208

Membership and Product Delivery Solutions

Selling products or services is the basis of any serious online business and when you set out to start one, you soon face a big obstacle: what should you use, to handle all the technical stuff?

Things like collecting payments, delivering your digital products, managing customers and members, etc.

What you need is a product delivery solution. But which one is right for your business?

In this article (warning: it’s loooong), I go into detail about product delivery, talk about which solutions are good, which are bad and what you should consider for your own products and membership sites.

I’ll also give you a detailed run-down of some of the platforms I have personally had a close look at: aMember Pro, Digital Access Pass (DAP), EasyMemberProFusionHQKajabi, Nanacast, Premium Web Cart and SiteManPro.

Read on to learn pretty much everything you need to know about product delivery and membership sites, all in one post.


You’re Doing it Wrong

From my experience in buying digital products, I’d say product delivery is done horribly wrong about 90% of the time.

More often than not, once you’ve made a purchase, all you get are a bunch of download links on a simple html page, and that’s it. Often, this page isn’t even protected in any way (meaning that anyone can access it, even if they didn’t purchase).

What’s worse is if the content is protected in a membership area, but the customer is made to jump through a dozen hoops before they can get it.

  1. Enter your name and email address to start the purchase.
  2. Enter your name, email address, payment details, etc. to make the payment.
  3. Enter your name and email address to sign up to my newsletter.
  4. Enter your name, email address and a password to create your member account.
  5. Go to you inbox to confirm your email address…
  6. Give up and go live as a hermit in India.

This is bad product delivery. Too many product creators assume that only the content matters, and not the “packaging” of that content. But the human brain does not work like that.

The packaging and the experience a customer has (which starts when they first land on your website) are very important for any business.

One of the reasons product delivery is often so badly done is because it can be quite complicated…

What to Consider for Product and Membership Solutions

Here are all the points that need to be considered and that make a good, solid delivery system:

Autoresponder Integration

I’m putting this first because it’s absolutely vital that you get all your customers on a mailing list. Not only is a list of customers your most valuable asset, it’s also important that you can follow-up with them for non-marketing purposes: Letting them know about new content, updates, bug-fixes etc.

All-in-one solutions seem attractive and in general, we want to avoid stringing together many different separate system. When it comes to the autoresponder however, you want to be using a third-party service. Making sure that your broadcast mailings are safely delivered to inboxes, making sure your sender address and IP aren’t added to blacklists etc. is a big and complex task and you want it to be in the hands of people who do nothing else.

A product delivery system that comes with an integrated autoresponder for some basic features (sending password reminder e-mails, for example) is good, but you definitely want a solid and seamless integration with an autoresponder like Aweber or GetResponse, for handling your actual list and e-mail marketing.

Payment Processing

The payment processing is a similar topic to the autoresponder integration. A third party service is generally preferable, because that leaves the complexity of payment processing up to “the pros”. But it is vitally important that the payment process is integrated with your delivery system as seamlessly as possible.

For one thing, it needs to work 100% of the time. That goes without saying. Here, we’re also looking for a seamless process, without too many clicks and page-loads involved in the checkout process. Ideally, a membership site software should integrate with solutions like PayPal and 2CheckOut and also support different merchant accounts for credit card processing.

Good: the customer fills out one form to complete the payment and is automatically given access to the product/membership as well as added to the autoresponder.

Bad: the customer needs to fill out several forms and is sent to several different pages with different branding, during the purchase process.

Upsell, Downsell, Cross-Sell Management

This really comes down to the shopping cart features of any given platform. There are many ways in which upsells and downsells are handled, especially when it comes to “one-click” features (meaning the customer doesn’t have to enter the payment information and go through checkout twice to get an upsell or downsell). One-click usually works through a shopping cart system where the customer can add several items to the cart before checking out. In this case, it’s important that the shopping cart can either be integrated into your existing website or customized to match the look and feel of your website, otherwise it will visually break the flow and might cause confusion (“Am I still on the same website?”).

Upsells and downsells are a matter of redirecting the customer to specific pages, depending on their actions, and managing different products/memberships and their corresponding buy-now-buttons or order forms.

Content Protection

Your content delivery system should be protecting your content, so that non-customers cannot access it and it cannot simply be found via search engines. A good system should allow very easy to set up protection for all your on-page content, your downloadable content and your streaming content. At the same time, it’s very important that the protection is implemented in a way that isn’t annoying for the users. The worst example I’ve ever encountered was a setup where the system asked me to login again every single time I tried to navigate to a new page or refresh the page I was already looking at…

In short, the content protecton should be easy to set up, impenetrable to “outsiders” and as un-noticable to your paying customers as possible.

Content Scheduling

This is mainly a concern for membership sites. In most cases, you’ll want to be able to “drip out” content to your members. A good system should be flexible enough to allow for “all at once” access as well as individual, scheduled and tiered access for each member, depending on their join date and membership level. It should also be up to you whether members see none of the future content, an outline of it or all of it. Finally, it’s a nice bonus if you can set up the membership site to show “teasers” of the content to non-members and full content only to members.

Another important aspect is how a delivery system deals with cancellations: Members need to be able to access the content for at least the rest of the period they paid for (i.e. if they pay for 30 days and cancel on day five, the system should give them another 25 days of access).

Affiliate Management

An affiliate program is an extremely valuable marketing tool. If you’re selling anything online, you should strongly consider making use of it. There are two choices: either integrate with an existing affiliate network such as ClickBank, DigiResults, Commission Junction etc. or create and run an affiliate program of your own.

If you sell a range of related products, having a “global” affiliate program is recommended. With a global affiliate program, when someone refers a sale, they will also get credit for any future purchases made by that same customer, from your range of products. That makes the deal more attractive for affiliates. Another thing to keep in mind is that affiliate networks charge a “per sale” fee. If you are selling products by the thousands, having your own affiliate management system can save you a lot of money. On the other hand, affiliate networks come with a built-in trust factor and many affiliates who are already used to the platform. With your own affiliate program, you need to earn that trust yourself.

Of course, tracking needs to be bullet-proof, redirects need to be fast and stats need to be detailed. If you can offer multi-tiered affiliate payouts, that’s a great addition as well.

Ease of Use

This is one of the biggest challenges, when it comes to product delivery systems. On the one hand, you obviously want to system to be feature-rich and flexible and to do pretty much whatever you want it to do. On the other hand, the more sophisticated and complex a piece software is, the more complicated and less user-friendly it tends to be.

For non-coders, this can often mean having to spend extra cash on hiring professionals to set up and configure membership site for them. Ideally, a system should find a good compromise between flexibilty and ease of use.

Why not just use ClickBank?

In case your wondering why someone would go through the trouble of setting up a system like the ones discussed below, instead of just using something like ClickBank, here’s the short answer:

ClickBank and other affiliate networks are made for payment processing and affiliate management. Usually, these systems don’t come with any form of content protection or membership management, which means you still need to use a separate system, if you want to protect your products.

Some affiliate networks come with some basic product protection and delivery features, but these are a quick fix, if anything. If you want to deliver your products like a pro, you’ll need more than that.

"Shopping Cart" or "Membership Software"?

When you start looking at the different options available to you as a vendor, you’ll quickly notice that most of the solutions come with one of two labels: they are either “shopping carts” or “membership site software”.

What’s the difference?

Shopping carts are primarily made for ecommerce stores and while they can be used for selling digital products, they are usually not ideal for this purpose. In a shopping cart system, you generally get to set up products with images and product descriptions and assign prices to them. When the customer purchases an item, it usually takes them to a shopping-cart page, rather than straight to the checkout. Also, since ecommerce is based on shipping out physical goods, digital content protection is a non-issue and therefore not part of most shopping carts.

This is not to say that all shopping carts are automatically useless for digital product delivery. There are dozens of solutions available and they can be suitable for this purpose to varying degrees.

On the other hand, membership site software is mainly concerned with securing online content, usually with different membership levels and “content dripping”. My personal recommendation is to use membership software to deliver products, even if they are one-time paid products. I believe in offering more than just an ebook and there’s no better way of offering all your content, streaming media and download links on a nicely designed membership site.

Next, let’s get into the nitty-gritty on all the membership and product delivery platforms that I’ve personally tested and have a look at their pros and cons.

aMember Pro

aMember Pro Image

aMember Pro is a membership software that can be used for standalone products as well as for continuity programs. It’s quite a popular solution and it’s been around for a long time – chances are that you’ve gone through an aMember checkout yourself, at some point.

The Good Stuff

Its biggest strength is probably that it has a very good and built-in affiliate management system (allows global affiliate commissions across many products) and that it is, in a sense, very feature-rich and flexible. I write “in a sense” because where aMember falls short is with integration and ease of use.

The Bad Stuff

To really turn aMember into a good, seamless solution, you either need to be a programmer or hire one. Even the standard setup for a product can be quite daunting and it took me a while and several visits to the Wiki, before I figured out how to set up a simple product.

There are many plugins and integrations available for aMember. Unfortuntely, the plugins are also the source of some issues with the system

For example: at the time of testing, there is no built-in integration with Aweber, a very popular autoresponder service. In my search I found references to two different Aweber <-> aMember plugins that were at one time available, but were now nowhere to be found.

This means two things:

  1. The more customized your aMember is, the more potential “weak links” it has, where integration could go awry and wreck your entire setup.
  2. aMember is potentially much more expensive than it seems at first glance, since you’ll have to pay for plugins and quite possibly also for setup and customization.

I had an interesting discussion with Jesus Perez, a guy who specializes in local business marketing and has extensive experience with aMember. He told me of the many troubles caused by aMember “plugin monsters” when one part of the system gets and upgrade and suddenly, the plugins stop working. Then, you’re at the mercy of the third-party providers to deliver an update as quickly as possible (which they may or may not do).

The bottom line is that aMember might be a good solution for the technically well versed, but it also comes with a slew of issues that I’d rather not have to deal with.

Digital Access Pass

Digital Access Pass Image

Digital Access Pass, or DAP, is specifically made for membership sites on WordPress. However, it’s not a plugin and that’s a very important point. DAP sits just outside of your WordPress installation and this gives it much more flexibility and power than if it were confined to being just a plugin.

The result is that DAP is the best WordPress based membership and product delivery solution I’ve seen to date.

The Good Stuff

While I wouldn’t say DAP is easy to use, I did find it less confusing than many of the other solutions here. Documentation is good and support response is fast, as well.

Digital Access Pass has an extensive feature list and gives the user an amazing amount of control over every aspect of the membership sites, content dripping, product delivery and more.

You can access all DAP features from within WordPress and since the integration is seamless, it’s very easy to create beautiful product and membership delivery with DAP: all you need is a good WordPress Theme. The login-screens, membership area, product access, user profiles and everything else is placed within your WordPress site, so you don’t have to worry about styling.

As with all self-hosted solutions, the emails with login details are sent from your server, which will inevitably cause a problem with deliverability, at higher volumes. The standard solution is fine to get started, but as soon as you reach a decent sales-volume, you’ll need a better solution. Luckily, DAP makes it easy to integrate with third-party applications that specialize in sending these kinds of transactional emails and make sure they get delivered.

The Bad Stuff

The DAP user interface looks like something made by geeks, for geeks. It’s not pretty, is what I’m saying. However, it’s not terrible, either. Thanks to detailed documentation, it won’t take long until you can find your way around the options and it’s also worth noting that usability is getting better with each update. I’d also like to see more detailed affiliate stats, but both of these points are minor.

The only real downside is that DAP is not a centralized solution. Theoretically, it’s possible to manage multiple products on multiple WP installations, all from one DAP dashboard, but this only works if all of the WP installations are on the same domain. In practical terms, if you try to manage a lot of content, many products, different membership levels etc. in DAP, things quickly become very chaotic and confusing. Even on a site with just one membership and more than one level, it can become a difficult task to make sure all the right pages are assigned to the right membership levels.

Apart from that, DAP is very difficult to fault. It’s a rock solid solution, it’s in constant development and keeps getting better. If you have just one product to sell or if you aren’t bothered with having multiple dashboards for multiple products, Digital Access Pass is the solution to use.

EasyMember Pro

EasyMember Pro

EasyMember Pro is a self-hosted membership platform with simple CMS as part of the package. That means you can use it to create products, memberships and all the pages (sales-pages, member pages etc.) without needing an addition 3rd-party application like WordPress.

The Good Stuff

My impression is that EasyMember Pro is meant to be used on a per-product basis. In other words, the idea is that if you sell multiple products, you set up a separate instance of EMP for each product. This is not ideal, but there’s a fairly easy workaround available. You can use the EMP WordPress plugin to manage the content and member’s areas of your various products. In EMP, you simply create the necessary membership levels and payment pages for each product and link them up to your WordPress installations. This way, you can use EMP as your central management dashboard for all products and members.

In my opinion, this beats using the built-in page builder and page manager in EMP, which is functional but very limited.

EasyMember Pro comes with a solid set of features and tools and once it’s set up, it’s quite easy to get the hang of.

The Bad Stuff

A negative aspect that EMP shares with some other solutions here (like SiteManPro and aMember) is that it leaves the impression of being a bit amateurish or chaotic. For example, I struggled with the installation because there were discrepancies between the installation process described in the documentation, the installation process shown in a tutorial video and the process I was actually looking at. Several pages in the documentation also greeted me with a “here’s where content will be added” type message instead of the expected article.

Another notable factor is that there is an autoresponder integration, but it’s unbelievably heavy handed and requires you to manually pick apart a form code and enter specific details in EasyMember Pro.

While there are some rough edges, I could find any really bad flaws in my testing of the software. Assuming you use it in conjunction with WordPress and you don’t mind the relatively limited amount of payment systems and other integrations, EasyMember Pro will serve you well.

FusionHQ

FusionHQ Title Image

FusionHQ is an all-in-one solution that most closely resembles Kajabi, out of all the systems presented here. It handles products, membership sites, sales-funnels, content-protection, shopping-cart and autoresponder integration,… the lot.

The Good Stuff

In FusionHQ, you start out by either creating a product or a membership site (there’s a drag-and-drop site-builder included) and then setting up a “process”. The process is basically your sales-funnel and it can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. You can create squeeze-pages and sales-pages using a large collection of templates, graphics and a drag-and-drop editor. FusionHQ also handles upsells, downsells and exit-popups out of the box and all these can be added to your process with relative ease.

The Bad Stuff

There are two main issues with FusionHQ. The first is that it seems they have shifted their focus from “product and membership platform” to “make money easily”. Fusion now comes with businesses in a box, consisting of ready-made funnels with PLR content. I can’t help but feel this is a problem, as it shows where the development focus lies – and it’s not where serious product vendors want it to be.

