7 out of 10 potential customers abandon your checkout page and never look back.
How much income do you lose with this number?
Imagine what your revenue could be if you were able to reduce that 70% checkout form statistic to just 50%.
Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true strategies that you can put in place to maximize your checkout form conversion rates in your business.
Let’s take a look.
Table of Contents
- 7 Strategies to Maximize Conversions On Your Website
- Your Potential Business Growth
7 Strategies to Maximize Conversions On Your Website
1. Recapture Lost Sales With Abandoned Cart Follow-Up
One of the most powerful methods to capture potentially lost sales on your checkout page is using an abandoned cart follow-up campaign.
You can make this follow-up process as complex or simple as you’d like, but at the very minimum you need their email address.
Here’s what it might look like:
The AccessAlly plugin, for example, uses a 3-step checkout form, designed to collect a customer’s first name, last name, and email address in the first step. Once they click on to the next part of the order form–the billing part–their contact info is logged into our marketing automation system/CRM. This way, if they never submit the order, we can send follow up emails to this email address, completed with an incentive to come back and purchase.
We’ve recouped 43% of potentially lost sales with this method alone.
This same process can be used for physical products as well.
2. Don’t Overwhelm The Buyer
When asking customers to fork over their hard-earned dollars, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to move from sales page to order form.
This is where a lengthy checkout flow can wreak havoc on your conversion numbers.
As a general rule, only require customers to fill in the fewest fields possible for you to successfully deliver their purchased goods.
If you’d like to collect additional information from your customers, you can do so on the confirmation page or in a follow up email to them after the purchase is complete.
After all, the more time they spend giving you information that’s not necessary to fulfill their order is more time spent deciding whether they really want to continue with their purchase.
The more time they spend on your order form, the higher your lost sales numbers will be … which is another reason why adding things like 1-click upsells can continue to increase your revenue.
You'll also want to take into account any additional security measures like the recent European Secure Customer Authentication steps that are part of your payment processor.
3. Mobile Responsive Checkout Forms
According to this study, 79% of customers submit their orders on mobile devices.
If your order forms are not mobile responsive, you’re leaving money on the table. Money you may not be able to recoup.
Ensure all of your checkout forms are mobile friendly. Your buttons, images, and all text should properly function and re-size across all mobile devices.
One-column checkout page templates have the highest conversion rates on mobile devices. When using two-column checkout page templates on desktop, ensure the order form reduces to one-column on mobile devices and the checkout process flows logically.
You want to make sure the customer is clear on what they are purchasing before you start requiring them to enter their personal details.
Reduce the need to scroll on mobile devices for customers as much as possible, but also ensure each step of your ordering process is easy to access and populate for your buyers.
4. Order Bumps
Order bumps are a great add-on to your checkout flow to increase revenue.
Sure, you might see it as a possible point of friction for your customers, because it is one more thing for them to consider as they submit their order.
The key is to make this offer a no-brainer for them. It must be relevant and an easy “yes” for them to add, with just a click of a button.
(If it can’t be explained with a picture and short description, save it for an upsell post-purchase.)
I highly recommend testing your conversion rates with and without the order bump to determine which offer yields the highest revenue.
5. Use Customer Testimonials To Increase Conversions
Use testimonials from past customers to help your potential buyers follow through with their order, especially on high-ticket items.
When a potential customer can relate to others who have also made the same purchase, they will be more willing to commit to the purchase.
This technique creates a sense of belonging for the potential buyer, increases credibility for your products, and reassures the customer that they are making a good purchase decision.
Neil Patel, one of the most successful modern digital marketers, goes into more detail about the power of social proof in this article. He was able to increase conversions by 6.8% simply by including a testimonial on the checkout form.
6. Size Matters
The images of your products and the name of the item being purchased should be the most prominent part of your checkout form. The description and price should be smaller in comparison.
Psychologically, smaller font sizes used to display the price translates to a small or “low” price in the mind of a buyer. If the text is large (in relative comparison with the rest of the page design), they’ll automatically translate it to a “high” price.
In other words: you can help reduce the “whoah this is expensive” reaction simply by being strategic with how you set up your product and checkout pages.
7. Use Payment Plans To Get Buyers Off The Fence
Sometimes, there’s an honest roadblock of “I can’t afford to pay this much right now” that prevents the buyer from completing the purchase. In these cases, you can use a toggle to display different payment plans available for your products and services on the checkout form itself.
I recommend defaulting to the full payment option when a user lands on your checkout page, but have the option to toggle to a payment plan to help make the decision easier for users who may be ready to buy, but the cost feels like a stretch to them.
(A note here: avoid offering too many payment options, or your potential customer will end up overwhelmed by the choices, and likely never complete their order.)
When kept simple, you’ll convert more leads into paying customers when you can offer a payment plan. In fact, according to SamCart, conversions increase over 17% when this is done well.
Your Potential Business Growth
With the added revenue from increased conversions you’ll be hitting your business milestones faster than you may have originally projected.
You can use the added revenue to invest in new technology to improve customer experience, hire new team members and invest more in your current ones, or take that vacation you’ve been putting off – you deserve it.
These small tweaks to maximize conversions in your checkout flow and checkout page templates could also be the increase you need to turn a failing business into a thriving one.
Which tips are you going to implement in your checkout flow right away? Leave a comment below to help hold yourself accountable.
Oh, and by the way – all of these checkout flow tips can be implemented with AccessAlly's all-new checkout forms!
It wasn't long ago that a “mobile friendly” website meant creating an entirely separate mobile version. I often find myself searching to see what are the latest specifications for mobile responsive screen sizes… so I figured I'd make this simple infographic and you can refer to.
That way, you'll always knows what size to test when it comes time to create a mobile friendly popup or opt-in on your website.
It's finally time: you're writing that book that's been calling your name.
You know it's going to change the trajectory of your career, but you might be wondering how you're going to juggle the book writing process and earning money at the same time.
That's where having an online course that you can sell comes in.
But creating and launching an online course takes time, too, which could be spent on your book.
This is the typical chicken or the egg situation: which comes first, and how can you make it all work together?
Keep reading to find out how 10 successful authors and business owners made it happen, and the best advice to get and stay profitable throughout your book publishing project!
