Adding a membership element to your business is a great way to bring in loyal customers and recurring revenue — but you need a content delivery strategy that suits your product and accommodates your audience’s wants and needs.

While you could choose virtually any format for sharing your expertise with members, matching your company’s offerings to a content delivery type that highlights your unique offerings can put you at an advantage over the competition.

Here are the five main content delivery methods you should know about and when you should and shouldn’t use each one:

1. FIXED TERM

With a fixed term membership site, subscribers get access to the same bank of content for the period of their membership. This model is highly profitable with a low maintenance cost because users are not expecting you to add extra media or tools over time.

According to Membership Cube, this model works becausesomeone pays you money in installment payments, gets instant access to your content, possibly extra content over time, but only pays a fixed number of payments.”

Example of a Fixed Term Membership SiteOpenNote is a fixed term membership program where users pay a one-time fee for unlimited access to a library of video lessons and practice tools.

When to Use It

Fixed term sites are great for businesses that don’t want to be constantly producing, editing and updating content.

Essentially, if you want truly passive income, this site is for you. Of all the content delivery types, it requires the least amount of upkeep, and you only have to add more content if you want to. Because members aren’t paying monthly membership fees indefinitely, they aren’t expecting you to drip content over time.

When Not to Use It

If you’re continually creating and adding new content to your site, you might be giving away too much for too little with this delivery type. Why? Members who have already paid a flat fee to access your bank of content are still receiving value from you every time you release something new — and you’re not profiting from it.

2. TIERED

This is the standard “pay more, get more” model where members get access to different levels of content based on the access tier they purchased. For example if you offer Silver, Gold and Platinum packages, the more precious medals come with more information and at a higher price.

Membersuite says, in order to create a tiered program that benefits different types of members, “it’s your job to sit down and evaluate how these benefits will be distributed within each layer.” For example, you might determine that members subscribing to your most basic tier are looking for video tutorials, but the people willing to pay for the more premium package are interested in more hands-on interactions with you.

Example of a Tiered Membership Site

ModaBox New York is a fashion subscription program that offers three tiers of personalized clothing boxes: SELECTbox (the smallest), PREMIERbox and LUXEbox.

When to Use It

If your site’s content naturally lends itself to a “good, better, best” model, a tiered program is right for you. For example, if you run a membership site specializing in hair tutorials, the “good” level might offer the basic video training courses, the “better” level might offer access to a weekly live webinar in addition to the video course, and the “best” may give members a free pass to your annual in-person hair styling skills training.

When Not to Use It

If the value of your product doesn’t necessarily increase as the price increases, this isn’t the model for you. Especially for newer membership sites, there may not yet be enough content to establish a hierarchy. This could be something you add on later, once your site is a little more built out.

3. VERTICAL

In vertical membership sites, members get access to content that is unique to each area of your site they have purchased. For example, a fitness training site might offer a separate vertical package for members who are interested in yoga workouts vs. members interested in pilates. That way, all the content is completely relevant to them, from the beginning of their courses to the end.

Example of a Vertical Membership Site

DigitalMarketer offers access to more than 10 verticals focusing on different areas of marketing.

When to Use It

If your content is categorized, setting up verticals would be a good option for you. Do you offer financial advice to college students, working professionals and retirees? Creating a vertical for each group would be of benefit to you and to the members so that you can be sure all subscribers get access to the exact experience they’re looking for.

When Not to Use It

If your content can’t easily be broken down into more than one category, verticals would be hard to establish for your site and may not be the right delivery type for you.

4. SEQUENTIAL/DRIP

Sequential or drip delivery is lessons and course material that are released to members on a fixed schedule. There are a few ways you can do this: either all users receive the same information on day one, week three, month four, etc., no matter when they sign up (sequential), or you release brand new, never-before seen content at a set day/time each week or month (drip).

Example of a Sequential / Drip Membership Site

How to Brand Like a Boss, one of Ontraport client Basic Bananas’ subscription video courses, is broken into a three-part series that’s meant to be viewed in order.

When to Use It

Drip membership sites are best if you produce new, relevant content all the time. If your business is focused around time-relevant information, such as stock market advice, or involves daily or weekly news updates, drip membership will suit you well.

Sequential content release is best for educational or coaching content that should be consumed sequentially over time, such as lessons on how to play an instrument or self-help guidance. The idea is that each new lesson builds on the last, so completing them in order helps the member to get more out of the site.

When Not to Use It

If you don’t have a time-sensitive content or educational content that should be delivered sequentially, this is likely not the ideal format for you. In sequential/drip sites, members are expecting frequent exciting new content, so it’s important that you’re planning to regularly update and add content.

5. COMBO

With a combination membership site, you can mix and match just about any of the types listed above. For example, if you’re a makeup artist who does weekly live webinars, you already drip content but, for your new members to see old webinar recordings from months before they joined, you may offer them the option to select a tiered or fixed term membership. This now makes your membership a combination site.

Example of a Combo Membership Site

Rosetta Stone offers vertical subscriptions for individuals, educators and businesses. Once members select their vertical and language, they’re put on a sequential language-learning program.

When to Use It

When you have an abundance of content or products that can be split up or sold in a variety of ways, you might consider a combination style site. For example, if you’re a life coach, you may have so much content that you’re able to split it into verticals — perhaps one for overcoming relationship struggles, one for overcoming anxiety, and one for building self-confidence — but you’re constantly adding to that list, so you drip content to your members as well to keep them engaged.

This site style may also help differentiate your brand from others in the market. Are all the other memberships for your niche fixed term, where they subscribe to the same bank of content for the entirety of their membership? Give yourself an edge by introducing new content each week or month or allowing users to progressively unlock content as they interact more with your site.

When Not to Use It

Don’t try too much too soon. Especially if you’re just starting out. Trying to do it all could be messy and confusing for both you and your members.



About Lindsay Kent
Lindsay is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and holds a degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations and minors in Spanish and Integrated Marketing Communications. After working with several small businesses, Lindsay moved to sunny Santa Barbara to become Ontraport’s Content Manager.