The second has to do with design and styling: I’ve been a Fusion HQ member since one of their early beta releases and the design issue has never been addressed. Quite simply, the available templates are all rather ugly and look outdated. Using the FusionHQ assets and page builder, you’ll have a hard time creating pages that don’t look somewhat tacky. Personally, I’m not a good enough designer to be able to wrestle a good looking page out of Fusion and for me, that’s a deal breaker.

FusionHQ has many strong features, but unless the design issue is addressed, I can’t recommend it.

Kajabi

Kajabi

Kajabi is a hosted platform for creating and selling digital products. It also includes a CMS with which you can set up all your sales funnel pages and membership content pages.

The Good Stuff

Kajabi has, without a doubt, the best, most intuitive user interface in this roundup.

Where most systems dump you into a sea of options, buttons and drop-down menus and it takes a while to figure out how everything fits together, Kajabi is easy to use from the get go. Many users will be able to manage without needing to look at any tutorials.

Another positive highlight is the fact that Kajabi combines all the elements you need, not only to create and manage products and members, but also to create and manage squeeze pages, sales pages, launch events, membership content pages etc.

The Bad Stuff

Whether or not you like Kajabi can probably be predicted based on whether or not you like Apple products.

Much like an Apple product, Kajabi is polished, expensive and limited in functionality. You can use it to create one kind of sales page, one kind of membership site, one kind of sales funnel, in one kind of style. There are customization options, but they’re limited to visual aspects, for the most part.

If you’re a control freak and you want to customize every aspect of your products, you won’t like this.

To put it differently: If you think “I want a product delivery platform that does X, Y and Z.” then Kajabi probably won’t fit. If you think “I want to sell my info-product, but don’t know how.” then Kajabi is perfect, because it does all that for you (more or less, anyway).

Apart from that, a negative aspect of Kajabi is that it integrates with only a limited number of payment processors and affiliate programs and it doesn’t come with a built-in affiliate program. There is a custom option, which lets you integrate Kajabi with many different shopping cart solutions, given that you can do some custom coding.

Bottom line: Kajabi is a good product, as long as its limitations aren’t a deal breaker for you.

Nanacast

Nanacast

Nanacast is a hosted solution, like Kajabi and FusionHQ. Instead of having the bells and whistles out front, Nanacast has all it’s power and potential under the hood – in the form of an impressive feature array.

The Good Stuff

Nanacast has such a ridiculously huge array of features, it’s impossible to convey in an article like this one. Let it just be said that every feature related to memberships, product delivery and ecommerce that you can possibly imagine is likely to be in there, along with lots of features you never even thought of.

Integration with payment processors and autoresponders is also part of the package and for the latter Nanacast can even unsubscribe cancelled customers from your autoresponder’s customer list and move them to a different list.

They also offer state-of-the-art affiliate tracking and more stats than most of us can make use of.

You get the idea: This thing is the 800lbs features-gorilla.

The Bad Stuff

You can host all of your pages with Nanacast and have it do the entire delivery. However, unless you do some heavy html and CSS editing, it will all look rather ugly. Luckily, Nanacast also integrates with WordPress. Surprisingly, the WordPress integration is not quite as deep and complex as, well, everything else in Nanacast, but it gets the job done.

The biggest issue with Nanacast is the user interface: you will find yourself completely overwhelmed with screen after never-ending screen of options, features and custom fields. I believe that you can customize Nanacast to do anything you need, but I’ll never know for sure, because I lack the technical expertise (and the patience) to really get to the bottom of it.

Nanacast is to Kajabi what Linux is to Apple: it’s massively complex and highly customizable, but you need to be a geek to even dare go near it.

Premium Web Cart

Premium Web Cart

Premium Web Cart is a shopping cart and product delivery solution… and it’s also a membership site builder and an autoresponder and helpdesk and a live chat platform and…

In short: Premium Web Cart is the “everything and the kitchen sink” solution. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The Good Stuff

As you can already guess, the benefits of PWC are in its sheer volume of features. Apart from the shopping cart and membership features you’d expect, it also offers:

  • Affiliate management.
  • A coupon system.
  • A website/store builder.
  • A CRM system.
  • An autoresponder (not just for transactional emails).
  • A live chat widget you can add to your site.
  • A helpdesk/support platform.
  • Survey creation and reporting.
  • And more…

Theoretically, it’s nice to have all of this in one single platform and at one (relatively) affordable price.

The Bad Stuff

Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up in practice. Is the PWC helpdesk the best helpdesk you can get? Far from it. It’s functional enough to get by with, though.

The same is true for all the other components. You can’t help but feel that you’re using a second-rate system and making compromises. The Premium Web Cart website itself is a reflection of my experience with the service: they have all these features and a large team of specialists building and maintaining all this tech, but their website looks oddly dated and a bit clunky.

To be more specific, here are two issues I encountered in my test. The first concerns the autoresponder: technically, this is a very useful system and it allows you to set up dynamic follow-up sequences, based on customer actions. This is more than most email marketing systems offer, but in practice, I doubt many people make use of it. The interface is just not user friendly at all and it took me a while to just figure out the very basics of setting up rules and sequences.

The second issue concerns the membership component: you can create a membership site right within the PWC platform, but the available templates for the site are massively unappealing, in my eyes. The CRM for the content is also less than brilliant. As a workaround, you can integrate PWC with Digital Access Pass.

Bottom line: if you are even a little bit of a perfectionist, you won’t like Premium Web Cart. If you are looking for a large collection of features, most of which qualify as “good enough”, it’s worth a look.

Also, a word of warning: I signed up for a free trial of PWC, but my credit card was charged with the full service fee anyway. A mistake, rather than malice, I’m sure. But just be aware that this can happen.

SiteManPro

SiteManPro

Important Note About SiteManPro: it has been brought to my attention that SiteManPro is using a video made and narrated by me in their sales process. Please note that SiteManPro is NOT my product and I have no association with the company.

I helped them with their marketing message and a video a few years ago when we briefly considered collaborating. Unfortunately, the SMP team could not deliver what I needed and we ended the collaboration. I have asked them repeatedly to remove the video I created for them, but they are dragging their heels on the matter.

SiteManPro is based on a very important principle: business centralization.

With SMP, the idea is that you have one central dashboard from which you manage all your products, membership sites and customers, even if you have products in different niches and under different pen names.

The Good Stuff

The centralization idea is SMPs strong point. You can deliver products using your installation of SMP directly or you can connect different WordPress sites or member forums to SMP and have customers log in and access their content on the remote sites.

SiteManPro is also the only solution in the roundup that offers a built-in system for distributing and managing licenses, which is great for anyone selling software products.

A very clever feature in SiteManPro is the way it automates email subscriptions. You can connect multiple email lists from many different autoresponder services to SMP and have it act as an automation tool between them. For example, you can sign up customers to one list and move them to a different list on a different service if they cancel their membership or ask for a refund. Fully utilized, this is a feature that can add Dollars to your bottom line.

The Bad Stuff

SiteManPro has a lot of unrealized potential. Like some of the other solutions I tested, it comes off as being a bit amateurish and we encountered many small but niggling issues, in the time we used it. Unfortunately, the pace of new development and improvements is also relatively slow. I believe SMP is a solution that will only get better over time. But it’s also a solution that still needs to get better before it’s really in the top league.

Ultimately, SiteManPro is functional and useful, if far from perfect. If you are selling software and want a built-in licensing solution and you don’t mind having to do a bit of custom coding, SMP is worth a try.

No WordPress Plugins?

There are dozens of WordPress membership plugins (e.g. Wishlist), none of which I’ve included in this review. This is because I personally wouldn’t use them and I don’t recommend them, either. If your membership system is a WordPress plugin, that means that it’s confined to being just part of one single WordPress installation.

This also means that if you want to sell multiple products or manage multiple sites, there isn’t one central place from which you can manage your business and your customers. Having to log in to five different places to gather the basic stats and access your customer information is not a fun thing to do (trust me, I’ve done it). That’s why I recommend using a membership system that can govern multiple products from one location.

Infusionsoft and Ontraport

Infusionsoft and OfficeAutopilot/Ontraport need mentioning, in a roundup like this. Both of these solutions combine email marketing and marketing automation with shopping cart and product delivery features. They also both have a hefty price tag in common ($200-$300/month to get started).

I’ve tested both of these solutions and I ended up using neither of them as product delivery systems. Both solutions suffer from feature overload, which results in a very steep learning curve. There’s a whole sub-industry of Infusionsoft consultants, who (for very high prices) help out confused Infusionsoft customers.

Also, in both cases, not all parts of the system are particularly good. Infusionsoft has a decent marketing automation component and OfficeAutopilot is great for creating and optimizing follow-up campaigns. Infusionsoft’s shopping cart system is just not a very good shopping cart, though. And Office Autopilot’s membership integration with WordPress was a real headache to try and set up (back when I tested it, at least).

The point here is simply this: if you’re hoping that either of these services will be the problem to all your solutions, you’ll most likely be disappointed. I also can’t help but feel that both of these systems are somewhat over-priced, for what you actually end up getting.

Recommendations and My Personal Solution

I set out on this epic review to find the ideal membership and product delivery solution.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find it.

If you want a great solution at a very good price and you don’t mind a lack of centralization, I recommend Digital Access Pass.

If you want ease of use, you don’t want to have to install and host anything yourself and you don’t mind a somewhat limited feature set, Kajabi is worth a look.

Update for 2015

This is the section of the post where I talk about the solution I use myself and it seems this was the most popular part of the post. Since I wrote it, many things have changed, so here’s what my setup looks like, as of 2015.

For several years,  I used SiteManPro for my product delivery. As stated above, it’s a promising solution, but also has its issues and we were never 100% happy with it. We’ve also spent quite some time custom coding some features into the system, to make it better meet our needs. We used DigiResults for the affiliate component, which was a good solution but is unfortunately not being developed anymore.

For Thrive Themes, we’re using a heavily modified version of MemberMouse for the membership. Unfortunately, it’s the same story as ever with this plugin: it’s good in some ways but it also had serious issues that we needed to write custom code for, to fix.

For an all-in-one solution, I’d recommend looking at Zaxaa. It’s a platform that has been developed at a rapid pace since its inception and every time I look at it, it’s better than last time. It can handle product delivery, coupons, special offers, affiliates and much more.

The bottom line is that none of these solutions are perfect, but you can’t be sitting around, waiting for something perfect to come along. Pick whichever one fits your current needs best and get to work. The sooner you can ship your imperfect product with the imperfect solution, the better off your business will be. I hope this post will give you enough insight to be able to make the right choice.

Thoughts, questions, comments? Join the discussion in the comments section!

Cheers,

Shane
 

I'm Shane Melaugh and I'm the guy writing most of the posts on this blog. My goal is to provide you with useful, straight-forward insights on how to grow your business by creating compelling offers, driving traffic and increasing conversions.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 208 comments
Vanessa - October 15, 2010

Hi Shane,

thank you for this great overview. This was very helpful.

I personally prefer a best-of-breed approach. Here are my two cents for a membership-site setup. It consists of 4 integrated systems:

1. Joomla(joomla.org: That’s the CMS – free
2. CBsubs (joomlapolis.org): That’s a pretty feature-rich subscription system. Technically t’s a Joomla-Plugin. Nice: API to Post Affiliate Pro. Drip content is missing but it looks like the engineers are already on it. Pricing starts at € 95 onetime; optional: a yearly maintenance fee of € 19.
3. Post Affiliate Pro (www.qualityunit.com/postaffiliatepro). Pricing starts at § 199 onetime.
4. Aweber (http://www.aweber.com). So I’ve heard one the best autoresponders and integrates well with Joomla. Starts $ 19 per monhts.

Any experience with using Joomla as a plattform for marketing-driven membership sites?

Keep it up.

Vanessa

Reply
    Shane - October 15, 2010

    Hello Vanessa,
    Thanks for your comment!

    I’ve heard that Joomla is a great solution for membership sites. The thing is, it took me long enough to figure out WordPress and that’s why I really don’t want to switch to a different CMS.
    So far, I’ve been able to get WP to do everything I want it to do, though. :)

    Reply
    Lucas Selbach - July 22, 2014

    Shane,
    Thanks a lot for this great review. It helped me.

    Also thanks, Vanessa, for the hint on Joomla. I´m a Joomla! folk and this is a very specific direction to check out.

    Best regards to both from Brazil!
    Lucas Selbach

    Reply
Rik - October 16, 2010

thanks, Shane, for this comprehensive overview! btw, I saw a review of optimizepress, a wp theme that also integrates with nanacast–but it still seems rather complicated to me. Kajabi seems appealing ’cause it looks so easy, tho’ expensive–which means I’d have to be pretty sure I’ve got something that’s really selling first. So I like your suggestion to use clickbank to try out the market–any way to protect your ebook or other product using cb?
thanks a bunch,
Rik

Reply
    Shane - October 16, 2010

    Hi Rik,

    Actually, there is some kind of content protection thingy with ClickBank. You can read about it here.

    Reply
Adam - October 16, 2010

Thats a nice and in depth review of these platforms. I am planning to get a network of some PLR minisites and small niche products. Nanacast seems to be the best choice to handle everything, the only downside is that its a bit expensive. I am looking for a cheaper option as of now until I can afford it.

Reply
    Shane - October 16, 2010

    You might want to consider DAP. It’s a very good product, only costs a one-time fee and it will probably do everything you need it to do. :)

    Reply
Alex Newell - October 16, 2010

Great reviews Shane.

I’ve spent months delving in the depths of membership software struggling to make things work…and like you I am not a coder.

Shudder!!

I resolved after that to keep things simple and for me that meant wordpress.

probably that means wishlist too although I’ll look at other solutions like PWC which i’ve not heard of previously.

A membership plugin or site can be an ideal way of protecting your products and easily implementing upsells, providing extra bonuses and so on.

There’s no need to set up a “membership” just because you use membership software.

:-)

All The Best

Alex

Reply
    Shane - October 16, 2010

    Exactly. I also use membership sites for my “regular” product delivery. Just nicer than having some download page and nothing more.

    Reply
Mitro - October 16, 2010

You left me speechless. :(

Personally, I’m most interested in Nanacast and Infusionsoft (when I have those 500 customers and a 100k a year-income…)

Technical challenges are (kind of) fun, so I don’t mind using a bit more complex solution.

