Over the years we've worked with thousands of memberships of all shapes and sizes; and for all their variety and the niches they occupy, the majority of those memberships have something in common:
They’re based on expertise – they’re founded by an expert in a specialist field, and their currency is their expertise and knowledge.
And they face a catch-22.
You need to demonstrate and prove your expertise in order to persuade people to join your membership.
And the best way to do that is through content marketing.
But giving away your best ideas for free means nobody will want or need to join – right?
If this sounds familiar, we can get you past this roadblock!
Your membership is valuable for more than its content
The first thing to note is that nobody joins a membership because it has the most content.
They join a membership because they want solutions to their problems.
Content is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to solving those problems.
Vanessa DiMauro said it best way back in 2011, when she wrote People Come For Content And Stay For Community.
Your content is certainly going to play a big part in getting people through the door, but what happens inside the community – accountability, access to you as the expert, peer support – is where the true value is.
We need to decouple this idea that value and content are exclusively linked.
It isn’t about the “stuff”…
…it’s about the harder-to-quantify support and structure that it sits within.
The best memberships offer so much more than what’s in their content library.
You control the line between free and paid
You are the only person who can decide what content you give away for free.
Your free content doesn’t need to be as detailed or intensive as your courses and resources.
You control the line between how much you give away and how much you keep back, so if you hold that line well, your free content will work perfectly in attracting more interest and organically act as a lead-in to your paid content.
Giving away your expertise isn’t an all-or-nothing business.
It could look like giving away the first step of a ten-step process, where it becomes a no-brainer to join the membership and access the other 9 steps.
There are two rules of thumb that are worth remembering when it comes to selecting your free content:
Give away the what and why, and sell the how
Look at the title of this imaginary blog post:
Four Clauses You Should Include In Your Tenancy Agreement That People Overlook
Now, let’s pick out the what, why, and how:
- What = “four clauses”
- Why = “should”
- How = ready for purchase as part of the “The Ultimate Handbook for First-Time Landlords”!
Sharing the what and the why proves your expertise but doesn’t give it all away.
Showing people how to do something is the most valuable step of the process and, as a result, is the bit that’s worth keeping back.
Choose your width and depth
Another way of looking at this is ‘specificity and detail’.
Free content is best when it is broad in scope and shallow in depth (e.g. The 10 Best Electric Guitars You Can Buy For Under $5,000) or narrow and detailed (How To Tune The 1954 Les Paul Goldtop Reissue).
Paid content is best when it is broad and deep – The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide To Electric Guitars, covering the whole process of researching, testing. and finding suppliers to tuning, playing, and caring.
Your best, most valuable content, will be broad and deep.
Keep that in your membership and don’t worry about the rest – it’ll be helpful to some people, but it won’t make up the full picture for them.
Don’t underestimate the value of convenience
You can control the depth of your free content, but what if you produce enough free content that somebody could theoretically piece together everything they need to know about your area of expertise?
Well, the person who spends hours picking up the many breadcrumbs from your site and other sites, across videos, podcasts, blog posts, and social posts to make a full loaf… They’re one in a million.
The other 999,999 simple don't have the time or the inclination for that!
Think about just how inconvenient it would be for somebody to stitch reams of your (and others’) free content together into something coherent and even remotely comparable to your membership.
Now think about how much more valuable it would be to access the premium product with just a couple of clicks, zero repetition, with everything in one place. All killer, no filler.
Eliminating hassle is hugely valuable.
For everyone but the odd (and I mean really odd!) outlier, it’s going to be worth paying to shortcut that process.
It’s just not worth your worry
Hopefully you can now see why the catch-22 of free content isn’t really a catch-22!
There will always be something unsettling about giving your expertise away for free, but as soon as you remember that your membership is more than just its content, that you are in control of the content you share, and that the nature of humans is working in your favour, you should feel a little less uneasy.
If you’ve got more questions about how to get your membership known, how to balance free content and paid content, and anything else – we’d be happy to help. It’s probably been asked and answered somewhere inside Membership Academy!