Day 4: Membership Levels and Pricing

Now we're getting into the harder bits.

I have WordPress installed and have chosen OptimizePress (with OptimizeMember) to control access to the site.  I've hooked up a brand new Paypal account to it, and theoretically, it should all be working except I haven't tested it.

I do need to decide on membership levels and pricing, and what comes with each level.

If I was smart, I might just have a single level. Pay $X per month and receive everything inside the membership site. And when you stop paying, you lose it. Keep it simple, Scott. I definitely don't want to launch something complex that takes a lot more effort to support.

But then again, there is some appeal to having a few different levels, however.

I like being able to charge more for people willing to pay more. So if I had two levels – $19 per month and $79 per month – there will be some people who think $19 is a good price and some who don't mind paying $79, and I am happy to accommodate them both. Fundamentally, it seems having 2 or 3 different prices is the way to go.

It's also a good way to make things seem like a good deal.

It's well-known in behavior psychology that offering people choices allows people to compare relative value between the options. Even the naming is important. I will have a part of that in my offering.

My site will have a “coffee shop” theme. Not sure why, but I love coffee personally and I think coffee shops are a lot more friendly than “membership sites” or “clubs”. I'm not yet revealing the site name or URL, but my logo (which I shared last time), has a coffee element and the site will draw from that.

And so my membership levels will be:

  • Guest (free access)
  • Espresso$19 per month or $199 per year ($99 launch special)
  • Americano$299 per year ($149 launch special)
  • Cappuccino$499 per year ($199 launch special)

For the Guest level, there might be cases where I have free content that requires an email address to access. Haven't decided entirely what that will be, but I can allow someone to have an account on my site without them being a paying member or having access to the paying member areas. It basically integrates an email list with a membership.

The Espresso level is level 1. Americano is level 2. And Cappuccino is level 3. Each level entitles the member to more benefits.

  • Access to the forum/community
  • Access to courses (mine and possibly others)
  • A weekly and/or monthly newsletter relevant to the industry
  • Access to me (questions and options to buy time)

I will need to do more research on things I can offer.

I will probably have to do some type of launch special pricing. So I will have in mind a final pricing but it will take me a while to get to that as I sign up members.

One of the keys to a successful membership site, to me, is having a good base of paying members to keep the site active. I imagine I will need 100+ members in the forums for the forums to be a good place for people to ask questions and get answers. I will also have to be active. Or have a moderator I pay to keep close tabs on that.

If I had 100 people paying $199-$499 per year to be part of this, that would be a nice start to this. Then I can grow that to 500 over time.

Today I set up the membership levels in OptimizeMember. I set up the Paypal buttons with pricing for each level, and created an ugly looking WordPress page to outline the levels with links to sign up.

I have a membership site that people can sign up for.

Now, a missing piece is of course not having any courses up nor a forum or anything inside my membership site. But somehow, the pricing/sign-up page feels like a great accomplishment. 🙂

What I have so far:

  • Domain name, site name
  • WordPress
  • OptimizePress with OptimizeMember
  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook Ads Pixel
  • Link to Paypal
  • Membership levels and pricing
  • Registration and payment is possible

Next steps:

  • How and where to post the courses
  • Forum software
  • The site is really not slick, and needs design

 

Day 3: Setting Up a Paypal Business Account

Perhaps it doesn't seem like a big decision, but I decided to set up a separate Paypal Business account for this, instead of upgrading my main personal account.

I didn't like the idea of never being able to downgrade my Paypal account to a personal account again (although I guess I could have set up a new personal account).

Anyways, new account created. And the Paypal API details were added into OptimizePress.

So now, at a basic level, I have a website that supports membership levels, can accept payment, and will automatically add/remove people to that membership level on payment.

Now I haven't even decided on the names of the membership levels or what they will contain.

What I have so far:

  • Domain name, site name
  • WordPress
  • OptimizePress
  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook Ads Pixel
  • Link to Paypal

Next steps:

  • Decide and set up membership levels
  • A touch better on the design

 

Day 2: Setting Up The Site

After a flurry of activity yesterday, today I haven't spent too much time on the new membership site today.

Two main accomplishments:

  • A logo
  • A tagline

I purchased a logo off “graphic river” (just something to get started with) and modified it for my brand.

It seems the logo is one of the first things people want to do, but I'll admit it doesn't make much sense to spend a lot of time on it. It's a relatively low priority on the list of to do's, but since there's a “fun” element to it, people tend to want to get that done.

I don't let it become a sticking point. I decide fast and mode on.  I admit it's not the best use of time on Day 2, but accept that and do it anyways.

Here's the graphical part of the logo I chose. Subject to change, of course.

I think it's fun.

 

 

And The Winner Is…

So I decided to bite the bullet, and use OptimizePress.

Really, there just seemed to be no downsides. It has a refund policy, so if I end up regretting it, I can possibly get my money back.

So I went with that combination for now. OptimizePress can be used as a theme or as a plugin, so since it's a new site I chose to install the theme.  For now. It also has a membership plugin called OptimizeMember which I also installed.

And after linking it to ActiveCampaign – easy enough – I set up a few basic pages.

I'm feeling pretty good about the progress so far. But that was short lived, as I faced an unexpected decision.

OptimizePress requires a business Paypal account. It's free to upgrade Paypal Personal to a Business account, but do I want to upgrade? What are the implications of that?