Reply
    Shane - October 16, 2010

    why speechless?

    if you like technical challenges and aren’t overwhelmed by them, I think you’re in a really good position. :)

    Reply
      Mitro - October 16, 2010

      Why speecheless? I thought I could add some thoughts of my own about this topic… But you pretty much said everything I had in mind.

      Well, I can say, that I’ve seen Wishlist Member to be used as a product delivery platform (even for low-ticket items), not necessarily only as a membership site tool.

      Also, I’ve heard that Jason Fladlien and Wil Mattos are developing their own membership tool… At least I’m interested about it…

      Reply
      Shane - October 16, 2010

      I hadn’t known about the Fladlien/Mattos project (see, you did have something to add!). Could be interesting.
      Although Jason is all about “fast” and not at all about “beautiful”, so that might be a problem (for me, at least). If their system is WP based, it could be good. If it’s not, it will probably be functional and ugly. :D

      Reply
Michel - October 16, 2010

Thank you for the reviews! My current setup for membershipsites is wordpress together with the wishlistmember plugin for the content and clickbank for the payment. I host all files on amazon s3/cloudfront, so there is really no need for kajabi etc. But as you write clickbank really has its limitations if you have a range of products. Maybe nanacast is an answer to this problem, since you mentioned a wordpress plugin.

Reply
    Shane - October 16, 2010

    Nanacast can do pretty much anything you want it to do, in terms of affiliate management. However, the membership plugin is very rudimentary and not at all comparable to something like WhishList. It’s good enough for my purposes, but I think it would seem like a step down from WishList.
    WishList fully integrates with PremiumWebCart, though, so that’s worth looking at (PWC has awesome affiliate management).

    Reply
Josh Anderson - October 16, 2010

Hey Shane,

I just wanted to say that I think you did a great job with this review site. Its refreshing to see honest and unbiased reviews.

I just wanted to add my two cents about the Nanacast WordPress Plugin.

1. Nanacast handles the front end sales funnel, subscriber and affiliate management/tracking process. Our affiliate tracking system is among the most accurate and robust in the industry.

2. The Nanacast WordPress Plugin connects that front end subscriber management handled inside Nanacast with the blog. Our plugin is essentially designed to just control the subscriber access to the blog. This less obtrusive approach makes it more compatible with various themes and other content management options inside the blog itself. Also the plugin we provide is opensource so that anyone can hack and improve it.

My own opinion on wordpress blogs as membership content delivery systems is different than most though…

I believe that the best way to use a WordPress Blog is as your front end sales and SEO machine and that to deliver actual membership content is better handled using the Nanacast hosted content delivery system. This is easily done by simply putting a “members login here” link on your blog and pointing it to the login for the Nanacast hosted content which is more flexible even than wordpress posts and pages because it plays nicer with html and javascript than wordpress does out of the box.

Of course you can also just post right in the WP blog for members only and depending on the publishers preferences there is not just one strategy or solution that fits everyone.

Regards,

Josh Anderson
Nanacast CEO

Reply
    Shane - October 17, 2010

    Hi Josh,

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!

    I have no doubt that Nanacast is a powerful and flexible content delivery platform. My only problem is that I’m simply incapable of making it look good. To be more exact, thanks to a complete lack of coding skills, I’m incapable of changing the standard look and can therefore not match the look of the member’s are to the look of the rest of my sales-funnel. That’s why I like to use WordPress for everything.

    An option would be to hire a webdesigner to visually trick out the content pages. So far, the WP plugin is serving me well, though.

    Reply
Rik - October 17, 2010

It’s helpful to hear how nanacast can integrate with wp, because I’ve had a hard time getting my head around how all this is supposed to fit together.
I can see the advantage of just using wp (or any other website?) as the front-end, with nanacast hosting the rest inside. Does premiumwebcart work the same way? Does it look any better?
do you even need an external website, or can you use pwc for landing pages, content, and sales?

Reply
    Shane - October 17, 2010

    PWC has two membership setups that you can use to deliver content, so you don’t need separate websites for that. For landing pages etc. you do need your own site, though.

    Both Premium Web Cart and Nanacast offer trials and my recommendation is that you sign up for those, take a look at the inside of each system, maybe get in touch with support with a few questions, set up a test-funnel and then make a decision based on that.

    Reply
      Tom Reed - October 15, 2013

      Hi Shane

      Premium Web Cart actually offers 4 different membership options in addition to the Digital Download File delivery system:

      1. Internal PWC Membership system (nick named MPro)

      2. WishList

      3. DAP

      4. aMember

      We have a tendency to be biased towards our membership system but we also realize that there are many different business models that require different approaches. This is why we offer 4 fully integrated solutions to our customers.

      The internal system is loved by the the folks that love it and less loved by folks that need what we don’t focus on. When it comes to membership systems, really do not try to be all things to all people and focus 100% of our efforts on making a product that is great for delivering “courseware”.

      Easy to set up, easy to update, easy for the end customer to use and understand the flow but if you want it to do what it’s not intended to do… you will have trouble.

      For example, if you like to run a membership blog and create / protect premium user comments on your WordPress site, then do not choose our membership system. Go with DAP or WishList.

      Reply
TheShamanMarketer - October 17, 2010

Great comparision – at least one of them I did not even know (nanacast).

People should keep in mind though that any proprietary hosted solution

a) locks you in with that service
b) leaves you out in the rain when they made enough dough and decide to dump the service
c) puts your data, mailing lists, business ideas and products right into the hands of those who run the service.

Personally I would always prefer a self-hosted solution. And I would keep a safe distance to any hosted solution in the vicinity of certain so-called “gurus” of the IM world…

Reply
    Shane - November 28, 2010

    Thanks for your comment!

    I agree that any product by most of the big-name gurus needs to be treated with suspicion. It’s unfortunate, but too many of them have given us strong reasons to doubt them…

    Personally, I don’t mind hosted solutions, though. For example, I use a hosted solution for autoresponder- and e-mailing services and I have amazon or YouTube host my videos etc.

    Reply
wrw - October 17, 2010

Thank you for the helpful info.

I am considering starting a membership site. Membergate seems to be the best (from what I have looked into). I was curious why your review did not cover this product (it seems to be one of the first too).

Thank you,

WRW

Reply
    Shane - October 18, 2010

    Hi,

    There must be dozens of membership solutions out there that I did not cover in this article. I simply covered everything I could get my hands on and head around during about two weeks, then I needed to stop the madness and settle for something.

    Reply
    Paul McCarthy - October 21, 2010

    I have literally just completed a pretty large membership site on the Membergate platform. A few things to note:-

    – Unless you bring in a designer, you’ll find it difficult to make the site look exactly how you want it (although it is possible)

    – The platform is built in Coldfusion and hosted on a Windows server so PHP is out.

    – There are a megaton of useful features and a very helpful team of support staff who reply to your questions very quickly

    – It is capable of time released content, a number of membership levels and price points

    – Surveys, calendars, profiles, discussion forum are all available as part of the standard build.

    – Comprehensive affiliate tracking system, although I am using clickbank’s affiliate system. You can secure the download page with Clickbank Secret Key encryption.

    – There’s a bit of a learning curve when you first pick it up but the abundance of features makes up for it IMO.

    Verdict: I really like it and would certainly recommend it.

    Reply
      Shane - November 28, 2010

      The very first thing that strikes me about Membergate is that it’s hugely expensive.
      No doubt it’s very powerful, but I’d say you have to have a very clear idea of what you want and need and be sure that MG is the right solution, before dropping that amount of cash on something…

      Reply
wrw - October 18, 2010

Oh, I forgot to mention, there is one other that looks good: Wild Apricot. Thoughts?

Thank you again.

WRW

Reply
    Shane - October 18, 2010

    Well, they have a cool name.

    Looks like they don’t have affiliate management, though, so that’s a pretty big drawback right there…

    Reply
wrw - October 18, 2010

I thought Membergate was the king-kong – the Google/Microsoft and that all others were just “me too” imitations. Since you have not heard of them, it tells me that there are perhaps hundreds of vendors. The internet’s vastness never ceases to amaze me.

IF you have a chance, maybe you could take a look – but like you said, at some point you have to just stop looking.

Thank you.

WRW

Reply
wrw - October 18, 2010

BTW, I found this site. It is a membership site for ….. membership sites (their owners, actually). I have not joined it (yet) it is $27/mo. It also seems to be powered by Membergate.

http://www.membershipsiteowner.com/

Reply
wrw - October 18, 2010

Not to keep going on, but maybe there are differences here that I am missing (being a neophyte). All I am interested in is attracting members to my site that is a niche subject at $9.95/mo. My goal is 1000 subscribers. I am not too interested at this point in any cross selling or affiliate marketing – just posting an article or two per day and hoping the members contribute to the forum.

Are we talking apples and oranges here?

Reply
    Shane - October 19, 2010

    Well, the question is: How are you going to get those 1000 members?
    And since they won’t stay members forever, how are you going to keep at that level of members?

    You’ll need a heck of a lot of traffic to get that many members and the best/easiest way to get that kind of traffic is by recruiting affiliates.

    It’s not the only way to do things, but I certainly wouldn’t want to do without it.

    Reply
Gregg Terry - October 18, 2010

Shane, that was a super useful article that you published. Lots of really good comments too!

I know that you can’t be all things to everyone but one area that I wish you would have addressed is the pricing model – i.e. unlimited usage vs a per domain basis. This is a complete game changer for those of us interested in deploying a solution on multiple site.

It seems to me that one huge advantage of going with a solution that can integrate with wordpress is that you can take advantage of all of the incredible plugins associated with it.

People think of wordpress as a blog but it is also a development platform – and a very popular one at that. Many clever and very useful applications are constantly being developed exclusively as wordpress plugins. They are simply not available for ‘normal’ (php or windows asp) websites, other popular open source platforms such as joomla and drupal – let alone proprietary platforms.

Personally, I see this trend only increasing because of the enormous popularity of wordpress.

To me, that’s a huge advantage for choosing a solution that integrates with wordpress – that is rarely discussed in conversations of this sort.

Reply
    Shane - October 19, 2010

    Hi Gregg,

    Thanks for your comment!
    Of all the solutions mentioned, Kajabi is the only one with limitations on it, even when you get the biggest package.

    All of the other options are unlimited or have an unlimited option available.

    Reply
Tony - October 21, 2010

Hi Shane

Frying my brains at the moment on a more basic level putting all the bits of a new product together so the delivery system review was really useful and timely

I had only really looked at the Clickbank, Payspree and Paydotcom options so far, had a quick look at RAPbank but wasen’t sure on that as there seemed to be too much information missing which worried me

Had watched about half of the first Kajabi Video then lost the will to live and switched it off, talking to a pal of mine last Saturday he said one of them was the better part of an hour OMG!

I think it’s great that you always give a truly objective view, your a model to all of us on how to go forward

Back to the brain frying Thanks Tony

Reply
    Shane - October 25, 2010

    “lost the will to live and switched it off”
    That’s priceless. :D

    Something like PaySpree or RAPbank can actually be great, especially if you’re only marketing one or two products.
    The main reasons I’m so darn picky about my solutions is that I create member’s areas for almost all my products, I am creating entire product lines (and more than one) and I want to offer some extremely cool features for my affiliates.

    Reply
Joshua - October 21, 2010

Hey Shane,

I will be canceling my Kajabi account because right now there is no way to go from a squeeze page to a salesletter page. Right now it is created as a product launch funnel and membership delivery. Everything was quite simple to set in Kajabi. I was able to set up a great membership site with Kajabi in 2hrs. I have been toiling over my Wishlist blog for 3 months. The function of wishlist is simple but creating the design of the blog is not so much. There should be more training from wishlist. The guy from optimize press said that he would be working on creating a theme that could easily create membership sites.

Talk soon, I have to check out my Wishlist site creation responses from Odesk…

Reply
    Shane - November 28, 2010

    Sorry to hear about your troubles, Joshua.

    Kajabi seems to be pretty badly broken, unfortunately.

    Reply
    Vic Dorfman - March 23, 2013

    Josh, I feel your pain regarding Wishlist…

    What seems to have happened is that it started out as a promising plugin, then it got popular and made the developers a lot of money. And then…

    They completely dropped the ball. The functionality is limited and not on a par with its competitors (for instance, Wishlist Member doesn’t support Clicbank’s one-click upsell feature).

    And the documentation is a complete mess. You even have to be a member to access some of the documentation, which is frustrating if you’re not the owner, but the guy “setting it up”.

    That’s interesting also about the OptimizePress folks working on a membership solution. First time I’ve heard about it…

    Incidentally, the overwhelming majority of my clients actually use DAP + OP. So it would be fascinating to see what the OP devs come up with!

    Reply
Paul McCarthy - October 21, 2010

Bloody heck Shane this is a beast of a post!

Kajabi sounded great but with no affiliate management, the constraints with the pricing plan, everything looking “samey” and with what Joshua said above, I’m not going near it.

I’ll let you in the back of my site at membergate – would be interested to get the Swiss Assassin’s thoughts on that!

Personally I love it, but a technophobe wouldn’t – that’s for sure.

Reply
    Shane - October 25, 2010

    Thanks, Paul.

    Yeah, I bet you feel right at home in a sea of code, don’t you? :)

    Reply
Bill Davis - October 21, 2010

Thanks for the great overviews! This is very valuable. Had this been published a year or two ago…I would have saved a ton of time and money (time being the most critical factor).

I finally settled on a product I don’t see mentioned above, called Memberwing-x. After trying some of the products you reviewed, I stumbled across this one and really couldn’t be happier. It does *most* of what you list as necessary. The only thing it doesn’t do well (if at all) is upsells and downsells. I surely could figure out a way to do it.

It would be interesting to get your take on it.

Reply
    Shane - October 25, 2010

    Hi Bill,

    Didn’t know about Memberwing-X. I’ll have to take a look at it.
    Upsells and downsells aren’t all that important to me personally, either.

    Reply
James Martin - October 21, 2010

Thanks for the review! I’m about to launch my first membership site and need to find a reliable, affordable platform and have started reviewing the systems you covered and then some. I was wondering if you have looked at Rapid Action Profits and the membership plug-in w/ PayPal integration? It seems to meet a lot of your criteria (some of which I haven’t even considered for my site)and you can use it on unlimited sites and it works with wordpress.

Reply
    Shane - October 25, 2010

    I don’t have any experience with the RAP membership module, unfortunately. RAP itself is a very clever system, though.

    Reply
Jan - October 21, 2010

Hi Shane,
Thanks for the great review. I want to set up a membershipsite before end of the year. I’m thinking about Wishlist. Because of the flexibility of the payment methods.

