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, pairing your company with a content delivery system that highlights your unique offerings can put you at an advantage over the competition.

To ensure you’re set up for success, we’ve made a list of the five main content delivery methods you should know about:

1. Fixed term 

With a fixed term membership site, all subscribers get access to a bank of content for the specified period of their membership. This model is highly profitable and requires minimal maintenance because users are not expecting you to add extra media or tools over time. Once their access expires, you can get creative with strategies to encourage them to renew their subscription, such as offering a discount.

Offering a fixed term membership plan is especially useful for running an online training program. According to Smart Blogger, this model works because it creates a sense of urgency to encourage members to complete the course. It also allows you to offer a continuity program to any members who haven’t finished the course and want to retain access, which means easy recurring revenue for you.

Example of a fixed term membership site

Food Blogger Pro is a fixed term membership program where users pay a set monthly fee for unlimited access to training videos, a private community forum, discounts, live calls, and more.

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.

A tiered program benefits your members with ranging levels of skill or commitment because it personalizes their needs and experiences. 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 packages 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 bit more complete.

3. Vertical

In vertical membership sites, members can purchase access to unique content and  exclusive areas of your site. For example, a fitness training site might offer a separate vertical package for members who are interested in yoga workouts vs. pilates. This allows members to control the content and be certain it’s relevant to them.

Example of a vertical membership site

OPEX Fitness offers access to seven verticals focusing on different areas of fitness coaching.

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 the 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, consists of lessons and course materials 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

Ontraport client, Basic Bananas, has a subscription video course “How to Brand Like a Boss.” The three-part series is 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 members get more out of the site.

When not to use it

If you don’t have 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 combination membership site

Udacity offers vertical subscriptions for vocational courses in various fields such as programming, data science, digital marketing and more. Once members select their vertical and field, they’re put on a sequential 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.