One of the biggest challenges of running a membership site is keeping up with fresh content on a regular basis – but, having a solid plan in place can make all the difference!
Keeping your members engaged and coming back to your site is essential if you want to avoid member churn and nurture the long-lasting relationships that sustain a thriving membership business. Member engagement is the goal, but what drives it? It’s not just about creating interesting and useful content, it’s about helping your members get from A to B – giving them the real-world results they need to improve their lives or achieve their goals.
“If you can understand the journey your members take from sign up to power user status and the problem these real human people seek to solve through joining your membership, you are halfway to success.”
-Amanda Northcutt, Member Up
So, why is this so important when it comes to your content strategy? For one thing, it informs all of your content decisions; understanding the member journey helps clarify what’s most important, what works, and what’s needed. From this vantage point, you can construct an informed content strategy that helps you create and manage your content in an organized way – and keep your members engaged, happy, and aware of everything you have to offer them.
In this post, we discuss the key aspects of creating a content strategy for your membership site, so you can achieve all of this and more.
The member journey
The journey your members take to get to where they want to go (via your content) is the most fundamental part of your content strategy. Before you can do anything else, you must know who your members are and what they require to make that journey.
What is the desired outcome? What’s the primary goal, or the different goals that your members may have? Are there different paths they might take based on their skills or interests? Different levels of achievement? Different potential use-cases of your site? What problems does your membership solve, and what’s the process for members to reach that solution? Why are they joining your site in the first place?
It’s important to have content specific to different types of members, whether you classify them as “beginners” and “pros”, for example, or use some other kind of categorization. You want to be able to identify these groups so that you can tailor your content, marketing plan, and site design to them.
Knowing your members and their motivations allows you to break down the end goal(s) into actionable steps – and once you understand the steps members must take to reach their goals, you can identify specific milestones.
Why are goals, steps, and milestones important? Well, they essentially define the focus points and key components of your content, giving you definition and clear direction on what you need to deliver, and when! Keeping the whole process in mind makes it much easier to create a detailed roadmap of your content that makes the decision-making process just a bit more automatic for you, and provides guidance and streamlined paths for your members.
What if you’re just launching your site?
If you’re just starting out, you might be concerned about how much content you need. What’s the right amount before you can start charging monthly fees? What if you don’t think you have enough content to launch in the first place?
The reality is that it’s not about the content per se; it’s about the value, the real-world results, and the problem to be solved. So, with this in mind, you can actually launch your membership site with very little – as long as you’re delivering as you go along.
For example, you might decide to create new videos, podcasts, articles, or live webinars that you deliver according to a content schedule. Once you’ve delivered them, they can function as content for your membership site going forward.
Remember, if your content doesn’t help members achieve their goals or solve their problems, it doesn’t really matter how much content you have!
Let’s talk about the different content formats that you may or may not already be utilizing. Variety keeps things interesting, and different formats can be effective for delivering different types of content, speaking to certain audiences, or helping your members retain acquired skills and knowledge.
Refer to this list if you need ideas for new content, or want to break down what you’re already offering into clearly defined categories:
- Tutorials. This can be a screenshare video or another kind of instructional video showing members how to do something specific, gain a skill, or accomplish a certain goal.
- Whiteboard explainer videos. Visually engaging and effective for educating members on concepts, whiteboard explainer videos can be relatively low-tech if you do them yourself. There are plenty of freelancers on sites like Fiverr who create them as well.
- Informational videos. These videos can be animated, or include graphics, text, and other elements to illustrate a topic. Or they can just be you (or your content creators) talking to the camera.
- Interviews. Interviews can be highly engaging, especially if they include big industry names, experts, or other people relevant to the membership topics. You can also do interviews that showcase customer success stories or use case scenarios.
- Product reviews and walkthroughs. Certain niches really respond well to product reviews and walkthroughs, “unboxing” videos, and first looks at new and relevant physical or digital products, events, etc.
- Digital courses. Video is the number one format for digital courses, and can be easily organized into smaller segments, repurposed, or combined in different ways to create different content packages or pathways.
- Webinars and livestreams. Perfect for things like Q&A sessions and live training courses, webinars and livestreams can be recorded live and then made available for consumption afterwards. This doubles as additional content for people who may not have been able to attend the live event!
- Photos and illustrations. This can include usable creative assets, entertainment, and other components of your content.
- Infographics. Infographics distill and visually present data and information for quick and easy understanding in the form of shareable graphics.
- Visual guides. This can be graphic representations of ideas or processes, or visual “how to” guides.