Table of Contents
- Why Online Courses are an Important Part of an Author’s Business
- How Different Should Your Book and Course Be?
- The Case For Launching Your Online Course Before Your Book
- 1. An online course can help you fund the book writing process.
- 2. Online courses can fund your marketing efforts for the book, helping you create better results like getting on bestsellers’ lists.
- 3. An online course allows you to build community and test the ideas in your book first.
- 4. Course buyers become book buyers.
- The Case for Publishing a Book First
- 1. If you’ve already got the book content, and you want to be first to market with your book title or your topic is very hot right now.
- 2. Books have a wider reach, and they’re authoritative.
- 3. No matter what, your book naturally leads into your course, and can help recoup your book writing and promotion costs.
- Enough Talk, Let's See How These 10 Authors Built Book + Online Course Empires
- The Bottom-Line for You As An Author
Why Online Courses are an Important Part of an Author’s Business
I remember catching up with author Chris Guillebeau at a conference and asking him how business was going.
His response: “Oh, I don’t have a business, but things are good!”
Clearly, Chris Guillebeau sees himself first and foremost as an author. But I’d argue that Chris has a business, even if he doesn’t see things that way.
He has offered several online courses and paid membership offerings over the years, which complement his book sales income.
So that brings me to reason #1 that authors need to consider adding an online business component to their writing and publishing endeavors.
1. Books don’t make money, in and of themselves.
Okay, so this is a gross generalization. There are plenty of best-selling books that have made their authors plenty of money.
But for most first-time authors, the book itself only brings in a small advance and a few dividends.
The real money in book publishing can come over time, as you continue to release new books and sell more of them to a loyal audience. Or your book might spin off another opportunity or get picked up by an influencer like Oprah.
Most authors don’t have unlimited funds to keep them in coffee and chocolate while they’re writing their next book.
So that’s where having an online course or paid digital membership program can really change the game.
2. Online courses and membership programs provide back-end profits.
The beauty of publishing a book is that it positions you as the expert, and it’s also a low barrier to entry… someone can typically buy your book for $20 or less.
If they like what you shared in your book, then they’re more likely to trust you and want to go deeper with your work.
By having a “next step” for people to take after they finish your book, you’re helping people engage deeper with you.
You’re also opening up another revenue stream, and when it comes to online courses or membership sites, you can often price these much higher than a book.
People expect to pay more for an online course, and because you’re not working with a publisher you’re able to set the price for your courses.
You also don’t need to sell as many seats in a digital course to make more profits, because you’re keeping all of the income instead of splitting it with publishers and distributors.
Essentially, having your own online course to sell off the back of your book means that all of your book promotion efforts can lead to direct revenues in your business.
3. There are always going to be people who want to go deeper.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons to launch a course or digital offering is that people who read your book are likely to become super fans… Why leave them hanging?
Sure, they might be willing to wait for you to publish your next book in a few years… but why not have something available for them to dive into when they’re the most excited about the topic?
If you consider the 80/20 rule, there will always be 20% of readers who are willing to invest more and go deeper.
For example, if you look at 1000 book buyers, about 200 of them might sign up for an online course you offer.
Within that 200, another 40 people might be willing to hire you for high-end consulting or coaching.
Having different tiers or levels that readers can engage with you helps you protect your writing time, and also opens up more sources of revenue other than book sales.
That leads to a common question that I hear from authors and content creators… should your book be the exact same topic as your course, or should they be different?
How Different Should Your Book and Course Be?
Believe it or not, your book and your online course can cover the exact same topic.
The biggest difference between your book and your course will be the type of experience people have as they go through the material.
For example, a reader might buy the book and get inspired. But it’s not until they invest in the online course that they see how each lesson is broken down into action steps that they implement the ideas.
The reader might have already learned the same ideas in the book first, but they’ll use the structure of the course to guide them in new ways of acting on these ideas.
A course might also have a different level of access to you as the author.
Maybe you offer group coaching sessions where people can ask you questions, or you allow members to connect to each other and form a community.
Each of these elements is worth more than the price of a book, and can help you justify the higher price on what feels to you like the same information.
Remember: people don’t buy online courses because they want more information.
Rather, they’re looking for an organized and simple system that can help them achieve their goals. By breaking down a whole book into bite-sized lessons or automated follow-up, it helps students apply the ideas in more practical ways.
Still, you might also have a portion of your audience that learns best through books – and that’s fine too. The goal isn’t to get every reader to buy your courses, but it’s to give those that want the option a place to go.
Now that brings us to another common conundrum for authors… what’s the best order to launch things in?
The Case For Launching Your Online Course Before Your Book
Let’s dive into the reasons you might want to launch an online course even before you publish your book, possibly even years in advance of your book.
1. An online course can help you fund the book writing process.
Whether you’re working with a publisher that is willing to extend a solid advance or not, when you’ve got an online course that you can sell… you’ve got more flexibility.
You’re not depending on advance money, and that gives you some leeway around timelines.
We all know that books take many years of work, and it helps to have an income during that time.
2. Online courses can fund your marketing efforts for the book, helping you create better results like getting on bestsellers’ lists.
If your goal is to make a big splash with your book and land on bestsellers’ lists, then you’ll want to have a marketing budget to pull from.
Most publishers do the bare minimum to help you promote your book, so if you’ve got your own resources you’ll come out ahead.
After putting years of work into your book, you’ll appreciate knowing that your online course can help expand the reach of your book financially.
3. An online course allows you to build community and test the ideas in your book first.
All of the work that you do on your online course can benefit your book and the publishing process.
For example, if you realize that everyone who goes through your online course gets confused or hung up on a certain concept… you can workshop it with live course participants until it’s clear enough to add to your book.
You might also be able to include examples of real people who implemented your ideas and strategies successfully into your book.
That elevates your book from theoretical to real-world tried and tested.
Plus all of the audience building that you’ll do for your online course will lead into more sales for your book because…
4. Course buyers become book buyers.
Once someone falls in love with your work, they’re more likely to purchase all of your products and books.
Your fans will want to support your book, share it with friends, and help you spread the word because of the value they got from your online course.
By building relationships with your ideal readers first, you’ve got a built-in book buying audience.
You can do something special for people who have already taken the course and who buy the book, like offering additional bonuses or goodies.
