Running successful membership sites requires constant optimization and sometimes involves restructuring to maximize revenue from the membership model. Jason recently made the decision to migrate his wildly popular membership site, Paleo Plan, to a different membership platform, and agreed to share his thoughts with us on that process and what points he had to consider in the move.
Why I’m switching from WooCommerce to MemberMouse for my subscription-based company
Some Background #
Four years ago when I started Paleo Plan there were very few solutions for someone building a membership site using WordPress. I chose a (now discontinued) plugin that integrated with PayPal’s recurring payments, and created membership levels that allowed me to protect content from non-members. At the time, this was about as much sophistication as I thought I needed, and it was about all that was offered.
Skip ahead two years, and my side-project was now my full-time job. It had grown up a bit, and my needs were suddenly significantly larger than what that outdated plugin could do for me. It was then that I found WooCommerce and their recently released Subscriptions extension. I was ecstatic.
After migrating to WooCommerce, and making the decision to only offer new subscriptions via Stripe and move away from PayPal, our little company continued to grow and we rapidly increased in sophistication as I worked with better marketers and learned more about running a membership site. I also had the pleasure of being one of the largest sites using the Subscriptions extension, and therefore was regularly pushing it to its boundaries.
I still love the tool, but I’ve now found WooCommerce to now be less than I need, and now I’m moving on to MemberMouse, a tool 100% focused on membership sites built with WordPress, and with a keen eye to the needs of those running the sites.
Why WooCommerce is Still Great #
I want to stop for a moment and make sure I give proper respect where it’s due. WooCommerce is still a fantastic product, and one that I think will serve many people very, very well. It’s very easy to use, it’s straightforward, and for people who aren’t laser-focused on maximizing membership revenue, it solves the Subscriptions problem very well.
It’s also still my go-to solution for any physical good, or for non-recurring products. However, for what I’m looking these days, it can’t seem to give me.
The Specifics of What I’m Looking For #
There were a few things specifically that finally pushed me over the edge and get me to migrate to MemberMouse. In no particular order:
- Member Communication:
Our product is one that people either get or they don’t within the first few days. And thus staying in touch with them over the course of their first few days as a member will have an enormous impact on how long they stay an active member. We tried to use the Follow-Up Emails extension as a way to schedule emails to go out at specific intervals after signup, but we have enough users that it was pretty much killing our site because of the way Follow-up Emails schedules its events.
At MemberMouse, rather than building an emailing system, they simply chose to integrate very closely with MailChimp (and other services) allowing us to use MailChimp’s scheduler and email templates. As a bonus, part of that integration can move members around to different MailChimp lists based on their current purchase history, or if they’re still an active member or not. Now, we’re using a tool specifically designed for email communication and our Subscription tool just has to sync with it. This is a huge win and a consistent philosophy of the MemberMouse team.
- Upsells and Confirmation-Page Add-ons:
This was probably the biggest thing for us. We have a few specific products that go very well together, but we never had a simple way to communicate the complimentary products at checkout, which could allow the user to add to their cart while checking out. Part of that is because WooCommerce doesn’t allow membership and non-membership products in the cart at the same time (I hear this is changing with an upcoming release), and partly because some of our add-ons would actually change the product membership they were buying.
At MemberMouse, this is dead simple. Clicking a link at checkout simply replaces the current product in the cart with the new one, and you make that product a bundle of the two different complimentary products. It automatically adjusts the payment info and any other details that the extra product would change. It’s very seamless.
Also, when using Stripe, you can save the customer’s card data at Stripe. This allows you to create an Add-on sales event on the confirmation page. You simply add in a short code to the confirmation page, and suddenly you’re offering another product. And because the user is now logged in, and their credit card is on file, there’s no need for the customer to go back and re-check out; they simply hit Buy and then confirm, and the new product is sold. You can even configure a one-click purchase without the confirmation, but I think we’ll use the confirmation to make sure people don’t accidentally buy something. I have huge expectations for this feature alone as it’s well documented that it’s up to 60% easier to sell to an existing customer than a new one, and at the moment of purchase is precisely the time to offer more to buy.
While WooCommerce has made huge improvements to their support system, one of the problems that will always plague them is that they rely so heavily on 3rd party developers to create extensions for their core product. It’s a great model, but what happens when the 3rd party developer isn’t as good at support as you need? On more than one occasion, a WooCommerce extension I was using wasn’t working correctly, and I had to wait until they got around to fixing it and testing it and releasing an update. My site is my livelihood, and that was sometimes a bummer. There’s nothing you can do but wait, and cross your fingers.
With MemberMouse, it’s one company, providing one service. And since you’re paying them monthly, they take care of you and make sure you’re problems are solved themselves (MemberMouse itself is a subscription service, compared with Woo’s one-off payments for their plugins).
I mentioned before that WooCommerce has identified me as the site with the most active users utilizing their Subscriptions extension. Because of this, there are scaling issues that I’ve discovered that they weren’t aware of previously. While it sounds minor, waiting 10 seconds every time you try and pull up your Subscribers list or search for an order can become tiresome very quick when dealing with an active support load. They’ve already issued one update specifically because I was breaking the plugin when trying to search, but it’s still slow and unresponsive when you have thousands of members.
MemberMouse happens to be built for companies with hundreds of thousands of users, which makes my load seem light and manageable to their service.
- Little Things:
Then, there are the little things. With MemberMouse, I can cancel an account AND refund a payment from the same screen. Currently, I have to cancel at my WP Admin, and then login to Stripe to do the refund. I can also upgrade membership levels, change payment info, and tons more and everything is handled just as you’d expect it to when billing time comes. When you have thousands of customers, dealing with them is time consuming, and every little thing that makes that quicker and easier counts. Plus, it’s demonstrative of their approach to the business.
- Not Being Biased:
Now, this article sounds like a sales pitch for MemberMouse, and it’s not meant to be; it’s simply my thoughts and the pros and cons of why I left WooCommerce. There are some things that aren’t yet available in MemberMouse, or that are a small step backwards from WooCommerce. For instance, if a user cancels their account, it’s immediately terminated and even if they have paid for a month and have two weeks left, their access to paid content ends. This is a step back, but MemberMouse says they’re bringing a fix to that in the new year.
Update: The newest version of MemberMouse addresses this issue. Member status now becomes “Pending Cancellation” but the user retains access until the end of their current billing cycle, then they change to “Cancelled”.
There are a few small things like this, however, the other advantages make small things like this tolerable. I’d rather give a disgruntled user a complete refund if they expected sustained access until their payment terms ended rather than lose sales on other customers because of limits to the platform. And plus, with MemberMouse, the refund only takes a second 😉 .
Note: There are several other services out there that may have equal or superior offerings than either of the companies I mentioned in this article. This is not meant to be an overview of the marketplace, but rather, my experience running a company, and why I chose the services I did. I also will say that a huge part of my decision was I was able to chat with the founder and CEO of MemberMouse, Eric Turnnessen, and hear his vision for the company, how he’s built what they already have, and what’s in near-term pipeline, and I was convinced. They were also instrumental in helping us do the migration, and I didn’t find any other company offering that level of service and product.
Paleo Plan is a membership site helping people to follow the Paleo diet by offering meal plans, shopping lists, and recipes. They also have several ebooks about eating Paleo as well as fitness products as well. Learn more at paleoplan.com.