This is part 1 of 4 of a series on Membership Sites & Recurring Income.
There are many different ways to build a membership site these days. Quite frankly, it can be pretty overwhelming.
I’ve tried a lot of different options, so I’m going to share with you what I believe is the easiest and best combination of tools to build your membership site.
- Wordpress. Wordpress has so many plug-ins and so many opportunities for expandability, it is a great platform for a membership site. I recommend a new and separate installation of Wordpress (separate from your main blog). You can still have it on the same domain if you wish.
- Wishlist Member. This is the easiest way to set up a membership site with Wordpress. The last time I heard, Wishlist powers over 24,000 membership sites, so you’ll be in good company.
- OptimizePress. This will be your theme for your membership site. While OP does other things, it is AWESOME as a membership site portal. You can customize many things and it also automates things like video players, menu generation, etc. Using OP as your member training portal, you will look VERY professional even if you have no idea how to code anything by yourself. I use OP for several sites now and it is, without a doubt, one of the single best purchases I’ve made in the last several years for my business.
- WP Drip. I recommend you set up what is called “content drip” on your membership site. In other words, you don’t give everything you’ve got to your members right when they sign up. You “drip” content to them over time so that they’re not overwhelmed and they stick around longer. All this means is that they’ll get pre-scheduled content released to them over time. Wishlist Member’s way of doing drip content is pretty tedious. So, if you couple on WP Drip, you have a very powerful and flexible drip system for your membership site.
Obviously, none of this will work unless you hook it up to some form of payment system. A lot of people use Paypal because it is easy. But, you might want to consider Clickbank, since they have the built-in affiliate program.
Of course, the best option is to get your own merchant account. When you process cards yourself, you have the ultimate in flexibility, you’re able to do things like 1-click upsells, plus you retain full control of all renewals. For that, I recommend PowerPay and coupling it with a shopping cart. My favorite shopping cart right now is Nanacast (which you can integrate with Wishlist Member using this plug-in).
There are a few other components which can be nice to have, but aren’t really necessary:
- Gravity Forms. This is a very powerful form builder for Wordpress. It really is the best form plug-in out there. While it is usable in a variety of ways, I love using it for all my membership sites as a contact form as well as a testimonial collector. Not only that, you can use it to collect questions from your members. It is handy, too, because it will easily pre-fill the name/email of your member based on their membership, so it saves them the hassle.
- Easy Video Player. While Optimizepress has a built-in video player which is perfectly suitable, one of the (many) capabilities of EVP which make it nice is the fact that it can secure the location of any videos you put into your membership site. Which means tech-savvy people can’t find the location of your video and link to it while bypassing your membership site. EVP does a lot of other nifty things that make it truly the best video player on the market, but for membership sites, the security is pretty handy.
- SimplePress. This is a very capable forum system which integrates directly with Wordpress. This means it will work beautifully with Wishlist Member and embeds beautifully into Optimizepress. If you want a members-only forum, Simplepress is great. There are other awesome forum options out there, but if they don’t come with built-in Wordpress integration, you’ve just given yourself a big tech hurdle to deal with. And who needs that?
So, it might seem as if there are many parts here. Actually, it isn’t complicated at all. All of these things are plug-ins for Wordpress and they install VERY easily. And, my recommendation is that you buy licenses which allow you to use them on multiple sites. This way, you buy one, and you never have to buy it ever again – even if you create 100 membership sites.
Lastly, if you’re the cynical type, you might think I’m linking to these because many of them are not free and I’m using affiliate links (which I am), but rest assured, I personally use every single solution on this page. These tools are what I use to build my membership sites. For me to list any other option than these would be disingenuous.
To end off, I’d like to invite you to watch the following presentation. This is a recording of a live webinar I did, called The Quickest Path To A Market-Ready Membership Site. I also have a supplement document which you can download below, and goes with the presentation.
To see the rest of this series, visit the guide on membership sites & recurring income.