The Case for Publishing a Book First
Let’s take a look at the flip side: yes, sometimes it makes sense to publish the book first and then release an online course.
1. If you’ve already got the book content, and you want to be first to market with your book title or your topic is very hot right now.
It’s no secret that there are trends in the publishing space, and sometimes you want to release a book quickly to capture the building interest.
In this case you might not have an online course to offer yet, but there are ways to lead from your book to an email list so that you can let people know when your course is ready.
Another option would be to set a date for running a live version of your online course, and pre-sell the course.
So you could hit the shelves with your book quickly, but have a way to start taking payments for a live version of your course a few months down the line.
If you need to establish your expertise and you feel like having a published book is going to help you in many aspects of your career… then publishing first is a great idea.
This can be especially useful for younger authors who might feel the need to prove themselves and their expertise.
But anyone can benefit from a “published author” feather in their cap.
Another reason you might want to publish a book first is that you’ve got a great distribution channel.
You’re more likely to be booked for press to talk about your book than your online course.
Books show up in search on Amazon, are given as gifts, and can be picked up as favorites by influencers.
3. No matter what, your book naturally leads into your course, and can help recoup your book writing and promotion costs.
It’s never too late to offer an online course after your book comes out.
In an ideal world you’d have a proven online course ready to sell when your book comes out, but if you can build an email list of book buyers by offering bonuses… your course can help recoup your marketing efforts.
You might also find that other opportunities come out of publishing your book: from speaking gigs, consulting contracts, and cross-promotion invitations.
These in turn might help you sell out an online course even faster and more easily than just depending on a few links and invitations inside your book.
Enough Talk, Let's See How These 10 Authors Built Book + Online Course Empires
Every author’s journey is different,
but it helps to see what worked for other authors and course creators.
Marie Forleo: Marie self-published her first book “Make Every Man Want You” and sold thousands of copies while bartending and building her coaching business. Her book got picked up by a publisher and came out in 2008, and around the same time she started working on an unrelated online course that became the foundation of a multi-million dollar business called B-School. Now in 2019 Marie’s second book “Everything is Figureoutable” is hitting the shelves.
Todd Herman: Todd started off with launching his highly successful 90 Day Year program before he put all of his energies behind the “The Alter Ego Effect” book. His efforts in growing his audience and network with online courses helped him have a successful launch and get on the Wall Street bestseller's list. Now the two feed into each other, as more people discover Todd's work through his book and public appearances and want to take his online course. (P.S. Todd uses AccessAlly to run his courses!)
Dr. Brene Brown
Dr. Brene Brown: Brene is a #1 New York Times best-selling author who started her career as a researcher in academia on the topics of courage, shame, vulnerability, and empathy. She entered the world of publishing first, but also taught live and gave many presentations before offering online programs. Over the years she has created Dare to Lead training programs, as well as other digital content for paying members. She also has in-person certifications.
Les McKeown: Throughout the years Les started over 40 companies, and published 3 books on business growth leadership before tying it all together with an online course. His Predictable Success model is available in his best-selling book, his online course, and a public or in-house workshop.
Jennifer Louden: Jen has been publishing books since before there was much of an online education space to speak of. Her work has impacted so many women and couples, and she's now turned her successful publishing career into an online business where she helps other writers through a membership site and higher end offerings, too. She's currently working on her next book, too!
Neil Strauss: Neil was definitely on the author track before he ever ventured into the online course space. In fact, I would argue that Neil is really a writer-first, and business person second. He's published multiple best-sellers and partners with different people to help him run the online program aspects of his business. (Neil also uses AccessAlly to run his courses!)
Denise Duffield-Thomas: Denise started off by self-publishing her first two books, but she also launched her first digital products around the same time. That gave her the ability to earn an income online and help her promote her books… so much that she was able to negotiate a 3-book deal with Hay House publishers. Now Denise masterfully combines her books and her online courses to run a multi-million dollar business. (Denise also uses AccessAlly to run her online courses!)
James Clear: James launched The Habits Academy online course before his book came out, and he was able to help fund his book writing process. He also targets his course to both individuals and organizations, so the message of his book “Atomic Habits” was a great fit for many types of audiences and helped it become an instant New York Times best-seller.
Martha Beck: Martha is a New York Times best-selling author with several books under her belt, and she's also a powerhouse master coach who has trained a generation of coaches. Martha offers coaching certifications as well as online courses on writing and she blends her talents for writing and leading masterfully. (Martha also uses AccessAlly to run her courses!)
Donald Miller: Donald Miller started off as an author first with his memoir style books, and as with many of the writers on this list he branched off into other topics and books along the way. From there he launched both a live workshop and online course that goes hand in hand with his book “Building a Storybrand”. This book and course are an example of keeping the same topic between your book and online course.
The Bottom-Line for You As An Author
The biggest take-away I want you to leave with is this: book publishing and online courses go hand in hand.
The more successful your book is, the more online course sales you’ll make.
The more transformation you can deliver in an online course, the better your book will be and the more book sales you’ll make.
It’s a circular system, where your book helps your courses and vise versa.
When you're ready to build an online course, you'll have to decide what kind of a site you'd like to build it on. You could create and sell online courses from your own website using a self-hosted solution like WordPress, or use a “hosted” solution like Thinkific.
With either option, you can advertise courses on your own site.
A hosted solution is often attractive if you have a low budget, don't want to invest a lot of time in the setup, or don't intend for your course to play a major role in your business. Why? Because you can pick a solution that's quick to set up and you don't need to plan for advanced functionality beyond what the hosted solution can provide.
A self-hosted solution (i.e. a course plugin for WordPress) is often the route chosen by those who view their courses as an integral part of their business. You might be looking to build in a permanent source of recurring revenue, expand the value of a current service-based business, etc. In this case, you're looking for a system that will grow and expand with you, and consider the startup cost as an investment.
Table of Contents
- Create an Online Course That People Want To Buy
- Build A Course That's Attractive and Engages With Clients
- Presenting & Selling the Course
- Maximize Profits Through Automation
- Create an online course on your website that people want to buy
Create an Online Course That People Want To Buy
It's tempting to dive in with both feet the minute you have an online course idea. But a lot of entrepreneurs invest time, money, and energy into setting everything up …only to discover that their audience is looking for something much different.
