First thing’s first, what is a membership site? A membership site is essentially an exclusive part of your eCommerce store or blog that is only available to those who have made a site account or subscribed to a certain service, i.e members! It’s important to realize that a membership site isn’t only for those eStores where the entire store is limited to members—a good plugin will allow you to segment your site into free and paid areas. Before identifying what WordPress plugins are best for membership sites, let’s quickly go over the benefits you’ll receive upon install the right plugin.
More Value For Customers
Members who have access to exclusive content, resources, discounts and assets can better —or more meaningfully—achieve the goals they set out to accomplish when visiting your site. They gain long-term value from being a member, and become ultra loyal customers.
Membership is usually charged monthly, but can be anywhere from weekly to yearly; customers who subscribe to a longer membership usually do so because it’s more cost-effective. After some time you eventually gain a base number of members who you feel safe in assuming will keep their membership for the next month, so you can predict the gross income from memberships for a certain period of time. Of course, there will be cancellations, but there will also be new sign-ups. As long as you keep providing a satisfying user experience, you can expect your revenue to grow.
Building Customer Loyalty
With a large membership base, you create your own community. Members initially join up because your product, service or content provides a solution. However, by signing up they have become a part of something bigger, where they can discuss with those who have similar interests, problems and extra information that they can benefit from. This allows you to better communicate with and understand your members better and adapt your business to better serve them!
Marketing With Pre-Invested Engagement
Marketing has a huge influence on business success and growth. It’s hard to figure out what your users want when they’re not talking to you or don’t care who you are. Members, on the other hand, are already interested and therefore are a lot easier to target, retarget or create segmented marketing plans for.
Because you can better communicate with members, they can give you their own suggestions for products or services—if the suggestion is a big enough trend it’s probably worth implementing. Furthermore, it shows your listening to your members when changes in your business reflect their voice!
Exponential Growth Potential
With membership sites, there is always the possibility of experiencing a large influx of growth. Scaling a membership website usually comes from looking within your community and fine tuning your services in a way opens up additional revenue services, such as live events or new membership levels. The big positive being that business growth doesn’t necessarily have to be the result of external costs increasing, such as marketing staff or inventory. This is opposed to other eCommerce businesses who have to invest a significant increase in overhead costs to achieve such growth.
Gaining a Well Established Niche
A membership site is exclusive and that exclusivity is a statement— you’re claiming a certain piece of ground in your industry. This niche is why your members have decided to subscribe to your site, and with enough members, you can solidify yourself as an industry authority for your area of specialization. However, you need to have valuable content, products or services, educational or entertaining resources that allow you to gain such a following. Always remember your success and reputability is based on how useful your body of work is, compared to the rest of your competitors.
What Makes A Great WordPress Membership Plugin?
There are an abundance of membership plugins to choose from, external to the options present on the incoming list. The main difference between those that are popular and those that are unpopular is the specific features that make them able to be tailored to your site requirements.
Different plugins will be more suited for selling one type of subscription or membership. While others will work better for sites that offer differing levels of membership or subscription periods.
Drip content is an important feature to consider a plugin to have. Drip content allows you to release exclusive content within a membership slowly; only certain members get access.
Payment gateways are another consideration. You want the plugin you choose to support your preferred payment gateway, whether you want to offer credit card, Paypal or other payment options.
Below are 5 of the most popular WordPress membership plugins, discussing the features that set them apart from the rest.
MemberPress has become one of the most popular WordPress membership plugins partly because it is so simple to use!
Positives of MemberPress
Ease of Setup: Login, member accounts, pricing and thank you pages are quickly created by MemberPress. Implementing more member subscriptions or options is also easily done.
Content Limiting: Access control is an essential part of membership sites. MemberPress allows owners to easily restrict content that is unavailable to certain members such as: pages, posts, tags, files or categories.
Content Dripping: You can drip content with MemberPress. This is a great asset to have with your plugin and is particularly useful if selling educational material or similar.
Third-Party Integration: MemberPress can integrate with the following services: MailChimp, GetResponse, MadMimi email and Aweber. Such integrations can extend the functionality of a membership plugin and can help it better meet your business requirements.
Payment Options: MemberPress supports Stripe and Paypal. Furthermore, it has the potential to support Authorize.net with the help of a WordPress developer.
