Do You NEED Subscription Plans for Your Membership Site?

by | Mar 12, 2023 | Resources

“Subscription” seems to be on everyone’s lips these days — but are subscription plans everything there is to building online communities (and generating revenue as a result?)

In this article, we’re taking an honest and unbiased look at subscription plans, why they make sense, when they don’t make sense, and how to make the most of them (if they’re right for you, that is.)

Read on if you want to learn more.

What Is a Subscription Plan?

A subscription plan is a  pricing model whereby customers pay a recurring fee to access your product or service. This type of plan is often used to offer an all-in-one solution that includes a range of features, such as access to content or software updates.

Overall, subscription-driven businesses are quite popular. A staggering 92% of young Americans say they have at least one subscription service on their “payroll.” And it’s not just the young demographic buying into the subscription economy — all in all, the subscriptions segment grew by 435% over nine years (from 2014 to 2021), showing a clear upward trend.

Top Reasons to Get Subscription Plans for Your Membership Site

Just because everyone else is either subscribing or building a subscription business, it doesn’t mean you should too. If you’re considering a subscription-based membership business, you need good reasons. Here are some of them:

Predictable Revenue

While a subscription plan won’t give you a crystal ball, it will give you enough information to make educated guesses about your membership site’s revenue. This can be invaluable in budgeting, planning, and marketing. It will allow you to plan and work on membership business growth tactics with a fuller view of the bigger picture.

High Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Lifetime Value is one of the most important metrics for any business. Many subscription plans come with additional benefits, such as discounts or exclusive access to content, encouraging customers to stick around.

subscription plans customer lifetime value

Better Engagement

When people pay for something every month, they’re more likely to engage with it.  Subscribers have skin in the game and are more likely to be invested in their membership than those with free accounts. Even if you do offer a free version in your subscription plans, good email nurturing can still keep your members more engaged than if you didn’t offer any subscription plans.

Improved Retention

Subscription plans can help you retain members. Most subscription plans offer discounts or exclusive content that encourage people to stay subscribed and with the right email nurture campaigns, you can further boost your retention and keep customers coming back month after month.

Better Data and Insights

When people subscribe to your membership site, you get access to a lot more statistically relevant data about who your members are, what they like, and what they don’t. This can be invaluable in helping you to better understand your members and make data-driven decisions about how to grow and improve your membership site business, as well as how to market to your customers.

subscription plans data and insight

Top Reasons to Not Implement a Subscription Plan

Subscription plans are not for everyone — nor they are supposed to be. Here are some cons of implementing a subscription plan for your membership business:

Low Conversion Rates

People may be more reticent to commit to a subscription plan than a one-off purchase. This means that your conversion rates may be lower than you expected and you might have to work harder on converting mere visitors/ your audience into actual subscribers/ buyers.

High Churn Rates

Churn rate is the percentage of customers who stop using your product or service within a certain time frame. Subscription plans tend to have higher churn rates, as people can easily cancel their subscriptions if they’re not satisfied with your product or service. You need to ensure you provide enough value to keep your subscribers around and engaged.

churn rates

Increased Need for Customer Service

Subscription plans also come with an increased demand for customer service and support. Customers expect more from a subscription than they do a one-off purchase, and as such, you need a customer service system in place to deal with any issues that may arise.

Limited Upsell Opportunities

When they buy into a subscription plan, people are already paying for it. Aside from trying to upsell them into a higher-tiered plan, there’s little likelihood you’ll succeed at any other type of upsell. This means you don’t have as much of an opportunity to tap into the upsell potential as you would with a one-off purchase.

Increased Competition

Another potential con of implementing a subscription plan is that you may face increased competition as more and more businesses move towards this model. In addition, customers may become pickier as they now have a greater selection of subscription plans to choose from.

Types of Membership Sites that Work with Subscription Plans

Some types of membership sites are cut for subscription plan-based business models. For example, the following membership site categories often do well with a subscription model:

Online Courses or Educational Programs

Online courses and educational programs tend to do well on subscription plan-based models because people are more likely to commit to an ongoing program than a one-off course.

Business Coaching or Consulting Services

Similarly, business coaching and consulting services offer continued value, so subscription plans can be a great way to offer these services and make them more accessible.

Fitness or Wellness Programs

Fitness and wellness programs are another category that works well on subscription plans. People want the support of an ongoing program to help them reach their fitness level — and maintain it. So they are happier to subscribe to an ongoing program, rather than a one-off cookie-cutter fitness plan.

fitness membership site

Creative Growth Communities

Creative growth communities like writing, design, or music communities often work well with subscription plans. People want ongoing support and access to resources to help them grow in their craft, so subscription plans can be the perfect fit.

Career Growth Communities

Career growth communities also do well on subscription plans. People want to support and resources to help them advance in their careers, so subscriptions can be the perfect way to provide that support.

Personal Development or Coaching Services

Personal development and coaching services are also perfect for a subscription plan. People often need ongoing guidance and supportive resources to help them reach their goals, so subscription plans can be ideal.

Online Communities or Forums

Online communities and forums are an excellent fit for subscription plans, since people tend to stick around when they have access to an ongoing community with helpful resources and support.

Types of Membership Sites That Don’t Work with Subscription Plans

Alright, if the aforementioned examples work well with subscription websites, then what about  the types of membership sites that don’t work well with this model? Well, typically it’s those offering one-off services or products. Essentially, any kind of membership site that’s based on a time-limited offering (such as a single course — without a support community — or one software people can buy once and use for an extended amount of time without support.)


Subscription plans are all the rage these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect for just about anyone who wants to start an online business or add a new revenue stream to their income.  Before launching a subscription business model, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of this approach to ensure you’re making the right decision for your specific business.

Whether you decide to require a one-time payment (and bundle your upsell products in other packages) or opt for a subscription plan, remember that a good membership site plugin can give you the flexibility and control you need to make the most out of your membership site.  And when it comes to WordPress membership site plugins, Ultimate Membership Pro has everything you need — for a price you cannot beat. Give it a try today!

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