Validate your idea
If you have a community (or access to one similar to the people you're creating your course for), you can ask them directly. Ask follow up questions. Identify the pain points that they're struggling with. Find out where they're getting stuck, so you have a clear idea of how your course will benefit them. Ask for examples of courses and trainings that they love. All of this information can help you identify whether you're on the right track or not.
Take your focused idea and list of benefits and use it as a guide while you compile your content.
Any off-shoot ideas that come up during the course creation process should be tucked away for future use (don't try to pack it all into a single course).
Once your course content is ready, think ahead and consider “what's next” for your students. If this course is a hit, the door is open for future courses and products.
Do A Limited (Beta) Release
Zero to sixty is only cool if you're driving a muscle car.
In the online course world, building in a series of checkpoints can help improve the overall quality–and future success–of your project.
That's why many online course builders and membership site owners recommend a limited release (often called a “beta” release) before you do an all-out launch to your tribe.
Many course creators offer a free or discounted sign up period to a select number of students. They then meet with the students and ask for candid feedback on the content quality and overall experience of the course. This gives you a chance to make the necessary tweaks and bring your course from “good” to “excellent”.
On the plus side, a hosted platform will let you have the course up and running quickly so you can minimize the investment spent in setting it all up.
On the negative side, running a beta release on a hosted platform means that you'll eventually have to start from scratch again, and try to replicate the exact setup in a different tool. This can lead to serious frustration and abandonment of the project's bigger picture.
The decision is up to you, but we do recommend thinking ahead and asking yourself whether you want to set up the same course multiple times (and learn two or more platforms in the process), or if it's a better use of your time to have it all professionally built on a WordPress site that will scale with you.
Build A Course That's Attractive and Engages With Clients
Building the course itself means a shift from the more creative thinking and planning of content creation to technical know-how and patient work integrating systems and troubleshooting issues. The next few items will help unravel each of the components that go into the build itself.
Use secure hosting to support steady and growing traffic numbers
A reliable, secure WordPress hosting solution will support fluctuating traffic numbers as your online course grows in popularity. A good hosting provider also helps keep your site safe (or safer) from hackers.
Protect data with an SSL certificate
When people sign up for your online course, they expect that you're dedicated to keeping their information secure. Nowadays, an SSL certificate is a standard addition to any site. (And AccessAlly won't even let you take payments without one.)
Reliable hosting providers have a tech team that will help you get one properly installed on your WordPress site, if you're unfamiliar with the process.
Choose a theme that allows you to design your course the way YOU want
The challenge with using a self-hosted WordPress site to sell your online courses is that you're basically presented with a blank slate, with the instructions: do whatever you want.
On the one hand, this means that you have flexibility and an unparalleled opportunity to be original. On the other hand, it means that there's a lot of setup work involved.
Finding the right theme for your online course website means that you need to be clear on what kind of a layout you want, how many menus you'll be using, whether you're hosting videos or just written content, etc. While there are a lot of course design examples out there, it's important to choose a layout that will enhance user experience and learning.
(This is where the hosted solutions like Thinkific make life easier: they've done all the work designing the pages. Al you have to do is add in your content…which can be either a relief or frustrating, depending on what you want your pages to look like!)
Fortunately, many of the more flexible WordPress themes (like Beaver Builder, for example) come with templates that save you the hassle of DIY-ing it all.
Use a course plugin with structure and flexibility
Unfortunately, cheap tools often result in a cheap final product, full of glitches and tech issues that can quickly sink your enthusiasm for the whole project.
To find the right plugin, start with a list of your non-negotiable features (Multi-level memberships? Payment plans? Drip-release courses?), then research the list of course plugins that can deliver on those points and go from there.
Not necessarily. If you're having trouble finding the right balance in your tech stack, take time to review our guide: Online Business Tools Checklist: Do You Really Need To Pay For That New Tool?
If your budget truly can't support an investment in quality hosting or a good course plugin, you might be better off choosing a hosted solution like Thinkific or Teachable. These platforms are specially designed for online courses and will present a much better experience to your clients than a cheap or free WordPress course plugin.
Start with the basics before getting fancy with bells and whistles
If you've invested in a robust plugin (the kind that lets you build online courses, checklists, progress tracking, and more…), it's tempting to try to “do it all”.
The danger with this approach (unless you're a techy aficionado with no time limit who loves a challenge) is that you spend time and energy on advanced setup before
It's better to have a straightforward, proven online course before trying more advanced things like adding in a credit system.
Presenting & Selling the Course
You successfully managed to create an online course on your own website. Now, it's time to create a system that helps this course to succeed and grow as a source of recurring revenue for your business.
Create a powerful sales page that converts
Think of the sales page as the “storefront” of your online course. It should be attractive, inviting, and compelling enough so that people want “in”.
Whether you have a copywriter on your team (or are one yourself), it can be helpful to follow some general tried-and-true guidelines for writing a sales page that converts.
Use checkout forms that help you sell more
If you're lucky, the membership or online course plugin you chose will also include ecommerce, or the ability to sell subscriptions, payment plans, and present discounts, in addition to simply selling access to your courses.
Another thing you might want to include in your checkout process is an abandoned cart sequence, where you follow up automatically when someone starts an order but leaves before the transaction is completed. It's a simple process that helped us recapture 43% of our lost sales.
You'll also want to take into account any additional security measures like the recent EuropeanSecure Customer Authentication (SCA) requirements.
Support students through interaction and engagement
You might be surprised that an LMS plugin isn't a magic cure-all for student engagement in your courses.
Take time to engage with your students 1-1 or in groups, offer ongoing support, be present to answer their questions, and maintain an attitude of active listening so you can take action the moment serious issues are identified.
From Day 1, tracking metrics will help you identify and take advantage of massive growth opportunities, increasing the profit you receive from your online courses.
From forecasting your revenue to evaluating your current offerings, making data-informed decisions contribute to the overall health of your company.
Learn more about some of the metrics you may want to monitor here: Tracking Metrics: 11 Business Metrics Examples for Membership Sites
Maximize Profits Through Automation
Finally, it should almost go without saying that the more you can automate and integrate between your systems, the more time you'll have to spend on activities other than customer support and tech troubleshooting.