Negatives of MemberPress
Should Support More Payment Options: The payment gateways MemberPress supports (mentioned above) are only the most popular options. Many WordPress entrepreneurs prefer to use other gateways, in fact their country of operation in may not even offer those gateways.
Integration Restrictive: Even though MemberPress does have enough integration options to create a well functioning membership website it lacks further integration with other well known services that your competitors may use. However, developer optimization can easily increase your integration options if needed!
On a final note, MemberPress is probably the most simple membership plugin in this list and is a great option for those wanting no technical hassle.
LearnDash is another plugin that makes creating a membership site simple, but has the added advantage of more flexibility.
Positives of LearnDash
Ease of Setup: LearnDash is also easy to set up; content implementation is especially simple. It also features tools that allow owners to organize membership content into different groups or levels depending on how your subscription works.
Exclusive Content: When needing to restrict content to certain member groups, this can be easily done.
Selling Online Courses: As the name suggests LearnDash is best suited for selling online educational courses. It has modules in place to better organize and manage such material.
Content Dripping: When wanting to drip material, this can be easily done in regular intervals or when a customer purchases a new membership level.
Community Encouragement Tools: LearnDash comes with a range of tools to encourage community engagement such as: user profiles, certificates, quizzers, user badges and forums tailored towards your product or services.
Payment Gateway Support and Integration: LearnDash supports a wide range of payment gateways and general integrations. Such integrations include Stripe, WooCommerce and SamCart—see LearnDash’s extension page to view all available options.
Negatives of LearnDash
If You’re Not Selling Courses: If your membership site isn’t selling courses, then some LearnDash features may not have any use for your business. Meaning you may find more functionality with an alternative plugin.
Cost: For one site license and one years support (update inclusive), the cost is $159 (USD).
This plugin has established itself as one of the best membership plugins for WordPress and is necessary to consider before making a final choice.
Positives of Restrict Content Pro
Simplicity: This plugin is easy to integrate with WordPress and is user friendly when learning how to function the plugin.
Complimentary Integrations: This is a big difference between this plugin and other options. It comes with built-in plugins such as Stripe, PayPal, email manager, CSV export, MailChimp, MailPoet and many more. With other plugins you would have to separately integrate these services, which can take more time and money.
Payment Gateway Support: As stated above, some payment gateways are already integrated (Stripe, PayPal, Braintree). But, it supports plenty of other options such as PayPal pro, PayPal Express and 2Checkout.
Support Services: There is plenty of documentation available for WordPress users wanting to find their own solutions or plugin optimization. You also can access plenty of support via email and the plugin is developer friendly if you want external support.
Negatives of Restrict Content Pro
Built-in Integrations May Not Serve You: If the built-in integrations that this plugin comes with doesn’t quite serve your WordPress site requirements then this plugin may not be the most efficient choice.
Pricing: There are three pricing options you want to consider for this plugin:
- $99 gets you 12 addons and a single site licence.
- $145 gets you the same, except you can create 5 different sites.
- $249 gets you all addons and unlimited sites.
Plugin Optimization: Hiring a WordPress Developer
No matter what plugin you’ll choose there will always be aspects, features or integrations that leaves a bit to be desired. The more your plugin meets the specific requirements of your business, the more membership site success you will achieve. This is the same for any type of WordPress site and any type of plugin.
To get the best out of your plugins, extensions, and addons you need to unlock their customization potential. This is done through the expertise of a reputable WordPress developer who has plenty of experiencing optimizing WordPress sites and all of their built-in features. When hiring a developer you have two options: you can hire a freelancer or hire a specialist from a web development company. Below I will give recommended options for either type of hiring.
If hiring a freelance WordPress developer then you should stick to Upwork. When choosing a developer it’s important you check their previous job success, work history, and feedback. Freelance sites will give you the possibility of hiring some very cheap options, but quality assurance will fluctuate greatly—the cheapest option will often cost you more when you have to fix everything!
Hiring: Web Development Company
When hiring a WordPress expert, you want to only consider those that have plenty of industry experience, a rich company portfolio and offer specialist WordPress development services (not generalists). Taking this into account, our recommended web development company would be CodeClouds. They have a decade worth of industry experience, and over five specializing as WordPress experts. They’re also a global presence, with offices in the US, India, New Zealand and Australia, meaning you can receive tech support at almost any moment.
To make the most out of your hiring period with a developer, especially if wanting a long-term relationship, then this article on managing developer productivity is a useful read!