memberships often have a forum component, or a shared Facebook or Slack group.
Christine Morris of the FBL Academy Mastermind Membership offers exactly that:
Want to help your members achieve something specific?
Then a Path-to-Result Model is what you’re looking for. In this model, members join based on the promise of accomplishing an outcome at the end of a pre-determined period.
That’s the approach that fitness instructor Masiel Encarnación takes with her 8-Week Snatch Membership:
This model is similar to online courses, but the membership approach makes it easy to add other components like a community and live content updates.
The last — and most popular — membership model is the Hybrid Model.
This is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of two or more of the above models.
While it’s helpful to know the different types of models, the reality is that many membership creators combine different models to offer more value to their members.
You could offer, for example:
A Group Coaching membership that includes weekly Content Updates
A Path-to-Result membership with a Community component to help members get support on their journey
A Professional Service membership that includes a Product Bundle to offer additional solutions for your clients
The Hybrid Model makes it easy to add lots of value for your members, and also to offer different options (called “tiers” — more on that, and why you might want to do that, in a bit).
So, to recap, the 8 primary membership models are:
The 8 primary membership models
|Model||Types of content|
Regularly published content.
Access to a pre-existing library of content.
Scheduled group coaching sessions.
Pre-purchased services on a recurring basis.
Two or more digital products offered together.
Members learn together and from each other.
Accomplish a specific outcome.
A mix of two or more of any of these models.