While many course plugins include standard “automations” like sending out an email when someone signs up for a course, the reality is that there's potential to go much deeper when you work with a WordPress course plugin that integrates with a marketing automation system. In the latter case, you can get as fancy as you want, from reminders to login when the user has been MIA for a time, to those abandoned cart sequences we talked about earlier.
This is where choosing more of an all-in-one solution can really make your life easier, since the entire system can be automated with a single integration. (As compared to a multi-plugin setup, where you have to find a way to link all the tools up to each other, when they aren't designed to work that way.)
Create an online course on your website that people want to buy
Selling an online course on your own website takes a little more love and attention than if you were to just throw your content into a hosted solution. But the power and flexibility it gives you in return more than pay for itself in terms of time saved (long-term) and revenue.
As you embark on this journey, balance your short-term income goals with long-term business plans. And if it makes sense to invest in an online course, don't be afraid to take it on and create an online course you can be proud of selling for years to come.
Start your online course plugin search by test driving AccessAlly, the premier online course plugin for WordPress.
Released June 2019
- Fixed Tried-and-True template issue (Order Form → Designs) where backend customizations were not updated on the frontend.
- Fixed issue where Regular Text elements (Order Form → Designs → Flex templates) couldn't be updated after being moved.
- Fixed issue where the PayPal timezone setting couldn't be updated.
The membership site and online course business model isn't limited to big businesses with giant revenue streams.
In fact, we’ve seen our clients use AccessAlly to create membership sites for everything from sales trainings and done-for-you-resources to ornament of the month clubs, and everything in between.
Our clients have been using AccessAlly’s membership and learning management system features to create fully customized coaching portal membership sites for their 1:1 clients.
With a coaching portal, you can truly offer a premier experience for your clients, from individual dashboard to courses and digital coaching materials.
Table of Contents
- 7 Elements to Include in Your Coaching Portal Dashboard
- A Better Leverage With The CRM You're Already Paying For
- Get Started Setting Up Your Coaching Membership Site
7 Elements to Include in Your Coaching Portal Dashboard
1. Client's Name
Picture it: the moment your clients log into the site, they're greeted personally, by first name.
It's a place they feel is designed just for them, where they have access to their personal info (to maintain their contact and shipping information), access billing details, and even manage their preferred method of payment.
The ability to update credit card info alone can save you hours of time and billing nightmares, when the inevitable “card declined” error occurs.
And, if you send clients physical products in the mail (like books, cards, and other resources), it's always great to have them in charge of keeping their mailing address totally up to date.
2. Coaching Packages
Not only can each client have a billing profile, but creating a membership site as a coaching portal makes it incredibly easy for you to add a powerful shopping experience to connect them with your other coaching packages.
Here, think of things like a dashboard that allows a client to purchase additional sessions, courses, or even upgrade coaching packages with a single click.
3. Call Recordings
An individual client dashboards solves the question of “where's the best place to share mp3s, videos, and other recordings for each client?”
Simply upload the data to your client's individual dashboard or resource area, then notify them that it's all ready to go.
Clients can refer back to these recordings at any time to revisit trainings and topics you've covered. You can also send supplemental materials to each individual client based on their specific needs.
Use your membership coaching portal to reduce the amount of time you spend each month scheduling client sessions by including buttons that link directly to your scheduling tool.
Simply use your CRM to send out an automated email reminder to all of your clients reminding them to book their upcoming sessions with an autologin link to their coaching portal for easy access.
5. Distribute updates and notifications for all clients
When you create your coaching portal membership site, you will create one course with individual pages restricted to each individual user, but your main “course” page can be used to share resources central to all coaching clients.
This setup makes it easy to post notifications that are accessible for all clients on the main page so everyone can easily access this information. You won't need to add the material to each coaching client's individual pages.
6. Create a place for clients to ask questions
Take advantage of AccessAlly's private notes feature to create an area for each client to submit questions prior to their coaching sessions.
This is a great way to reduce inbox overwhelm for you, and will help you stay organized, making it easy to access each client’s submissions in a centralized location.
You can also use this feature to communicate back and forth with each client.
Send notes, attachments, and other resources that may be helpful for each individual client directly to their individual dashboards.
They’ll receive an automated email notification letting them know new material is available for them to access.
7. Additional resources and downloads
Create an area for downloads and resources that can be accessed by all of your clients.
Some great examples are pdfs, links to recommended books, meditations, and worksheets.
A Better Leverage With The CRM You're Already Paying For
CRMs and marketing automation systems are designed to save us time by automating administrative work so we can focus on taking better care of our clients.
Whether you have an email list of 10 or 10,000 prospects and clients, a CRM or marketing automation system will save you time, money, and your sanity.
When you use a tool like AccessAlly as the engine that powers your coaching portal, all of your client’s information will sync directly with your CRM.
This integration makes it possible to automate the delivery of on-boarding emails as soon as someone purchases your coaching package, as well as any follow up reminders or mass communication you need to send out to your clients.
Actions performed by your coaching clients inside your membership site can trigger follow-up automations in your CRM.
You can also automate failed payment follow-ups when a client’s monthly payment fails to process, requiring less pressure on you to ensure all payments are up-to-date and followed up on in a timely manner.
Not sure which system can best support you? Find out here.
Get Started Setting Up Your Coaching Membership Site
Get the step-by-step guide to creating your coaching portal inside your WordPress membership site using AccessAlly here.
Your coaching clients will love this personalized experience you create for them inside your coaching membership site. This fully branded, customized experience will up-level your offerings and increase your credibility with prospective clients.
Schedule a demo with our team to decide if a coaching portal membership site is a good next step for you and your clients.
“Hi, I’m looking for a WordPress CRM plugin that can…”
That’s the start of many group posts in the WordPress space, and there’s a reason that it keeps coming up. As WordPress site owners, we know that we're working with a powerful and extensible platform that can do almost anything we imagine.
But there’s also a reason that you might not have found the perfect WordPress CRM plugin for your business yet, so let’s dive in and I’ll share my best recommendations at the end.
Table of Contents
- What Is a WordPress CRM?
- What Are Your Goals for Your CRM System?
