How to enhance free, gated, and paid content in your content marketing model

Members want more content. As an association, you have an opportunity to develop thought leadership content, building organization awareness, and credibility, while also meeting your members’ content needs. But how should your association organize the way members and non-members receive your content? 

According to the Community Brands 2022 Association Trends Study, there’s currently a disconnect between how members and association professionals perceive content is being personalized. 53% of members believe their association creates excellent or very good, personalized content, but only 25% of professionals agree. This highlights an opportunity for your association to improve your content marketing model and determine the best mix of free, gated, and paid content for your constituents. 

Why your association needs to develop a content marketing model
Creating a content marketing model for your association is crucial for organizational awareness and trust. When you develop quality thought leadership content, you position yourself as an industry leader in insights and information. Both members and non-members will recognize the value of your organization, boosting member growth and retention. 

A content marketing model consists of three content types: ungated or free content, gated content, and paid content. Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of each model and how to apply each type at your association.

Free or ungated content
Ungated content, like blog posts, case studies, podcasts, or infographics, is free for an individual to consume and share. Individuals don’t need to provide any information for content. Consider sharing free or ungated content on your social media platforms and within your association’s virtual community to reach the most people and build organizational awareness.  

Ensure you create content that speaks to your members and is interesting to non-members within your industry. Do so by fostering a culture of thought leadership within your association. Speak with your members, hear their stories, and amplify their voices to create engaging content. When you create ungated thought leadership content by elevating member stories and experiences, you’ll develop trust in your organization and boost member engagement.

  • Pros: Ungated content offers many benefits in search engine optimization (SEO) by improving website rankings, providing valuable backlinks, and driving organic traffic to your association’s page. With ungated content, you’ll have a wider reach with non-members, creating more marketing opportunities for membership recruitment. Promoting ungated content on your social media platforms is an opportunity for thought leadership within your industry. 

TECH TIP: Use Nimble Communities to drive your online member community and encourage conversation around industry thought leadership by posting ungated content for further discussion.

  • Cons: With ungated content, you’re losing out on user analytics. If you only use ungated content, you can’t capture leads and track potential members who might wish to join your association. The bottom line is you’ll need to diversify your content offerings to provide additional value.

Gated content
Gated content, like white papers, e-books, templates, or webinars, is hidden behind a form fill-out. Individuals can view gated content only after they provide their email addresses and other pertinent information. You might consider putting gated content on your career or industry resource pages. Try offering three free articles to introduce individuals to your content, then gray out additional materials to encourage them to create an account to keep reading. 

  • Pros: With gated content, you’ll get an increase in lead generation. Gated content adds names to your association management software (AMS), allowing you to target individuals in future campaigns. You’ll also gain insights and data about both non-members and members. 
  • Cons: When you use gated content, you might see a decrease in website traffic and page views. There’s no SEO benefit to using gated content, nor will you see any boost to your brand visibility. Sometimes the gated content form fill may be a deterrent to individuals.

Paid Content
As the name suggests, paid content requires an individual to pay to read or interact with the content. A great example of paid content is an association’s learning programs, which many organizations provide on learning management software (LMS). Many individuals are eager to pay for access to professional development content to complete a certification. According to the Community Brands Study, 47% of members value certifications and credentials benefits.   

Offering a variety of paid content learning options for both members and non-members drives value to your association. Consider offering member and non-member rates for your learning program to incentivize non-members to join your association. When you prioritize paid content by investing in your learning program, you enhance member engagement and ensure members will return to your association for more professional development opportunities. 

TECH TIP: Integrate Nimble AMS with Crowd Wisdom, a Community Brands LMS, to level up your current learning program by providing a highly personalized online learning experience.

  • Pros: Paid content, like learning programs, research articles, or journal subscriptions, is a great form of non-dues revenue for your association. When considering your pricing structure, you’ll want to think about how best to improve the member experience. Should membership include unlimited access to the learning program? Should users pay a recurring fee for journal subscriptions? Asking these questions will help you maximize the impact of your paid content.  

TECH TIP: With Nimble AMS, you’ll have access to the Lightning Cross Sell functionality, which highlights related paid content like journals and academic articles for customers to view and purchase, emphasizing a personalized member experience and driving revenue for your association.

  • Cons: Paid content can be a difficult sell in this modern age where access to information is immediate and free. However, your association can overcome this challenge by showing the benefits of your learning program. Try offering ungated content samples of professional development courses to give them a taste of what your learning program can truly offer.  

Learn more

Do you still have questions about how to organize your content marketing model and how to make the most of ungated, gated, and paid content? Watch our webinar on Pricing strategies for associations to adopt the best approach for your association.

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