What Is a Tiered Membership Model and How to Implement It?

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Offering different membership levels is a popular choice when it comes to thinking about how to start your membership site. But, what is a tiered membership model, what are its benefits, and how to implement such a structure in a paid community? Let’s find out!

In this post:

  1. How does a tiered membership work?
  2. Freemium and tiered membership levels
  3. How to build your membership tiers
  4. Examples of benefits you can offer in tiered membership levels
  5. Are membership levels appropriate for you?

How Does a Tiered Membership Work?

Offering a tiered membership model is a popular choice among community builders. When we talk of “tiered membership” we are referring to a type of membership that offers many levels. Usually, the higher the level, the higher the number and quality of benefits it offers.

There are generally two types of tiered membership. On the one hand, you can offer a fixed price for each level. This allows for more simplicity when managing your membership model, since it doesn’t require complicated systems to manage it.

On the other hand, you can also choose to offer a points-based membership model. This is a little bit more complex and involves granting points to users for completing certain actions (for example, purchasing something, referring a friend, etc.).

A points-based model it’s more complex, but it’s also better to engage users since they will feel a sense of accomplishment each time they reach a new tier.

However, there is no right or wrong way to approach your membership model. It all depends on your community’s characteristics and your members’ profiles.

Freemium and Tiered Membership Levels

Many communities choose to operate with a freemium model. A freemium model provides the basic characteristics of the community for free. However, to get the full experience, members will have to pay a certain price.

A freemium model can help you to grow your community in the early days. This is because freemium models create a lower entry barrier, allowing users to directly register and start participating. However, these models also increase the risk of users registering but never coming back.

On the other hand, if your community it’s more exclusive, you may benefit from a paid membership or an invite-only model.

For instance, The Community Roundtable it’s a great example of what it means to create a successful paid membership model with tiers. You can access the entire community (which includes both virtual and in-person events, a content library, an online group, etc.) for a fixed annual rate. However, members who only want the community’s content and resources can access only that benefit for a lower price.

Another example is Rosieland. This community operates under a freemium model. The free version includes weekly newsletters (along with the whole archive of past newsletters) with curated information and the latest news on community building. However, for people who want a deeper experience, Rosieland also offers a premium membership that includes more resources, an online course, and exclusive content.

How to Build Your Membership Tiers

To successfully build your membership tiers, you first need to think about which membership model your community will use.

According to the type of community you are running, what makes the most sense? A points-based model? A fixed price model? Freemium, or invite-only?

Once you decided on your membership model, it’s time to select how many tiers you want to offer. The standard in many communities ranges between 2-4 tiers, although you can offer as many tiers as your specific community needs.

On the other hand, you also need to think about how many benefits will each tier include, and which will they be. Next, we will talk about some benefits ideas for you to start brainstorming what to include in each tier.

Examples of Benefits You Can Offer in Tiered Membership Levels

No matter the model of tiered membership you choose, the benefits to offer have to be exclusive. This means that they have to be benefits members can’t get anywhere else for free.

This is because those benefits are the most important deciding factor members ponder when deciding whether to join a community or not.

Even more, if the community is paid, those benefits have to be worthy. To begin to think about what benefits to offer, first consider the type of community you have and your members’ profile.

What are they trying to accomplish? How will your community help them reach their goals?

For example, a community that focuses on learning may want to offer mentorship opportunities or online courses. On the other hand, a community that focuses on networking can offer regular events and group activities.

Here is a list of common benefits that communities are offering to attract new paid members:

  • Curated, regular content
  • Members-only gatherings
  • VIP access to industry events
  • Mentorship/consultancy opportunities
  • Online groups
  • Job boards
  • Conferences, interviews with experts, AMAs, and similar events
  • Discounts, coupons, and exclusive offers

For a more comprehensive list, check out our membership benefits ideas article. Inside, you will get several ideas regarding what to offer to attract more paid members to the community.

Are Membership Levels Appropriate for You?

Membership levels are great if your community has many benefits to offer and you provide relevant value to your members.

Tiered memberships, when well-built, allow you to increase your members’ loyalty and also your revenue.

Additionally, this membership model has the necessary variety that allows a wider range of people to join. Membership tiers include higher levels for people who want to have the full experience, but also has free or lower levels for people who maybe are on a budget and want to join the community for the cheapest price.

However, keep in mind that it all depends on your community’s type and characteristics. For communities with a simple membership model, that offer one or two main benefits, a tiered membership won’t make sense.

Now that you have defined your membership model, it’s time to think deeper about your onboarding process. Check out the necessary steps to welcome new members.

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Paola Baselica

Hey there! I'm Paola, and I like to call myself a word wizard. Since 2018, I've been writing content for diverse places across the web. Now I'm rocking it with Unita's copywriting crew, where I get to explore, write, and polish up the coolest communities you'll ever find on the web. It's been a wild ride, and I'm here to make every word count and every story pop 🎨✨📚