- Why You Haven’t Found The Right WordPress CRM Plugin Yet
- 1. The WordPress CRM Marketplace is Still In Its Infancy
- 2. You’ll Still Need Another Email Marketing System
- 3. WordPress CRM Plugins Put The Onus on You To Adhere To Security and Privacy Laws
- 4. A WordPress CRM Plugin Is One More Thing To Manage and Maintain
- 5. The WordPress CRM Marketplace Isn’t Focused on Integration
- 6. Even Top WordPress CRM Plugins Might Slow Down Your Website or Contribute To Bloat
- 7. You’re Busy Running Your Business, You Don’t Have Time to Test Each Different WordPress CRM Plugin On The Market
- Recommendations On What To Do, Instead
- Our WordPress CRM Plugin Recommendations
What Is a WordPress CRM?
First, let’s get on the same page and make sure we’re talking about the same thing. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and although that’s a mouth-full it’s a pretty central part of most businesses these days.
A WordPress CRM plugin keeps track of your potential customers and current clients’ data, so you can better serve them.
That usually includes their name, company, email address, physical address, and then any number of additional fields that are relevant to your type of business.
For example, you might use your CRM to track which phase in the sales process a prospect is in, or which products and services they’ve expressed interest in.
What Are Your Goals for Your CRM System?
Although we can all agree on the definition of a CRM system, not every company uses their CRM in the same ways… which is part of the problem when selecting the right WordPress CRM plugin.
Here are just a few different ways that you might be planning to leverage a CRM system:
- 1–1 Sales: You have a personalized one-to-one sales process, where you need to book calls and keep track of potential clients in a pipeline.
- Follow-up: You need to be able to follow-up individually or with groups of people, and make sure that your follow-up is timed properly and contains the right information.
- Team Collaboration: You have multiple people in your organization who need access to client information, and who might be interacting with customers, too. You don’t want anyone stepping on toes, or customers falling through the cracks.
- Automation: You want to stop doing repetitive tasks, and have an automated process that walks customers and prospects through your on-boarding or sales sequences.
- Integration: You have other tech tools and systems that need to “talk to” your WordPress CRM and either push or pull data… and help keep everything in sync in one central location (usually the CRM itself).
- Saving Money: Whether you’re trying to save money by choosing a self-hosted WordPress CRM or you’re moving from a more costly solution… a CRM can not only save you money but also make your business money in the long run, with more successful sales.
- Modernizing: You might still be trying to track all of the data you need on paper, across spreadsheets, or even in your head! With a world class CRM solution, you’ll be able to leave some of your old ways behind.
If you’ve identified a few key WordPress CRM plugin goals you’re after, that will help you narrow down the options to choosing the right one.
Why You Haven’t Found The Right WordPress CRM Plugin Yet
Okay, so let’s talk about the very real reasons you might not have found the WordPress CRM plugin for your business yet.
1. The WordPress CRM Marketplace is Still In Its Infancy
The first reason is that the WordPress CRM plugin marketplace is still nascent… and that’s because the CRM space has primarily been dominated by bigger corporate CRMs like SalesForce for years.
Now don’t get me wrong: things are changing and you can see how many new options are opening up in my full CRM Comparison guide.
But the reality is that it’s only been a few years since developers started creating WordPress CRM plugins to address the needs of small business owners.
Some CRM plugins are being updated frequently, but if you look at the number of installations for many of them… it’s obvious that they aren’t taking the WordPress world by storm. Without a ton of uptake, it’s hard to make plugins more competitive and useful.
So you end up with WordPress CRM plugins that are a little too bare bones for most people.
On the other hand, some WordPress CRM systems are trying to do too much – like WP ERP, which includes CRM functionality but is also an enterprise planning system that includes HR and accounting functionality.
2. You’ll Still Need Another Email Marketing System
Another rather important part of the WordPress CRM plugins conversation is that you’ll often still need to pay for an additional email marketing system like ActiveCampaign or Mailchimp.
If you’re trying to save money by self-hosting your CRM system on WordPress, you might be better off choosing an email marketing platform that can also double as your CRM.
Some examples of CRMs that could serve this function well include ActiveCampaign, Drip, Ontraport, and Keap. When it comes to email marketing automation platforms, there's no lack of options but you need to make sure it integrates with your set up.
Even if you want to use your WordPress site to send follow up emails through your WordPress CRM plugin, often you’ll realize an unfortunate reality:
So you’ll still want to use a 3rd party email add-on like Amazon S3 to send your emails on WordPress. Either way, it’s one more thing to figure out.
3. WordPress CRM Plugins Put The Onus on You To Adhere To Security and Privacy Laws
With more strict data privacy laws coming on the scene like GDPR, managing your customer data is becoming increasingly complex.
When you’re tasked with keeping your customer data safe on your WordPress host, and also complying with laws where you need to be able to fully erase client data… it can get tricky.
Whether you’ve got backups that might be keeping client data around longer, or you’ve managed to find a way to comply and keep things tidy… it’s still an extra task on your plate.
If you’re working with a hosted CRM, it’s their job to stay on top of changing regulations and they’re going to be able to develop the necessary infrastructure for it because that’s their sole focus.
You, on the other hand, have a business to run!
4. A WordPress CRM Plugin Is One More Thing To Manage and Maintain
Following on from the previous point, when you add another plugin to your WordPress site or even set up a dedicated site just for your CRM… it’s one more thing to manage.
So when your WordPress CRM plugin comes out with a new version, you need to backup your data before upgrading and make sure that everything went smoothly.
There’s both a pro and a con here: you get to decide when you want to do this maintenance, and it’s fully in your control. But it’s also another task on your already long to-do list!
5. The WordPress CRM Marketplace Isn’t Focused on Integration
Another big issue with finding the right CRM, no matter what platform you choose, is the integration piece.
If you’re able to find a CRM that integrates with the other important aspects of your business (like client booking, payments, delivery, etc.) then you’re in great shape.
Unfortunately, not all WordPress plugins have this integration-first approach. Sometimes integrations are bolted on at the end, are a little clunky, or don’t do what you really need them to do.
6. Even Top WordPress CRM Plugins Might Slow Down Your Website or Contribute To Bloat
Depending on how you plan to use your CRM, you might have thousands if not tens of thousands of prospects and customers to keep track of.
That kind of data might contribute to a site slowdown, especially if you keep everything on your main WordPress website.
