The Tools I Use To Build Membership Sites

I’ve been asked many times what tools I use personally to build my membership site, the Blog Monetization Lab. This episode is my answer to that question.

Episode #123 | Episode Date: October 10, 2015

Today, here at Coffee Break, we are going to talk some more about membership sites. And because I’ve been asked many times what tools I use personally to build my membership site, the Blog Monetization Lab, this episode is my answer to that question.

We’ll discuss…

  • What membership plug-in do I use?
  • How do I build my sales pages and checkout page, and what do I REALLY think about Lead Pages?
  • How do I process credit cards?
  • How do I put together the Action Plans and courses?

Today, actually, we are going to specifically get a little bit technical. We are going to talk about the tools that I use to build membership sites. So we are going to talk about some specific tools that basically, this is how the Blog Monetization Lab is built. So if you have ever wondered how I put it together, this podcast is going to answer that question.

In all, I’m listing and discussing 8 specific tools that I use personally to operate the guts of the Blog Marketing Academy. So we are going to just kind of name off some tools here. I’m going to give you a little bit of information about it and why I choose to use it.

If you have been there before you actually might notice that it looks a little bit different now because the Blog Marketing Academy recently got a little bit of a facelift. It is actually more modern looking in many ways and it has got a lot more usability enhances especially inside the Blog Monetization Lab itself. The members have noticed a much better experience in there. But if you run on over to Coffee Break you will now see that you can listen to all episodes all the way back to the beginning; which has been a bit of an issue. We have been having a little bit of an issue with the RSS feeds not going all the way back and we are in the process of debugging that. Maybe by the time this episode comes out we’ll have it fixed. I’m not really sure, but regardless of that if you go to there, you will see a link to the full archives around the site all the way back to Episode 1; which then this was not even called Coffee Break Blogging. It was called The Blog Program. Whoooh! Exciting name! 😀

And then if you want to go back to the very beginning of Coffee Break and follow along chronologically with us, we started out with Episode 30 or so, you can now do that without anything getting in your way.

So let us talk about the tools that I use to build membership sites…


MemberMouse is the primary plug-in that I use on top of WordPress to actually power the membership site. It is what controls all the access; it is where I set up the products. It is an extremely, extremely robust membership site platform. I used to use WishList Member and I got a little bit peed off at it and I don’t use it anymore, obviously. I went from that into a system that worked directly with my CRM which is Ontraport, which I will be mentioning again here in a little bit, but at the time there were some issues with Ontraport and their membership site plug-in working all that well. Well, I think some of those issues have been rectified since, but it made me go shopping. And I am kind of glad that it happened because when I went out there and did some additional research into it I was finding tons… There are a lot of membership site plug-in options out there. There is Member Press, Digital Access Pass, WishList Member… Just tons and tons of these things. And at the end of the day, most of them have the same basic functionality but then you find those who just stand out from the pack. And one of those is most definitely MemberMouse.

It is kind of weird that it has got the word “mouse” on the title because this is no mouse of a plug-in. It is like an enterprise level membership site solution for WordPress. Now, don’t think that it has enterprise level pricing behind it. It has not. It is actually very affordable. It is just robust. One of my favorite things about it is how you can actually build full up-sell sequences, one-click up-sells similar to Amazon; even if they are not in the funnel itself actually buying things, they can come back; as long as they are logged in to their member account, you can literally have something there that they can buy with a single click as an add-on. It is an extremely powerful membership site platform.

So if you really want to turn your blog into a real business, here; MemberMouse is a great way to go. Lots of flexibility and again, the link to that… Now I will say that the links in the show notes for this Episode 123 will be my affiliate links. Some of these I do have an affiliate link to it and I do make a small commission if you do choose to buy that through me. But it does not cost you any extra, of course. And I am only telling you about the things that I use personally. So I don’t ever recommend anything just because of commission. I only tell you about what I use. And I love MemberMouse.

Optimize Press

Optimize Press is definitely not new to the market; many, many people know about it. It is designed to create professional looking landing pages and squeeze pages and sales pages and those types of things with WordPress. Now, these days, some of the bigger solutions like Lead Pages and Click Funnels and these guys seem to get a lot more attention. But the thing is, Lead Pages specifically; A: It is recurring which you pay for every month and it is not exactly cheap. The other thing is that I find it to be extremely limiting to what you can do with it. I pull my hair out every time I usually pay this. I really do not know why its people like it so much, to be honest with you.

