Episode 3 of WordPress and Membership Sites

In our third episode in our series on membership plugins for WordPress, we dive into WooCommerce and Groups for WooCommerce and WP Courseware.

Jonathan has a great blog and the show notes are in more detail.

WooCommerce/Groups

You can get Groups and WooCommerce both for free on WordPress.org. However, you need a micro-plugin for them to work together and this is not free (see prices below). I have built a couple of websites using this system, and it has its strengths and weaknesses. I could write a whole article on just this, but I will only be covering the key points here.

Good Points

1) It’s part of the WooCommerce family, so you get integration with WooCommerce. So if you are considering building a membership section of an existing website that already uses WooCommerce, it’s probably the right direction to go.

2) The number of micro-plugins developed for this platform, from WooThemes and from third party developers, is impressive. One of the main ones you probably will need to get is WooCommerce Subscription Download plugin.

3) WooThemes has a secondary plugin called Sensei, which is built to help organize online courses.

Bad Points

1) With all the micro and other plugins, it can soon become one of the most expensive solutions on this list.

2) Like with WishListMember, there a lot (and I mean a lot) of configuration options.

3) The basic documentation looks very extensive; however, after you start working with the code base, you soon realize that the official documentation is not correct. I understand that this situation has recently been improved, however, and there are a lot of third party advice and blog articles to help you.

http://www.woothemes.com/products/groups-woocommerce/

Price: Single site license $79, 5 sites $99, 25 sites $199.

 

Full YouTube Video Transcript

Transcript of WP-Tonic Episode 26

Bill:

Jonathan, here we are on Sunday. I’m going to start again. Here we go. A couple minutes of silence. Welcome to WP-Tonic episode 26, with Jonathan Denwood and Bill Conrad. Jonathan, here we are on Sunday. What’re we talking about?

Jonathan:

Well, it’s more about plugins, Bill.

Bill:

Sunday the 8th. Oh, my gosh. Okay, let’s drive on. What’re the plugins we’re going to talk about today?

Jonathan:

Well, we’re going to talk about one particular plugin, but also we’re going be talking about some elements that are around this particular plugin, and it comes from a major source. That’s WooCommerce and WooThemes, and they do a membership plugin called Groups. The reason why this is important, it’s a bit like our previous show where we talked about the iThemes Membership plugin, and iThemes offer eCommerce. Well, everybody in the WordPress community’s heard of WooCommerce and WooThemes, and it’s the big gorilla in eCommerce. They do a membership plugin that integrates with WooCommerce. That’s if you’ve got a website where not only are you selling membership, but you’re also selling physical products, digital or actual physical stuff.

You got an eCommerce site, but you’re also wanting the great membership, so some of the previous membership plugins that we’ve talked about will integrate with WooCommerce, but if you’re going down that road and you’re already using WooCommerce, you probably would be interested in looking at their products. WooCommerce and their membership product, their micro-plugin called Groups, are both free, but you got to be aware that to get Groups to work with WooCommerce in an actual commercial situation, you have to buy another micro-plugin that will allow the two to kind of work together. Yeah, the two are free, but you actually need a third plugin. I just want to get some feedback from you, Bill. Can you see that this is already starting to get a little bit complicated.

Bill:

I was trying to figure out how to summarize it for my clients. My clients are the folks just learning WordPress, getting into it. They’re business people, politicians, and you name, they’re out there, entrepreneurs. They’re looking for a membership site. By the way, just a quick note. We’re going to announce the next episode, at least announce what membership site I’ll probably be using for New Media Gold. This looks very complicated, but WooCommerce has such a good name. Also about WooCommerce, just a little note. Patrick Rauland, from WooCommerce is going to be our final guest on the show in three weeks from today.

Jonathan:

He is, and he’s the product manager for WooCommerce, but he also deals with the membership plugin side, and he’s going to be coming to the show. He’s an experience developer in his own right. He’s produced a number of micro-plugins for WooCommerce himself. When I was talking with Patrick, he has told that WooCommerce are going to be introducing, in March, an upgraded version of their Groups micro-plugin which is going to have a lot more additional functionality. It’s going to be more simple to integrate their own membership plugin into WooCommerce. He’s going to be talking about that, Bill.

