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3 Successful Business Models Built Around Content

I strongly believe in content marketing. It’s one of the most effective ways to build credibility and establish a presence online, but it’s also a great way to create additional revenue streams for your business. Here are just three examples of successful business models built around content.

Products and e-Books

If you have an extensive amount of knowledge on a given topic, you can capitalize on that by creating and selling products and e-books, like Chris Guillebeau at Unconventional Guides and Naomi Dunford at IttyBiz.

You could create e-books, audio books and even things like workbooks and planning kits. For instance, if you were an organizational expert or a virtual assistant, you might create kits that help your customers organize different areas of their life and business, like a project management planning kit, or if you were a fitness expert, you might have a weight loss planning kit.

The Pros: The great thing about products and e-books is that they are completely automated and can literally sell while you sleep. Once they’re created and on your site, they can continue selling for you over the life of your business. Also, as you create more products, there’s the opportunity for cross-selling, up-selling and bundling.

The Cons: The bad side is they can take a lot of work on the front end to create, so for instance, if you’re wanting to write an e-book, it might take you several months or more to actually generate the content and format the book. There’s also the delayed gratification. It won’t start generating income for you until you have it on your site. Of course, if you’ve created popular products in the past, you could have an advanced selling list, where your followers can purchase the product or book (perhaps with a discount of other incentive) before it releases.

A Membership Site

As with products and e-books, all you really need to start a membership site is extensive knowledge of a topic (and, of course, the willingness to build up your subscribers). Yaro Starak at, Dave Navarro at The Launch Coach, and Darren Rowse at Problogger have all created successful followings based, at least in part, around membership sites.

It doesn’t have to be an overly-complicated setup. You could have a members-only blog, send exclusive emails or have a members-only forum, and it could be a really fun way to stay engaged with your following. If you were a personal trainer, for instance, you might have an online fitness club that provides recipes, exercise videos and support for your subscribers. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.

The Pros: The great thing about membership sites is that you don’t have to create the content in advance, so if you are able to generate a lot of initial buzz and interest, you could theoretically start generating additional revenue for your business right away, without having to wait for the content to be created. Also, you can create products and e-books from the content as you go.

The Cons: Naturally, generating interest and acquiring subscribers can be a challenge (although the same will be true of getting customers to purchase products). Another disadvantage might be the commitment required from you. If it’s a year-long program, for example, you have to at least deliver on what was promised for the program for that length of time, but that can take as little as a few hours a week to maintain.

Tele-seminars and Workshops

Laura Roeder has created a successful model for her business by offering online classes geared toward her target audience. You can create your own targeted tele-seminars and workshops that use audio, video and articles (or a mix of all three), and you can choose to have them completely automated or with you as the facilitator.

As with a membership site, this is another great way to stay engaged with your customers and clients, and again, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. This is a great way to break down frequently asked questions or areas within your business where people often contact you for free advice or consulting.

The Pros: The great thing about tele-seminars and workshops is that you can create the content once and simply repeat it time and time again, whereas with membership sites, you have to continually create content, depending on your setup. Also, they can be really quick to implement. You don’t necessarily have to create quite as much content as with a product or e-book, and you can use a lot of ready-made services to get it going, like EventBrite, Calliflower and WebEx.

The Cons: Generating interest is always going to be an issue, regardless of the content model you choose, but aside from that, the other possible disadvantage for tele-seminars and workshops is your own boredom — especially if you actually facilitate the events and host them with any regularity. Of course, you can always alternate the events that you do, or get someone to help you with facilitation.

There are a variety of ways to build additional revenue streams into your business using content, and the great thing is, you’re probably already creating content through your blog, newsletter, or podcast, so you should have a good base of material to start with.

What ways have you used content marketing to generate income in your business?

Photo by Flickr user Kanzeon Zen Center, licensed under CC 2.0

5 Responses to “3 Successful Business Models Built Around Content”

  1. Nice! There is delayed gratification when writing a ebook but it is very satisfying when it is complete. The good thing about writing a ebook or even a traditional book is that the start up cost is very low.