Unless you are just really not any good at codes and you are not that particular at what it looks like, then Lead Pages is a great fit for you. But if you are willing to get your hands a little bit dirty and you want full flexibility to do whatever it is that you want, Optimize Press is a better way to go. And not only that, it is not a recurring fee. It is a one-time buy and you own it. And now I think you have to renew it after a year if you want continuing updates and support but it is not like it is going to stop working. Whereas, with Lead Pages or Click Funnels how your pages just disappear off the internet; it is completely different.

So in terms of my membership site where I used Optimize Press for is my sales page for the site; for any sales pages, whether it be for a front end product or even for the membership site, and also for my checkout page. One thing I like about Optimize Press being that it is all integrated inside of WordPress, that means that short codes and various other functions of WordPress are all going to work inside of an Optimize Press page. And so, the MemberMouse actually controls my checkout process; but because it does that by way of short codes, I can integrate the short codes into Optimize Press and therefore have full control of the look and feel of my checkout page with Optimize Press but have all the power and functionality of MemberMouse to do it. That is what I like about it. I also like, with Optimize Press is that I can literally do any damn thing that I want. I mean, it is not like Lead Pages where they allow me four options… I’m happy as long as I like those 4 things, but with Optimize Press I can do anything that I want. So I am a real big fan of Optimize Press for that reason.


Now, Stripe is for processing credit cards. This is how I process credit cards at the Blog Marketing Academy. I used to have a merchant account; actually I still do have a merchant account, I am just not running any transactions through it these days. I switched over to Stripe for multiple reasons. And I am, in the next episode of Coffee Break, Episode 124, I am going to talk more specifically about how to accept credit cards on your blog. But I will just tell you at this point; Episode 123 is that I am personally using Stripe and I like it a lot for multiple reasons. But another one is that it integrates beautifully with MemberMouse. And if you want to have that one-click buy capability in MemberMouse, you need to have something that supports it, and Stripe happens to be one of those.

If you try to use PayPal, MemberMouse will work with PayPal; it is just that you are not going to have that easy one-click buy because you have to send the member to PayPal in order to pay it and then they come back. Whereas, with Stripe, they stay at my site the entire time and they never leave the Blog Marketing Academy while they are buying things. And that is a beautiful thing. So Stripe is what I use for processing my credit cards. And you might want to check in to that as well because you do not have to apply for a merchant account and do all that more complex stuff. It is pretty easy to sign up for.

WP CourseWare

Now, WP CourseWare is what is called a learning management system for WordPress. It is what the courses inside the Academy is built on top of. And so, what I like about WP CourseWare is that you can set up your courses, you can organize the training units which is what it is called in WP CourseWare, into different modules and stuff like that and it is all organized by WP CourseWare. The other thing I like about it is that it provides my members’ progress control. And so I can control a person’s access through the course but they can also check it off as complete. So my students always know where they are. If I give them a 5 module course it is not like they are going to be like, “Where do I leave off on this thing?” It will literally color code the ones they have completed and it marks it off as complete and it automatically takes them to the next one.

And so that is why I like WP CourseWare. It has got a lot of other functionality built-in to it such as quizzing; which is a really powerful function that I am actually not using right now, but it is a learning manager system; it is designed specifically for building and managing courses inside of WordPress. And so, you take WP CourseWare and you couple that with a really robust membership site platform, you got a great, great system there.

To-do List Member

Now here is where I use this one: The main functionality of Blog Monetization Lab is what I call the Action Plans. Now the Action Plans are decidedly different than the courses in how they function. I am not going to get in to the philosophical reason why I do Actions Plans versus Courses, maybe we will talk about that on another time, but just from an onscreen perspective, it is not a multi-module fair like you would have with WP CourseWare. An Action Plan all fits on one screen and it has got a series of to-do list items and what you do is you click on that and it expands downward, tells you what to do, gives you the information that you need to do it and then when you are done you check it off and then you click it again and it is kind of accordion style; it will collapse back up and then you go to the next item; click it, it will expand down and so on and so on. And it will track your progress because you check each one off as you go. And that core functionality, in my case, was provided by To-do List Member where it actually checks off tasks.

