Micah Mitchell is the joint founder of Memberium which allows anyone to build powerful, automated membership sites with WordPress and Infusionsoft. Micah Mitchell has worked with hundreds of small companies since 2006, helping them grow their businesses. After years of consulting and running successful membership programs himself, Micah co-founded the WordPress membership plugin, Memberium, in 2014. Most recently, he’s launched an online training program called Membership Coach, where he shares all of his knowledge and advice on how to run a successful membership site. He is very passionate about helping individuals transform their lives by generating recurring revenue so they can spend more time on what really matters. He enjoys learning, teaching and spending time with his family.
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[00:25] Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show. This is episode 416 we’ve got a great guest. We have got Micah Mitchell from Memberium with us. Mitch, would you like to introduce yourself to the listeners some views?
[00:41] Micah: Yeah, absolutely. I’m Mica Mitchell with Memberium. I love that you can’t pronounce our company name. Everybody gives us a hard time about that and we’re like, but that’s what makes it awesome.
[01:14] Adrian: I’m his cohost and he calls me Andrew. I’m never letting you live that down. Hi, my name is Adrian. I’m the CEO and founder of Groundhogg, a marketing automation plugin for WordPress. And I’m super excited to have this interview. Because I’ve actually been aware of your company and what you do in new features off space in like a, you’ve actually been a huge proponent for a lot of our previous customers. Our current customers for another product that I run. So it’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to this year.
[02:05] Micah: Well, so my friends tell me sometimes that I’m a Luddite, so I’m not like into the future of tech all the time. But I would just say that just everything mobile, which has been obviously, you know, it’s there, it’s been creeping up for years. But for me more and more it’s like, you know, I have a software company and I don’t even use my desktop anymore. I used to be very much against phones. Like I didn’t have any APPS, you know, I hated my phone. I didn’t think it was a healthy to have around like the battery and stuff like that. But more and more I’m just like, whatever. Its thousand percent mobile and so got a lot of friends who have text platforms and some of them starting new texting platforms. And you know, I know it’s a stupid simple answer, but that’s all I can think about is just mobile, mobile.
[02:52] Jonathon: No, funny enough, I’m totally opposite. I do use mobile. I’m stuck in front of my main screen most of the day. So I’m kind of pinned down to my desktop. It’s interesting that you say that. Adrian you got a question?
[03:08] Adrian: I do. Yes. So I run a company called Forum Lift, which is our Infusionsoft kind of connect or in between WordPress and Forum Lift. For those of you who are unaware of what Memberium actually does, it’s a very, very powerful membership platform that offers a couple of integrations with other CRM`s. But you started out mostly serving the infusion soft niche, correct?
[03:32] Adrian: So can you tell us a little bit about. Let’s talk about how you got started and why it is you decided to do that niche? And how actually just serving a particular niche is a very common marketing strategy. Just picking a niche and sticking with it, how you actually started to grow that and serve that niche in order to actually build your business to where it is today.
[03:55] Micah: I’ll try to give a shorter version of it, but in essence I was doing a consulting, like a how to quit my job and start a lawn care company. And that’s why I bought Infusionsoft for was for my lawn care company, which was total overkill. But I learned Infusionsoft and then I taught myself to do websites and junk like that. And so then I was doing websites for Infusionsoft people and I should say I was just doing websites and there’s kind of a trend of Infusionsoft people. But I read a book by Michael Gerber called awakening the Entrepreneurial within, and I really like his other book, the e myth. But that one at the time I read it, for whatever reason to me, it really kind of told me that I wasn’t an entrepreneur.
[04:39]: I was just some Schmuck, you know, trading time for dollars. And it made me decide. I started reading that book at my in-laws house. And I ended up reading it all night. You know, I think I finished at like [7:00] AM and I just sat in the chair and read it. Because like it was just speaking to me about how I wasn’t doing anything valuable. You know what I mean? I was just, and no offense to anybody is just my thinking about myself. I was just building websites, trading time for dollars. And when I read that it really basically said no, you’ve got to like pick a market to serve and do something for them. Make a difference in their lives, like make a difference in the market.