I think you can have a Personal account and a separate Business account. I might end up doing that. I'm very wary about touching my main Paypal account with an irreversible decision like this.

What I have so far:

  • Domain name, site name
  • WordPress
  • OptimizePress
  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook Ads Pixel

Next steps:

  • Link Paypal
  • A touch better on the design

 

Choosing a Membership Plugin

The site is going to be on WordPress. There, one decision made.

I've chosen a domain. I like it a lot. There, decision two made.

Man, cooking with fire today.

Now to choosing a membership plugin. For some reason, I think the membership plugin is the next step. Not sure why. But I am looking at a few, recommended by friends:

Now there are 40+ membership plugins, but I prefer to narrow the search quickly and these have been recommended.

Here's what I am looking for in a plugin:

  1. Everything

OK, easy enough right?

No? Let's be realistic then. What exactly does a membership plugin need to do? Man, there's a lot.

  1. When someone signs up for a membership, it has to be automated and nearly instant. They pay their money, they get an email with the details, and they log in and see what they paid for. Nothing manual.
  2. It should integrate with my mailing list vendor, ActiveCampaign.
  3. It has to support different membership levels (tiers) – i.e. free, bronze, silver, gold.
  4. Users should be able to change their membership level at any time in some logical way – i.e. pro-rated.
  5. If it has a payment integrated, it should support coupons.
  6. It has to integrate with a discussion board plugin, a good one, and have some way of gating access to certain membership tiers. So maybe there's a group exclusively for gold members and a general group for all members, etc.
  7. It has to integrate with a learning management system for courses, and have some way of gating access to certain membership tiers.
  8. It has to be able to hide content such as blog posts for members only.
  9. Maybe some type of membership home page that ties everything together or an integration with WordPress for that.
  10. Nice to have, it should support affiliates. Although there are probably third-party solutions for that.
  11. Nice to have, it should support corporate members. So I can sell “a team of 5” and they can manage those accounts themselves.

I'm not 100% confident that I'm thinking about this in the right way actually. But let's do some research.

OptimizePress

One-time payment: $97 for core, $197 for publisher, and $297 for pro

But have to pay an annual fee to get upgrades after one year

Pros:

  • One time payment, big pro
  • Integrates with ActiveCampaign
  • Use on 3, 10 or 30 sites

Cons:

  • No free trial

ActiveMember360

Recurring: $170/year for the Premium Version ($90/year for basic)

Pros:

  • Free trial
  • Integrates with ActiveCampaign
  • Not too expensive

Cons:

  • Don't know yet

Memberium

Recurring: $470/year for standard, $870/year for pro and $1,770/year for advanced

Pros:

  • Don't know

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Seems geared to Infusionsoft

Conclusion

So it seems Memberium is easy to eliminate. They call themselves an Infusionsoft plugin for WordPress, and I don't use that.

OptimizePress seems really nice, but the lack of free trial has stopped me from trying it. Since ActiveMember360 has a free trial, I can install that right now and see what it has.

The problem I see right away is that once I spend the time setting up this free trial and get it working, I'll be highly motivated not to uninstall it. Like the work of testing something makes you 100 times more likely to stick with it if it works. That's the power of free trials.

The other thing to note is that I've been hearing about OptimizePress for years and I've never heard of ActiveMember360 until today.

Such a tough decision on day one. Ugh.

I'm going to lunch and will think about it when I get back.

 

A Place of My Own

Every city, no matter how small, has a private club somewhere. In my wife's hometown, population 200,000 far from any major city, my father-in-law belongs to a private tennis club where he goes several times per week.  So no doubt, any town of that size anywhere in the world has a club that people pay to be part of.

Part of the appeal of the club is the discounted services that it offers. For a fixed monthly fee, you can use the club's facilities to play tennis, swim, boat, golf, work out, eat, or whatever services the club offers members. There's some type of math that you can come up with that says that you are only paying $40 for a round of golf, and that's a discount off the full price. And so you can just calculate the expected savings over time to justify the price of the club.

When setting up a club model, many people just stop there. They offer X at $Y per month which is a discount off of the pay one price deal, and it's just a savings model.

Another part of the appeal of any club is the other members. These are called network effects. Some people join a tennis club and hardly ever play tennis. They just go to the club, hang out with their friends, and it becomes a hangout spot. Once that kicks in, there will be peer-pressure not to quit because friends are there. The strength of the network keeps the network together.

Imagine wanting to quit Facebook and start using Twitter for your social status updates. The fact that almost none of your friends use Twitter and they all use Facebook keeps you using Facebook.

And finally, you have to say that “exclusive” clubs have status benefits. For instance, the most expensive box seats at Yankee stadium cost $800,000 per year. But you get the status of being a member of that exclusive club, and I'm sure it's a source of pride to all who have it. They feel “lucky enough” to purchase that if it becomes available.

All of that is a big lead up to the fact that I've decided to build a little private club on the Internet. I am just now setting up a fresh WordPress site and will assemble all of the pieces I need together to make it something people want to join and pay for.

Then, of course, I need to sell it. I am deciding on a marketing strategy already.

I'll document bits of my journey setting that up here. Not sure if it will live here forever, but until I decide where to put it, “sjd.ca” seems like a good enough place.

 

What I have so far:

  • WordPress

Next steps:

  • Membership plugin