If 2020 has proved one thing, it's that nothing is guaranteed. Thousands of businesses shuttered for good, while others that were once on the brink of closure are now thriving. But out of all the chaos that this past year has brought, one clear trend has emerged: Membership sites are the way of the future. 

While it may not initially seem like membership sites are the right model for everyone, the evidence for their success has quickly become overwhelming. The model is not without its risks, but as a path to guaranteeing steady revenue levels for your business, membership is currently unrivaled. More and more businesses will be adopting the systems made popular by Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Disney+ -- here's how you can do so too. 

Determine your offering.

OK, so it's pretty clear what top membership platforms like Netflix would be offering, but where does your business step in? For the vast majority of small businesses, the transition to a membership-based model is not necessarily a clear one. The key is to not try and force a square peg through a round hole -- if the shoe doesn't fit, adjust the size. 

Adriene Mishler had long been a successful yoga instructor but was unsure of how to re-create the sense of community she created in her studio on a digital platform. The answer was, of course, a membership service -- one that boasts an ever-growing subscriber count numbering in the tens of thousands. Instead of altering the core of what she did, Mishler took elements of her practice and used them to build an online platform, Find What Feels Good. Your membership site doesn't need to look exactly like your business does; it needs to be the version of your business best optimized for membership. 

Find a membership platform.

Once you've hammered out your central ideas and offerings, you need to be able to manage your members. While larger operations may be able to build membership platforms of their own, most opt for prefabs built by other companies.

And for good reason. Platforms such as Ontraport make managing members and streamlining payments a breeze, and require little technical skill on your part. The pre-built Membership Starter Kit helps guide you along as you build out your membership site and comes with a platform and support team you can rely on. Your members need to know that their money, accounts, and personal information are all being handled with the utmost care and security; choose a membership platform that allows you to guarantee that for them. 

Keep content quality and quantity high. 

The appeal of a membership site is obvious: The odds of establishing a recurring income for your company are high, especially considering that 35 percent percent of Americans are paying for one or more subscriptions they aren't even aware of, according to a survey conducted by CreditCards.com. The catch here is that, while consumers are more likely than not to maintain subscriptions, the threat of cancellation always looms if dissatisfaction arises. 

Remember Quibi? The platform generated quite a bit of excitement as the "next generation" of entertainment, bridging the gap between television and short-form media. Decidedly lukewarm reception for the service's initial offerings, though, proved to be the site's Achilles' heel -- a staggering 92 percent of those on a free trial declined to move to a paid subscription. Before you launch your membership site, do not skimp on content planning. Investment now will lead to results later. 

There's no magic recipe to success for membership sites, but there are still some guidelines that all new entrants into the ring should follow. By starting off on the right foot, you can develop a dedicated user base -- from there, the possibilities are endless.