Referral programs are on the rise: the industry of affiliate programs is projected to reach $6.8 billion by 2020 in the United States alone.
That's a huge chunk of money… and the playing field is wide open for more people to get in on it.
For business owners, the projected growth also means that affiliate programs are becoming increasingly mainstream and viable options for you to increase your reach and revenue.
So let's take a look at how you can use something as simple as a WordPress referral plugin to host a profitable affiliate program on your own website.
How a Referral Plugin Can Increase Your Reach
Nathalie Lussier, the founder of AccessAlly, recently shared a candid look at how she's been on both sides of the referral industry, and has made multiple 6 figures in referral sales.
That's good news for those who are building an income as affiliate marketers.
And, considering the fact that the affiliate only receives a portion of the cut, it's even better news for the company selling the products.
The initial revenue from an affiliate sale is only the beginning of the story: referrals have a prolific tendency to snowball. A single affiliate might be end up being responsible for a large percentage of your sales. As more affiliates become engaged with your business and actively promoting your products, the bigger the snowball effect will be.
Features of an Affiliate Program Poised for Success
Ok let's pause a minute.
A referral program isn't a magic cure-all for your sales and marketing woes. There's a possibility that it might not be right for your business.
That's because the ultimate goal, for affiliate marketers, is to create streams of recurring revenue, whether through annual launches or with evergreen promotions that keep on earning.
Once your understand this, you'll be in a good place:
To successfully enroll affiliates and earn referrals you'll need:
#1 A Great Product
Hopefully this is a total no-brainer, but the product you're opening up to affiliates will have the most success if it can beat the competition in the eyes of your affiliates and clients. A smart affiliate marketer (the kind you want on your side) will ignore poor quality products in favor of ones that deliver real results to their end clients.
#2 Dedicated Fans or Existing Network
Speaking of a great product… if you don't already have a crowd of dedicated fans or an existing network of peers, you'll definitely want to focus on building relationships before starting your affiliate program.
After all, it takes an average of 6 to 8 touchpoints before someone is ready to commit… so if your product isn't already “out there,” you may find that your affiliates fizzle out and lose interest quickly.
#3 A Good Commission Structure
It's tempting to want to fill your pockets faster. But generosity with your affiliates is a long-term strategy that increases their own incentive to promote your products, bringing you more revenue over the long haul. (If it doesn't pay off for them, it probably won't pay off for you, either.)
Many affiliate programs start at a 50% commission split, depending on the offer.
#4 Referral Training Materials
The fact that someone is excited about your product doesn't mean they're a natural marketer. The more guidelines and training materials you can provide to your affiliates, the better they'll be able to promote your product.
#5 Promotion Materials
Along the same lines as the training materials, it's always a good idea to pre-design a variety of promotion materials, from banner ads to social media posts to email swipe copy. Not only does this help save time for your affiliates, but it also ensures that the promotional material will be on-brand.
#6 Affiliate Management & Guidelines
We've talked before about the dark side of affiliate marketing. The more effective you are at eliminating spammy promotion and fake coupons, the better your product will appear to online shoppers.
Prepping Your Business for An Affiliate Program
You know what to include in your affiliate program and how you want it to look… but you also have to do some preparation on the business side of things to make sure that the new referral program will get off the ground without a hitch.
1. Multiple success stories
The best affiliate marketers are often those who have already invested in your product and received its benefits first hand. Make sure you have a strong network of these case studies in place, as they may be responsible for your very first referral sales.
2. Bandwidth to manage a separate program
Affiliate marketing might seem like a hands-off way to get more sales… but there's a ton of behind-the-scenes admin work required, too.
3. A WordPress referral plugin to run your affiliate program.
Finally, you need the right software to take care of the all the technical component of you referral program, from order records (purchases, returns, and refunds) to link tracking and custom referral links. There are self-hosted plugin solutions that you can add to your own WordPress site.
Affiliate WP is a “standalone” referral plugin that can give your site affiliate functionality and offers some integrations with other order form and shopping cart WordPress plugins. If you have a WordPress site set up, but none of your other plugins or systems include affiliate functionality, you may benefit from using the Affiliate WP plugin.
AccessAlly is a full suite plugin that includes memberships, online courses, and an e-commerce solution in addition to affiliate program functionality. The benefit of using AccessAlly is that, since everything is housed in a single plugin, you don't have to worry about failed integrations that might put your entire program in jeopardy.
Plus, since it integrates with your CRM, you can have a fully automated program that's set up once, and runs automatically afterwards.
Tips & Tricks' Affiliate Plugin
Tips and Tricks' Affiliate Plugin is another option for WordPress referral plugins that focuses on integration with WooCommerce and Cart66 plugins, along with a few other options. One main drawback will be integrating with your CRM, but the biggest benefit for this option is the low price point. Worth checking out if you're just getting started.
These software solutions are made for the sole purpose of running the affiliate programs of hundreds (or thousands) of businesses. They can be particularly beneficial if you can't house an affiliate program on your own site (like if you're not on WordPress or you plan to move off eventually).
The downside is that it's another tech tool to add to your stack, and it might not integrate with some of the systems you're already using. You also don't have full control over what the affiliate area looks and feels like. With a WordPress referral plugin, you can design your own affiliate center and keep it on-brand.
How To Set Up Your WordPress Referral Plugin
In this video, you'll see first hand what a “real” referral program looks like to the affiliates and program manager. While the video is specific to AccessAlly, you can expect to follow the same general setup process no matter which tool you sign up for.
1. Accept Applicants
At AccessAlly, we prefer to review all affiliate applications, asking for some key information to assess whether an applicant will be able to send high quality referral traffic our way.
This helps us prevent irritating spam signups that waste our time and that of our clients.