A better approach would be to have a more dedicated site just to manage your client data, and possibly to integrate with a membership aspect if that’s part of your business model.
Any time you add new plugins, you’re contributing to bloat on your website. Of course, I’m not saying that you should never install plugins because that would defeat the purpose of an extendable platform like WordPress.
But choose wisely, and your site’s speed will not be impacted as much.
7. You’re Busy Running Your Business, You Don’t Have Time to Test Each Different WordPress CRM Plugin On The Market
Finally, the real reason you haven’t found the right WordPress CRM plugin yet is likely because you’re busy and you don’t have time to do a trial run of all the possible plugins out there.
Especially when some of them have paid add-ons, and you don’t want to invest both time and money buying and installing each of these.
Recommendations On What To Do, Instead
If you’ve decided that maybe in your quest to save money by choosing a WordPress CRM, you might be sacrificing ease of use and scalability… then you might want to look at some more traditional cloud-based CRM options.
Here are a few of my best recommendations:
If You’re Starting Out as a Blogger
ConvertKit is a great automation marketing platform for bloggers and content marketers. It has everything you need out of the box, and you won’t get lost in any of the complexities of the other options.
If You Need Sales Force Automation
ActiveCampaign is great for more visual email newsletters, and if you want some flexibility in your automations, with a lightweight solution that won’t bog you down.
If You Do One-on-One Sales
Keap is a great marketing automation platform for converting your incoming leads into clients. It's ideal for small businesses interacting 1:1 with their clients. If you have a 1 to many business model, I'd recommend taking a look at the other systems in this review, unless you plan to use AccessAlly to support your e-commerce and affiliate needs.
If You Want to Hire a Specialist To Set Things Up For You
Infusionsoft by Keap is still the “big kahuna” in a lot of ways with what it can do, but chances are you won’t want to take on the learning curve yourself and you may want to hire someone to set it up for you. We do all of our own Infusionsoft setup, but we’re also techies.
If You Need Ecommerce with an Affiliate System
Ontraport is a great option if you what it all, and you highly value email deliverability. I think they’ve come a long way, and are a very strong contender in the all-in-one marketing automation and CRM space. I also think their community is super supportive and positive!
If You Want Advanced Streamlined Geeky Functionality
Drip offers a lot of geek-level functionality that makes it very powerful under the hood, without overwhelming you if you don’t want to use all of these bells and whistles yet. I think this platform offers a lot of room for growth.
Remember, in some cases even if you were to go with a WordPress CRM plugin you might still need one of these systems to send emails or do automated follow-up.
So it might save you some time and headaches to go straight for some of these and see if they might suit your needs from the get-go.
Our WordPress CRM Plugin Recommendations
Here are our top picks for WordPress CRM plugins, based on our research:
Zero BS WordPress CRM: Free with add-ons, this plugin has over 1000 active installs and boasts frequent updates and releases. What I like about this plugin, beyond the simplicy and effectiveness is that it was designed by EpicPlugins to be used internally. That's always a good sign for a WordPress plugin. This plugin has a clean and organized interface, and it does a lot of what you want for free and for a paid add-on can really add a lot of flexibility and overcome the integration issues of other WordPress CRM solutions.
WP-CRM System: Free with add-ons, this plugin has 500 active installs and is also fairly frequently updated. Some of the benefits of this plugin include the ability to import contacts easily, and some of the paid add-ons that can really make it shine for integrations. They're also one of the few WordPress CRM plugins that specifically address the GDPR issue.
WP CRM: Free with add-ons, and not to be confused with the WP-CRM System plugin above. It has over 4000 active installs and is actively being updated. This plugin is very much contact-form focused, and will allow you to have people fill out a form to enter your CRM. You can also customize the “custom fields” you'd like to keep track of for your clients.
Presspoint CRM: A premium plugin that starts at $550/year, which means we don't know how many active users they have. But one thing I appreciate about Presspoint is that it really has thought through what works well in cloud-based CRMs and brought into the WordPress ecosystems, without any of the fee-per-contact limitations. It also has events and opportunities related add-ons, to create a fully functional CRM.
WP ERP: Free with add-ons, it has over 10,000 active installs and is frequently updated. Although this plugin does a lot, it has been around for many years which means they've had time to work out the kinks and develop a lot of useful paid add-ons that make it a really strong contender. What I like especially about it, is that you can see all of the important client information at a glance and also import from other systems easily.
UpiCRM: Free with add-ons, it has 2000 active installs and is frequently updated. This plugin integrates with existing form plugins and allows people to add themselves to your contact database. The interface isn't stunning, but you can do a lot with this plugin from assigning leads to different team members and tracking the lead source through UTM links.
Released June 2019
New Features: Order form design customization
- New input fields can now be added to order forms, which can optionally link to CRM custom fields.
- Additional text and image fields can be added to the order form designs.
- The placement of input / text elements are controlled via a drag-and-drop order form design interface.
The full tutorial for setting up your new order form designs can be found here: How to Design & Customize Your Order Forms
- Added PayPal timezone setting in AccessAlly General Settings → Payment → PayPal to avoid timezone issue when creating PayPal subscription profiles. (The setting can be found in “Step 4” of this tutorial.)
- Improved page load time for Custom Operations and Products setting pages.
- Set the “Nickname” to the First Name for newly created users, so that the email addresses are not shown in certain forum profiles.
- Added option to show a CRM field (such as the PayPal email) in the Affiliate Payout report.
- Added Angolan Kwanza as a currency option.
- Subscription credits are NOT included in the Metrics revenue calculation.
- Added Subscription Churn Metrics calculation.
- Added Active Subscription filter to Metrics calculations.
- Added American Military addresses to the States selection.
- Added an “alternate” affiliate link mode for servers that can't properly process links with the “~” character. (Tutorial here)
- Enabled a drag-and-drop re-ordering for Profile and User Directory description items.
- Changed the letter “E” to lowercase in “Every month / year, etc” -> “every month / year, etc” for recurring product pricing description.
- Added an advanced option to customize the product pricing description.
- Adding / removing tags in WordPress dashboard user profile will now be updated in the CRM.
- Fixed a bug in the Course Wizard → Stage-release course update, where moving pages to another module wasn't saved.
- Page icons are no longer changed when the pages are re-ordered in the Course Wizard.