[05:14] Micah: And so I realized, okay, I’ve got to make products. And I initially started out doing some free videos and things like that just to get my toes wet. And then there were a lot of iterations of membership plugins for me. But it was all within the Infusionsoft space. So ultimately with Memberium when Dave, who’s been a friend of mine for maybe, I don’t even know how long, maybe 10 years or so. When he came back around and said he had Memberium and I asked to license it. It was just a perfect match saying I’ve completely dedicated myself to the Infusionsoft market. It only works for Infusionsoft. And so we just kind of ran with it and just stayed laser focused for a couple of years. Meaning we didn’t do custom work, we didn’t want to integrate to other CRMs. We didn’t want to talk to you if you weren’t building a membership site with Infusionsoft on WordPress. We just didn’t care. You know what I mean? And so that level of focus I guess is kind of what got me to where it is.
[06:12] Adrian: Awesome. Thank you. And you also, just as a side note, you’ve also started to at least branch out into or at least into one other CRM at the moment, active campaign. What was your thought on? Cause there is a multitude of CRMs and solutions out there. My own included, why active campaign? So you’ve been focused on this infusion niche for a really long time. And was it a couple of years ago, three years ago that you released active campaign? How long ago was it?
[06:58] Micah: Yeah, good question. There’s two parts. Dave was familiar with active campaign, David Bullock who development Memberium. So he was already familiar with it and kind of had a soft spot for it. One of his previous jobs he was managing a bunch of and he just liked them. And when we started talking to them, so he was kind of pushing it for a while and when we finally talked to them, they’re just such a cool company. They’re so approachable. I love Infusionsoft. I’ve been around forever, so I know that the people there. But there’s a different culture in active campaign. Even last summer when we went out and sponsor it we were hanging out with the CEO the whole time and chatting. And he’s just hanging out. He’s not trying to hide or he doesn’t try to get out of conversations or anything like that.
[07:39]: And so because I felt like our values were very similar to theirs. That’s what pushed me over the edge. But from a practical front, we had people leaving Memberium. And the number one reason for leaving Memberium was I’m with infusion soft and the number one place they were going was active campaign. So it was kind of a simple, like, you guys are going over there. Well business decision. And even that I fought for a while. But as we got closer to them and talk to them more, it was just like, oh yeah, it’s kind of a no brainer with all that stuff put together.
[08:19] Micah: We’re just sticking with those two for now. We at one point looked at potentially integrating to a, I guess you’d call it like a CRM aggregator where they’ve integrated to all these other CRMs. And we said, well, if we just integrate to them, suddenly our market opens up and we can connect all these other things. But there are a few reasons we didn’t. One is that integration was not as deep as we’d like to go. So with infusion soft for example, we use everything we possibly can. And their API to allow people to do whatever they want. We couldn’t go that deep with all of those. We could just do a surface level thing, which isn’t really what we’re about. And the other thing is with our, we really pride ourselves on support. And that requires them to know infusion.
People think that they’re supporting their membership site, but typically it’s all put together. We get a support ticket and when we’re troubleshooting, really the problem is that they set something up wrong in infusion soft. And so we have to be WordPress experts and infusion soft experts. And the more CRMs we integrate to the more training. And so with two now we can still keep that quality high. So I think we’ll stay for a while.
[09:32] Jonathon: I think you just did that on purpose. He has only been my cohost for couple months and he is teasing me. There we go. Actually that’s the name of my brother actually. He`s my brother.
[09:54] Jonathon: I have been practicing, and the more I practice it the worst it goes. Can you tell us why does somebody buy your company’s product? To some of our listeners, they probably don’t know your company, your product. What is its main reason is my target audience and why do they buy the product?