2. Add New Affiliate to a Tier
Each affiliate tier that you create can have a different commission structure. So you might offer a “regular” 30% commission for affiliates, but a higher commission of 50% to key joint venture partners of your business, for example.
3. Connect Affiliates With Resources
When a new affiliate logs into your site, they should see a well-organized area where they can access promotional materials (including swipe copy and graphics), as well as any information available on the number of link clicks, sales, and clawbacks associated with their account.
4. Motivate Affiliates With Contests and Leaderboards
Your affiliates have lives of their own, and may not always feel motivated to promote your product, especially if they've hit a referral dry spell.
One way to counter this natural loss of motivation is by running special affiliate contests and using leaderboards to offer special bonuses to top performing affiliates.
5. Manage and Review Link Clicks
As your program begins to grow and you start getting some great referral traffic, you'll want to keep an eye on where all that traffic is coming from, and whether it's converting into sales.
Take a look at the link clicks periodically to see what pages (and affiliates) are making the biggest impact on your program.
6. Payout Time
Pay your affiliates promptly and on time every month, to maintain trust and a positive working relationship with them.
Increasing Reach with Your Referral Program
A well-run affiliate program will grow and expand along with your business, multiplying the effectiveness of your campaigns, leading to increased visibility and reach for your products. As you begin to develop your own referral program, always look for ways to leverage your existing fans and clients, trusting that the ripples will make their way to other circles as well.
Take a look at how AccessAlly has helped WordPress membership site owners scale with its' built-in affiliate functionality.
WordPress is the most popular content management system and website platform… so it’s only natural that you might want to start selling on WordPress.
Whether you plan to sell digital products, physical goods, services, or a mix through an online membership portal… You need to know what you’re in for when you decide to open up a shop using WordPress as the tech backbone.
In this guide you’ll learn about the key things no one talks about when it comes to selling online using WordPress, and the best options to get started.
The Obstacles of Selling on WordPress
Before we get into “how to sell on WordPress”, we need to address some of the challenges of selling on this platform. This is the nitty gritty stuff that no one talks about, but that could save you a lot of frustration later.
Let’s dive in.
A “Buy Now” button won’t make you rich
Unfortunately, you can’t just put up a buy now button and expect people to buy. Selling on WordPress, or any platform for that matter, takes more than just technology.
Yes, you can’t take people’s money without a “buy now” button, but unless you’ve spoken to potential customers and really understood what makes them want to buy, it won’t take you far.
Selling Securely and SSL
For good reason! When you’re taking payments through your WordPress website, you want to make sure that the connection is secure enough to handle payment details from customers.
You’ll want whatever WordPress plugin or payment option you choose to also be PCI compliant. The last thing you want is to be caught in a security breach that affects your clients!
Dive deeper: why and how to set up an SSL Certificate.
Speaking of hosts… what about crashing websites?
If you’re planning to launch a program and send a slew of traffic to your WordPress website… you need to prepare for the possibility of a crash.
Cheaping out on your hosting is not a good idea when you plan to sell from your website. The upside is that when you choose a good host, you’re not at the mercy of a 3rd party server like you might be on a platform like Thinkific or Kajabi.
Dive deeper: choose the best WordPress host for your business.
The refunds will come, how you react is up to you
Yes, it’s true. If you offer a refund policy, you’ll have people take you up on it. It’s just part of doing business, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a less worthy human being.
Handling refunds means swallowing your pride and following through on your promises. But it’s also a technical process that you need to be able to execute, when the need arises.
Choose your WordPress shopping cart wisely, knowing that you’ll need to administer refunds and possibly manually handle some of these steps.
Some checkout pages are more effective than others
Trust is everything when it comes to selling online – and selling on WordPress is no exception.
Sure, you can use your WordPress theme to customize the look and feel of your checkout pages… but usually the payment plugin you’ve selected will come with some standard designs that you can’t alter.
You’ll want to make sure that you ask only for the pertinent information on your checkout page, to reduce cart abandonment and increase conversions.
The more you stay on brand, and the less it feels like a visitor left your website to check out and make a purchase… the better, and the more trust it builds.
Speaking of abandoned carts… where did that cart go?
The stats around abandoned carts are startling: 70% of online sales are aborted before they’re completed.
That means someone intended to buy, started the process, but left before clicking that “buy now” button.
Having a solution in place to capture these folks and follow up with them is key.
Selling Multiple Products? Here’s how to streamline…
If you offer many products, your experience with selling on WordPress might increase in complexity quickly.
Whether you need a sales page or item description page for each product, or you want to display all of them in an easily searchable format… you need a plugin to help manage that.
You might also need the ability for people to add items or remove items as they decide what they want to buy. Displaying all of your products in a neat way can be hard, and we’ll discuss some options below.
Tracking pixels and analytics are key
If you do any form of Facebook or Google advertising, then you’ll know that tracking pixels help you assess if your ad spend is converting to sales.
On WordPress there are ways to tap into Google Analytics as well as add tracking pixels… but most of the time you’ll need to create a separate “thank you page” to get the cleanest data.
To PayPal or to Stripe… that is the question
Everyone has a preference when it comes to how they prefer to spend money. For some, offering a PayPal option means more international sales because people can hold multiple currencies in their PayPal account and not suffer the conversions when purchasing abroad.
There’s also a benefit to using Stripe to handle subscription payments: people can’t cancel their subscriptions themselves unless you give them that option. With PayPal subscriptions, they can manage and cancel a payment plan even if they agreed to make all payments.
So which option is best? I recommend both because you get the best of both worlds. Not everyone has a PayPal account, and Stripe is available in many countries – so either way, you’re covered and you won’t be turning away customers.
The 1-Click Upsell – Where most businesses leave money on the table
If you only have one product or service, you might think that 1-click upsells don’t apply to your business.