Reply
Mike - October 23, 2010

Just an update on your update :O)

FusionHQ will be opening on November 2nd. You are correct, it does everything that kajabi is “supposed” to do, and a whole lot more. They started developing it way before the kajabi guys “came up with their idea (hmmm)”, which is why fusionhq actually works, and kajabi is ripe with bugs and glitches and was obviously rushed to market ahead of fusionhq (bad plan guys!!). Yeah, there’s plenty of other big reasons not to buy kajabi, but I’m not here to go into all that. If you want reasons to hesitate about kajabi, this guy’s blog will give you more than enough.

http://www.darrenmonroe.com/wordpress/kajabi-non-affiliate-review/

If you want a far superior product (at a much more reasonable price too), then check out fusionhq on November 2nd.

Cheers
MikeD

Reply
Rolf - October 26, 2010

Very good of you to look into these things!

I am very happy about your choice as well! Nanacast is a very capable system indeed and it is good that it integrates with WordPress sites and other sites as well.

If Josh Anderson’s presentation is still on the Nanacast site, please watch it! It is as good a lesson in marketing as a lesson about the system.

I have also taken a look at Plimus which also seems to be quite good but different. I think Keyword Elite is sold through Plimus.

One thing I keep missing most of the time is the language factor. I would really like to have a Spanish, Japanese etc. versions so people in these countries can deal with system as well.

I think PayPal has a checkout procedure in Spanish.

For those just starting out and needing a very basic system there are some free WordPress based things which solves the initial problems.

I really don’t want to mention them here because I am just about to test them myself and I want to be sure that they are okay before I recommend them.

Best wishes

Reply
Cheryl - October 31, 2010

Thanks for the review, Shane. I decided to go with Premium Web Cart for my membership site because of its features and because of its fantastic customer support.

I’m not sure what you meant by it’s not being a CMS. You can upload all your content (videos, pdf’s), create a somewhat custom look to match up with your main site. What am I missing?

Thanks!

Reply
    Shane - December 15, 2010

    You’re right, you can create pages and membership areas in PWC, I need to rephrase that bit in the article.
    What I meant to say is that PWC is not designed to build your front-end (like your online store, for example), but it does have features for the back-end (like membership areas).
    Thanks for the notice!

    Reply
Samoj - November 1, 2010

Hello,
Could you tell me about any resource which can help me integrate Premium Web Cart to my existing Joomla site.

Please make it fast its urgent.

Thank you in advance.

Reply
    Shane - November 1, 2010

    Contact PWC support for this. I bet they’ll be glad to help you out.

    Reply
    Tom Reed - October 15, 2013

    Hi Samoj

    Since the PWC membership system is a “hosted” solution, you can attach it to any site / platform where you can add a hyperlink.

    It does not matter if it is a Joomla site, WordPress site, Facebook page, etc. – All will work fine.

    Reply
Amanda Emily - November 19, 2010

Thanks so much for your useful advice.

I recently signed up to Kajabi because I wanted something easy to use for setting up a membership site. I certainly didnt want to be sitting day after day working out the technical elements of putting it together. I have a dream I want to make a reality, so I would rather be concentrating on what content im going to be providing, creating JVs and marketing before the launch.

However, after reading your review, I am slightly concerned about how user friendly it is going to be and whether this is actually going to be the right platform?

I tried getting hold of Fusion HQ as this looked like the best alternative. However, this product now appears to be sold out?

What Im really after is something that is easy to put together and will be easy for customers to navigate round. Also, the ability to have a community feel, link a good affiliate program to it and link to other products and services.

Im thinking that it may be best just to outsource the whole putting together of the site, as I would rather be concentrating on my strengths.

Slightly confused, lol…

Any feedback would be extremely appreciated and thank you so much for your help and advice :)

Warm wishes, Amanda

Reply
    Shane - November 19, 2010

    Hi Amanda,

    FusionHQ keep shutting the doors and reopening, as I guess they want to make sure the system doesn’t get overloaded with new users (could cause problems and eat up too many resources).
    How familiar are you with WordPress?

    I create all my product sites with WP and it can be set up with nice, easy navigation, great looking design and comments (= community kind of thing). But it does require a bit of fiddling to get it all to be “just right”. At least it does if you’re as perfectionistic as myself. :)
    If you know your way around WP, then Digital Access Pass might be the best option for you. They also recently added a feature for member-only forums, so there’s even more community potential there.

    Since you already signed up, you could certainly have a look around Kajabi and see if that would suit your options. I’d just be a bit worried about my data and content on there…

    Hope this helps,
    Shane

    Reply
Amanda Emily - November 21, 2010

Thank you Shane – this really really helps.

I agree with Kajabi – the data and content issues could be a problem and this really is a long term project, rather than short term… so I see it growing with time. Therefore, my gut tells me it needs to be self hosted.

Im not overly great with WordPress, although I do use it for my blog. However, Im now going to outsource everything re. putting together the site and marketing. Even so, the information you provided is great because I will be able to project manage it easier having this knowledge to hand.

Again, thank you

Warm wishes, Amanda :)

Reply
Sam - November 27, 2010

Has anyone checked out Extrememember.com? It looks like a great integrated product but you do have to pay a monthly fee rather then a one time purchase. If it does the job right it may be worth it.

Reply
Steve - December 1, 2010

Hi Shane,

Have you made you final decision yet on which solution you are going to use?

Thanks,

Steve

Reply
Nemo of Bloomfire - December 27, 2010

Shane, as someone building a newer membership site product (http://www.Bloomfire.com) that you didn’t review, allow me to add to your thoughts. There is a tendency for consumers to believe that more features = better. That belief has been encouraged by countless marketing dollars. Just take a look at how Apple launches a new OS X. The story is almost always, Welcome to OS X 10.6, with 5 new game-changing features (and 13441 other updates too).

And in some very well-designed products, product managers are able to manage the complexity that comes with each new feature. They’re able to pack more features into the box without making the product clunky or difficult to use. However, some product managers can’t manage the complexity, and the product gets bloated.

If you’re familiar with project management software, you may have heard of Microsoft Project and 37signal’s Basecamp. Microsoft Project packs all the bells and whistles into its product. It’s very powerful. It’s also not very intuitive. On the other hand, Basecamp only keeps the most important bells and whistles. By staying simple, it’s less powerful, but it’s also much more intuitive and user-friendly. 37signals, Basecamp’s creator, cleverly stated that they’re perfectly fine with their users outgrowing their platform and moving to something more powerful, like Microsoft Project. I think that’s smart, Basecamp’s kind of the gateway drug for those new to project management software. And they’ve got millions of customers as a result.

As the Ambassador at Bloomfire, I’ve talked to too many people who have been burned by clunky, complex software. They’d be happy to burn some bells and whistles to buy something that “just works” (as Steve Jobs likes to say in his presentations). For many, they don’t want to invest a lot into their very first membership site. They just want to test the concept with a push-button, low price-point, simple solution. And that’s what our product does. Just insert your logo, add some content, invite your people, and set a price. We take care of the rest.

Reply
    Shane - January 29, 2011

    This comment is a bit too much of an advertisement. You might want to tone that down a little.

    Here’s the deal: There’s a place for complex solution and a place for simple solutions.

    Simple is not better than complex and neither is complex better than simple. They’re different and suitable for different people.

    I, for one, embrace complexity, because I usually have concrete ideas of what I want my system to do and unless it’s a flexible, highly complex system, that exact thing I have in mind is probably not possible. Which is one of the reasons you don’t see my products on ClickBank or any other affiliate network.

    On the other hand, if someone just wants a solution that they don’t have to think about and is happy with doing things they way they come, out of the box, then the more complicated systems aren’t the way to go.

    Reply
Evelyn - January 2, 2011

Hi Shane,
You mentioned great community features for Kajabi. I’m looking right now at using Kajabi to create a membership site/community. It seems they only allow you to collect some users together into a community and then they are able to comment on content posts that only the admin can create. Users cannot see a list of all users in the community, they cannot privately communicate, they can only follow a user which allows them to click on that user and see what they have posted. They can follow a “group” (topic) created by the admin and see all posts connected to that topic. They cannot create topics. There are no forum, chat or other more social community features. So I’m curious why you felt this limited list of things users can do in Kajabi as great?

Also – do you have any knowledge of a good social group platform? I have looked at grou.ps, ning and a couple others I didn’t remember since they didn’t work for me. I’m still looking for a good choice.

Thanks,
Evelyn

Reply
    Shane - January 2, 2011

    Hi Evelyn,
    Thanks for your comment!
    I didn’t mean to say that Kajabi was a good platform for a social media type site. The community features in Kajabi are good compared to those in pretty much every other membership platform, because in most cases there are no community features whatsoever. So the fact that Kajabi implements comments and a forum-like feature AT ALL really make it stand out from the rest. Having said that, I still absolutely can’t recommend Kajabi because of it’s many other shortcomings.

    As for a system that would be suitable for an actual social network type of site: I really have no idea. I’ve never tested any systems like it and I’m not much of a social media guy myself, so I really can’t make a recommendation. Sorry.

    Reply
    Luis Oscar Cruz - January 14, 2011

    Evelyn check out Profile Manager Premium or Memberkit; both by Interlogy those are very very good on “social”; but very very limited on “membership”; unless your plan is to do a social network membership (or a mastermind site).

    Reply
Luis Oscar Cruz - January 13, 2011

Hi Shane; awesome post!
I’ve been keeping my eye on DAP. I saw on DAP site that it works without WordPress on plain HTML sites. Do you know to what extent it can work without WordPress? I do know it can integrate with WordPress but at the same time is WordPress independent because it is unaffected by WordPress upgrades and also what I mentioned that it can work on plain HTML sites.

Nanacast is for me as well the 800 pound gorilla membership solution.

Another solution that I have also been keeping my eye on is the very powerful Delavo. Google it and click on the features and tech specs links. I know that the core of the system is free; but I have no idea how much the plugins costs, neither I know how much the Bronze, Silver and Gold version cost. I will contact them to check that out.

Another alternatves for different budgets are EasyMemberPro, MemberMouse(which I think is a lot better than Wishlist – is very polished)

Didn’t knew of PWC or FusionHQ. That’s good to know.

BTW I am a new follower of imimpact and I am profoundly impressed with your honesty and I’m speechless with the free courses.

Reply
    Shane - January 14, 2011

    Thank you for your kind comment!

    Yes, you can use DAP to protect non-WP content and you can use it on it’s own for some very simple product and membership sites (with the emphasis being on VERY simple. I wouldn’t use it like that).

    I’ve seen Delavo. From what I’ve heard, the problem is that it’s going to be very expensive, once you’ve loaded it up with some advanced features.

    MemberMouse I’d never heard of before. I gotta say that it looks very nice, but it also seems that you NEED to have a Limelight CRM account to use it. Not sure how I feel about that.

    Thanks for the great contribution to this discussion!

    Reply
      Luis Oscar Cruz - January 14, 2011

      Thanks Shane for the reply!

      I did my homework. Although I have not installed it yet. Yes… Delavo can be extremely expensive.
      Don’t have time to read all of this – go ahead to the conclusion. Read my rant at the conclusion.

      There still is one very important thing I still don’t know. Each feature is a plugin ( I don’t know which plugins are free and which are paid so for example when I say that Delavo Core integrates with WordPress, or I say it has shipping delivery monitoring I mean it accepts the pluging for those respective features but I don’t know if those plugins are free.

      THE VERSIONS
      Delavo Core | free
      Accepts lots of payment processors, integrates with WordPress, Drupal and major forums, imports/exports data, import users, has a shipping delivery monitoring, brotherhoods(?). The feature comparison chart says that the core account accepts the blog publisher but on the members area that is part of the silver account.

      Delavo Bronze | $97/month
      The bronze account adds one-time offers, Kunaki integration, banner rotator, brandible PDF, and adds Alertpay as a payment option.

      Delavo Silver | $197/month
      The silver account adds packages pro (the pro version of the shipping delivery monitoring plugin,
      products pro (restrictions, charity commissions, Limit recurring commissions after N installments, master memberships, embedded products)
      upsell products, short urls/short urls pro, sponsorships, ban users, customized forms, taxes calculator, questionnaires, jv products (to do a jv deal), broadcast news, labels (to bundle information), links directories, dynamic pricing, custom tags, shopping carts, quick resell (your affiliate gets paid IMMEDIATELY on every single sale, and you get the email address of the buyer.), and adds Paypal WPP DP and Paypal Payflow as new payment options.

      Delavo Gold | $497/month
      The feature comparison chart says that the gold account adds invoices and the pages (CMS) plugins but on the members area that is part of the silver account.
      Gold adds minisites, coupons, special users, promo generator, internal subscriptions, rewards, affiliate downline, affiliate series (to reward affiliates), export data, mass user operation, testimonials (facilitates members to provide a testimonial), certification manager (certification tags on members), delavo to delavo integration module, plugin follow-up manager, geo tracking, clouds (weird name for suggestions), multiply records, reminders, support tickets, one page order form integratable in any HTML page, database backup, lesson manager, content series (drip feed system), and privileges.

      CONCLUSION
      The free Core version is OK if you don’t care about affiliates, drip feed system, or OTO or upsells.

      The bronze version may look good for selling physical products; especially with it’s Kunaki integration (although without shopping cart!); but has no sense paying $99/month without drip feed system, affiliate manager, upsells, oh my without database backup or without being able to ban users. Neither it accept Paypal WPP DP or Paypal Payflow.

      The silver account is full of features and have shopping carts and upsells but paying $197/mo without drip feed system, affiliate manager, coupons, still no database backup, no Delavo to Delavo integration, no privileges setup.

      ¡It’s nonsense to have to pay the absurd recurring amount of (drumroll) $497/month to be able to drip feed system, have an affiliate manager, a database backup, privileges!

      I have still to clarify again that all the features are plugins and I don’t know which plugins are free and which are paid.

      The features are definitely poorly distributed.

      Reply
      Shane - January 14, 2011

      Thanks for that!

      Yeah, I agree that the pricing makes no sense this way. By the time you want the gold features (which you probably will, sooner or later), you’ll be paying far too much and there are other systems that offer very similar feature sets at far lower prices…

      Just goes to show that it’s a minefield out there. There are so many solutions for shopping carts and membership sites, if I wanted to include them all, this post would be a mile long… I’m actually thinking of maybe creating a separate site, just for reviews of these systems. If I find the time, I might do that.