[10:39] Micah: Yes. But it’s kind of like people who buy one of those and want a membership site, and then they go looking. And there’s only, I don’t know how many options. I guess there’s plenty, but for the real, like niche focused options or the people who want them to grow the furthest they go with Memberium. And when I have those sales conversations with people when they’re trying to decide on different software’s, this is where I say like we have the depth, usually a membership site, if it’s worthwhile, you’re going to do kind of a basic version first. And then if things are working, you’re going to want to go further. And what people run into with other products is if the integration doesn’t go as deep, then they have to switch.
[11:16]: You know, they build their site on a simple product. And then they want to do more, but it doesn’t have that ability. So they either have to get it done custom or they have to switch and that’s just a huge pain. So I think that in essence it’s like if you use infusion soft or active campaign and you want a deep integration because you’re serious about membership rather than just throwing up a quick little gated piece of content. Then it’s a no brainer. Because for example, with Infusionsoft, you’re billing your subscriptions in infusion soft. And with Memberium people can log into the membership site. And control their subscriptions. They can pay bills. They can change credit cards and like that you’re not really going to get with most other membership solutions because they don’t directly connect to the ECOMMERCE function.
[12:00]: And without, sorry, getting too nerdy in there. The other reason I’d say really that they buy Memberium is just social proof. There are so many big Infusionsoft users who use Memberium, that when somebody goes to a conference or you know, is talking to that company and they say what do you use? And they say, Memberium, then that person wants to use it. And we’re lucky that way. But initially we did a lot of work to get those big clients. Like for example, Dave and I personally helped move John`s site from one platform to Memberium for free, just so that he would move. He’s a friend of ours and whatnot, but it’s, it’s like, you know, we don’t expect them to move on their own time. Initially we moved them because we were more stable. So as you know, to their benefit, but once they all got moved and were happy about it and we’re saying like, yeah, it works perfectly, no problem. Support’s great. Then anyone who listens to them came over. So sorry. Long answer. Hopefully that makes sense.
[12:57] Jonathon: No that`s great. We’re going to go for our break. When we come back, we’ll be discussing. My audience knows my strange inability to say certain words. We will be back in a few moments.
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[13:59] Jonathon: We’re coming back. It’s been an interesting interview so far. I have been called Dave, my older brother, he used to torture me. He was a karate expert and he has a black belt on it. Still does when he sees me. But before we go on to this interview, I want to talk about one of my great sponsors and that is Kinsta hosting. And what is Kinsta? Kinsta specialize in WordPress hosting. And they host the WP Tonic website. And I’ve been totally blown away with their support and the quality of their hosting. If you’re a power user, membership site, ecommerce, anything where you need some quality hosting, go to Kinsta. They provide all the technology stack that you’re looking for. Latest version of PHP, staging site, one click bank up, fantastic UX interface, one of the best on the market. And they are the cream of the cream. You get fantastic 24/7 support. And I mean that some of the best support on the market at the present moment. So if that sounds interesting for you or your clients, go over to kinsta.com and try them out. And also mentioned that you heard from them from WP Tonic. I’m going to pry overtime because he knows more about this subject
[15:26] Adrian: I do. After I listened to your interview, both just this morning and at least with Mixergy, the one with Mixergy. Both this morning and when it originally came out. And your whole speech about or your semi rant about moving from a service based company and a service business into the prioritization. I related to it a lot because one of my own journeys is moving from, I used to work in a digital marketing agency doing the service work and all of that stuff and trying my best to move over into actual providing a product. And productization so if you would mind perhaps sharing a little bit of backstory of your own journey. And if you might some tips on how, what people who might be working in the service industry at least in the digital service industry right now. And what potential avenues they’d be able to look at in order to move from doing that day in and day out to moving to a productized market or productized industry.
[16:29] Micah: It is, but it’s a really good question. I think that’s the crux of it. I haven’t been, so to be honest with you guys, I haven’t been doing much for a while. I hired Andrew to be our CEO and I’ve been focusing on health and family and stuff like that. But I’ve been thinking a lot about this during that time. Because I was able to make a product and it’s gotten big enough that it’s able to pay people and support a bunch of things, which is great. But man, back when I started, Holy Shit that I work hard, like just busting my balls. And in the earlier days of Memberium. So there are probably two things here. One is there’s a period where you just have to test stuff.