- Affiliate links can now be processed when shared on Pinterest and clicked on an iPhone (the ~ symbol is converted to %7E).
- (ConvertKit only) added missing subscriber ID argument to the On-Demand Login link.
- Fixed a bug in the Active Subscription Metrics calculation, where the time window wasn't used properly.
- Increased the maximum profile image size to 1024 by 1024 pixels.
Membership sites have the potential to be one of the most lucrative revenue streams for your business.
The membership site model is designed to help you scale your business and reach a larger audience that wouldn’t be possible if you exclusively worked with your members one-on-one.
As you scale a monthly membership site your revenue will steadily increase over time, resulting in even higher profits for your business.
Let’s take a closer look at 3 popular strategies to sell online memberships and how to deliver your content inside them.
Table of Contents
- Model 1: Evergreen Monthly Content
- Model 2: Start at sign up + going forward
- Model 3: All access + new monthly content
- Choose the format that best supports your goals
- The Online Membership Plugin For Industry Leaders
Model 1: Evergreen Monthly Content
Selling online memberships with the evergreen content model means that the monthly content is released in the same sequence, no matter when they join.
For example, a member who joins right away in January will receive the “Month #1” content immediately. In February they’ll receive Month #2 content, and so on. A member who joins the program in February will be one month “behind” the other member (for lack of a better word), since they’ll receive Month #1 in February, and Month #2 in March.
With an evergreen online membership format, the content is always released sequentially based on each individual’s join date, regardless of the month/time of year.
This model works best when…
Since every member goes through the same chronological progression, this model works really great for more traditional online course formats. If you've looked at how to teach online and make it a viable profession, then you know that recurring income can go a long way to making it work.
This model is great for drip fed content that builds on the material from the previous lesson or module. Each module is essentially a pre-requisite for the next, and in some cases must be completed before accessing future lessons and material.
Challenges to overcome:
With an evergreen online membership model, each user moves at their own pace, and might not be on the same page with students who began a few months earlier. This can pose a challenge if you want to offer group coaching and support, since more advanced members might ask questions that are totally irrelevant to new members.
To ensure members are digesting the material and progressing through your course successfully, use progress-tracking and completion objectives to keep your members motivated to complete each lesson, or take a quiz to move on to the next lesson or module.
Model 2: Start at sign up + going forward
With this membership model, new content is released to the entire program each month.
For example, members who first sign up for your program in July will receive the same content that month as members who have been around since January. All members receive access to new monthly materials going forward. However, the “new” member who signs up in July won’t have access to content that was released in prior months, though they can always choose to purchase the prior content separately.
This model works best when…
This format of selling online memberships creates a lot of opportunities for you to increase your customer lifetime value through multiple revenue streams.
Not only will you earn recurring revenue from each member’s monthly subscription, but you can also invite members to pay to unlock past months’ content, adding to your membership site profits. Take a look at how to implement this upsell strategy here.
It works really well when your content is varied and doesn’t build sequentially on past months’ materials. For example, a painting instructor who does a step-by-step art tutorial each month might gravitate towards this model, since each month’s tutorial can stand on its own feet.
AccessAlly user, Staci Ann Lowry of Ornamentgirls.com has built an incredibly successful online membership business using this model.
This model is also really powerful when you want to host group calls, live challenges, and other membership-wide engagement efforts. Your members will be going through the same content at the same time, so their questions and discussions will be focused around the same topic.
Challenges to overcome …
You have to be mindful not to build each month’s new content on knowledge members would have received the month before, when selling this type of online membership since all members won’t necessarily have access to it based on their join date.
It might also be a challenge to present your upsells in a positive light, as some members might be resistant to paying “extra” to unlock past course content. This is an area where strategic wording and high-value content will help immensely.
Model 3: All access + new monthly content
This online memberships site format gives your members access to all of your content from the past, plus any new content released as long as they remain an active member.
This is a great example of a buffet style type of online memberships.
This model works best when…
This membership site setup is great if you offer a variety of courses and content where the main draw for your members is that they’ll receive access to everything, including any new content added over time. Members feel like they are getting a lot of bang for their buck with this style membership.
Challenges to overcome:
Unfortunately, this approach to sell online memberships can result in information overload since there is so much for members to digest. Course dashboards can quickly become crowded, leading to confusion and a loss of focus.
You'll also want to remember this member retention advice: if people feel like they aren't able to take advantage of all your content, they might cancel.
One way to combat this is by creating a personality-type quiz that guides each member to the material that’s most beneficial for them, based on their unique scenario. Add this quiz to the main page and encourage users to revisit it on a regular basis.
Another option is to “lock” older content, while offering members free credits that they can use to slowly unlock access over time. This creates a “shopping” mentality, and encourages members to slow down and focus on the course at hand, rather then getting lost in the excitement of too many options.
Finally, you might simply choose to tuck old content into a library or “archive” area, letting users peruse through the materials as they choose, while keeping the main dashboard page focused on the current month’s content.
Choose the format that best supports your goals
Each of these formats used to sell online memberships is unique in its own way, and it’s up to you to determine which one will best support your membership site goals.
Regardless of which format you choose to sell online membership, you’ll want to ensure the tech stack you use supports your needs, and is designed to scale as you reach each new milestone in your business.
The Online Membership Plugin For Industry Leaders
Because of its versatility and powerful automation capabilities, AccessAlly makes it possible to create a program using any (or all!) of the 3 monthly membership models.
With its built-in e-commerce functionality and advanced email marketing integrations, AccessAlly gives you all the functionality you need to sell online memberships, without having to purchase any expensive add-ons.
AccessAlly makes it possible to sell each of these 3 types of online memberships with its built-in e-commerce functionality and advanced automation integrations.
We understand how unique each business is, and we’re here to help you create a custom profitable membership site experience for your members, without the hassle of duct-taped tech stacks.
Confession time: I deleted the original version of this post, because most automation marketing comparison posts are too neutral and just compare features.
Anyone can list features…
But it takes some balls to talk about the nuances that make it worth choosing a certain marketing automation tool over another.
So that’s what you’ll find in this very candid marketing automation platforms comparison. Because that’s the kind of marketing automation tools comparison I would be looking for to help me decide which option to choose.
(This post last updated October 2019!)