Membership Marketing Strategy

Creating Membership Content During the Time of COVID

Earlier in the year, when we were writing about membership marketing during a pandemic and pandemic-proof online business models, we had no idea that we’d be entering the fourth quarter of the year, still discussing some of the same ideas, like creating membership content during a pandemic.

The hard part is that Google isn’t here to guide us on this one. Normally as marketers, we’d use keyword tools to see what people might be looking for online these days concerning COVID and the pandemic, but Google locks down any keyword data related to COVID—and we can’t blame them.

But on our end, as publishers who run membership websites, it’s not ideal to ignore what’s going on with the world and simply carry on; when we can be creating membership content that people are seeking. Not to say we have to open every email with a cautious mental-health check-in (though, those are nice too), but we’re living in some pretty dark times right now, and as publishers, we can both acknowledge it and cater to the circumstances.

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One excellent example of a publisher doing precisely that is Yankee magazine, a regional New England travel and food publication. Yankee created a column called “Checking In“, by deputy editor Ian Aldrich, who interviews popular New England artisans, entrepreneurs, and institutions that they often cover in the magazine, and who are reader favorites. The interviews reveal how they are handing the current pandemic, which is of interest to readers because it might detail how they’ve switched to take-out or how they’ve constructed a new outdoor pavilion. 

Other efforts by Yankee are their Library Previews, like New England’s Best Foliage Drives, which gives readers things to enjoy outdoors, or articles like Favorite New England Hikes which are both relevant and timeless. Focusing on the great outdoors is certainly a good focus for a travel magazine right now.

Another example comes from both I Like Knitting and sister site I Like Crochet. Both publishers put together curated collections called “Stay Safe at Home” that featured scarf patterns and mask resources when the world desperately needed face coverings. 

Then there are other more obvious examples, like our friends at Financial Freedom Federation, whose May 2020 issue was entirely dedicated to investing during the pandemic, offering advice on what to buy, what to hold, and basically how to make more money than you lose in the long term, while also analyzing specific indicators of the market.

RecipeLion is another example. They created a “Stay Home and Cook” challenge back in May on their free portal, due to the closure of most restaurants and everyone’s desire to, well, stay home and cook. In their magazine, they created a Stay at Home Special Issue. The issue opens with, ‘When we set out to make the May/June 2020 issue, we had barbecues and summer parties in mind. And while we look forward to seeing our friends and enjoying the nice weather together, this year is decidedly…different. Unprecedented times call for a bit of creativity when it comes to cooking and baking. No yeast at the store? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with trendy banana bread recipes. Looking for yet another way to make a chicken dinner with minimal ingredients? We’ve got you covered too. The Stay At Home Special Issue was made for times like these, and will be here for you whenever you need to, or want to, stay at home and cook up something amazing.”

The thing about creating membership content is that it’s certainly ideal to develop a product that is evergreen and can hold value throughout time. However, there are things like a once-in-100-years pandemic where we can take off our marketing hats, close the Google keyword tool, and tap into our human brains to ask ourselves what kind of content our readers want to digest while stuck at home, binging Netflix, and battling fight or flight impulses daily. What type of membership content would make their lives a little better? Figure out what that could be, put your marketing and publishing hats back on, and go create it!

In the comments below, we’d love to hear what you’re doing at your company to create highly relevant membership content right now, and how you see that changing or staying the same over the next six months.

By Kim Mateus

Chief Strategy Officer

Kim Mateus is Chief Strategy Officer for Mequoda Systems and the Mequoda Systems Content Network where she oversees strategic planning for the organization's 200 plus premium subscription products. Over the past decade, she has guided the development of more than 20 subscription marketing systems including I Like Crochet Network, New England Network and Your AAA Network. She and her team maintain an exhaustive best practices database of subscription marketing techniques and business processes that she uses to advise her clients and optimize the more than 60 websites that make up the Mequoda Systems Content Network. Kim is a frequent speaker at industry events and serves on the board of the Specialized information Publishers Association.

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