[17:15]: And I know everybody hears that. But what I mean is I was careful to try to test things that didn’t get me stuck. So you don’t just want to go out and make a bunch of pieces of software. I know a lot of people who’ve done that and then they’re stuck maintaining a bunch of pieces of software. And that’s why I said earlier when we were laser focused, that was by choice. That was to say I’m not doing anything else but this. And there were a million opportunities during the time when we were first building them and people were saying, you should start a mastermind. And you should do this and you should do all these different things. Because I think many people have this idea of, you know, they’d need to build a digital product empire.
[17:53]: They have to have all these components to their business. But I think about it the other way around, which is you need to just have one thing that works. And that one thing that works. You need to grow as big and fast as possible and take advantage of the economies of scale. And then after it’s big, you can add those supporting pieces around it to feed it. And that’s essentially what we did with Memberium. But in the early days, some of the mistakes I made where I made a plugin. So when I was working in digital agency or I was the digital agency, I would, for example, have somebody code up a membership plugin for Joomla or WordPress or whatever. And then I realized light bulb moment, Oh, I can sell this code to the next guy and the next guy.
[18:35]: And so I started doing that, but I was selling it for like $500 or something, like not ongoing, just one time fee, here’s your code. Not thinking about the support, the updates, anything else. So that was like the period of time where he’s just scrambling around, thrown out plugins and you know, I had to work that crap off over time. Meaning people would come back to me a year later and say, hey, what’s, you know, blah, blah, blah. And I felt like I needed to fix it. So once I chose a product, it was, I don’t know how else to put it, but you just have to go all in. And for me at the time I felt like, sorry if I’m being too crass here, but I was just whoring myself out, you know what I mean? It was like, okay, I’m happy to consult 10 hours a day and trade time for dollars because my other six hours a day I’m going to be supporting our new customers.
[19:26]: You know what I mean? Like the very first person who bought Memberium kind of a thing. Setting up the site for them so that they didn’t have any of those product issues. That’s what I was doing initially. And it sucked and it took a while, but I knew that the consulting game sucked way worse than we just last forever. So it was totally worth it. So that’s what I’m kind of jumping around here, but it’s kind of like you test some things out, you try to do it in a way where you’re not committing yourself to too much support. And the best way I found to do that was info products and little freebies as well. So that’s the main thing I found is if you don’t charge for something, it’s much easier to a kind of support.
[20:09]: Just the expectation is different. Instead of them calling you angry, they’re kind of like, hey, could you maybe do me a favor and have a look at this? I don’t, you know. So I, I learned some things by doing that, by doing some free stuff. I learned that I really don’t want to sell code without a support plan. And there were some other steps in there. But you know, just to be honest, there was a time where I was working 16, 18 hours a day. I remember I’d have appointments at like two and [3:00] AM with people in Australia or England or wherever it kind of stuff. And it was just crazy but it was 100% worth it. And that’s the hard thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is like how do tell someone who hasn’t been through this that that’s worth it? Cause it sounds insane. But it is totally worth it.
[21:09] Jonathon: I just loved the way you put that. That’s good. I listened to a couple of your other previous interviews. You said you had the lawn care business and then part of it you utilize infusion soft for the lawn care business. But why did you do that first step? Can I just ask you did you have an IT background?
[21:47] Micah: I did leave something out. So I had a job. I’ll back up even a little bit more. So I got a job while I was in high school and it was like just sales. But they didn’t have an IT person. And since I used to build my own computers when I was a kid to play games on, I was like, oh I can do this, I can do that. And I just kept doing whatever they needed. And so I grew into IT. I have no education. I dropped out of high school when I got that job because I thought, oh this job’s amazing. I don’t need school. And so when I quit that job, it was basically like, well I quit cause I was sick of being in an office, being inside and I wanted to be outside.