      Reply
      John Delavera - April 19, 2013

      Shane

      As it seems you did not test DELAVO – remember my msg? – and the information here does not depict reality. A better research would help.

      As you can see at http://delavo.com/go DELAVO offers everything ANY other solution offers for $47 p/m

      FYI Luis

      The core DELAVO is not offered for free anymore. The only 1 available version today is the GOLD one (aka. the whole enchilada) and the special offer of $47 p/m is still running. Also fyi there are no separate plugins, hence the Gold version includes everything.

      John

      Reply
Josh Anderson - January 29, 2011

Hi Shane,

I just wanted to pop back by and mention some updates about Nanacast’s integrations for WordPress.

Our main philosophy with our MemberLock wordpress plugin for Nanacast is that we created it to be very light weight in order to play nice with other plugins and themes. Also we made our plugin open source… it was released to inspire others to hack it and build upon it.

1. For example it works great with Optimize Press which is a nice direct response style theme and which also provides great page templates.

2. Here is another great example of what one of our users has done with our Nanacast MemberLock wordpress plugin:

http://www.steveovens.com/internet-business/how-to-link-nanacast-com-and-wishlist-member

He hacked it into a Nanacast + Wishlist wordpress plugin to integrate Nanacast + Wishlist + WordPress. So now you can have a Nanacast sales, affiliate, and subscriber automated membership blog combined with the content management features of Wislist if you are a licensed Wishlist user.

3. I also wanted to mention that currently we are working on an update that will improve the content delivery integration from Nanacast to our MemberLock wordpress membership plugin so that those who happen to use wordpress with Nanacast can take advantage of increased wordpress integration with Nanacast’s powerful time dripped content, group and individual real time “broadcasted” content, and personalization features found in our content delivery system. This only effects how dripped content is displayed inside of the blog..

There are lots of other features coming out this year as well but those I mentioned above seemed to be the most related to the discussion here on your blog.

Regards,

Josh Anderson

Reply
Steve @ Trout Fishing Information - February 28, 2011

Hi Shane

What is your opinion on OptimizePress?

Have you seen it or tried it?

It’s being raved about in several blogs and only has a one off fee which is attractive, but would rather hear a totally honest opinion about it – as you do

Thanks
Steve

Reply
    Shane - February 28, 2011

    Hi Steven,
    I currently use it for most of my sales-pages. But I’m not entirely happy with it. In many ways, it’s quite clumsy and it has a weird habit of screwing up code even more than WordPress already does on it’s own. However, either that or DigiLaunchPad are the best currently available options, IMO.

    In other words: It’s not perfect, but it’s still the best solution out there. :)

    Reply
      Steve @ Trout Fishing Information - February 28, 2011

      So did you mean DidiLaunchPad or OP is the best solution?

      OP seems confusing as all the options in it’s own setup area PLUS it seems to duplicate the settings in the New Page setup everytime. (and so so many to think about & can’t see them visually whilst choosing/setting up)

      And whats with the Loss of all use of wordpress regarding Posts and Zero site design etc

      I like the pages and layouts etc but I don’t know if it’s worth all the disruption to my wordpress install and posts and whether i really want to mess about with sub domains and 2nd installs of OP+WP and redirecting one blog to another to get the pages that OP makes AND get my site design!

      You could copy the shortcodes and some images and apply them to any other WP setup with stylesheet setups!!

      Reply
      Shane - February 28, 2011

      Oh, you definitely want to use separate installs of WP for your sales- and squeeze-pages, no matter which theme you choose.

      OP does have a blog compontent, though. Still, I highly recommend keeping your sales-stuff separate from your blog-stuff.

      Reply
Steve @ Trout Fishing Information - February 28, 2011

but what about say my blog with a homepage being a squeezepage?
i would have to re-direct my main domain to a sub domain (with OP on it) then on the sub-domain suppose i would have to hand make links back to the rest of the blog website?

how does all this switching between main domain and sub-domain impact on SEO? Any loss of rankings as it would be split up between sub-domain and domain ?

thanks
Steve

(could you give a scenario how you use it please – could always email to me if need be)

Reply
Cary Ellis - March 30, 2011

Hey Shane thanks for the great review article!!!

I just abandoned DAP – after a couple of months of messing around with it – couldn’t manage on my own and had a hard time finding someone to work on it. Great people – and good product if you can manage the details.

I’m now in Nanacast – appreciate Josh’s comments – it is a great product.

Have you tried Get Profits theme? And do you know if it will integrate with Nanacast – and maybe be a little better on code than Optimize Press?

thanks!
:) Cary

Reply
    Shane - March 30, 2011

    I have to say I’m surprised you find Nanacast easier to handle than DAP! I personally found the Nanacast interface took much more getting used to than DAP, but perhaps it’s down to personal preference.

    The Profits Theme offers great value for the price. I’ve only just started testing it, though.

    Reply
Anthony Wilmsen - April 1, 2011

Does anyone have any experience of Rapid Action Profits membership site management system? I am setting up a series of membership sites and amemberpro seemed to fit most of the boxes – however I really appreciate the comments about integration mentioned above which have caused me to eliminate it. I just cant be doing with stuff thats so difficult to use. Rapid Action Profits has been recommended to me as being feature rich and easy to use.

Reply
BruceS - April 5, 2011

Shane,

Are you familiar with WP Member Champ by Jason Fladlien? It seems a bit overpriced for the limited feature set, but on some level that simplicity is appealing as well.

I am also considering DAP, but am concerned about the learning curve. Looking at some of the tutorials on their site doesn’t inspire confidence that it will be easy to set up.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

Reply
    Shane - April 5, 2011

    Hi Bruce,
    I haven’t used Member Champ myself, but I’m familiar with it.
    Speed and simplicity are what it’s all about. If you mainly want to be able to set up a membership site very, very quickly and without having to deal with a learning process, then it’s for you. It is very limited in what it can do, though.

    For me personally, it’s definitely not the right choice, because I’d much rather invest time to learn how to use a more complex solution than settle for less. But that’s just me and my perfectionism. :)

    Reply
BruceS - April 5, 2011

I tend to agree with you philosophically. I really like the features of DAP, but am concerned about it becoming a time drain to get it up and running.

I may need to reach out to the developers to get more comfortable with the available resources and support.

Thanks for your input.

Reply
Andrew Murray - August 7, 2011

Why do you keep your sales pages and squeeze pages separate?

So theoretically for 1 site you could have a WP install for the sales page, another for the squeeze page(s) (if it was not a launch sequence as in Optimizepress) and another for your product access?

Are you still with Nanacast?

Have they made any improvements to their checkout process?

Reply
    Shane - August 7, 2011

    Hi Andrew,

    I just keep my “customer” and “non-customer” pages separate. I.e. the sales- and squeeze-pages are on one WP install and the member’s area/download section is on another, either in a subfolder or on a sub-domain.

    You could use OptimizePress with the built-in member’s area of course, but I simply don’t like their design and layout.

    I’m not using Nanacast anymore. Currently, I’m using Post Affiliate Pro for the affiliate stuff and DAP for the products.

    Reply
Andrew Murray - September 1, 2011

So you use PAP4 for the affilate stuff.

Do you find affiliates get confused about the DAP affilate links? I found the DAP affiliate system very underwhelming.

Reply
    Shane - September 2, 2011

    Hi Andrew,

    You can “hide” the DAP affiliate information, so that your members don’t even ever see it. This should avoid any confusion. It is very basic, but good enough to start out with. Depends on what you want from you affiliate system. It’s not more basic than, say, ClickBank.

    Reply
Colin - September 20, 2011

Thank you Shane for that comprehensive report or decision process. The comments certainly show once again that no one person is possession of all of the facts. Like many people too much information can stall any progress. So while I have a lot of WP information and software – I haven’t made that start.

I must say I’m attracted to FusionHQ as they been revising the interface and giving the user the choice of either having a tick the boxes or/and drag the elements around the page. It has a vast array of templates while still being able to make your own designs. It certainly has a lot of features for the money.

Reply
James - November 2, 2011

Hey Steve

I am currently in the middle of this process. Man is it painful with all these options. At the moment it is a toss up between Nanacast and PWC. Which way did you end up going after the update where you said you might leave Nanacast?

I’m also looking at Drupal Ubercart. I like the self hosted idea a bit better than leaving everything in the hands of someone else’s server. What do you think with regards to that? It would be a lot more work to get going but maybe worth it in the long run. Note that this is to sell software products with or without recurring subscriptions.

Hope you can help me out a bit here because this is driving me insane!

Cheer
James

Reply
    Shane - November 10, 2011

    I actually ended up using Digital Access Pass in combination with Post Affiliate Pro. It’s still not the ideal solution and it required some custom programming, but it works for my purposes.

    Reply
James - November 10, 2011

Cheers Shane (sorry for calling you Steve). My mind was probably in tatters after staring at different options for hours on end.

I actually noticed your post where you said you switched to DAP and PAP. I’m thinking PAP is the way to go as well – it does a bit more than I thought it did with coupons etc.

Nothing really is the ideal solution, which makes the decision so hard.

Thanks for the help

Reply
James - November 11, 2011

Oh one more thing, how did you go moving all of your affiliates from Nanacast to PAP?

Reply
    Shane - November 11, 2011

    You can’t really move them. I just mailed all of them and invited them to log into the new account and get their new links.

    Reply
Jeff - November 13, 2011

Hi Shane:
Wow…..I’ve spent the last week or so looking around at reviews and getting ready to try a few “free trials” of different tools. I just got back from a conference where a few of the products you mention had booths etc.

I’ve read maybe 50-100 different reviews online so far, and yours by far was the most comprehensive and unbiased…..pointing out that there is NO “one perfect solution” is huge. I got tired of reading reviews by people who were either 1) obviously commissioned salespeople or affiliates for the product they just happened to say was perfect and all other products are crap, or 2) reviews by people who haven’t even used the products or researched them, or 3) reviews by people who are wayyyyyyy more into programming (nothing against them….it’s just not me).

I hadn’t read as much info about DAP or Fusion before your review. Also I just met Andy from Kajabi. Thought they offer some interesting benefits, it just didn’t seem like a good fit. After studying infusionsoft for a while, I have a whole new respect for how much they can do….in fact, I can honestly say I don’t think any one product even comes close to them. This also led to the reason they aren’t the best choice for me. “THEY” can do unbelievable things with the system…..I’m not “THEY”, and the learning curve for infusionsoft is just too big for the amount of time I can spend on it.

I had narrowed down my list and was looking at nanacast and a few others as I am looking for something that is more middle of the road between features and ease of use (yes nanacast can offer lots of features, but seems a heck of a lot easier that infusionsoft). I think I will add DAP and Fusion HQ to the list now and try a few out. I hope to get things rolling this month with membership features etc.

Thanks again for a great source for information!!

-Jeff

Reply
Neil - December 2, 2011

Hi Shane,

Thanks for the in-depth review – it’s a belter! I’m surprised I didn’t find it earlier as I’m been googling this stuff to death over the last couple of weeks. Anyway, I’m glad I’ve finally found it and read it.

Did you have a good look at ProfitsTheme at any point? It looks like it’s very similar to OptimizePress – possibly more functionality but not as nice on the eye. The membership area of PT looks eye-catching but I’ve got to say the rest of looks pretty ugly (blog, sales pages) out of the box. Like yourself, I’m a bit of a control freak, so the look of the site and membership area is very important to me.

It’s interesting what you say about keeping your free/paid stuff separate using different installs. Noted.

I’m currently mulling over either of ProfitsTheme or OptimizePress in conjunction with DAP. However, after reading your article I’m now thinking that I could use pretty much any theme. Is that the case? Does DAP help you to set up a nice looking membership area on its own without the need for a theme like OP or PT?

Thanks,
Neil

P.S. As an aside, you should watch Barry Schwartz’s brilliant TED talk “The Paradox of Choice”. It sums up perfectly why we’re all so unhappy trying to find the perfect membership site solution :)

Reply
    Shane - December 4, 2011

    I had a brief look at Profts Theme. I think it’s a good solution, concerning the price. It’s not what I’m personally looking for, though.

    With DAP, you can use any theme, that’s correct. That’s one of the things I like about it, as it allows me to style my membership/download areas in any way I want. It doesn’t come with a theme of it’s own, though.

    Reply
Jon - January 12, 2012

Great reviews Shane. Thank You for that . I have tested and worked with several Membership system and know the enormous amount of times it takes to test them fully before making a decision to buy one.

From my personal experience, I tested as well many but will mention only 2 here. I built 2 sites on Membergate (clients insisted on using it) which I think is overpriced and really not easy to customize the way you want just to cite just a few cons.

I bought Wishlist Member a while back ago but stopped using it because of a flaw I discovered during my multiple registration testing processes. I could basically bypass the paypal payment and get a user/pass and be able to access all the membership content. I will not post how here for obvious reason. Their answers at that time was “we know and are working on it”. About a month and 1/2 later I asked when this will be resolved, they said they were still working on it. Maybe they fixed this flaw now but cannot test this again because I don’t have Wishlist Member anymore. Anyway at that time I had to take a decision so I decided to go with a different Membership system. Too bad because from all the Membership sites I tested back then I really liked Wishlist Member.

The one I have been looking at more recently is DAP. I also like DAP for his “content protection”.

Reply
Daniel Sweeney - January 31, 2012

Why didn’t I see this before?
(Slaps myself.. for forgetting to check IMImpact)

Anyways.. one you might consider for an update.. Traindom.com

Fairly easy to use.. and very “All in one”.. as you can imagine it has it’s limitations.. but definitely useful for getting up a Minimum Viable Product up

Reply
Wolfgang - March 8, 2012

Hello Shane,
thanks for the tips. Really Great! I m interested in your final Decicion. Why Digital Access Pass in combination with Post Affiliate Pro?

I have started a selfhelp community for fat people with my own method without dieting i have developed in the last years: welowa.org In Collaboration with coders based on Drupal Commons (great tool but very hard work for non coder). Now I m building with wordpress for the .com and different the commercial sites around it. Big thing i know to mmuch for one ;)
I m new to wordpress and have checked most of the members sites. If the welow.org remains in Drupal, it must be, im afraid than i need a solution where users can register at WordPress DAP and their registration is send to welowa.org. Drupal is in the future of DAP, only Post Affiliate Pro has a WordPress plugin and Drupal Modul. And there is a german translation module to, which seems fine. So i think i have no choice, i have to go your way DAP and PAP.
Was it difficult to install DAP and connect with PAP? As I understood you are – like me – not a coder, you dont like to swim in a sea of code? Could and Can you administer yourself the Wordpres+DAP combination?

