The ability to sell a membership to a group is an extremely tough problem to solve. Tying billing to one account, but having other accounts with access that depend on that account’s billing is a pretty involved system, and not many membership platforms handle this scenario well.

Over a year ago, we’d written about a workaround to create group memberships with WooCommerce, but this workaround was really only a reasonable set up if you wanted the “child” members (non-purchasers) in the group to have to renew memberships themselves, and it wasn’t a clean or automated solution.

Recently, the Gift Subscriptions add-on for WooCommerce Subscriptions (which also works with WooCommerce Memberships) has improved this process by letting purchasers immediately gift a subscription to recipient while buying, but this is best geared toward small groups or individual gifts, as parent members don’t have a single management screen for all child memberships, or a way to easily group them all together.

We then looked at selling sponsored memberships with Paid Memberships Pro, which gives you a setup in which a group administrator can purchase extra seats by giving out a discount code to members. Any membership who use this discount code become child members of the parent account, and their access is tied to the parent’s billing. However, using this plugin required some help from a developer to set up, and account owners could not remove child memberships.

An iThemes Exchange add-on then came around to allow for umbrella memberships, which was a simple solution for selling seats to a parent member, who could give those seats to child members. Parent members could add or remove child members, and child members could see who paid for the members. However, purchasers always got an included membership (outside the seat count), and there wasn’t any admin membership around members (ie listing them or editing them), so store owners couldn’t necessarily have full control over the setup.

Are we getting a clear picture yet? Managing group membership accounts is a really complex problem, and there are pros and cons to every solution available.

Restrict Content Pro Group Membership Accounts

The newest choice for managing group membership accounts is from Restrict Content Pro: the Group Accounts add-on. This add-on is available to Professional license holders ($199+) and above. The Group Accounts plugin adds a great feature set to Restrict Content Pro to allow both admins and membership group owners to manage their members and their associated access.

After giving this a try, I was impressed with the tools that are available to group account owners and members for using group membership accounts, as the purchasing and management processes are simple for both store owners and their members.

When a “parent” or group owner account changes, the child memberships in the group are automatically updated with respect to subscription level, status, and expiration date so that these memberships are completely synced with the billing in the owner’s account.

Group Membership Accounts: Create Group Membership Levels

On your admin side, you’ll need to make some configuration changes after installing the Group Accounts add-on in order to get group membership access set up.

First, you’ll need to enable group memberships for a particular subscription level under that level’s settings. This is where one of the few downsides comes into play: you must set an available number of seats for a level. When purchased at the level price, the member has this many seats to fill. A purchaser cannot dictate how many seats they’d like to buy.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: create group membership level

For all of your subscription levels, you’ll see the maximum seats per level in your “Subscription Levels” list.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: seat count

If you want to sell memberships with different maximum group sizes, you’ll need levels for each group size you want to offer to your members (ie groups of 5, 10, and 25 would all need different subscription levels).

Group Membership Accounts: Edit Member Messaging

Now you’ll probably want to change some of the messaging and tools available to members. The first thing I did was adjust my “Welcome” page that members are directed to after registering, and add a link to a “manage groups” page in case the purchased membership is a group membership.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: edit welcome page

Next, you’ll want to give your members a way to manage any “child” members in their group. That’s where the [rcp_group_dashboard] shortcode will come into play. I added this on a new page to let members manage their groups from a page within their account.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: manage group page

Create Group Management page

Finally, you can configure a new email that’s added for group invitations. This email is automatically sent out to a child member when added to a group by the group owner or a group admin.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: group invite email

There are a few new merge tags you can use for your emails to add information to the invite email; be sure to include the %invitelink% so that new members can access their group membership!

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: group email merge tags

That takes care of the administrative set up for group memberships. Now these memberships are available for purchase, we’ve given owners a way to manage groups, and child members have a way to accept invitations to the group.

Group Membership Accounts: Group Purchasing and Management

Within your membership registration, if a member purchases a group membership, that member will now see additional fields to create a “Group Name” and “Group Description”. Once the purchase is completed, this member will be the group owner, and can manage all other group members.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: purchase group membership

Group Fields added

After paying for the group membership, the member is directed to your “welcome” page after purchase as expected. I’ve linked to my new “manage groups” page, so this member can go right to adding child members or seats to the group membership account.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: welcome page

When the member gets to the group management page, the member will see that they’re the group owner, and they’ve already taken one of the seats available in their group. Here they can add new members to the group by entering basic member information.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: managing groups

Group Management

For larger groups, the owner can also import a CSV file of members to invite, and manage the group’s basic information.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: group options

This group membership dashboard is all on one page, but you could also break this up into your own toggles or “tabbed” area using the other group account shortcodes found in the documentation (for a bit more advanced users). These areas are also templates that can be customized with the help of a developer.

Once some members have been invited, the group owner can see actions available for each member to remove or promote them. A group owner can make other members group admins, which lets other members invite new members to the group. When a member becomes an admin, that member can now access the group management page and add or remove other members. However, the owner can never be demoted or removed.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: Group Member Actions

Once a group is full, the “add member” and “import sections” will be hidden automatically until members are removed, and empty seats are again available.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: group full

Group Membership Accounts: Group Member Views

When a member purchases a membership with Restrict Content Pro, that member typically sees management options for the membership to make changes or cancellations.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: standard member view

Standard Member View

However, when a member has been invited to a group for a “child” membership, this member no longer sees management options or invoices. Instead, this member only sees group membership information, and cannot make changes to the membership.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships:  child member view

Child Member View

Since Restrict Content Pro only allows users to have one membership at a time, these child members cannot make upgrades or purchase new memberships for themselves.