[22:27]: And so I thought, oh, lawn care. That makes sense. And then as soon as I started doing it, I realized, yeah, like this wasn’t going to cut it. Since I’ve run systems, I was just like, screw it. I’m not, not even going to do any of that. I’m just going to buy a system. Unlike said it was over killed by a, it was great serendipity.
[22:59] Micah: Basically just ended it. I was doing it with my brother and I was like, yeah, I don’t want to do this anymore. And I think he sold it to my cousins, but it wasn’t, it didn’t get huge. We were doing stupid stuff with infusion soft. Like we had our, our lawn mowers and weed eaters as contacts in infusion soft and then we’d put them into maintenance sequences. So it’d be like mower one needs its oil changed and things like that. So that’s a one way to do it. Yeah. That’s why I say overkill. I just, I had too much time. I don’t know.
[23:37] Jonathon: So you know, like you said earlier on in the interview, you’ve got your product and then it works with WordPress. There are a lot of fully hosted competitors, but what do you see as the strength of still using WordPress with your product or WordPress in general?
[24:01] Micah: Yeah I’m always thought this. I don’t think that any of those hosted solutions can keep up with the thousands of developers who are working WordPress. So it’s always on the leading edge. One of the examples in this is a little while ago, but it was when they started doing that like Facebook login thing. It was like immediately available through WordPress and we didn’t have to do anything basically. So I think you just benefit so much from that open source community. And even if you have to buy the products still, there’s just more people adding to it.
[24:50] Adrian: So you mentioned that you’ve been taken the last little while to you hired your own CEO. And you’ve been focused on the family, you’re moving into a new office. What can we expect from any new exciting projects coming up, things that you’re working on, things people can get excited about, either in the Infusionsoft community or outside?
[25:12] Micah: Something that I can’t talk about very much, but I’m very excited about. Because it’s, not about publishing content, this is what Memberium kind of does. The way how it displays and controls, but it’s about how people make the content. Because we’ve worked with so many membership site people and a lot of them really, really, really closely. Like, you know, we’ve done workshops and consulting and coaching that understanding some of their issues. We’re cooking up something that will help them get their content out of themselves and into the site intuitively without having to build as much. Because most people like make the content forever and then build forever and then it’ll just be just basically make it.
[26:14] Adrian: Very cool. Sounds exciting. I’m excited. What are some of the big issues that you find that are like common among all of the people who are trying to build these course membership sites? What are some common problems that you encounter?
[26:28] Micah: I mean, it’s basically ignorance and I mean that in a nice way. It’s that they are amazing at guitar or woodworking or taxes or whatever. They don’t know crap about the Internet marketing or yeah, membership sites, technology. And you know, Memberium is not necessarily plug and play. It’s WordPress. You’ve got to put it in, you’ve got to connect it, and you’ve got to do these things. And we try to make it as easy as possible. But for most people that’s the part they get stuck on. As the tech part in the marketing part. And so helping them, and beyond that, even the content structuring, they might be a tax expert. They have no idea how to teach. You know what I mean? And so that’s kind of where I’m wanting to go is an intuitive way of saying like, okay, you know, something.
[27:16]: All right. Let’s talk you through how you’re going to divide and structure that. Now let’s talk you through how you introduced your clients to each piece of content. You know what I mean? They, if they don’t go, if you know, we’ll use the tax expert. If that tax expert doesn’t go take a few courses himself on how to design and build a membership site. And he just tries to wing it, most likely it’s going to fail or at least take a lot, lot, lot, lot longer than it could have. So the smart people that go educate themselves, but even then they have to educate themselves and then implement. And there’s just, I mean, it’s funny for me to say this because I’m always like, Hey, you know, let’s make membership sites easier, kind of a thing. But it’s hard, you know what I mean?
