Developing Content for Your Members That Keeps Them Engaged
How to create an effective content system for your membership business.
Content is a major aspect of your membership business. Regardless of whether you offer an online service, a gym membership, or something entirely different – you have to get your content right. It is a great way to tickle the fancy of potential members, but also to keep your current members satisfied. You might be scratching your head right now. It sounds good, but where do you start? How do you maintain a solid content strategy? Is there a system to it? Of course, there is!
Three Simple Steps
There are three stepping stones to creating an effective content system: a catalog, categories, and a calendar. We will start by identifying everything you have to offer and pouring it into a menu of services. Next, we will categorize all that content into separate boxes. Finally, we will create a calendar based on the results of the previous two steps, so that you end up with an actionable guideline. Sound good? Let’s dive in.
The First Stepping Stone: Mapping Your Content Catalog
Creating a content catalog is all about identifying what you will deliver to your members. For those of you who have only started out recently, this might be more of an issue than for those who have been in this business for years. However, regardless of your situation, you will be surprised by how much content you already have or can create without lots of effort. People often underestimate their resources in this respect, but I am here to open your eyes and show you what you’ve got.
This is an exercise, so grab a pen and paper. Even better would be to put a giant poster on your wall and write on it with a marker. That’s what I recently did for a client of mine: this company was convinced that the only thing they had to offer their members was a CD they had. However, after brainstorming with them, I started making notes on the posters on their walls, and all of a sudden they remembered other resources (books, flyers, services, etc.) that they could also offer. It just took some incentive from me to look at things from a different perspective. And believe me, all the posters were full of ideas and concepts at the end of the afternoon.
I would like to ask you a couple of questions to get started. Regardless of whether you have had a business for a while or are just starting out, this will help you to see content where you didn’t see it before or simply inspire you to create new content. I would like you to create a list to answer each question. Here goes:
- What are you good at?
- What are you passionate about? (I want you to create content about things you’re good at and passionate about. How can you turn the things you wrote down into content? )
- How have you helped others achieve their goals? In what ways? What content do you already have that is helping others (in their life or business)?
Take your time to answer those questions while keeping in mind what content you already have. Write everything down.
The result should look like a list of your services. For example, a carwash offers several levels of service: rinse only, rinse with special soap, rinse with special soap and wax, rinse with special soap, wax and Rain-X on your windows, everything plus vacuuming, everything plus shampooed carpets, etc. I want you to create a similar menu of services and think of the levels you have to offer. Create a list of different menu items you can provide. A carwash is often a membership business that offers different levels of membership, so you can apply the same logic.
Write down everything you can come up with. Don’t think about whether it’s a good or a bad idea. Allow this brainstorming to produce everything that you can provide your members with. This detailed list of content will be your content catalog, and you will need it for the next stepping stone.
The Second Stepping Stone: Seeing the Forest for the Trees
Creating categories will take your content to the next level and provide you with new content that offers an even greater service to your members. Let’s look at the three main content category types.
- Done-with-you versus done-for-you content
These are two different types of content. In this article, where I am asking you for your active cooperation (as you have to contemplate and write things down), you are in a done-with-you type of program. I am working alongside you rather than doing everything for you. In a done-for-you type of program, content is put together for you without your input.
- Evergreen versus time-bound content
Evergreen content doesn’t expire. It isn’t related to any trends or seasons, so you can use it whenever you want. It is not bound by time or to any specific period. Time-bound content is only applicable during a specific time of the year or for a limited time (for example when it starts in month one and ends by month five). It has a definite start and end time.
- Process versus organic content strategy
Process-type content is a linear type of content. An example would be when you have to go through specific steps in a particular order in a particular process. You are guided through several steps to get the most out of the content, and they must be done in order because each step builds on the one that came before it.
Organic content means that you are provided with a library of content or services. You can then pick the content you are interested in. You are free to ignore the other content. It is called “organic” because the individual can decide what they want to take part in.
Now that you know the difference between these categories, I want to ask you a question while you look at your list: has any additional content been sparked into your mind or have you been reminded of something you can provide? Perhaps time-bound content can be applicable in your business, e.g. during a sales period.
Then I want you to go through your catalog and check whether you have “done-with-you” or “done-for-you” content, evergreen or time-bound content, process or organic content. It is definitely possible to have content in all those categories; they are not mutually exclusive. How you can combine these types of content is something we will discuss in the next section. So first, I would like you to break down your catalog into these categories.
Please do these three things before going to the next section:
- Write down any additional ideas that were sparked by reading about the different categories.
- Categorize all the content in your catalog.
- If possible/necessary, subcategorize your content based on your specific menu of services or qualities.
The Third Stepping Stone: The Practical Side
Based on the content catalog and its categories, we will now create a content calendar that you can use as a framework. It will guide you and tell you what content you should provide at what time.
First of all, I want you to ask yourself if there are specific things or items of content that you have to offer on a weekly basis to build a relationship with your members, such as a newsletter, ongoing membership tips, etc.
Next, there is monthly content. I recommend that everyone provides this type of content. Having a monthly deliverable gives you the opportunity to maintain your relationship with your members. It can be different for every membership, but it’s important to have it.
Then there is quarterly content, which is a good routine to have.
Finally, there is annual content. Is there an annual piece of content you could provide your members with? It can be offered as a gift for their annual membership renewal, as recognition of their loyalty. You could also provide it for the holidays or their birthday.
You might be able to do all of those, or only a few. Providing content for all these occasions is great content delivery. Of course, I understand that many memberships are not very expensive, so you may be wondering how on earth you can provide that much value for the small membership fee you ask. However, you don’t have to feel obliged to do all of this.
The most important thing is that people have to see a return on their investment. If they pay you 10-20 dollars every month, that doesn’t mean you have to give them something of that value. You merely have to show recognition for their investment in your membership business. That’s why I prefer talking about ROI as Recognition of Investment. Take that into consideration while creating your overall strategy.
As for the timing of your content, you can use the months of the year as a guideline. Most months have a specific holiday or occasion they are associated with, e.g. Valentine’s Day in February or Christmas in December. You can use those holidays as a basis for the content you offer in that month. Another approach is tying pieces of content together: something you offer in April can be a stepping stone for a piece of content in May. Alternatively, you can decide that you want to provide a certain type of content in every quarter and use that as a way to categorize your content.
Figure out how the categories of your catalog play into what you will provide while making sure that you don’t overwhelm your members. Then start inserting things into your calendar.
Something you should take into account while filling up your calendar is the timing of people’s investment. Whenever someone makes a payment, it’s important that they receive something in return. It doesn’t matter whether you charge them monthly, quarterly, or annually. I do recommend making sure that they have actually paid before you send them their “reward”.
Obviously, this shouldn’t be the only time they receive something from you, but it is an important recognition of the agreement they enter with you. You deliver what you promised in exchange for their investment, so it is crucial that those two elements of your relationship are connected. Try to provide people with content as close to the billing dates as possible.
Now, please don’t forget to fill in your calendar and give yourself some deadlines. There’s nothing like a deadline to get the job done.
It’s easy to forget what resources you have and how much value they can provide for your members. Believe me: you are never out of content – you just have to focus on seeing it. I want to help you help your members.
These techniques will keep them from quitting due to being overwhelmed. You have to address the challenges your members face at the right time because otherwise, they will leave. A good content system is crucial to a healthy membership business, and you now have all the tools to make it happen.