I will be very upfront with you… I modified the hell out of To-do List Member to make it look like the Action Plans inside the Blog Monetization Lab. I’ve had many people ask me how that system works. There is also another very large membership site in my market called Digital Marketer Lab who has something very similar and they built theirs differently. They have got a very custom set up on top of a plug-in called “Pods”. Mine was very custom on top of To-do List Member. Highly customized; I will be upfront with you that when you install To-do List Member it will look nothing like my Action Plan system, okay? But that is what it is built upon, so for those who ask, there you go. To-do List Member; it is a cool little plug-in.

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is basically the most awesome forms plug-in you will ever find for WordPress. It is incredibly robust; I have not found anything better. It also has got a lot of community support behind it; add-on plug-ins for it, it is a beautiful plug-in. Now where I specifically use it for membership sites is to create forms that go inside my Action Plans or inside my courses. And what I ask for on the forms is not even all that material, but the reason I specifically like it is because it integrates beautifully into the WordPress user system.

And so when my members are logged in and they come to a form that I am asking them something, they do not have to enter their name or their email or any of that stuff. In fact, any information that is attached to their member account I can automatically send it into the form. But I do not even have to show it to them, it could be a hidden field. And so, it just makes sense, right? If somebody is logged in to their account at the Blog Marketing Academy, I already know who they are. My system should already know who they are. So therefore, if I ask them to fill out a form, I should not ask me who they are again because that just makes me look stupid.

So that is why I like Gravity Forms. You can do a number of beautiful things with Gravity Forms. I even got an add-on on top of Gravity Forms which turns it into a full progress log capability. The progress logs inside the Lab where people can fill them out and track their progress and access their own personal logs inside the Blog Monetization Lab is all powered by Gravity Forms with this additional add-on. I believe that might be called “Gravity View” or something like that; but if I was not using Gravity Forms it wouldn’t be possible. So that is Gravity Forms.


Now, Ontraport is how I host my email list but it is not like Aweber or MailChimp. This is a full marketing automation platform on par with InfusionSoft. And so, it really does, in many ways represent the guts of my business; all of my leads and members and everything; the database, is all inside of Ontraport. Now, I am not going to say here and tell you that you need this to start a membership site, okay? You most definitely don’t; it is not a cheapo, it starts of at $297 a month so I am not telling you to go out and get this.

Now, if you are up to this point, if you are running enough revenue now and you want to set up a membership site, then definitely check out Ontraport or InfusionSoft; it is a matter of personal preference there. But if you are not running enough revenue to justify that kind of expense yet, then you can do all this on top of Aweber or MailChimp. You are not going to have all that automation capability of one of the big guys, but it works pretty well. And MemberMouse works with several email providers right out the gate; Aweber, MailChimp, GetResponse, many others. And you can look at their sales page to find out what it would work with right out the gate. Now, unfortunately, MemberMouse does not work with Ontraport right out the gate. It also does not work with InfusionSoft right out the gate and it does not work with Active Campaign right out the gate. It just does not do that.


Now, Fuzed, the only purpose of that is to make MemberMouse and Ontraport talk to each other. It is a tool that I have to use because I use Ontraport. And if I were using Active Campaign or InfusionSoft, I will need the exact same thing. Fuzed works beautifully with MemberMouse; it knows all the integration with MemberMouse so you can run a number of different automations using Fuzed and if somebody does something on their account in MemberMouse I can tell Ontraport how to tag them and so over at Ontraport, I can react accordingly. And so, that is essentially how that works. So it is an additional monthly fee to have a Fuzed account, I kind of wished I didn’t need it, but I do at this point.

So once again, those are the tools that I use to build membership sites; MemberMouse, Optimize Press, Stripe, WP CourseWare, To-do List Member, Gravity Forms, Ontraport and Fuzed.

Hopefully you found that valuable; hopefully answered some questions and I would be happy to answer yours, by the way. If you have questions about a tool that I did not mention here, feel free to shoot me an email. You can email me at david@blogmarketingacademy.com and I will try to get back to you just as soon as I can.

I will see you on the next episode of Coffee Break Blogging!