Restrict Content Pro Group Membership Accounts: child membership - no purchase

If a member is an administrator for a group, the member will be able to access the group management dashboard to add other members, but still cannot control any billing access, as this is reserved for the owner.

Group Membership Accounts: Admin Management

As an administrator, you still have total control over group memberships that have been purchased, and can manually manage them for your subscribers.

A new “Groups” item is added to the “Restrict” menu where you can view a list of all groups on your site.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: view groups in admin

Admin view: Groups list

From here you can make changes to your groups, such as adding complimentary seats or updating group names and descriptions.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: editing group as admin

You can also see a list of members for each group by clicking “View Members” for the group. This lets you edit or add new members manually for the group.

Restrict Content Pro Group Memberships: view group members as admin

This is the only place you’ll view members who are in a group, as the “Members” list is reserved for your paying members (so only group owners are shown there).

Group Membership Accounts with Restrict Content Pro

The Group Accounts add-on for Restrict Content Pro gives site administrators the tools they need to manage multi-level memberships, while membership group owners can easily purchase and fill seats in their group memberships. I really love that group owners can manage their own invitations and group details without the help of an admin directly after purchase. Even better, they can make other members group admins so that they can add or remove members from the group.

In terms of downsides, groups must always include the original purchaser as the group owner; ownership cannot be transferred, so the owner must have a membership and will always take a seat in the group. This means that a group owner can’t just purchase a group membership for a bunch of other people if desired, but it does ensure they retain billing control of the membership.

I’d also love to be able to set a “unit price” per membership, and allow a group owner to purchase the required number of seats for a level by changing the quantity needed. This would make it much easier to sell memberships to both individuals and to groups without having to create tons of levels with identical content access.

Overall, Group Accounts provides an easy-to-use solution that adds a lot of features to an already excellent membership solution, and I’m excited to see this plugin grow as part of the Restrict Content Pro package.


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Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.

8 Comments

  1. Beka,
    Thank you very much for this informative, thorough, and timely (for me) review.

    I am about three months away from choosing a membership platform, and this will help me immensely, because having a subgroups/umbrella option is one of the several “must haves” on my spreadsheet of feature lists.

    I couldn’t tell from the info posted on RCP’s website about what is involved in setting up group memberships and you’ve answered all of my questions and raised points I had not thought about β€” and I appreciate that you also included the pros and cons of the Paid Memberships Pro, iThemes Exchange and Woo groups capabilities. I have read and re-read your prior postings on each of these products.

    I still need to check out aMember, which has a $100 subusers add-on, before deciding which one(s) to take on a test drive.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply

    1. Hey Cecil, sure thing! Glad it was useful πŸ™‚ For what it’s worth, I’ve always found the RCP team to be very helpful and responsive to questions, so if there’s something we didn’t cover here or their docs don’t, do shoot them an email, they’d be more than happy to help!

      Reply

  2. Hi Beka,

    Thanks for this article as well as all your other articles on selling sponsored memberships via WordPress. I’ve read and re-read them and they have all been super informative and helpful.

    Now I’m hoping you have even more insight to offer, or can at least point me in the right plugin direction. We are trying to assess whether any of these plugins meet our needs out-of-the-box and we are also secretly hoping that something has changed in the world of group membership plugins since you wrote this article a few months ago. πŸ™‚

    We have purchased PMPro and we originally thought the Sponsored Group Members add-on would meet our needs, but it isn’t clear if the main parent user can add on additional seats after the fact? I plan to reach out to PMPro support on that one.

    Our current use case needs to meet the following requirements:
    1.) allow user to purchase umbrella memberships or seats where the users are not known or named at the time of purchase (url code or other)
    2.) ability to discount memberships based on a range or quantity purchased
    3.) ability for parent account to manage the child memberships
    4.) ability for parent account to purchase/add-on additional child memberships in the future and manage those child accounts under the same umbrella as the originally purchased memberships

    Any advice or knowledge you have is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Jodie

    Reply

    1. Hey Jodie,
      “thought the Sponsored Group Members add-on would meet our needs, but it isn’t clear if the main parent user can add on additional seats after the fact?” — this I’m not sure about either I’m afraid, I’d definitely check with PMPro.

      Point 2) could be done with RCP, but you’d need several subscription levels (since each one has a defined number of seats) Points 1 and 3 are also possible already with RCP as outlined here.

      Point 4) isn’t possible with any system presently that I’m aware of. I know this will be in progress soon for WooCommerce, but won’t be available for a few months at least.

      Reply

    2. Jodie,

      We just started selling our WooCommerce Group Memberships plugin: memberup.co/downloads/woocommerce-group-memberships/

      It’s still in an early form, but I believe it’ll do most of what you’re looking for, with the exception of #4 – though we’re open to considering new features of course.

      Let me know if you have any questions (travis@memberup.co) – happy to chat about it. Cheers!

      Reply

  3. Beka,

    Hmmm, you’ve made me go back and give RCP another look and it may actually work for our needs. I’ve reached out to RCP support to get additional information about their WooCommerce integration. πŸ™‚

    I was also able to connect with PMPro support and they say that the parent account can add on additional child memberships by going through the check out process again.

    Thanks for your input, it’s much appreciated!

    Jodie

    Reply

  4. For anyone using Restrict Content Pro & Slack, I released today a free plugin
    https://github.com/Basilakis/rcp-slack-notifications

    Can Integrate for new sales.

    Reply

    1. Neat, thanks for sharing Basilis!

      Reply

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