- Quick tips. Often in the form of text on a graphic or image, quick tips are easily shareable on social media, and can be especially useful for giving followers smaller nuggets of information over time and building brand awareness.
- Quotes and memes. Quotes can be from your own content, or from niche industry names – basically anything that appeals to your audience. Memes may or may not be a part of the content you release, but some brands share them on social media for comedic relief and entertainment.
- PDFs. Worksheets, workbooks, checklists, cheat sheets, and PDF guides and reports can accompany your membership content, or just provide extra value to members. They can also be effective lead magnets!
- Other digital downloads. Extras like audio files (podcasts, music, etc.), videos, graphics, creative project files, eBooks, and other digital assets can be supplementary – or, they may make up the bulk of your content.
- Quizzes and assignments. Helpful for recapping digital courses and other topical material, quizzes and assignments add an interactive element to your content, and assist your members in absorbing and retaining information.
- Placement tests. If your membership site is geared toward skill-building and learning, placement tests can be especially effective for making sure members get the most out of their memberships and follow the right pathway for them.
- Recommended reading lists. Consider giving your members a recommended reading list, with the names of books, articles, and blogs that are relevant to them.
- An “additional resources” page. Take it a step further and provide an entire additional resources page, with links to things like podcasts, articles, videos, event listings, and recommended products.
Structure and pathways
A big part of creating your content strategy is deciding on how you will deliver your content. Will your members get access to everything at once? Or will they be guided through your content in a specific order? Are there prerequisites? Limits? Do they have a certain amount of downloads allotted per month?
How much content do you already have prepared? Do you have less content for launch, but you plan to replenish it regularly? These are all important questions to ask because they will ultimately determine the schedule you stick to, your rate of content production, and whether or not you’ll need to hire other people to help.
A common method when it comes to memberships, drip feeding gives you flexibility as a membership site owner because it allows you to create content in batches and then deliver it (or portions of it) over time. Depending on what kind of content you offer, drip feeding may be the right strategy for you; digital course memberships (like an exercise program) and live webinar series (such as digital marketing webinars) are good examples of content that can be consumed on a set schedule.
Drip feeding your content is particularly good for member engagement, since members need to return to your site regularly to consume the content. Research your niche to find out what works, because there may be certain types of content that are better suited to different levels of access (tiered memberships), or alternately, unlimited membership access where members can consume anything they want as long as they’re paying monthly.
Your content strategy goes hand-in-hand with your membership site structure, and both of these things depend on the pathways (modules, courses, paths, etc.) that you have created for (or tailored to) your different types of members. Many members want to be guided through your content, so designing clear pathways not only keeps things organized for you; it helps your members, too!
Laying it all out
Once you’ve defined who your members are, what solutions you can provide for them, the paths to those solutions, as well as the types of content and levels of access you’re going to have, you can distill everything into an actionable content schedule.
If you have three different membership tiers, for example, you can create an ongoing schedule that allows you to clearly see the content components that are fulfilled, and ones that have yet to be fulfilled for each tier. You might decide to release a new article every Thursday, with an additional video for your top tier members only, or release new content every few days, or every month.
When creating your schedule, consider using tools like Trello to organize your content ideas, manage the creation process, assign tasks to team members, and monitor the content publishing process from start to finish. Google Calendar can help you see to see your content goals and release dates at a glance, and social media management platforms like Hootsuite or Buffer can be especially useful for scheduling your social posts in advance.
Just like with standard digital businesses, you will want to incorporate your brand tone and style in everything you do. Be sure to take note of any signature elements, such as brand-specific graphics and illustrations, emojis and signature sign-offs for written content and social posts, and certain days of the week for specific types of content (like uploading a podcast episode every Wednesday, for example).
Identify the different channels you’ll be using and map everything out in advance so that you just have to follow the plan from day to day. It’s easier to incorporate things like official (and unofficial) holidays and seasonal content if you’re able to zoom out and see what’s coming next week, next month, etc.
A method to the madness
Keep in mind that your members will give you feedback that will help you refine your content strategy, so it’s not about getting it perfect from the beginning; it’s about staying the course, staying committed, consistent, listening, and being willing to adjust your methods as you go along.
You want to regularly assess your content strategy, and hold it up against the solutions your members desire as well as your goals as a membership business. While having a solid strategy in place provides you with a “method to the madness”, it’s on you to stay up-to-date and informed about what your members value, where your industry is headed, and the performance of your site and content!
What has helped you the most in creating your own content strategy? How have you optimized your strategy for engagement, value, and revenue? How do you keep the fresh content flowing? Let us hear what you have to say in the comments below!