[28:04]: Like to build all that content, to get it into a site, to get it all working and tested and then to market and sell it is a huge thing. And what most people are thinking is, oh, I’m sick of trading time for dollars. I’m gonna make a product and never have to work again. And it’s like, okay, well there’s a huge gap. There’s still work. It’s just a different kind of work. The work never, never really ends. One of the things that when people download our own products, it’s like, just so you know, there’s, there’s no such thing as set it and forget it. If you think that’s what our product provides, you are completely and utterly misinformed.
[28:46] Jonathon: I interviewed Justin, the CEO of LearnDash a few weeks ago and they’ve got a new version of learn dash 3.0. And they went to one of the leading WordPress agencies. And they spent a lot of money on UX design and the interface. And I think they’ve done a fantastic job. Is that something that you increasingly focus on your own product? The UX design?
[29:15] Micah: Yes it is. So I’m always kind of mentioning to Dave a little tweaks and stuff like that. I always want it a little different, but we’re also focused on kind of the install process and having a separate wizard. Because one of the realizations I came to as Memberium is such a big powerful toolbox. There’s so much you can do that trying to make the whole thing intuitive doesn’t make that much sense. But to help build a basic site or to have a few recipes that they can plug in some variables to and it can spin up a site. That’s what I look at in the user interface. What Justin did I think is amazing? So I think he’s 100% on track. And we love, love, love LearnDash. But yeah, for Memberium, it’s a lot more diverse in what it can do. And so we’ve really struggled with, there’s a thousand different ways to make a site. So how, how do you guide somebody through that?
[30:13]: Jonathon: I totally agree with you because there’s always this strain on functionality. You want to give this much functionality because that freedom functionality. The core worth of the product, but the more things it does, the more complicated it gets. The more pressure there is on UX and ease of use, isn’t it?
[30:38] Micah: Yeah, for sure. And LearnDash is an amazing big plugin. But from my perspective, it’s much simpler than Memberium. Only because it’s designed to, you know, build courses and there are options within that. But Memberium is used to run franchises and associations and memberships and courses and internal training portals and software companies run on Memberium. It, it just does a bunch of junk. Like anything that you can put behind a log in, it will do.
[31:12] Adrian: You don’t necessarily see LearnDash as a competitor. You only see it like a complimentary platform because there are lots of people using LearnDash and Memberium together. Is there not?
[31:20] Micah: Yeah, I would say LearnDash is our biggest partner. Like you know, for sure that’s what we want to 100% is in fact, everybody who buys Memberium they are using LearnDash. You know, so, yeah. Awesome.
[31:34] Jonathon: We specialize in the support of lifter LMS and LearnDash. So he’s interested in one of your biggest customer groups utilize both. I didn’t realize that as facts about you. Well we’re gonna finish up on the podcast. Hopefully Micah has forgiven me for butchering his name. He’s going to stay on for 10 minutes for some bonus content. I’ve really enjoyed the interview. How can people find out more about yourself and the company in general?
[32:05] Micah: Yeah I’m kind of a hermit so don’t worry about me. But membarium.com you guys can ask anything you want to, the support there. The support is super friendly, super quick. Meaning even if you’re not a customer and you have questions about memberships or WordPress or infusion soft, you know, feel free to come over and say hi.
[32:26] Adrian: Well, if you need marketing automation as a service for WordPress. So if you want to replace infusion software active campaign with a WordPress plugin, then you can head on over to Groundhogg with two g’s at the end io to download it for absolutely free. And go ahead and play with that. I am not a hermit. You can reach out to me in a variety of ways. My personal email address is [email protected] And you can also reach out to me on Facebook by our Facebook page, Groundhogg WP, or in the Facebook group as well.
[32:53] Jonathon: And thank you for that. And if you want to see our interviews, the earliest with our bonus content. Subscribe to the WP YouTube channel. That’s where you’d be able to watch these interviews and other content the earliest. We will be back next week with other great guests giving your insight and value for allowing you to build that online business. And become an eLearning entrepreneur yourself. We will see you next week folks. Bye.
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