To build a successful membership site in WordPress, you’ll need a powerful yet flexible membership plugin. Given the wide variety of membership plugins to choose from, finding the right option for your specific needs can be difficult.
In this article, we’ll step through some of the most important features you should consider when choosing a membership plugin for your WordPress website.
#1: Ease of Use
How easy a membership plugin is to use will vary from person to person. The goal is to make sure you’re able to set everything up and get your site up and running without having to hire a developer.
Running a membership site requires a lot of time and effort and is typically an on-going project. More specifically, membership sites require continuous content creation not to mention you’ll have to spend a significant amount of time building your online community. So, you need to make sure that you can do all of this using your membership plugin without any hassle.
For example, you should check to see how easy it is to:
- Upload course content to your membership site.
- Create quizzes and assignments.
- Add new membership levels.
- Restrict access to certain categories, courses, or posts.
If you’re creating a membership site for a client, you need to make sure they can easily navigate around its different sections and features. For example, if your client isn’t particularly tech-savvy, you should go for a plugin that’s simple and intuitive and doesn’t require any coding knowledge.
Finally, you should choose a membership plugin that’s easy to configure. While there are a number of plugins out there that offer great features, they aren’t the most intuitive options when it comes to setting things up.
#2: Payment Options
If you’re like most membership site owners, you probably want to generate a subscription-based revenue stream. Here’s how it works: members pay a small monthly fee to get access to exclusive content. The success of your WordPress membership site depends on how easy it is for members to register and pay their subscription fees. This, of course, includes giving them multiple payment options (for example online and offline payments) and gateways (such as PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net) to choose from.
Most WordPress membership plugins come with some sort of e-commerce integration (such as WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads) that allow you to collect payments from customers. Since people prefer to make payments through the payment gateway of their choice, offering as many payment options as possible can help you increase memberships and generate more revenue.
If you’re looking to offer a specific payment gateway to your customers, we recommend that you use a membership plugin that supports it. This way, you won’t have to hire a developer to build a custom solution for you.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the membership plugin you choose should let you sell online courses and downloadable resources. Selling course content to students and members is a great way to boost your income. Some membership plugins have built-in features that let you sell these products while others integrate with add-ons and extensions that add e-commerce features to your membership website.
#3: Managing Members
Aside from offering multiple membership levels, you also need to keep in mind that members might want some level of control over their membership experience. For example, they might want to be able to cancel their membership after the third month or temporarily suspend it for a few weeks.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important to go for a membership plugin that gives members access to a dashboard from where they can:
- Cancel or temporarily cancel their membership
- Resume their membership at a later date.
- Switch between membership levels.
- Access all of the course material they’ve purchased.
- Update their member profiles.
The membership plugin should also let you restrict new member entry once the course or training program has already started so that all members can complete the program at the same time.
Membership management can be a make-or-break feature which is why we recommend checking out demos or signing up for free trials to test the waters before committing to a membership plugin.
#4: Content Dripping
As a membership site owner, you might want a plugin that lets you control when new content is released to members. This includes restricting access to specific content and managing how (and when) it’s made available to members. While most membership plugins offer content management features, only a few of them let you do it conditionally through content dripping.
If you plan to offer courses to your members, you’d want to do it in a way that offers them the best possible learning experience. For this, you’ll need a way to restrict access to certain content as well as the ability to make the content available in small modules at regular intervals. This is called content dripping.
Essentially, it prevents members and learners from downloading all of the course content at once and subsequently cancelling their subscription. Plus, this way you can track the progress of your members on a regular basis by giving them quizzes and assignments which will increase member engagement and improve the overall learning process.
Of course, you always have the option to sell a complete course for a one-time fee or a series of monthly payments. It’s a great way to enable students to learn at their own pace without having to wait days or weeks to find out what comes next.
Additionally, you might also need to revoke access to your training program or course content after a certain date. This is possible through content expiration. For example, a 60-day fat burning program or a 30-day writing challenge are common examples of a content expiration-based membership site. If this is the sort of membership site you’re looking to create then you’ll need a membership plugin that offers both content dripping and content expiration features.
#5: Email Marketing
If you already have an email list then chances are you’re using an email marketing tool (like Mailchimp) or marketing automation tool (like ActiveCampaign) for lead generation. For this reason, it’s important to go for a membership plugin that integrates seamlessly with the email marketing solution you’re already using.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does the membership plugin offer full or partial integration with the email marketing tool you’re using?
- Can you manage your email list directly from the membership plugin?
- Does the membership plugin automatically sync contacts or do you have to import them manually?
If the membership plugin doesn’t offer seamless integration with your email marketing tool out of the box, you might have to purchase a separate extension or add-on.
#6: Sales Promotions
As a membership site owner, you’ll need to market your offering to prospective members to encourage them to register. For example, you might consider offering free, limited time trials or offer discounts as part of your marketing strategy. These are all great ways of getting the word out about your membership site and encouraging people to sign up.
Most membership plugins come with built-in features that let you offer trials to leads and prospective customers. That said, you should make sure the WordPress membership plugin you use lets you set the trial period. For instance, you might want to offer customers a 7-day free trial or a 14-day trial, depending on the type of membership program you offer.
Additionally, most membership plugins will let you offer members discounts without having to use any additional tools or payment processors. In other words, it should work with the same payment gateway you use to charge membership fees. And, if you want to take things to the next level, you might look for a membership plugin that offers (or integrates with a tool that offers) upsells. This way, you can upsell membership plans and optional add-ons (such as one-on-one coaching sessions).
#7: Documentation and Support
If this is your first time creating a membership website, we’d recommend going for a membership plugin that has proper documentation and receives support from the developers. While most people focus on looking for a plugin that offers powerful features, they won’t be of much use to you if the plugin doesn’t come with adequate documentation to help you set things up.
Your membership plugin will be the foundation of your membership site which is precisely why you need complete documentation to go with it so you know how everything works. This might include text documentation (such as articles) and video tutorials and walk-throughs.
In terms of customer support, the membership plugin should ideally have an active community forum in addition to email support from the developer.
The first step to finding the right membership plugin for your WordPress website is jotting down the different features you’d like to offer and the marketing campaigns you’ll be running. Once you have that, choosing a membership plugin becomes a whole lot easier.
We shared seven of the most important features you should consider when choosing a membership plugin for your site and, hopefully, you’re in a good position now to take the next steps.
What are some of the features you look for in a membership plugin? Let us know in the comments section below.