Bill:

Right. He’s an amazing guy: well-educated, a degree of science from [inaudible]. I think he’s from Green Bay initially, and he lives in Denver now, but he’s going to be way up here when it comes to this-

Jonathan:

Oh, he’s very informative.

Bill:

He’s way up there.

Jonathan:

He’s a very likable individual, and he’s also going to talk about his experiences in working with clients. He’s built himself a number of membership websites for clients, so we’re going to get his perspective on that as well, Bill.

Bill:

Right, real high-end clients, to say the least.

Jonathan:

I don’t know. I think he’s done all sorts of work. To get back to Groups-

Bill:

Okay, I’m confused. You asked me a question. I didn’t want to say it, but I’m really confused on the WooCommerce. WooCommerce has got an excellent name. I’ve seen some WooCommerce sites of our clients who are actually free, some plugins they started that are free, but they’re limited.

Jonathan:

Yeah. You got WooCommerce, which is free, and then you got Groups that is free, but let’s say you got some physical products and you put those into your shopping cart. Then you wanted to buy a kind of membership, so you want the membership to go into the same cart. You won’t want two separate cart systems.

Bill:

Okay, this is good.

Jonathan:

Right?

Bill:

Yep, this is very good.

Jonathan:

To get that to work, you’ve got to buy an additional, third plugin which isn’t free, so basically WooCommerce and Groups are both free, but you can see that doesn’t really do you any … Well, it’s great, but you also need to buy this third plugin from them, that will enable you to combine physical purchases with the membership purchase in the same cart.

Bill:

That was well-explained.

Jonathan:

Did I clarify things?

Bill:

Yeah, that was very well-explained. Basically we’re mixing a site where you have … I have a client, a brand-new one … You have a physical product you’re selling, and his product is purses, believe it or not, custom high-end purses. Then if we wants to create a membership site for a small amount of money, or even a free membership site, that you can hook into, you’ve got to get a plugin so you’re hooking eCommerce and membership together in the same shopping cart.

Jonathan:

Yes.

Bill:

WooCommerce does have a membership plugin.

Jonathan:

Called Groups.

Bill:

Called Groups. Is that their only plugin they have for membership?

Jonathan:

At the present moment, but like I said, Patrick will be talking about … they’re doing a major upgrade of that plugin system, which he will be able to discuss in much more detail than me. I think they’re responding … I’m only surmising this, Bill, but I think they’re responding to iThemes products which we talked about in our last show, which is the same scenario. They offer a full eCommerce system with membership integration in the same shopping cart, so I think that’s clarified a bit for you. Then there’s another part of this kind of system that WooCommerce provides, and that’s something called a learning management system.

Building a membership site, building a structure of deliverables that you’re going to offer in the membership site, is not a easy task. You’re probably learning that yourself, Bill, are you not?

Bill:

Oh, yeah. I have a really basic membership site right now, but yes.

Jonathan:

Right. Building the structure of the offering is not easy, so there’s a couple learning management systems. They’re called LMS for short, and they’re aimed at schools and educational, but they can be used by people constructing courses in their membership structure. Most membership sites are a learning process. They are offering materials over a period of time. They can be very structured. Here’s a membership course that lasts for 12 weeks. Here’s a membership course that lasts for six weeks. If you’re offering that kind of membership site, utilizing one of these LMS’ can be quite beneficial, because it gives you a structure that give a framework where you can put week one in, week two in, week three in, week four in. This is why I brought this up, because I’ve gathered what you told me, what you’re trying to do, this kind of membership structure probably has some relevance to what you’re trying to build?

Bill:

Right, and here’s what I am doing right now under New Media Gold. We went ahead and did all the research, and I actually learned my WordPress a lot of different ways, but WP101 I bought a year ago for $75, an individual membership. I have actually gone in and got the rights to offer that to my members, the WP101. You can’t beat it, so I’ll be integrating that today in our basic membership site, but the next level, we’re going to start teaching WordPress, streaming media, and Google+. Those are separate little courses. They’re lifelong courses. We’re going to update them. They don’t have to be complicated, so that’s what I’m really looking for is a membership site that we can allow people to get on and watch those courses.

Jonathan:

Will we have a structure where they will be taken through a number of weeks?

Bill:

I can do that down the road. I will do that down the road. Right now, though, I think I’m just going to offer the courses. Here’s the seven courses for WordPress. Excuse me, 20, but…

Jonathan:

At the present moment, an LMS is not … sometime it might be, so at the present moment, that’s one of the strengths of WooCommerce, because they’ve got this … and you’ll probably be able to pronounce it a bit better than me, because I’m notorious for butchering. Sensei, S-E-N-S-E-I? Sensei. They offer this other plugin system which gives you a rather nice LMS. Basically, if you’re going to sell physical product and also a membership area, and in that membership area you’re probably looking at a 6, 12-week, 12-month kind of structured course framework, they offer you this additional plugin that will help you construct that, and it all should work together. This LMS they offer is not free, though.

There’s a lot of planning. If you’re looking at these free plugins that come from WooThemes, and you’re working on a serious membership site that’s going to have a lot of course content, this is probably a direction which you’re going to be interested in. We’re already talking about four plugins that come from them, and actually they’ve got a whole library of other micro-plugins. In my experience, Bill, if you’re going down this road, you’re probably looking at four or five other micro-plugins that come from them. It starts getting reasonably complicated, even if you’re not doing any kind of custom coding.

Bill:

And expensive.

Jonathan:

Well, yeah, but it depends on your … are you a real hardcore hobbyist when it comes to WordPress? You might not be a top PHP coder, but you got a lot of the experience? If not, I think you’d probably be best looking at somebody to help you with this, because even though if you’re not going to do any custom coding, this soon starts to get a bit complicated.

Bill:

Right. Jonathan, maybe we’ll talk about this a little bit in the next show, in a lot of detail, but for example I use InfusionSoft in the backside, which is a very difficult program to master. InfusionSoft sells a membership site for $70 that you can use, a month, but they’re providing expert advice and guidance and that sort of that.

Jonathan:

Well, that’s the other factor that’s attractive, like what I mentioned with some of the other plugins that do work with InfusionSoft. I’m almost 99% sure that there’s a micro-plugin in the WooCommerce library of third-party plugins that works with InfusionSoft.

Bill:

Right. InfusionSoft actually offers to host, do everything for the membership site.

Jonathan:

Yeah. I can’t remark on that because-

Bill:

It’s like one solution.

Jonathan:

I’ve never utilized that solution, Bill.

Bill:

I have one friend that uses it a lot. He’s high-end, making a lot of money, but he just has a lot of money. When you’re making $2 million, $1.5 million profit a year, you can contract out a lot of stuff. I want to ask one question. On top of what I’m trying to do with a membership site, for our political friends who are running for office, I need to create a great membership site that they can easily use and understand so people can sign up, they can be in that group, get email, and then also be assigned tasks, things of that nature. They need a real simple membership site. More than just an email list, but some kind of membership site where can get product download, flyers, information, campaign materials, things of that nature.

Jonathan:

Actually what you’re talking about is that they need to restrict areas that are restricted only to certain people that got rights to login to certain areas of the website. That’s what you’re really talking about.

Bill:

Then they all need an independent login for that website. I guess you could do that in WordPress with the users, but that’s a lot of work, a lot of data entry. You want to do it automatically.

Jonathan:

I think you’re utilizing the wrong wording, Bill, but I think I have a clear idea. How are we doing for time, Bill?

Bill:

We’re doing about 15 minutes. We got about three to five minutes.

Jonathan:

Right, so in that your particular scenario, let’s talk about your specific … In the next episode, we’re going to talk about some other membership plugins that we didn’t talk about.

Bill:

Right, and we’re going to be talking about what I’m going to be using.

Jonathan:

We’re going to do a general over and I’m going to recommend some of them. For your particular scenario, Bill, I would recommend Pippin Williamson’s-

Bill:

I thought we were going to wait till the next one.

Jonathan:

Well, we might as well do it now.

Bill:

Well, let’s go into detail on the next one.

