Most people, when setting up their membership site will invariably come to a dilemma whereby they have to choose between offering an ongoing or fixed term membership product.
Firstly for those of you who might be new to the mechanics of online membership sites here are some brief definitions:
An ongoing membership plan is one where your clients will subscribe to your plan and they will typically remain as members and be billed at regular intervals (eg, monthly OR yearly etc) for an indefinite period or until they personally unsubscribe from the plan.
For example, you might be a subscriber to a news site which continuously has members-only content being released weekly for an ongoing period. For such membership products you will usually be placed in a membership plan in which will remain a member for an indefinite period or until you unsubscribe.
A fixed term membership plan is one where your clients will subscribe for a defined fixed period and where they also may be billed at some regular intervals such as weekly/monthly/yearly etc, depending on how the plan is setup.
After the completion of the subscription period your clients will automatically stop being billed and their membership can expire or they can remain as members with slightly different privileges – depending on the type of membership setup you have.
An example of a fixed term member plan is some kind of online marketing 12 week bootcamp where you pay to receive the lessons on a daily or weekly basis and where you might be billed over regular intervals during the course period or you might pay a single payment.
Now the question which most people face is which model is better – an ongoing or fixed term membership plan?
Well as with most things in life, the answer is not quite black or white and it really depends on your situation. Let’s delve a little further into the benefits of each model.
The first question you will need to ask yourself when deciding on the type of membership plans to offer people is “what type of site are you going to run?”.
This is important because the nature of your site and the niche you are targeting will usually dictate whether an ongoing or fixed term membership plan is viable. Sometimes you might have the luxury of being able to offer both types of plans.
For example if you have a site where you are constantly churning out new material and content for your subscribers, then you can potentially offer ongoing membership plans. For example you might be a comic strip artist/writer who releases a new episode once a month every month for an indefinite period and where your subscribers will remain as members for as long you keep releasing a new episode every month.
On the other hand if you have a site where you are typically offering defined collections of material or short to medium term courses to your subscribers, then you are a good candidate for short term membership plans.
An example of this would be where someone is a dog trainer and who has a membership site where they might have 5 or 6 modules of 4 week dog training videos ranging from puppy/beginner training to very advanced dog training tips.
In this scenario you would typically offer membership levels for a fixed or defined period where your members will subscribe for the length of the course after which they can choose to “graduate” to a more advanced level or simply let their membership expire.
So now we know more about fixed term and ongoing membership plans, let’s look at the benefits of each.
Main Pros of an Ongoing Membership Plan
1. Predictable and regular income
If done effectively, sites which offer mainly ongoing membership plans can mean a good, stable, long term and predictable source of income. The proviso is that your service or content which you offer your members is of high quality and good value and keeps people interested enough to remain subscribed for an indefinite period.
2. Opportunity to foster and build loyalty for your product
Long term membership plans usually mean that people like your product or brand enough to stay for the long haul. This can mean that you have the opportunity to offer more services or add-ons for your product to your existing membership base who will usually be there for the long haul, whereas with short fixed-term members they will quite often move on after the expiry date.
Main Pros of a Fixed Term Membership Plan
1. Can Create A Sense Of Achievement
There are some internet marketers out there who say that short fixed term membership plans are an ideal business model. This is because of the psychology behind such a model. For example, if someone has just completed a membership of an introduction to an online creative writing course, you can then offer a “graduation” course for advanced writers. This creates a sense of accomplishment and the promise of gaining more skills and knowledge for your clients and gives you the opportunity to continue upselling more courses down the track.
2. People Can Sometimes Be More willing to Pay for Fixed Term
This is another psychological factor which can sway your potential customer’s decision about whether to subscribe or not. A lot of people feel more comfortable paying for something when they know that it will have a definite end time. This is a common human psychological trait and something to keep i mind when setting up your membership site.