4 Access Models for Courses and Memberships

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There are different ways you can choose for people to gain access to your courses or memberships. In this LMScast Chris Badgett of codeBOX will tell you about 4 access models for courses and memberships and how to choose the one that will work best for your situation.

In a previous episode Chris detailed the top 10 pricing models for online courses and membership sites, and these 4 access models dovetail nicely into continuing that discussion. The first access model is lifetime access, which works well for passive, evergreen reference content. It can help you make the sale, but it’s not scalable. If you do one-on-one coaching, email support, or other forms of direct interaction you won’t be able to maintain lifetime access to that. Software requires updates and support, so think hard about sustainability before promising lifetime access.

For most online training applications you want to get in, do the training, and get out. It’s a temporary contract, and most people don’t have a long-term attention span. Our second access model is called limited time access expiration. It lasts for a set period of time and then it ends. Really, most training is only relevant for a certain time period even when the results are good forever. With this model you set an active window of time for access to the course. At the end of that time the user is deleted from the course, but not from your site. Their account will still be available if they want to take another course from you.

The third access option is the specific access window that has a start date and an end date for everyone taking the course. It’s a great way to train a group all at once, perhaps a team, within a set time frame. And finally the fourth access model is the specific launch or ability to buy window. This is excellent for launching a new or updated course and involves setting a limited time to buy or gain access to the training. You can even combine the specific access window with a specific launch window. And you can layer pricing models with access models in a variety of ways.

These 4 access models for courses and memberships are already built into LifterLMS for you so you don’t need a third-party eCommerce engine to use these capabilities. You can simply create and sell engaging, protected online courses the way you want them all in one solution. For more details on these access models and how to choose the right one visit the LifterLMS blog.

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Episode Transcript

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and in this episode we’re going to be talking about the four access models for courses and memberships. Now what are we talking about here? In the last episode, we talked about the top ten pricing models that you can use to sell your online courses or your membership or your memberships or stack some side by side to give people multiple options or a pricing table, if you will, at checkout. Another important component besides pricing, things like a one-time payment, a flat recurring payment or free-with-membership or a dollar trial, these things are really important. What also dovetails nicely into that are four access models that you can use to automate and add an access component to your pricing model.

The first one … we’re going to talk about four of them, and the first one is called lifetime access. And I’m sure we’ve all come across this. We’ve seen this. When you discover a course is for sale, if you invest in it, if you purchase it or if you enroll in it for free, you are promised lifetime access to that course. Now, that’s a good thing in some cases. It’s not a good thing in other cases. When is it good? It’s good when the content is just of a passive nature, it’s evergreen, there’s probably not a live component in there, and it’s really just reference material and you can put it on your shelf metaphorically and just come back to it over and over again as needed. I like to say lifetime access might help you get the sale but your platform still needs to scale. What do I mean by that?

I mean, I see a lot of people offering lifetime access to their courses and memberships when it’s not really a good idea. It may help close the sale and create higher conversion because you’re making a promise of you’ll have lifetime access, but if you have things like live one-on-one coaching, email support, these types of things, it’s not necessarily a good idea because if your platform does become very successful, you might have a scalability problem where you can no longer keep that promise for all that one-on-one direct high touch interaction with you. It just may not scale. You might be making a promise that you can’t keep. We see this all the time in the software world.

People ask us about LifterLMS, “Hey, is this a one-time payment for lifetime access?” The answer is, “No, it’s not. It’s an annual license fee.” The reason for that is because software requires updates and support, so if I were to promise lifetime access to those things, that doesn’t scale. The product needs to be able to fund future development, to pay people to provide support and pay people to make updates to the software. You need to think about sustainability very carefully before you promise lifetime access.