If you have an PAP affiliatelink, pls post it. Its would be a pleasure for me to use it. (If you read this ASAP pls send me the DAP link too.
Thanks in advance.

wolfgang

Reply
    Shane - March 10, 2012

    Hi,

    I’ve sent you an email reply. This post is about to be updated with some new information.

    Reply
Steve - March 20, 2012

Hi Shane, thanks for taking the time to review Kajabi.

Have you had a chance to personally use it recently? The software has evolved a great deal since the launch, and it’s actually very flexible in what it can do in handling your online sales process and private membership/download area. If you’d like to give it another go, just let me know and I’ll hook you up with a free trial.

Also, the information you have above is wrong. Kajabi provides a way for you to export all your data at any time and doesn’t hold any of it hostage.

Thanks again, Shane! We hope you’ll give Kajabi another shot.

Steve

Reply
Bruce Carse - May 9, 2012

Shane,

Your post is very helpful. Have you looked at Market Pro Max? I’m trying to decide between Kajabi, Market Pro Max and Fusion HQ. I belong to several programs that are hosted on the Kajabi platform. I particularly like their commenting, question & answer features.

Reply
David - August 11, 2012

Hi Shane,

Swiss + Italian, hey!? Never would have guessed by your last name :)

I’ve just begun my online venture and am trying really hard to narrow down all the choices. Literally i have put together a Top 10 List (and then some) for Membership plugins, Digital product delivery options,& Payment solutions.

Finding example sites and video tutorials on ease of set up etc (i have ZERO programming ability) has been the biggest challenge. As a visually oriented person, sometimes all the written word explanations just don’t leave me satiated.

Your free download product page is the best i’ve seen so far (BY FAR!!!). I really like how clean your interface/presentation is.

So i’m wondering if you would provide a complete list of what you use?

– Nanacast (for Sales Automation/Content Delivery…)
– Wistia (for Video Hosting)
– WordPress (for Content Managment System)

I find it really helps when folks like you can really deliver the details on how to integrate this insanely complicated world of online marketing!

Thanks in advance (even if you don’t get around to a response)

Reply
Luke - August 16, 2012

Awesome comparison here!

Very very helpful and insightful post.

May I know if this post will be updated anytime soon to reflect the latest updates?

Reply
Anthony Wilmsen - August 25, 2012

We have been trying to set up on the web for over a year and keep going round in circles. For example, we set up so clients could pay online for products with their visa cards with AlertPay and then AlertPay was taken over by Payza a few months ago who dont offer that facility so we have to start from scratch again. Are there any payment processors that accept international mlm; We chose a shopping cart instantestore that allowed us to have two easily editable carts under one account, a wholesale cart for our distributors and a retail cart. They looked great and we were ready to upload photos of all our products when they turned round and said they dont accept mlm businesses. Heck, who the hell are they to dictate to us how we choose to remunerate the people who make our business work? For delivery of our digital products sent to members of our various membership subscription sites we chosevwww.amember.com only to find that they work with a limited number of payment processors and shopping carts. Finally for our affiliate programme we chose http://www.PostAffiliatePro.com version 4 – it looks good but because our other systems are still not in place, we have nothing yet for PAP to integrate into. For our physical products, we are still looking for a suitable shopping cart that allows us to upload photos of each item, give it our reference number, easily edit it, with a wholesale version for our distributors and a retail version for our distributors to point their clients to. We have been all week trying to get information from Premium Web Cart – if their sales department is so poor at communicating with prospective clients, I hate to think what their support is like for their existing clients. After over a year of trying to piece together different bits, and after spending over two thousand dollars to get where we are, and still no nearer a solution than when we started, I am absolutely fed up to the teeth. Its looking like there is no satisfactory solution because nobody has come up with one yet. If I win the lottery I’ll invest what it takes to create a decent solution. Imagine wanting a car, and having to go out and buy a fuel system for it, buy an engine for it, buy a braking system for it, and buy a body for it, and then find that each part is incompatible with the other. That’s where we are with the internet at the moment. There is just no decent turnkey solution out there.

Reply
Andrew Murray - August 25, 2012

I went through the same thing.

PWC has terrible support – although they deny it.
I’ve been blown away by Office Auto Pilot. They have real support, and are super-marketing friendly.

Reply
    Shane - September 27, 2012

    I’ve had issues with OAP as well. Especially the whole membership/payment system thing they never fully worked for me. It’s a while ago though, so maybe they’ve improved it in the meantime.

    Reply
art - September 15, 2012

Hi Shane,
Great post…look forward to your update..I took a look at traindom and looks good.
I am using profitstheme with paypal and very clunky but I am only selling one product.
Art

Reply
    Shane - September 27, 2012

    I think Profitstheme is not a bad way to start out. Although I understand that you’ll be looking for a more advanced solution when you want to expand.

    Reply
G Brandon - October 6, 2012

I gained insight from your post. My background includes being a College Professor or Instructor (BS Network Technologies). I trust information considerably more when it is intelligent, comprehensive, sources are cited, and comparisons are made apple for apple. Opinions hold greater weight with this in mind. I appreciate your efforts, and applaud your details. Please offer your 2012 update.

Thank you. (yes, I am a newbie without a product online as of to date)

Reply
Marinda - October 14, 2012

Thanks for this article. Really put things into perspective for me. I still don’t know which solution I will choose, but I can now make a more informed decision. Looking forward to your 2012 update.

Reply
Vic Dorfman - March 23, 2013

Just want to add to what Shane said about sending out emails with DAP — DAP *easily* integrates (10 minute set up) with a 3rd party SMTP email service like Amazon’s SES (Simple Email Service)or AuthSMTP, which have fantastic deliverability rates and cost something like $0.10 per 1000 emails.

So even at high member volumes, delivering email shouldn’t be a problem.

The main concern if you have a ton of members would be site speed, *particularly* if you’re serving a lot of video content. DAP itself is pretty lightweight.

I set up membership sites FOR A LIVING; been doing this for over a year. And I concur fully with Shane that DAP is by far the best membership solution available for WordPress (and outdoes many of the non-WP solutions out there as well).

Refreshing content as always Shane. We need more folks in IM telling it like it is and not merely based on their vested interests. Thanks.

Reply
    Shane - March 23, 2013

    Thanks, Vic!

    Great to know that you can confirm my conclusion concerning DAP.

    Reply
    Brandon - December 14, 2013

    Have you used Member Mouse yet? I think it might have surpassed DAP even though I love them both

    Reply
Danny - March 23, 2013

Hi nice review. A few years back I spent months researching all the options and with DAP. I have been using DAP for over 4 years on one site with the member level access to a forum. I am using now on a new site to do with mobile marketing, just have not launched it as such while I consider other new innovative options like Paywalls.

Some things I don’t like about DAP – it can get confusing when allocating content to member levels, and I have never been able to work out how to show the allocated pages on the member links page to show in order – unless I am missing something :)

The other major issue is member cancellation, it doesn’t update member access in the forum or the third party email program, you have to do this manually for every member.

I am now considering new solutions in paywall technology/plugins that allows easy integration and payment so I don’t have hassles with payment processing. Are you familiar with this type of solution?

Reply
    Johnn Four - March 26, 2013

    Danny, in their help docs there’s instructions on how to customize the member home page, including a %tag% that affects sort.

    I tried the tag but it did not work for me, and I think it’s because I’m a couple versions behind. If you have the latest version of DAP, try finding that tag and try it out.

    If it works, let me know. My members are wanting a better sort order too.

    Reply
    Johnn Four - March 26, 2013

    Ok, found it. It’s a shortcode – sorry, I was calling it a tag.

    The shortcode is [DAPUserLinks]
    http://www.digitalaccesspass.com/doc/dap-shortcodes/

    Reply
chad - March 24, 2013

Shane, can I ask why you wouldn’t recommend Wishlist Member? Just a couple core reasons would be good enough. Thx.

Reply
    Shane - March 24, 2013

    Hi Chad,

    I think Vic’s comment contains a few good points.

    Apart from that, the same limitations described in the section about why I didn’t include WordPress membership plugins apply to Wishlist Member, since it’s a WP membership plugin.

    Reply
Allan - March 25, 2013

Hi Shane,

Great info on memberships solutions, thanks.

Have you considered Rapid Residual Pro?

Thanks,
Allan

Reply
Andy - March 25, 2013

Hi Shane,

This is a really good monster post – well done!

Although not strictly related to membership sites, the Free “Easy Digital Downloads” WP Plugin is pretty good. And there are quite a few add-ons if you want (including autoresponder integrations, additional merchant accounts, etc..). You have to pay for the add-ons but the basic plugin is completely free and useful for anyone starting out.

It has an expiry type of feature (similar to e-junkie) so downloads expire after a certain time. It’s got Paypal integrated and there’s also a very useful Statistics package included.

It’s certainly not perfect but, it’s not bad for anyone starting out and needs a simple shopping-cart solution.

If you have a moment (lol!), I’d like to know your thoughts.

Many thanks, Andy

Reply
steve - March 25, 2013

shane

do you own sitemanpro??? you voice is on the video

thanks

steve

Reply
    Shane - March 25, 2013

    No, I just helped them with the sales video.

    The creator of SiteManPro and myself explored the possibility of collaborating, but we had to give up on that project, unfortunately. I helped with some of the sales material and they created some features I asked for, but that’s it.

    Reply
Ralph - March 25, 2013

Shane what’s your opinion of s2member

Reply
Kate Luella - March 26, 2013

(gee that pop up on your website is annoying – KIDDING!) haha

Shane, Shane, Shane, such a timely blog post to update for me, as I currently quandry (my new favorite word = quandry) what to do about protecting my product sale deliveries. I currently have them on WP site, streaming from “public” S3 – not good.

So I feel I really need to set up a member site JUST for dellivery of my products, if a user is subscribed, then any product they have bought from me will show in their dashboard. Can you direct me to which member site will do this? I already have Wishlist – not sure if this does this. I was considering DAP next…??? Would rather not spend money, but I need a long term solution anyway…

:)

Reply
Mark Thompson - March 27, 2013

Hi shane, I at last get to disagree with you, you can use wishlist as a central location to deliver all your products.

I have 1 wishlist install that delivers all my products, the benefit of that is that I get cross sells.

I can give away a free report deliver it from the product library and the users get to see every product I have plus if the want to buy it the sales page is a click away

Hit me up on skype and i’ll give you a guided tour

Reply
    Trevor Justice - April 6, 2013

    Hey Mark, we use Wishlist too, and we have three main programs. However, I don’t think we’re doing a good job of getting cross sells. I’d love to know more about how you’re doing it.

    Reply
Joe - April 30, 2013

Hi Shane,

I’ve purchased a couple of your products and respect your opinion.

I know this is an older post… Curious if you are you still using SiteManPro?

Any new updates or thoughts when investing in a membership site you can share?

Cheers! Joe

Reply
    Shane - April 30, 2013

    Thanks, Joe!

    This post was actually completely updated very recently, so everything in it is up-to-date, including my conclusion about SiteManPro.

    Reply
Melanie - May 8, 2013

I’ve been using DAP for a while now.

It’s an excellent product, but there’s just one thing that really bothers me about it… vbulletin.

I want to use xenforo, but it seems DAP has no intention of providing support for the rising star of forum software, which is a shame.

This makes me look at Amember, but I’m afraid of switching since DAP hasn’t many other negatives (except it doesn’t seem to allow users to choose usernames).

Reply
    Rob - May 12, 2013

    Not being able to choose usernames is a HUGE drawback! Users want to customize their experience. I think membership solutions that overlook Xenforo, do so at their own peril. The software is awesome.

    Reply
      Ravi Jayagopal - May 23, 2013

      Rob,

      DAP has a setting under “Setup > Config” called “Sync Only if Username Exists in DAP”. If you set this to “Yes”, then DAP will NOT auto-generate usernames for them.

      Which means they can (and must) go to the DAP profile page, choose a user name of their liking, and only then will they be “synced” to WordPress – which appears to be what you want.

      Hope this helps.

      Reply
    Ravi Jayagopal - May 23, 2013

    Hi Melanie,

    Your only possible excuse to leave DAP, is now gone :-)

    Someone has just created a DAP->Xenforo plugin. See http://xenforo.com/community/threads/paid-user-registration-via-api-from-dap.49864/

    Cheers!

    Reply
Terry - June 12, 2013

I’ve been searching for a good membership solution for a few days now. Thanks for the quality research! I was wondering what were your thoughts on Premise by CopyBlogger Media?

Reply
David Bennett - June 27, 2013

I could be asking a really dumb, newbie question because I am not sure what the features are that membership software should have, so could you lay out what the perfect solution should have, and also

Does Memberful look like it might be a good solution?

http://memberful.com

Reply
    Shane - June 27, 2013

    Too early to tell, I’d say. From what I can see, they’re only just starting out and right now, the feature set is extremely limited (only works with one payment option, for example). I’d give this another year or two and see how things develop.

    Reply
      David Hedges - August 13, 2013

      Hi Shane,

      Your blog is oh so helpful, wow. Just a quick question: I’m close to jumping in the Greenrope boat. Are you familiar with and do you have an opinion on their application?

      Thanks!

      Reply
David Bennett - June 27, 2013

Coincidentally, I got an email today from Sarah Arrow at BirdsOnTheBlog and I see that the membership system is InstaMember

http://insta-member.com

Reply
Bruce Newman - July 31, 2013

We have been using DAP for a while and there are many things we like about it including the support. This can’t be overlooked. We first tried Easy Member and I don’t think they ever responded with a timely or complete answer to a question. (When they even bothered to respond.)

That said, one of the things I don’t like about it is its very limited affiliate capability. This really needs improvement particularly the lack of encryption of affiliate codes and having to circumvent the requirement for having affiliates as product members.

Reply
    Ravi Jayagopal - August 22, 2013

    Hi Bruce,

    >>having to circumvent the requirement for having affiliates as product members.<<

    Now, one of DAP's preferred features (for most people, at least) is that all members CAN instantly and automatically become affiliates. But that doesn't mean you have to set it up that way.

    The converse is also possible: If you do NOT want all of your members to automatically become affiliates, then you can do just that with DAP: All you do is to simply NOT give access to the affiliate resource page (which contains the affiliate link, reports, commission details) under any of your member products.

    So, if your members don't have access to that page, they can't get their affiliate link or reports, which means they can't promote your program. Problem solved.