Jonathan:

Righty-oh.

Bill:

I want to finish up with a commercial for you.

Jonathan:

Righty-oh.

Bill:

WP-Tonic and Mail-Right.

Jonathan:

Yes.

Bill:

I know you’re leaving down to Las Vegas for five days to go see the vets. First client are really veterinarians.

Jonathan:

I’m going to be dewormed.

Bill:

Yeah, dewormed. I think Mail-Right’s got tremendous potential, especially the ability to program out all your social media, the backside.

Jonathan:

Well, it’s more than that actually, Bill. I just want to give you a quick … because I didn’t really explain to you what exactly Mail-Right is. I never felt that I really clarified what I wanted to take this product to, because this is a beta 0.01 product. It’s the bare minimum product that’s got viability. Really what my final ambition with this is, Bill, is that it is a retention marketing automation system, aimed at small to medium-sized businesses, where you can get effective outreach via email, which has still got the highest return on investment of anything. It automates it, but also helps automate the social media outreach. You’ve been doing a lot more under my guidance, but you can see the amount of time it takes up, doesn’t it?

Bill:

You have to systemize yourself. It’s a whole process. Yeah-

Jonathan:

It takes a lot of time up.

Bill:

We’ll schedule next month for a different topic, but in two months, maybe we just need to do four courses about social media.

Jonathan:

Oh, yeah, I think that’s right, Bill. It takes up a lot of time, so Mail-Right automates that. It’s only so far that you can automate it, but I think where we’re aiming to automate it provides value, and also gives the ability of the client to still do some of it themselves. That’s what we’re proposing, but the next version up … Give you this quick scenario. Let’s say you got a veterinarian practice, and let’s say it’s got 2,000 clients. Let’s say, though, they’re 50/50 dogs and cats clients. Of those cat clients, let’s say over 50% only come in once a year. The principle of the practice wants to encourage those particular cat owners to come in more than once a year. It’s beneficial for the cat, it’s beneficial for the owner, if they do come in more often.

What Mail-Right would do is that we would provide a email strip system. When the vet imports the data into the system, it will have the ability to find all the cat owners that haven’t come in for over a 11-month period of time. It will list all those, and then it will send a specific email to those cat owners that have not been into the practice for 11-month period. Often, there may be a special inducement to come in to the practice to have a general check-up of their cat.

Bill:

Yeah. It’s a nice, simple way to manage your clients, to get information out, and to automate, and it’s not as expensive as my $200 a month that I pay InfusionSoft.

Jonathan:

Well, some of our products will be on the higher end, but what I propose to offer is different levels: pure, total automation, and then levels where we’re helping the client, but we are becoming a kind of consultant to actually help the client build their practice.

Bill:

Okay, Jonathan, what I’d like to do at the end of the next show, one last commercial for you at the end of the next show. We’ll look about cats and animals, and how it helps them through the veterinarians.

Jonathan:

[crosstalk]

Bill:

Let’s see how it could help the politician, because I’ve got some ideas how it could help the politician.

Jonathan:

We’re changing it from WordPress into a pet-owning show, aren’t we, Bill?

Bill:

Yeah. No, I’m going to talk to about the end of the next show, what I’m looking for the politicians of 2016, what I think they need, and how that kind of can work for them.

Jonathan:

I’d like to say, I’m excited that we’re getting Patrick on, because WooCommerce, when it comes to membership, is popular with people because a lot of them are selling physical product. If you’re in the WordPress community, a lot of people do look at WooCommerce as their shopping chart platform, so a membership that integrates with that is attractive.

Bill:

Very good, so that’s the end of episode 26. It’ll be going up tonight, Sunday the 8th. We’re going to take a break and come back, and record the next episode for next week since we’re all going different places. I’m going to San Diego. You’re on the road the week after that, so anyway, good show, Jonathan. I’m looking forward to figuring out what I’m supposed to do with New Media Gold on our membership sites. Aloha? Are you talking-

Jonathan:

Aloha.

Bill:

Say bye.

Jonathan:

Bye.

Transcript of WP-Tonic Episode 26 was last modified: by

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