The other thing I would add to that is there’s attention scarcity out there, so people are very busy, people have never been so busy and so bombarded with information, training options, opportunities, courses, opportunities for personal and professional development that if you think lifetime access gives you a competitive differentiator in your marketplace, I might argue that you might be a little off on that statement. The reason I mean by that is in most cases, when there’s a promise of training or to help somebody solve some kind of problem, it’s temporary in nature. It’s not that …

You want to get in. Your training needs to help somebody and then you want to get out. You make your promise. It happens over a set period of time and then you’re done because if you think about it, when you’ve learned things in your life, the actual training part was only relevant for a certain period of time. Sure, there’s things where you’re constantly doing lifelong learning and so on. In a lot of cases, for an online course or some kind of membership or training system, it really is only relevant for a certain amount of time. The results may last forever but the training does not need to happen for a lifetime.

A lot of people have books on their bookshelf that they never touch again, so I would encourage you to perhaps think about not doing lifetime access. That gets into our second access model which is called limited time access expiration. Now, there’s two ways to do this. One way is to expire the access to the course after a certain amount of time, from purchase or free enrollment. A common option for this is like a ninety days access, so after you buy this course or this training program, you have access for ninety days. Or what’s also common is like a year, so you have access to this for a year, but then when you’re done, like with LifterLMS, if you set it up this way, it will automatically remove that learner from that course after one year.

It doesn’t delete them off of the system. They still have a user account. They could buy another course and not have to create an account again. They are removed from that course. The other option is to expire based on a specific date. If your course is more temporal in nature or there’s really a reason for people to be moving through there and really finishing at one time for whatever reason, whether that’s there’s tutors that are involved and they’re only going to be around until the holiday or whatever it is, sometimes you expire a training program or a membership on a specific date. That’s another way to do limited time access expiration.

The other option is to do a specific access window. I think it’s easy to get seduced on the Internet with the “Everything’s always for sale, always online. Take any time. It’s evergreen. Your course could be bought at any time anywhere by anybody.” In some cases, some of the most valuable courses are actually … They want people moving through there as a cohort, as a group. There’s a start date. There’s an end date. You may buy it before the actual access window opens, or you may not be able to buy it until the access window’s open or you may be able to buy it during the time the access window’s open but then it’s going to shut down a week before the end or something like that. A specific access window is really important too for …

Like I said, be very careful with that access lifetime mentality. Perhaps you just want people, you want to move, let’s say, a group of people through your training program once or twice a year or even quarterly, four times a year. You start on the first of the month. It’s a thirty day training program. It ends on the end of the month. You only offer it once, twice, four times a year, even once a month. Maybe you’re always rolling people through it but they’re going through it at the same time, starting at the beginning of the month and ending at the end of the month. That’s a specific access window.

The next option is the specific launch or the ability to buy window. Now, in a software like LifterLMS, this is where you can set up a time when people can only invest or get access to a course during a certain period of time. This is often called a launch. You have a launch window, cart open, cart close. People can only get the ability, the right to purchase or enroll for free if it’s a free course during a specific enrollment access window. That’s really common if you’re doing a launch just like you could combine this way of thinking with the method we described before where you have a specific access window accompanied by a specific launch window. Let’s say you open up your course twice a year. One of them opens up on January 1st.

Let’s say you have a specific launch or ability to buy window one week before January 1st, so the last week in December, you may have an access window for the ability to purchase that course. Now then, on top of these access plans, you can layer on pricing. Let’s say we’re doing that pre-launch, cart open, cart close one week before a course. It’s only going to last thirty days starting on the first of the year. Let’s say we want to offer a one-time payment of a thousand dollars or three payments of three hundred and ninety-nine dollars and then potentially we could add another payment plan option on there as well.

You can see how I’m combining access windows with pricing to really structure an intelligent pricing and access model for your online course or your membership. If you want to find out more about this, you can head on over to the LifterLMS blog. Just do a quick search for the four access models for courses and memberships. You’ll also see a post right before that about the ten most popular pricing models that you can do with LifterLMS. One of the amazing things about LifterLMS is that it allows you to do all this without needing a separate third party eCommerce engine or membership site plugin to control access.

It’s all built for you inside of this online course tool and membership site tool so you can really create engaging online courses that are protected and they have the ability to be sold and accessed in the way you want all for one solution without having to string together a bunch of third party options to make it happen. All right. Thank you for checking out this episode of LMScast, and we’ll catch you in the next one.

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