    Then you create a separate product for "Affiliates" and then protect the affiliate resource page only under this "Affiliates" product. That way only those who are truly "Affiliates" (however you choose to give them access – either via purchase or free sign up or manual approval), only those folks will get access to that page, which means only they have access to their affiliate link. Which means only they will be your affiliates.

    So yes, you can very control who becomes your affiliate when using DAP.

    Hope that addresses your question about the DAP affiliate program. If that's not what you meant, please elaborate.

    Thanks.

    – Ravi Jayagopal

    Reply
Dee - August 6, 2013

Hi Shane,

I’m completely new to all of this and been asked by my boss to look for a membership service that will allow us to give paid members access to our video files as well as bulk import all of the people who donated to our indiegogo campaign and give them free access to the files as well.

We have used aMember pro before, which was good, but ran on our servers which we do not necessarily want to secure and maintain. Is there anything from the options above that the would be hosted on their side?

Reply
jenserik - September 3, 2013

Hi Shane,
You should sell your product reviews – I would pay for it. However, I am contemplating FusionHQ – do you have any new information on that product or the company that service it?

Reply
Dominik | Oranboard - September 6, 2013

Hey Shane, short Question. I sell Solutions on the Internet mostly in German market but also in other Countrys.

I think SiteManPro is the right Script for me but a short question before.

What Payment processor would you prefore for Solutions. Paypal only is not enought because in Germany, Wire Transfer is very popular. Is ShareIT a good choice?

What kind of Script did you use for SECockpit?

Thank you for your replay and best wishes from Austria

Reply
Dewan - September 23, 2013

Hi Shane – Can one use OptimizePress 2.0 for a membership site? Some say the new one replace the functionality of WhistListMEmber – is that true? And that you can now run a full blown membership site with the new Membership add on plug in which you also get when buying OptimizePress 2.0..

I have it and seen the plug in – but havent had time to test the functionality on it just yet…

Would love to hear your opinion before i test it

Reply
    Shane - September 23, 2013

    I’ll have to test that. The version I tested did not include this plugin yet. I’ll give it a go and update this post accordingly.

    Reply
Tom Reed - October 15, 2013

Hi Shane

You put together a nice review collection and it’s refreshing to see the “good” and the “bad” listed for the systems. The reality is that all systems have something good and something bad about them and then it’s a matter of matching the needs of the business with the “good” of a product.

For example, you mentioned that our Ticketing system was simply “good enough” and not the best. That is 100% true and we know it.

We do have a few cool tricks in the ticket system that work well for our customer base (that nobody else has) but our customers typically have limited requirements for advanced ticketing functionality so “good enough” is really all they care about.

The CRM / Autoresponder comment you made is also true but it depends upon when you wrote this post. Today is Oct 14, 2013 and the last year has been dedicated to NOT adding new functionality to the CRM and working entirely on the user interface and making things simple for the end user.

Unfortunately, over the years we allowed too many methods of operation to be added to the CRM and we needed to hit the reset button. Now, most sections have 1 good / easy way to do something versus 3 or 4 different ways to perform 1 operation. This was definitely an example of trying to make things convenient and really just adding complexity.

Website outdated – agreed once again. We’re a product focused company with a tendency to apply our resources towards programming and less towards marketing. It’s the old saying, “the painters house is never painted”.

Check back at the end of October as the website is being updated right now. But really, I’ll be happier if you like the new “inside” of PWC versus what you think of the “outside”. If we make the inside good for our customers… then we’re golden.

Last point, fair billing practice is a major concern for me so when I saw your comments I had billing investigate the issue. The confusion in the billing appears to be caused when you signed up because you signed up for a full live account at the full monthly fee. While we do offer a trial, it’s not uncommon for people to sign up for a fully paid option to remove the limitations on the number of marketing emails and SMS that can be sent from the CRM system.

Once again, nice post and the quality shows through in the number of comments made – great job!

Reply
Victor - October 16, 2013

Hello Shane,

I am very grateful for providing us with this wonderful information. I intend setting up a service membership site, also to sell ebooks too-although I will have to hire a programmer to do all the hard job, I understand how internet business works.

I want to know if DAP has customizable templates that will help us achieve an appealing front-end that will convince people to join the site once they get there.

Thanks

Victor

Reply
    Shane - October 18, 2013

    DAP is built for using with WordPress, which makes it very easy to create any kind of front and back end website, with whatever design and features suit you. DAP simply takes care of the membership part.

    Reply
firedragon - December 6, 2013

Hi Shane – I hate having sign-up forms integrated with mail services (mailchimp, aweber, etc)so I’ looking for internally integrated solutions. I like Hybrid Connect features and curious if it can be integrated with DAP (Digital Access Pass)?

Reply
kirt - December 10, 2013

Hi Shane, This post was helpful, sort of. I was looking for a hands down winner. My situation: I need to build a membership site. I have built wp sites–simple ones. I don’t know coding.

It sounds like the site man pro is at the top. I also may need to integrate with a very large capacity autoresponder and don’t feel like paying hundreds a month, like to an aweber. I there a cheaper, but still useable autoresponder system that would integrate with site man pro.

Thanks again,
Kirt

Reply
    Shane - December 13, 2013

    Hello Kirt,

    I’d actually recommend DAP over SiteManPro in most cases.

    As for an autoresponder, I caution against cheap solutions. You could look for something self-hosted that you can integrate with Amazon SES. That’s probably the cheapest solution that would still get you decent results. But it would also be more complicated to set up. In my opinion, services like Aweber, GetResponse etc. are well worth their price.

    Reply
bellasys - December 12, 2013

Hey Shane,

great article. It really says something that there have been active comments for 3 years!

Actually, this article is still highly relevant- even without updating the reviews. The key points are tremendously important as those who practice IM know.

What if the downers of DAP and Kajabi were demolished, WP was retained as a front end, the back end admin was refashioned using philosophies of Decoupled Content, all this retained the familiar ease of WP but with administrative power tools. How about a revolutionary login system making mobile registrations asap (as simple as pie). What about integrated membership that reduces the klunky 6 step process you described to a mere 3 steps from any point in the matrix. The list goes on, and yes this would be tremendous…

I have been busy since early 2011 building a system to suit the entrepreneurial businesses I serve. I’ve paid particular attention to UX and developed systems easy through and through for both site admins and the users that businesses are supposed to serve.

This is not leading to a plug for my website, just so you know (mine isn’t publicly ready anyway). I’m mentioning a couple specifics here because my system bridges some major caveats in the best systems you’ve talked about. Since I’ve personally used those systems at the request of many business owners I too have suffered and occasionally reveled in them.

I finally decided to put something cohesive together that answered all my complaints during the last 3 years dealing almost exclusively with WordPress. Now I’m done building and starting to bring this system out from behind closed doors.

I’m wondering if you’d be interested in discussing this a moment or possibly taking a peek under the hood?

Reply
Tom Reed - December 13, 2013

Hi Shane

I’ve been following this thread for awhile but I finally noticed this comment from the original review:

“Also, a word of warning: I signed up for a free trial of PWC, but my credit card was charged with the full service fee anyway. A mistake, rather than malice, I’m sure. But just be aware that this can happen.”

The system will never change anyone for a full package unless they sign up for a full package.

About 46% of our customers skip the trial sign up right into a full Platinum system because they want to use the SMS texting system and Auto Responder system right away and we do not allow SMS usage in the trial and we limit the auto responder to 300 marketing emails.

We do this because 300 messages are enough to “kick the tires” of the system and we need to protect the integrity of our emailing system. We can’t allow people to come into the system on a trial and goober up our sending score, etc.

You must have signed up for the full system rather than a Trial as that is the only way it can possibly happen as there is no “human intervention” on our side when it comes to billing (unless someone calls us for a manual change request).

PS Check out the new sales site… I think you’ll like it better than the old one ;-)

But honestly, we still focus more on the “inside” of the system than the outside so if you haven’t looked under the hood lately, you haven’t seen all the new features and UI improvements that are a part of our non-stop improvement process.

Reply
    Shane - December 14, 2013

    Thanks, Tom.

    Is there a way for me to get something like a trial account or demo account, so I can periodically check for new updates to PWC when I update this post? I won’t use the account for actual business purposes, of course.

    Reply
Trevor - December 13, 2013

Shane,

I too liked most of what you wrote. I appreciate the time and the work.

I am troubled by two things though.

1) you mentioned you did not use Infusionsoft for a few reasons: high price, not able to deliver enough of what you want, etc. You said: “I’ve tested both of these solutions and I ended up using neither of them as product delivery systems.”

But your pop-up pitching me a free product DID use Infusionsoft, as did your verification e-mail. So what gives?

Now maybe you are using Infusionsoft for purposes other than running a membership and product delivery process, but if so please state that fact. Maybe there are some other reasons…. Please clarify this for us.

I may be wrong but this discrepancy hurts your credibility in my eyes. However, I trust you will provide your community with an answer soon.

2) Your links send me to sites in your domain, but I then get automatically redirected to the vendors’ sites. Are you getting affiliate commissions from these redirects?

If so, please state this fact – I may be a newbie, and maybe “everybody is doing it”, but if your are getting financial value from our click-throughs and purchases, don’t you think a “full disclosure” of your potential to gain would be in order?

I have nothing against your being compensated, but I think your positioning as an independent reviewer requires you to be fully open and honest about this fact.

Respectfully,

Trevor

Reply
    Shane - December 14, 2013

    1) This is why I emphasize that I don’t use these systems for product delivery or memberships. I use the email marketing features in Infusionsoft. I still don’t recommend it, though, since I think it’s overpriced.

    2) Yes, those are affiliate links. It’s the very first thing in this site’s disclaimer, written in plain English. If you feel like the use of affiliate links is a problem for my credibility, you are very welcome to go elsewhere.

    Reply
      Trevor - December 14, 2013

      Shane,

      Thanks for the prompt reply.

      1) Infusionsoft. I agree that IS is overpriced (and pricing for the whole IS consultant industry is worse). Thanks for clarifying that you do not use it for product delivery.

      In my defence, when your review stated: “I’ve tested both of these solutions and I ended up using neither of them as product delivery systems.” I think it was reasonable for me to conclude that you do not use IS.

      A simple sentence saying that you do use IS for e-mail marketing would have clarified everything for me. In fact, that is what I invited you to do.

      BTW, IS’s price is a sore point for me. I’ve been heavily pitched to get IS even though I am a IM newbie. Another “guru” burned me by promoting (as an affiliate) an autoresponder solution “he used”, but he had switched to IS beforehand. He now claims his previous solution sucks. But he got his affiliate commission AND is now pitching the much more lucrative IS….

      I’m trying to find IS-lite solutions (suggestions anyone?) that can help me grow past the startup stage.

      2) Affiliate links. Thanks for the link to your disclaimer – I have read it now and you clearly write that many of your links are affiliate links.

      For me, the gold standard is reporters who make full disclosures at the end of *every* story they write. So, if a biz reporter says “long APPL”, at least I know that when I think about the opinions expressed.

      While it may be “standard” in IM sites to require me to leave the page to go to a disclaimer page to get such details, I do not think it unreasonable to have expected a standard line after your reviews stating that some links may be paid affiliate links, with a link to your more complete disclaimer. But I am somewhat of a newbie….

      And for the record, I stated: “I have nothing against your being compensated.” I did not “bypass” your links, so any purchases I may make from them will be credited to you – notwithstanding your parting shot that I am free to go somewhere else. :-(. And I am seriously considering Hybrid Connect.

      Willing to give this all another go,

      Trevor

      Reply
Tim Marttala - December 14, 2013

Thank you, Shane (and all Commenters), for this excellent review and discussion!

I’ve been working 11 hours days, 6 days a week, for the past 3 weeks scouring the web for membership/content protection/download site solutions. Even though I *still* have not come to a conclusion (he says as he bangs his head against the wall!), you’ve all been a *big* help in narrowing down a huge list, so I appreciate it greatly!

For the record, my problem lies in that I want to use Wistia as my video hosting platform due to some of its unique features. From there, they have a limited number of ESPs/Autoresponders with which they are tightly integrated, which does reduce the options (and number of apps) that I have to review for myself, but in some ways added to the complexity of my search because, in the process of evaluating ESPs, I discovered that most have tight restrictions on Prohibited Content (which affects their deliverability rates and blacklisting matters that they understandably want to avoid), which I will either push the boundaries of or violate due to my primary content (financial and entrepreneurship info, advice, and products/services, including home-based business and affiliate program info, which they seem to regard as “get rich quick schemes” and other shady things, even though I will only present info on completely legal, moral, and ethical opportunities).

ANYway, my search is narrowed down to those apps that integrate tightly with AWeber (about the only ESP that allows my content). Then, what I am trying to find is one that offers direct or third-party support/integration for some other features that I either want to start with, or will want to before long, such as sales of tangible items with variables (think logo merchandise, such as polo shirts with size and color variables, as well as other logo items without variables), event registrations (with at least an option for ticket sales), appointments/bookings, bbPress integration, and a number of other requirements.

Oh, and I’d really love it to at least increase the ease of PCI compliance and have as many functions automated as possible to reduce/eliminate need for “manual labor” (manual entry, etc.).

WHEW!!!

I thought I’d just throw all that out there since there have been so many helpful folks participating in this discussion, to see if anybody can point me toward solution(s) to consider!

Thanks, and have a wonderful Christmas and Holiday Season, everybody!!!

Reply
    bellasys - December 14, 2013

    Hey Tim,

    hearing a real world example like yours reminds me of why I built a scalable business website platform to begin with.

    Currently my private commercial project does support Aweber (in fact it’s fully integrated) and will allow you to leverage Wistia (because we love them too), as well as protecting video content, and setting time-locks on video content to drip feed series.

    The best thing we do is allow every bit of protected content including video, downloadable products, etc. to be set on public pages- only the content download itself is restricted and this is great for SEO. Our system is very secure without using https… in fact we’re organizing a hackathon to get some peerage on this because our system not only secures downloads, it hides the actual urls while retaining public access (including search engines) to the ordinary page content.

    Our solution may not fit your needs particularly since we currently requires WordPress on the front end (we are building a standalone system using Node.js) and it’s pricey- note “private commercial build”. However, it is more than just working. It’s a fully integrated system that does what you sound like you need it to do.

    I am going to get Shane a behind the scenes look at this because I think *IM-not-so-HO* this is important technology to demonstrate. I think if there were less over-specialization and more actual work done with integration as a philosophy behind it, everyone would be better off instead of being nickel-and-dimed-to-death.

