A WordPress Membership SaaS – Memberful
Most of the plugins I'm reviewing in this July series are membership plugins that you download and then install on your own site. It's a pretty common approach to building membership plugins, even if it's not the only one.
Already we've looked at:
Every one of them has delivered its features in the form of the plugin. Today we'll be looking at a membership plugin that also derives a lot of its value and features from an online component. This is normally called Software as a Service (SaaS) and it's what powers Memberful.
Let's talk about SaaS products for a second, from the perspective of why it's powerful and useful to end users (as well as developers).
First, it means you can use the product outside of WordPress. This is similar to the way Sucuri works and the way Optin Monster works. Also ConvertKit. They allow the product to be used on more than just WordPress sites because the control center is coded elsewhere and can use any language or design paradigm. In the case of Memberful, the SaaS is written as a Ruby on Rails system hosted on Heroku.
Second, it means you can design the screens for usability without worrying about WordPress design conventions. There is nothing wrong with WordPress screens. They're fine for what they do. But most of what they do is list things and let you dig into detail screens that are forms. Not bad. But not exactly how you think about application design if your application has other needs.
Reporting is just one of the screens in the Memberful hosted admin that looks much better because they were able to design it outside of WordPress.
Lastly, SaaS applications can be priced differently – with a monthly recurring plan that allows for long-term planning of revenue. I'm not saying you can't charge for a plugin that way, but if a customer has downloaded a plugin and stops paying you, what are you going to do? If, on the other hand, you stop paying Memberful they can turn off the service. That's a stronger play.
Memberful isn't one of those feature packed plugins that tries to do 20 things. But what it does, it does well. Let's tackle some of the best features right off the bat.
It integrates with MailChimp and synchronizes your member list for additional non-transactional emails.
It also does transactional emails, but the long-term play here is with MailChimp.
And those transactional emails I was talking about? Well, it supports my favorite, which is the “Subscription is Ending Soon.”
It also integrates directly with Stripe – which you know is a favorite of mine. And because it's trying to keep the payment processing clean, you don't need to add checkout forms on your own site. It will take care of them and pop them up in a modal box.
So we've covered emails and autoresponders as well as payment. Let's dig into two other key areas – content protection and support for other WordPress plugins.
Memberful & Content Protection
A few years ago I got to work with Cisco, the networking company, to help them with a particular conference they were doing. The CEO was speaking at an event in one location. But he wanted a livestream of his talk to appear to employees in other locations across the globe.
The solution we created then ended up being a solution we created for several others, including an investor education company. This kind of system is easy to create with Memberful.
First you activate the plugin.
You'll need the license key you got when you signed up for Memberful.
Then you'll want to create a new user role so that people who sign up to your membership subscription get put into that role.
I did it using another plugin called Members by Justin Tadlock – a useful plugin that we'll talk about another time.
From there I take that new role and use it with Memberful.
That means when a person signs up, they get put into that role. So now I can create that subscription.
The cleanliness of these screens makes it easy and fast to work with Memberful.
Now, in the work we're doing here, we're going to put some livestreaming content on a page and protect it. If you use LiveStream, Ustream, or veetle, you can record the video and embed their player on your page. For the right price, you can ensure that it's not available on their own directories.
That's the code you put on a page. And then you protect the page. The result is a protected page that only members can access.
But now we need to let others visit an unprotected page to buy it. Which means you'll need a url.
You get that from their own shortcode creator on the page (editor).
I'm pretty sure you can't build this kind of site, with a few protected pages, faster using any other plugin. Don't ask me, talk to this guy who used Memberful to create a protected site for an online course.
The speed of setting up a site was under an hour. That's fast!
Other things I like about Memberful
The documentation for the plugin is fantastic.
While reading it, I noticed integration with bbPress.
And if you want to get fancy, you can use their system to integrate your site with tons of other APIs and online services.
All of that is very nice!
I had such a great time using Memberful. I had used it a year or two ago and loved it but this time the hosted SaaS is a lot more powerful and a contender for a lot of sites out there. I didn't mention it, but they also support digital downloads – for simple eCommerce of eBooks and more.
- Ease of Use – 5
- Payment Gateway Support – 2
- eCommerce Support – 3
- Drip Support – 1
- Concurrent Accounts – 5
- Pro-rating Charges – 1
- Upgrades / Downgrades – 1
- Speed of setting it up – 5
The Memberful Score: 2.87
The scores are on a scale of 1-5 but honestly, I would likely give Ease of Use and Speed both 10s for how far they stood out from everything else. So if the feature set is what you need, it would be silly to skip taking a close look at Memberful.