But practically any product or service can benefit from a premium version or add-on. Being able to offer something additional right at the point of purchase, whether it’s through an order bump or a separate 1-click upsell page means you’re making the most of the excitement that happens during a sale.
By giving someone a chance to add an additional offer to their order before they finish is a great way to provide a more in-depth solution, and to add more revenue to each transaction.
The fortune is in the follow-up
When it comes to selling online, everyone focuses on getting the sale… but the real fortune is in the long term relationship with your customers.
Being able to follow up with new and potential customers is key to building a business that grows from year to year. It also leads to building better products and offering better services, because your clientele will grow along with you and your offerings.
So how do you follow up? I recommend using a marketing automation platform so you can customize your messaging to each client based on their interactions with you so far.
Now that you know what to expect, let’s explore your options for selling on WordPress
There’s no shortage of WordPress plugins and 3rd party integrations that you can choose from to start selling from your WordPress website.
Here are some of the most popular ones, along with a few things to keep in mind for each.
1. Straight up PayPal buttons
If you decided to go with a pure PayPal option, you can get away from using any WordPress plugins by embedding a regular PayPal buy now button directly on your pages.
This is the simplest method, it won’t cost anything, and it’s also very flexible. It doesn’t allow for a ton of customization, and it might increase in complexity as you add more products and services. You can’t do 1-click upsells, but if you’re just getting started it’s not a bad idea.
Dive deeper: Read the PayPal documentation on setting this up.
When it comes to WordPress shopping carts, WooCommerce is the big kahuna. It’s a free plugin that gives you ability to start taking payments right away on WordPress.
However, most people don’t end up sticking to just the free WooCommerce plugin because it is fairly limited once you realize you want to customize things to suit your goals.
That’s why WooCommerce has a thriving paid add-on ecosystem: you can purchase additional plugins to add more functionality, integrations, and customization options.
WooCommerce is best for physical products, but it can be used for any type of product too.
Dive deeper: Check out the WooCommerce ecosystem to see what’s possible with this framework.
3. Easy Digital Downloads
If you’re offering something downloadable or that requires a license key, then you’ll notice that the majority of WordPress businesses turn to Easy Digital Downloads.
It’s a free plugin with a paid upgrade that will run you $299/year if you want integrations and recurring payments, but it handles more than just the payment piece. It will also allow you to set up a download area for your digital products, and also tracking licenses if you’re offering any.
It’s a great option especially for selling software, ebooks, and the like. If you need something simple that works out of the box, this might be it.
Dive deeper: Check out the Easy Digital Downloads site for more details on what it can do for you.
If you want to offer a more personalized download area that includes a membership portal, online courses, member directories, or gamification… then AccessAlly is the full fledged payment and delivery solution for you.
Unlike some of the other plugins above, AccessAlly won’t require you to purchase additional plugins or add-ons: you get everything you need to open up your shop and deliver your paid client experience.
It’s ideal for you if you were planning to build a tech stack that includes an affiliate management plugin, an LMS plugin or online course component, and a CRM or automation marketing tool.
Instead of duct-taping different plugins together, AccessAlly lets you take payments, create logins for your members, track affiliate sales, create online course content, and follow-up automatically with each member.
Dive deeper: Check out the full AccessAlly guide and why people choose it as their long term WordPress solution.
Another option for taking payments on WordPress is brought to you by the ThriveThemes team, and it’s designed to seamlessly integrate with your WordPress site and layout.
With Thrivecart you can take payments on your WordPress website, and handle different things like taxes, subscription payments, and also integrate with other systems you might be using.
It’s a great option for those who don’t feel a full learning management platform or membership site, but who want more of a robust experience than EDD or WooCommerce provide out of the box.
Dive deeper: take a look at the Thrivecart page and get on the waiting list for when they re-open up registration.
Using the right tool for the job
What you plan to sell on WordPress is going to help you determine which of the options above will best suit your business.
Keep in mind that your business may shift over time, and what makes sense today may shift as your business grows or you add additional products and services.
If you can forecast a 12–18 months down the line, you might be able to select a tool that will grow with you – so you won’t need to re-do your set up work again once you outgrow your current solution.
Selling digital products
If you’re selling digital products you might choose Easy Digital Downloads, AccessAlly, or WooCommerce with add-ons.
If you’re selling memberships you might choose AccessAlly, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart with add-ons.
If you’re selling online courses you might choose AccessAlly, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart with add-ons.
Selling coaching, booking time/scheduling
If you’re selling coaching you might choose PayPal, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart with add-ons.
If you’re selling services you might choose AccessAlly, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart.
Here’s to selling successfully on WordPress!
We’ve covered a lot today, but the most important part to getting started with selling on WordPress is to start.
You won’t have it all figured out on day one, but each step you take will help you validate your ideas, and improve your process. Good luck!
If you're curious about Todd Herman's 90 Day Year program, then you've come to the right place. In this in-depth 90 Day Year review, I'll be going over the cost of the program, who it's for, the benefits, as well as the drawbacks.
To give you some context, I signed up for the 90 Day Year course in December 2015, a few months before I went on maternity leave. I was able to take time off and come back to my business feeling clear on my top priorities (and how to achieve them!), thanks to Todd's training.
Since then, I've gone back through the program, become a proud affiliate of Todd's work (which means I may earn a commission if you sign up through my link – but more details on that below), and Todd and his team have also migrated the 90 Day Year program onto our AccessAlly platform for WordPress.
Keep reading to find out what my biggest takeaways were, and how you can take advantage of the proven 90 Day Year system.
Takeaway #1: Time Management vs. Energy Management
When it comes to “getting more of the right things done” there are two key elements that you need plenty of: time and energy.
If you’ve got plenty of time, but you’re feeling frazzled and sleep deprived… you’re better off taking a nap than trying to work on an important project. (Been there, and this results in half-baked ideas and mediocre results!)
On the other hand, if you’ve got a good energy groove but your day is constantly being interrupted or is so highly scheduled with calls… you won't get very far either.
There's a concept I learned from Todd Herman, creator of the 90 Day Year program, called Time Blocking.
What many of us end up doing in an effort to get more done is to start a bunch of different tasks or projects… But each time we move onto another task without finishing the one we started, we’re losing the efforts we’ve already put in and delaying any one thing from getting done.
Instead of flitting from project to project, each time you have a time block to dedicate to your work… pick up where you left off until you’ve finished a deliverable.
This means it can go out into the world and “work for you” while you move onto the next thing.
This is huge, and if you only did this one thing as an entrepreneur… you’d be miles ahead of the pack!
You can even keep thinking about your “one thing” while you do other things around the house, and you might even come up with more amazing ideas between work sessions that you would have missed if you were still context switching.
Takeaway #2: Starting With The Right Expectations: What Stage Of Business Are You In?
With any goal setting: it’s important to get clear on what your biggest priorities are… and you can’t do that unless you take a level headed look at your business as it stands right now.
Todd Herman shares this “5 stages of business growth” framework to help you evaluate where your business is at right now:
Dream Up: This stage of business is all about choosing the right idea and making sure there's an eager market for it. You're not building your product or offering yet, you're seeing if it will take off first.
Start Up: At this point in your business, you have some sales coming in but you haven't fully found your “groove” yet… maybe the sales take a lot of work on your part, and they're not as consistent as you'd like.
Ramp Up: Now you've got steady sales coming in regularly, but you're working a whole lot because you haven't built in the foundations for your business to operate without you.
Scale Up: At the scaling stage, your role is to attract the best team members you can to help you keep growing and running the business you've always envisioned.
Leader Up: Your business is at the top of its game, you're the recognized leader in your field and it's time to start thinking beyond the business you started… it's key to spot trends and adjust your sails!
In my case, I find myself oscillating between Ramp Up and Scale Up and I've found that a lot of my time now that I'm a mother has been to focus on training my team and systematizing the business even further.
Takeaway #3: Goal Setting: Good, Better, Best
I love a good goal! Who doesn’t? But sometimes setting goals can set you up to fail… especially if you choose big goals that are too far out into the future.
That’s one of the reasons the 90 Day Year is such a successful program, because it teaches you how to break down bigger goals into 90 day achievable ones. Then it further teaches you how to break these big initiatives down into 2-week sprints, which is something that I first learned from the software development space in school. (Super effective!)
Another way that you might benefit from re-thinking how you set goals is to set 3 different levels of goals…
For example, let’s say that you’re focused on building your email list. Your “good goal” might be to add 5 new subscribers to your email list per day, your “better goal” might be to add 10 per day, and your “best goal” might be to average 20 new subscribers per day.
When you set goals this way, you’re practically guaranteed to succeed, instead of stopping yourself from getting started because the “20 per day” feels too intimidating or impossible.
Similarly, you might not get all of the tasks on your to-do list done every day, but if you set yourself a “good, better, best” goal for how much you can get done then you’ll still feel accomplished when your head hits the pillow at night.
Who The 90 Day Year Is For
Although any entrepreneur could benefit from the 90 Day Year, I believe that it's especially beneficial for people with a lot of ideas (like me!) or who have other constraints.
Take moms for example: we only have so many hours that we can dedicate to our businesses every day. Knowing how and where to focus is key to success.
Other constraints that the 90 Day Year can help with include those with a full time job trying to get a side business going, and anyone who is already successful and can't find the time “away from the business” to shift gears.
If you want to be sure that what you’re working on is absolutely going to move the needle in your business, then the 90 Day Year can help you with that.
For instance, you could spend your first hour online checking your emails… Or you could spend that time working on a marketing piece, delegating something to a team member, or crafting a presentation that will help you make sales.
If you’re not sure what you should be working on next, I love using the “Goal Tournament” concept that Todd Herman teaches in the 90 Day Year to get clarity on what will bring you biggest return on time invested.
The cost of the program is $999, which is a fraction of what it could cost you to be working on the wrong initiatives, or stuck in a rut. There are also payment plans available that make it an easier investment.
Investing in your business is always a risk, but investing in yourself and your ability to systematize, grow, and focus on the important things in your business is all upside.
90 Day Year Review
Todd Herman and his insights on business and leverage are exactly the tools that can help entrepreneurs make a bigger impact, without feeling pulled in so many directions.
I first met Todd Herman in 2012 at an event where he was speaking, and I instantly connected with his message. He wasn’t in the online space because he was working with high level athletes in his private practice, and honing his skills.
Since then, he’s taken the online world by storm and taken everything he learned from his private sports clients and put it into The 90 Day Year.
This is a comprehensive “doing” program, and it doesn’t have hours and hours of video to keep you distracted from achieving your goals. And as a busy entrepreneur, that’s good news!
I signed up for the 90 Day Year in the 3rd trimester of my pregnancy, at a time when I knew that I’d be slowing down work for awhile once the baby arrived. But really diving into the program gave me a new lens for evaluating our projects and making sure that my team would thrive while I was away.
One of my favorite parts of the program is how it blends both the “creative minded” side of things and the super clear “numbers matter” side. Todd has a great way of making everyone who is participating feel taken care of, going so far as to personally call members on the phone to coach them out of the blue.
Plus, the caliber of 90 Day Year students is absolutely top notch. I found myself among many of my already successful business owner peers, along with fresh faces who made just as much headway in the course of their 90 day run through of the program.
The best part is that the program teaches you skills that you can keep using, every 90 days, to set goals and achieve them.
Between the in-depth workbooks and execution plans, the strategy, and the focus on moving forward in your business… anyone who is serious about their business growth will benefit from enrolling in the 90 Day Year.
There’s a reason that this program works: it’s based on the science of winners (both in sports and business!) and it’s taught in a straightforward and masterful way, that cuts out all the excuses.
I really wish I would have had the opportunity to learn the 90 Day Year strategies earlier in my business career, because it would have given me a much better framework for time management and getting meaningful stuff done… Not to mention that I’d be even further along than I am now.
Results You Can Expect + Bonuses
I’m not the only person who has benefited from the 90 day year program. Todd Herman has tapped into his work with Olympians and Billionaires, and he's helped many entrepreneurs perform at their best, too.
One my favorite things about The 90 Day Year is that it’s not about “specific how-to” advice… because you can have all the information in the world, but if you’re not taking action on it then it won’t do you or your business any good.
Instead, the program really helps you DO. It helps you get moving, break things down into manageable chunks, and most importantly keep the “main thing the main thing”.
In recent years, Todd has moved the 90 Day Year program to our AccessAlly membership and learning management platform.
So it's only natural that you might be curious about using AccessAlly for your own online courses or membership site.
That's why for the first time ever, we're offering anyone who signs up for Todd Herman's 90 Day Year program through our affiliate link – six months of AccessAlly, on us.
Here's what you get:
- 6 months of AccessAlly Pro (worth $590): if you're new to AccessAlly, you'll get your very own license and access to the plugin for your courses. If you're an existing client, we'll credit your account for 6 months and you won't pay again until then.
- A complimentary Jumpstart call to help you get up and running on the platform (worth $200).
- Plus all of the training, tutorials, and support you or a team member might need along the way.
I’m a proud alumni and affiliate partner for Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year program, and because I receive compensation when you sign up through my link I’m able to offer six months of AccessAlly Pro FREE as a bonus.
I never recommend anything that I haven’t personally benefitted from, and this program has gone above and beyond and transformed the businesses of many entrepreneurs I know personally, including my own.
Registration for The 90 Day Year opens December 13th and closes December 18th, 2018.
Here’s To Getting More Done, Without Sacrificing Your Health or Time with Family
One thing that I’ve seen so many entrepreneurs struggle with when it comes to building a business is the toll on their health, or the time away from family.
It’s tough balancing your time between family, taking care of yourself, and growing your business. But unless you can get your business to the point where it fully supports you and the lifestyle you want, it’ll be hard to enjoy stress-free time.
If you're ready to start operating at a different level, and you know that Todd Herman and his 90 Day Year program is the approach for you…
We'll be in touch to confirm that your order went through our link, and with details on redeeming your bonuses so you can get started leveraging the power of the 90 Day Year + AccessAlly.
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
That's the common line used to acknowledge how challenging (and lonely!) it can be when you're a mom who's trying to raise a child. Unfortunately, many moms (and moms-to-be) simply don’t have access to a kind and caring community to help with the rewarding but challenging task of raising a family.
Membership sites made for moms (and in many cases by them, too) have become increasingly popular in recent years. With services that range from coaching to community networking, these memberships provide the guidance and connections that so many mothers around the world crave.
And it’s no wonder: as schedules grow busier and more hectic, the need for online resources that you can tap into from the comfort of your own home has become a high priority and desperate need for moms around the world.
When it's time to compare tech tools, my automatic starting point is the tech equivalent of an arms race: the plugin with the most features wins.
Maybe in some cases this is a good way to make a decision.
But LMS WordPress plugins are different: their whole purpose is to enhance the learning experience inside your online courses, so that you can have happier students and grow a steady stream of revenue as a result.
In this case, the more important thing is to make sure your plugin can give you the elearning boost you need before delivering “nice to haves”.
What membership site models will be the most profitable for your business? (Yes, you can combine more than one!)
It's a question you'll need to answer in order to create a membership site that will enhance and grow your current business. There are different types of online course sites and experiences you can create based on your strengths as a teacher, leader, and business owner… and what your ideal customers are willing to invest in, too.
In short: the type of membership site you choose can make or break your offer, and affect conversions and the long term sustainability of your site.
A membership site is a place where free or paying members can log in to access their content, courses, and community. You can charge a one-time fee for access or build in a recurring revenue stream with monthly or yearly payments.
7 Types of Membership Site Models
In this guide to membership site models, you'll see the leading membership site types along with membership site examples for each one.
1. A Community-Focused Membership
The community-focused membership site is all about facilitating strong relationship-building among your paying members.
Some of the identifying features of a community-focused membership include:
- A member directory, where users can search for, and connect with, one another.
- Forum, so members can easily carry on group discussions.
- Masterminds, where members receive a high level of support, feedback, and resources.
- Accountability tools, so members are empowered to follow through and achieve their goals.
- …or other “people-driven” benefits.
There are a number of things to think about when creating a community focused membership site, from membership goals to mapping out the engagement interaction paths that will be available inside your membership site.
The best part about this type of membership is that people are more likely to stay with you as active paying members once they've made great connections in your community. You might be interested in a WordPress member directory plugin that allows members to customize their profiles, opt out of the listing, or connect with each other more easily.
Example: Tara McMullen's CoCommercial community.
2. The All-You-Can-Eat Education Buffet
Think of this style of membership as the Netflix of online learning: a member joins and has access to a bunch of content from day one. It's a library of courses that continues to grow over time to incentivize current customers to stick around and attract new clients, too.
You can do that using quizzes that guide people to the right next step. Or, you can connect them with the appropriate material by offering sophisticated search functionality, or even giving recommendations based on previous courses they've enjoyed.
Many education buffets offer a wide range of topics to attract a large client base. However, when you're just getting started, it helps to have a focused outcome in mind that appeals to a very specific audience (rather than trying to be a jack of all trades).
Focus on getting a targeted set of courses done well, and branch out from there.
Example: BrainPop‘s online learning portal for kids.
3. Coaching and Accountability Membership
This type of membership is often called group coaching, and it packs a lot of value for the participants.
There are a few different ways to offer coaching and accountability with this model:
Generally, you’d offer live office hours or coaching calls where members can show up, ask questions, get support, and accountability. You can also create opportunities for the coach or leader to keep track of participants’ progress, encouraging them if they get stuck along the way.
In our busy modern world, there aren't a lot of places where you can get individual attention from someone with a lot of expertise… at least, not without breaking the bank.
If coaching is something you love and you want to help your clients achieve their goals (without putting a cap on your earning potential), this might be for you!
Example: Erika Lyremark's Mark'd Mastery.
4. Done for You Resources
This type of membership offers a big time savings for its members by eliminating time-consuming work and offering a resource that can be used as is or with minor tweaks.
If a teacher, ministry leader, or blogger needs new content each week and can simply take your material and tweak it… They'll stay on board to save time and keep getting your new materials.
It's a no-brainer for the right clients, and if you're drawn to this type of membership it's likely because you've BEEN your ideal client so you can create the best materials for them.
This type of membership will see you creating a lot of consistent content, so think through the best way to organize it from day one.
Anything that saves people time is highly valued, and if you're already seeing interest, you know that the demand is there. All that's left is a matter of marketing it properly to get the word out.
This type of membership tends to be extremely stable, because of the recurring needs of your specific set of clientele.
If you're already doing the work creating this type of content, and people are asking how you do it or if you ever offer it… then this might be a great type of membership site for you to offer.
Example: Lesson plans created by teachers on Education.com.
5. Retainers and Other Service Memberships
The best way to describe this type of membership is a client dashboard. It can be used to facilitate the process of onboarding a new client… Or, you might use the membership site after the services have been delivered, as a way to stay in touch with a client and offer additional training or resources.
It’s set up to communicate with your clients, retainer engagements, and other services… so you’re freed up to focus on the service itself, whether that’s interior design, copywriting, or health coaching.
Depending on which step of the client process your membership site will take over, you'll want to create a map of the steps that you generally take when signing up a new client, while you're working with them, or after you wrap up an engagement.
This is a no-brainer type of membership for freelancers, agencies, and anyone who works with clients already. It's also a great way to onboard 1 on 1 coaching clients, and build in a clear process to keep everyone on the same page.
Example: SnapCopy uses credits to manage client copywriting projects.
6. Internal Training Turned Into a Profit Center
As your business grows, you’ll start to amass a lot of internal knowledge that you want your whole team to become familiar with. Having a membership site to host internal training, onboarding videos, exercises, and other resources is extremely efficient.
You can keep track of who on your team is up to speed, and easily bring in new team members and help them onboard quickly.
If you're working with a team, you've probably already started recording short training videos for how to do certain things in your business, or run weekly/monthly training sessions that are recorded. You might have even started to create a company wiki to house this information.'
Example: Digital Marketer turned their own internal company training into a paid certification program that they've continued to improve and earn from.
7. The Dripped Content or Dripped Release Course
Some membership site models are a natural fit for things that happen every month or every week. For example, you might be creating a new piece of content to match the astrological changes happening each month.
Or, you might be creating an online course that would be better consumed over time, like music lessons that must be mastered before moving on.
Doing this type of membership might mean you need a drip course plugin, or other way to release content over time if you're not creating it live each month or week.
Example: Whole Woman by Sarah Jenks is a monthly membership that follows the cycles of the moon with dripped content, and also combines other elements of the membership site models above.
How to Choose the Best Membership Site Model for Your Business
In the end, you know best who your current clients are and what you can offer as a benefit to help them grow.
Don't be concerned if none of the options above feels like the “perfect fit”. You can always mix and match to come up with the perfect balance of materials that will engage your clients and bring in a stream of recurring revenue.
Want this post in downloadable format along with 10 ways to overcome the most common membership site struggles? Click below to grab it now.
This isn’t your first rodeo: you already have an online course (or many!).
Now it’s time to look at ideas for improving online courses, so your participants get all of the amazing results you know are possible for them.
You’re in the right place, because we’re going to take a look at an entrepreneur who had run an already successful online course for 5 years… and what she did to kick up the learning experience.
Meet Kendrick Shope and her online course called Sales School
Kendrick Shope is the creator of the leading sales training for women entrepreneurs, and the Authentic Selling® process which has created millions of dollars in revenue and new business for her clients.
Kendrick hosts her own daily talk show, and reaches nearly 100 thousand followers in six continents. She has been featured on the Steve Harvey Show, NBC, Forbes, and INC to name a few.
Before starting her own online empire, she spent two decades delivering top performing sales results for 3 Fortune 500 companies.
Our case study starts 5 years after Kendrick’s first round of her result-oriented Sales School program.
You see, Kendrick had been running her multi-million dollar course Sales School for 5 years, and she knew she wanted to improve the online learning experience for her students.
Here’s what one returning student had to say after the site update:
Now let’s take a look at the 7 strategies to improve online learning that Kendrick used, and how you can apply them to your business too.
Organize content using an intuitive navigation
In the early days of Kendrick’s Sale School, the program was run almost entirely within a Facebook group.
That meant students had to search for content, and finding things from previous weeks of the online course made it difficult to keep up or review.
Over the years, Kendrick built a beautiful membership site on WordPress to house the lessons and content of the course.
But one thing that Kendrick’s team realized is that just because a website is beautiful, it doesn’t mean that it’s functional.
That’s one simple way of improving online courses, no matter what platform or how much content you have to teach!
Track progress to motivate online learning
By adding progress tracking to the online course’s members area, Kendrick was able to provide a road map for students.
As participants watch training videos, complete assignments, and practice their sales skills in their own businesses…
They see how far they’ve come, and they’re more likely to finish each module, thanks to the completion bias.
The completion bias is our tendency as human beings to feel good when we finish what we start.
By implementing progress tracking checklists using AccessAlly, Kendrick was able to tap into human nature to help people extract the value out of the online course they signed up for.
Progress tracking is also helpful as an online course creator because it allows you to see how students are moving through your content. It shows trends and can highlight especially challenging areas that you can improve.
Offer bonuses and goodies for completion
Of course, improving an online course by adding progress tracking is just the first step… Kendrick took it even further by adding in bonuses and extra goodies when a module is completed.
Kendrick is always teaching her clients and students to do the common things uncommonly well, and when it comes to strategies to improve online learning… that goes double.
Really think through the bonuses or extra content you might offer a bonus for completing a course. It needs to feel like a reward, and not just more work to get through.
Kendrick’s enthusiasm is contagious, and her bonuses are truly motivating and rewarding for her students.
Setting up the online learning experience to unlock bonuses upon module or lesson completion isn’t hard with AccessAlly, it’s the intention behind it is what takes the most thought.
Overdeliver during live facilitation, and bring in additional coaches
If there’s one thing that Kendrick Shope has always been known for, it’s overdelivering for her students and clients.
Way back in the early days of her Sales School program, when it was delivered via live video trainings… Kendrick has rocked the live facilitation aspect of online training.
Answering participants’ questions, helping them role play, jumping into the nitty gritty and offering to edit sales scripts and emails… Kendrick is fully present for her students when she’s running her online course.
But as an online course scales and more students join in, it can become difficult for one teacher or facilitator to handle all of the questions and give the same level of feedback alone.
That’s why Kendrick brought in additional Sales School certified coaches to help new participants get the same hands-on learning experience, without burning Kendrick out.
If you run online courses, and you’ve noticed that you’re not able to answer all of the questions on your live group facilitation calls – then it might be time to hire on or train additional coaches to help you.
Follow-up based on student engagement and check in on social media
Kendrick has always had a “no student left behind” policy, where she would work with her course participants until they got results in their business.
But the onus is on the student to ask questions, and raise their hand when they fall behind or get stuck.
One way to catch people who might be falling off the wagon is to look at their engagement and their progress, and reach out before it’s too late.
Kendrick and her coaches check in with students on social media, and make sure that people are having a good learning experience and most importantly are implement what they learn.
With AccessAlly, it’s also possible to see who hasn’t logged into the online course members area, and check in with them.
Sometimes people sign up for online courses before they’re ready to participate, but if you’re offering a live round of a course then you’ll want people to join in for the live sessions to get the best experiences.
Ensure smooth purchase and login experience
One often overlooked way of improving online learning is to make the on boarding experience glitch-free.
It’s easy to set up an online course platform and shopping cart and assume that it can handle a big launch and student registration period without a hitch…
But not all online course plugins and integrations work seamlessly together, which can lead to a choppy registration and login experience.
Kendrick’s Sales School launches had always felt a little chaotic, with last minute fixes because of login issues or other access blips for her students.
After switching to AccessAlly, Kendrick and her team realized that the peace of mind they got from having a smooth purchase and login experience for their students was worth way more than the price of the plugin.
Plus, thanks to AccessAlly’s cross-selling dashboard functionality, Kendrick could display both the free video series alongside her paid courses all in one place.
Here improving the user experience leads to more sales, fewer support requests, and a better learning experience, too.
Call in experts and bring in complementary resources
The final tip in our list of 7 strategies to improve online learning is simple, and it doesn’t involve you as a teacher doing any additional work.
During Sales School, Kendrick often reaches out to her colleagues and fellow experts to help answer questions and provide resources for her participants.
The benefits are clear: as a teacher, Kendrick shares from her area of expertise and brings in the complementary resources and teachers to help her students succeed.
This way, she doesn’t need to be an expert in “everything” and she’s still improving online courses because it’s not just a static experience but it will differ based on the questions people ask.
Kendrick taps other people’s expertise in a very classy way, by sharing the answers to students questions and giving full credit to the colleague who helped out. It’s a win-win experience for everyone involved.
As a course creator yourself, you can do this informally for on-the-spot questions or you can have other experts create content right inside your members area, too.
Migrating Course Platforms Top the List of Ideas for Improving Online Courses
Undertaking a course platform migration is not for everyone, but if you find yourself considering switching course solutions to improve your online courses, then Kendrick’s experience will be helpful.
Here’s what Kendrick had to say about her migration to AccessAlly:
Now let’s take a look at what tech systems Kendrick was using before, and what her transition looked like.
Improving Online Courses: The Tech Stack
Looking to improve the learning experience, Kendrick’s team undertook the migration of existing members using AccessAlly’s migration plugin and building a new version of the membership site.
The final tech stack looks like this:
There are not a lot of natively integrated Ontraport LMS plugins on the market, but another aspect that was useful for Kendrick’s team was the ability to pull in the affiliate information into the membership area, too.
Kendrick’s team plans to make use of AccessAlly’s order forms and abandoned cart follow-up functionality in future launches.
Design and Development of the New Online Course Environment
I asked Laís Cerutti Scortegagna, the designer responsible for the new course set up what she thought of the migration project.
Here’s what she had to say:
“My favorite part was being able to create a learning environment that really supports the level of the learning experience Kendrick offers. We were able to personalize it and make it as actionable as Sales School is.
Kendrick gives everyone action steps and being able to mimic that inside the members area was a breeze.
Creating the structure was super easy with the AccessAlly course wizard.
The migration system also makes it so easy to migrate to AccessAlly. The tag system made it easy for the team to create the drip release automation in Ontraport.
But there are special details that AccessAlly made easier and are worth mentioning:
- creating a beautiful dashboard that creates desire with different course icons for who has an who doesn't have access
- being able to use the students' names to welcome them
- creating checklists for each module and bonuses that reveal once they complete it
- easy to create a beautiful login page
I also really liked that AccessAlly with Divi makes it a dream to create membership sites.”
Improving Online Courses Starts with Your Intention
The biggest takeaway I want you to have from this case study is that having an attitude of constant improvement is key.
Kendrick’s Sales School program started off as a totally live program run in a Facebook group, then from year to year she upped the learning experience.
Each time, she put a lot of heart and thought into helping her students succeed with the program.
In turn, she upgraded her technical systems, and hired team members to help her develop the technical foundation for her online course to scale.
Finally, she migrated to AccessAlly to provide the level of online learning automation and personalization that she knew would deliver the best results for her students.
If you want to see if AccessAlly is the right online learning plugin for your business, then book a demo.
Part mastermind, part vacation, and part WordPress business summit… this was an event unlike all others I’ve been to.
Disclosures: This is my personal CaboPress review, and I'm not an affiliate of CaboPress or being compensated in any way for this review. I do use affiliate links for some of the software plugins I mention.
Let’s dive into my experience, and why you might consider applying the next time Chris runs it.
The right mix of conference participants
My litmus test for a good conference or event is the people in attendance. If I feel like I’m surrounded by people who are going through similar things in their business as I am, then I know I’m going to learn a lot.
The reason CaboPress was such a great fit for me is that Chris Lema personally curates all of the attendees… so it’s a good mix of service providers and product creators.
Plus, with the combination of WordPress, SaaS, and agency businesses there was a ton of opportunity for cross-pollination to help everyone grow.
I felt like each person could contribute and get something in return, which is not always the case for larger events where you’ve got a wider range of business experience.
For me, there were a few familiar faces like Erin Flynn and Brennan Dunn, that I’d met at previous events and loved catching up with. I also got to meet the creators of Beaver Builder and Ninja Forms, which are WordPress tools I personally use and love.
Then there were the amazing folks behind Brainstorm Force (of Astra theme fame!), and the incredible Shannon from Purple Finch Studios who was familiar with AccessAlly but enjoyed getting a more in-depth look.
Sunshine, great food, and no conference rooms
The other thing that makes CaboPress stand out (and that has ruined me for other conferences!) is the location.
The resort is gorgeous, with stunning views and vistas. It’s right by the ocean, and since it’s not the most swimmable area… you’ve got your pick of amazing beachside pools to choose from.
Of course, Chris Lema doesn’t do anything halfway… and this is a 5-star resort with impeccable food and service.
I’m not kidding when I say that we probably ate 5 sit down meals per day (or at least my husband and daughter did!).
Not having to worry about making breakfast, lunch, or dinner was just another way of freeing us up to think about our businesses without the usual daily demands. (Plus, who can say no to fish tacos and pina coladas!?)
But there’s one more thing that sets CaboPress apart… and that’s the actual sessions themselves.
There wasn’t a stuffy conference room in sight: all of the training and mastermind sessions were done in the pool!
Pool side learning and what I’m taking home
I loved being out of my usual element and learning from other businesses in the WordPress ecosystem.
Taking a break from conferences run by companies like Infusionsoft, Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, Drip, and ConvertKit gave me a chance to see things in a different light.
Speaking with business owners who do the work of setting up membership sites for clients, creating courses themselves, and who understand the WordPress world… it was truly inspiring.
I also got to hang out with the guys at LifterLMS, Sandhills Development, and SkyVerge. Even though some of what these companies do overlaps with our own offerings, it was helpful to be in such an open and sharing environment where we could talk business.
Here are some of my biggest take-aways from the event:
- Allison Fallon shared the brain science behind what makes us more creative when writing and why efficiency and productivity aren’t the key when trying to produce creative work
- You may need to have a meeting about the meeting (when you have team meetings – this makes a lot of sense!)
- Facebook ads are constantly changing, but the basic text + image format still outperforms the new options, according to Justin Wise
- You have to kill your darlings and retire products, to make space for innovation and what’s next
- WordPress’ Gutenberg is not the end of the world, but we do need to make sure it continues to improve to meet the demands of the marketplace
- Plus lots of insights on hiring, being on the same page with your team, and anticipating what’s to come in the WordPress ecosystem
So there you have it…
That’s a quick summary of my experience at CaboPress 2018. I got to bring my husband and daughter, so for me it was part business and part vacation.
Luckily, the format of the event is very open ended after the morning sessions – if you want to take a nap in the afternoon or spend it with other attendees eating a 3rd meal or talking shop… it’s all good.
If you’re considering CaboPress, trust your gut and submit an application. Chris Lema takes care of his people, and the event felt very welcoming to me as a new attendee, even with half of the attendees being alumni.
Who knows, maybe I’ll be sipping strawberry daiquiris with you in Cabo next year!
P.S. Now that we're a few days out of the conference, I can also add that this has been one of the few conferences where it's been easy to follow up and keep connecting with people I met… because there were only 30-50 of them instead of hundreds or thousands!
Your website is more than just a tool that gives your business a face online. It can be a business in itself.
Here's what I mean by that:
One of the best ways to increase your income (without working more hours for dollars) is to set up a membership site platform.
A membership site becomes the hub of your online training, allows your fans to connect more, and gives you a community of fans to ask for input, information, and questions.
When done well, it can provide an amazing source of recurring revenue for your online business.
Here's the dream:
You create your courses and set up your WordPress membership site. You integrate it with your email marketing system Drip, so you can still use the same tags and email automation software as before.
Then, you just kick back and watch as the membership site sells itself and keeps your students engaged like a well-oiled machine…
Sounds like a pipe dream, right?
Whether you're offering online courses, products, a social network, or any variety of resources inside your membership site, you can absolutely automate the whole thing, using just two tools: AccessAlly Pro and Drip.