    Reply
Trevor - December 19, 2013

Shane,

you mentioned you are using SiteManPro. Are you using it with the featured plugin / extra called MemberPlug ($50/yr.) to integrate it into WP?

From the SiteManPro site: “MemberPlug integrates “WordPress” and “SiteManPro” to Build an Unlimited Number of Membership Sites…”

Reply
jax - January 8, 2014

Shane!
Thank you for your hard work here — completely great!!!!!! As a relative technical nube — I am leaning toward Kajabi to get my ‘years in my head’ launch underway…

My partners and I sense that my site is going to get traction and well cover the costs… and a question for me is:

As I get flowing with this product, and want to roll out others — and get my geekness-flowing… how problematic will it be to move my business over to a WP or other platform?

Kajabi says “but don’t worry, before canceling you have the opportunity to download all your data so you can take it with you.” Apparently an XML file. Even if content can be ported without major headaches (a big IF) how ugly will the process be…

To wrap, here is how I see it and I’d like to ask your thoughts…
I am going to launch on Kajabi to get it done fast and learn… call this the BETA launch. Call the members “founding members” for a discount price.

If/when I make the move, I do it before the membership is too plump — bump the price up to give Founders incentive to move — and expect that I will loose 33%. Expect that I will do the second launch much better — have money to spend for coding etc — then have a platform that I can run and have more creative control over….

Thoughts?

Finally – please post a link to your consulting rates/info in your reply. You are someone I want to get time with!

Reply
Jax - January 8, 2014

And Shane — forget all that above, here is my more important question…
If I see using Affiliate marketing as a key component in launch Kajabi does NOT have this functionality — BUT chatting with their support was told that I can choose to use a shopping cart that does that… is this correct? Any wisdom to share on this?

Also, Kajabi integrates with Mailchimp — but what of SMS marketing…. they are probably way behind on that one…

Reply
JAX - January 9, 2014

And finally — as a nube — it feels like I am peeling a never-ending onion (more like a never-starting onion in this case). Hopefully this pattern ends soon.

Let me telescope way out:

What is the most ‘simple/effective app stack’ to market/launch/run a video information product + membership site ?

Here is what I see:

1) Kajabi (or FusionHQ, WP…): squeeze pages, membership tracking, discussion boards
and/or
2) OfficeAutopilot (or Infusionsoft) : CRM, Email Marketing flow mgt, affiliate mgt…
3) Shopping Cart
A1A) KILLER MARKETING

Reply
Francoise Bonhoure - February 4, 2014

Hello,
I need to set up a Membership site;
Had selected WordPress + Wishlist + Optimisepress, and looking at WP-Member. A question: Just how many membership plugins can be added to a WordPress blog so it works well? Thank you

Reply
    Shane - February 5, 2014

    You should only use one membership system at a time. If you use more than one, there are bound to be conflicts.

    Reply
Trevor Greenfield - March 1, 2014

I have spent many years reviewing, buying, trying and ditching membership solutions and like you Shane I still haven’t found one that I’m happy with. I’m also a control freak when it comes to what I want from a membership site.

The only one that has come anywhere near for me is Memberspeed which I’ve used on several sites. My main issue with Memberspeed is that you need to pay one of their recommended developers to get a different look and feel to their standard templates which all look much the same.

The other thing is that while it is a CMS, to do anything out of the ordinary I have to do my own coding which is fine for me as a techie but difficult to outsource to anyone who doesn’t have coding skills.

There are many pluses though, the most important for me being;

It is self hosted so no-one else has your data and you can move it whenever you want
It is multi-site so you don’t have to pay more if you want to create more than one site – I believe you still get 10 licences as standard.
It is not WordPress so you don’t have to constantly worry about keeping it and it’s plugins up to date – plus less prone to attack.

From yours and all of the reviewers comments here I’m inclined to stick with Memberspeed for now but do see a great opportunity for a developer to come in and combine all of this into the best ever membership solution.

Reply
    Francoise Bonhoure - March 2, 2014

    Hello Trevor,
    Thanks for your interesting review of memberspeed.
    I have a question.
    Can one not outsource to someone other that one of their designers to get a different look and feel to their standard templates?

    Reply
    Shane - March 3, 2014

    Hi Trevor,

    I’ll have to take a look at memberspeed as well. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Reply
Trevor Greenfield - March 2, 2014

Hi Francoise,

Yes, I guess you could outsource to anyone. I imagine that it would take them a while to get their head around how Memberspeed works that’s all.

I used the company that developed Memberspeed in the first place.

Reply
Nick - March 18, 2014

Shane,

Thanks for this. Any suggestions as to how DAP and Hybrid Connect could be used together for better conversion/impact?

Reply
    Shane - March 19, 2014

    They can’t be used together directly, but you can create a more complete funnel for your products by having some free content you use to gather leads (using Hybrid), which you then turn into customers for your product or membership (using DAP).

    Reply
      NIck - March 20, 2014

      So could I paste the Sign Up Form code from DAP into HC and use that as the membership registratio,n instead of using an autoresponder form code like Mailchimp?

      Reply
      Shane - March 27, 2014

      That might work, yes.

      Reply
James - March 26, 2014

Hi Shane

Thanks for the great article. SiteManPro’s features look great for what I need. But do you find the sign-up payment page a bit strange? It offers a form that you can’t submit unless you choose a payment option. There’s only one payment option, and when you choose it, it wipes what you’ve entered in the form and opens up a new form to the left of that on the same page, requiring you to fill in some of the same details it just wiped. And it’s a credit card payment form, but I can find no evidence that the page is secure. Are you able to comment on that?

Reply
    Shane - March 27, 2014

    Yeah, the checkout process is quite strange. I’ve only used it with PayPal, so the security thing isn’t an issue. I don’t know what it’s like with other payment integrations. Also, SMP is now available as a hosted app and they have hopefully improved upon some of these issues.

    Reply
      James - March 27, 2014

      Thanks for your thoughts, Shane. It’s unfortunate that the search feature in SMP’s Help area 100% doesn’t work – and returns people to the home page every time, and also that I can’t be confident about the security of my payment details in order to sign up. Getting a proper feel for how it works, for me, would require one approach or the other. But I can’t fix either because SiteManPro doesn’t appear to answer enquiries. I’m not sure how the site appeared when you signed up, but there’s no PayPal option. Perhaps you can sell using PayPal, but you can’t pay them your own fees that way. I tried their demo – it was good. In fact, it’s the only thing in all my research about subscription management software that even begins to convince me, other than aMember Pro, but I’ve been scared off there by comments about how technical and problematic it can be. I wish SiteManPro didn’t appear to be the only option for me, because every time I try to get somewhere with it I come up against a brick wall. Memberful might be good, except that it provides only one payment system – one that Australians aren’t eligible to use!

      Reply
      James - March 30, 2014

      To be fair on SiteManPro, I did receive a response shortly after making my comments above, assuring me that the sign-up payment page is secure. SMP’s also soon introducing its own content management system for people who don’t want to use WordPress. In the meantime, I’m going to try it out with WordPress.

      Reply
Allan Martin - August 2, 2014

Hi Shane,

What do you think about the new Cloud-based version of SiteManPro?

Thanks.

Reply
Allan Martin - September 17, 2014

Hi Shane,

Based on your information and past experience with SiteManPro, I tried SMP2.0. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. The interface looks great and the speed is fantastic.

Many of the oddities of the original Self-hosted SMP platform have been addressed. One of the features I really like is the integration with autoresponders and the level of list automation built into SMP; moving customers and prospects between various lists is easy to accomplish.

I won’t slam you with the details as they are available at the SMP site. The new version hits on many of the requirements that you listed. Where SMP is lacking, Deep has pledged to build SMP to incorporate features that users want. I’ve made a few suggestions that Deep and his team have already integrated.

Thanks again for a great article and give the new SMP2.0 a look when you have a moment, I think it’ll be worth your time.

Thanks and take care,
Allan

Reply
Jim - September 22, 2014

Hi, I wondered what system you’re recommending at this point — late 2014?

Reply
Joe - September 24, 2014

Hi, Shane;
Really helpful post. I know nothing is ever 100%, but I like your style. I’ve been running a membership plugin that is still glitchy a year after I bought it!
Needless to say, I’m looking for something better and reasonably priced.
Now I have good info. in order to compare some of what’s out there!
Thanks
Joe

Reply
Tip Kilby - October 6, 2014

Hi Shane. With the rapidly changing scene within the membership software world, this post of yours should updated for 2014. I feel that much of the information might be outdated, but it is more important than ever! Please consider doing an update, and expand the scope to include WordPress plugins. Now that you are doing WP themes yourself, possibly your perspective will have changed somewhat.

Thanks for your continual quality posts. You are my new “go to” site for practical and useful information.

Reply
    Shane - October 18, 2014

    I agree that the post should be updated. It’s a heck of a lot of work to do so, unfortunately. I’ll do it at some point but at the moment, I have too many other things to focus on, unfortunately.

    Reply
Nancy - October 25, 2014

Hi Shane,

So happy to have found this post. I have been looking at Siteman Pro for the past couple of weeks to build my first membership site. I have emailed them once and attempted to contact them by phone, without response. I also saw a comment on their Facebook page from someone else having the same experience. Would you still recommend them? They do seem to have what I am searching for and the licensing of software is a very nice feature that I have not seen elsewhere.

Also, can you comment on the integration with WordPress? Does it work well? I would like to utilize some WordPress plugins that I have for extra functionality. My guess is that I would be dealing with the bugs of building a membership site since it would be hosted separately. Correct?

Thanks for the post! Even though it hasn’t been updated, it is still the best information that I have found so far!

Reply
    Shane - November 5, 2014

    Hello Nancy,

    Unfortunately, I have not been able to get in touch with anyone at SiteManPro anymore, either. I don’t know what happened, but they aren’t replying to any of my messages. Because of that, I can’t recommend them. I will have to update this post anyway, since these things go out of date quite rapidly.

    Reply
      jak - December 9, 2014

      Shane, please do an update — and with this consider adding a viewpoint for people that manage multiple businesses!

      Reply
      Shane - December 10, 2014

      Hello Jak,

      Thanks for your comment. I will update this post at some point. As you can imagine, doing so is extremely time consuming, so I can’t make any promises about when that’s going to happen.

      Reply
Joerg - December 3, 2014

Hi Shane,

Do yourself a favor and put a little “update” Warning directly in This Post (only a Minute to do). I can found Siteman Pro 2.0 special offer from Okotber this Year right now. Everyone that knowing about you and your Voice, trust you and eventually get in with no doubts. That’s not good for your reputation.

Best
Joerg

Reply
Noel Guilford - January 11, 2015

Shane, I too have been looking for the ‘perfect’ membership software and been disappointed. Opportunity for Thrive?

In the meantime have you updated this post? What do you use/recommend in 2015? I have Instamember on one site but it is more product delivery (and clunky) than membership. A bit like EMP.

Still looking for the perfect combination of membership and product. We want to offer free stuff to members only as well as product sales.

Noel

Reply
    Shane - January 16, 2015

    Hi Noel,

    We’ve created something that makes it easier to create nice membership content, called Thrive Apprentice. This is not a membership system itself, though – it’s meant to work together with existing membership plugins.

    We would like to create a membership system ourselves, but we also realize that this will be a very challenging task, so it won’t happen anytime soon.

    Reply
Jeff Sanders - January 20, 2015

I’m going to be posting this on my wall right away: “The sooner you can ship your imperfect product with the imperfect solution, the better off your business will be.”

That sums up exactly what I should be doing with my entire business.

Love this review Shane! Thanks so much for the guidance. I’ll be signing up for DAP later today.

Reply
    Shane - March 7, 2015

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment. That’s a good quote to live by, for sure. I don’t know where my business would be (or if there would even be a business) without this as a guiding principle.

    Reply
Dan - January 31, 2015

Hi Shane,
I am building my membership site with Thrive Apprentice, mainly because TCB the Thrive seem much easier to use than OP2! :)

But trying to decide on a good choice for the membership plugin and video hosting seems very difficult. My site will be dreep feeding the content and I want to be able to set it all up fairly easily and quickly.

Am thinking about DAP and Wishlist Member and Amazon S3 for the video hosting (I know you like Wistia, but not sure if I need the extra features and how much more it costs!). Also I am not sure if I can intall a BUY button on another website seperate from the membership site as I have not used a memberhsip plugin before.

Can you offer any guidance, I feel like I am going in circles a bit!

Reply
    Shane - March 7, 2015

    Hi Dan,

    Sorry for this late reply to your comment. My guess is that with DAP, you’d be quite well served. But as I mentioned in the post, it’s quite difficult to pick a the “right” solution.

    Reply
Allan - March 4, 2015

Hi Shane,

What membership solution are you using for Thrive Themes?

Thanks.

Reply
    Shane - March 7, 2015

    Hi Allan,

    We’re using MemberMouse, but we had many issues with it, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Reply
Kira - April 29, 2015

So just to be straight, because I’m investigating the solution you said works best for you-
SiteManPro + digiResults.
It looks like you pay $.50 + 5% on each sale to DigiResults, and they deposit into your Paypal account, so then you pay the Paypal fee which is almost 4%, so you are paying over 9% in fees on each sale?

Reply
    Shane - July 20, 2015

    Hello Kira,

    Yes, this is correct. With the hosted solutions, you will usually be paying some percentage as a fee and that goes on top of a percentage that you pay for payment processing.

    Reply
Steve OConnor - January 10, 2016

Hi Shane, I recently bought Thrive and love your products, descriptions, videos… – it’s good to see someone solving the exact problems i had with WordPress. You have, to quote a phrase, “nailed it”. Well done and thanks – made my life easier. Actually was building a membermouse site with idevaffiliate and wp-courseware – am now about to attempt to switch over to apprentice – am wondering what big problems did you have with membermouse and what code did you write to fix it. The first main issue i had was inability to send warning emails about upcoming subscription renewals. We have a big launch coming up and we are using a one click upsell into continuity. The last thing we want is to have 1000 complaints to stripe after one month explaining they don’t know what the renewal fee is for. Was that one of your issues? Apart from that though, am interested mainly to know what were the other problems you referenced in your 2015 update?
Kind regards, and thanks again,
Steve

Reply
Martin Hamilton - February 6, 2016

S2 Member used to work well. It’s a plugin, free I think. Can’t usdrestand why someone can’t develop a reliable, economical solution for beginners. A beginner doesn’t want to spend $300 a year on something that may not work well. Any experience with S2 member?

Martin

Reply

Leave a Reply: