Getting Ready for GDPR

By now we hope you’ve seen that WordPress has released its latest version, 4.9.6. As we inch ever closer to the much awaited WordPress 5.0 with its new editor, we all need to prepare for an even closer, and perhaps more consequential, deadline, i.e. 25 May 2018. On that day the grace period for the European Union’s resolution instituting better privacy standards will end. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) demands that site administrators, as well as all parties involved in the production of a site, pay careful attention when handling user data, as well as make accommodation for a user’s data to be exported or erased upon request. In what follows, we’ll outline the changes in WordPress core to assist you with attaining compliance, how Paid Memberships Pro will integrate with core processes, and discuss the implications of the new regulations for site owners, administrators, designers, and developers.

 

The WordPress core updates with new functionality supporting GDPR are in the wild. Paid Memberships Pro will be launching updates this month that also help your site meet the new privacy regulations.

 

Ahead of those updates here are three things you can do on your site to get ready.

Identify the Data

The first step is to identify what user data you collect, where it is stored and how it will be used. On your membership site you want users to know you store their name (if you use the Add Name to Checkout Add on), email, username, their registration date, and user ID.

Paid Memberships Pro does not store any credit card information, but if you are using a processor like Authorize.net you may also be collecting and storing address details on your site.

There are several areas on your site you will want to check. As a membership site running Paid Memberships Pro, take a look at your Add Ons. All of the following Add Ons available to Plus members track user data in some way. If you are using them you will may need to notify users of what is being tracked and why.

  • Affiliates: Lightweight Affiliate Tracking Add On
  • Better Login, View, Visits Report
  • Member History
  • Download Monitor
  • Failed Payment Limit
  • Limit Post Views
  • Any social functionality like BuddyPress

 

 

 

Update Your Privacy Policy

The new regulations state policies should be clear and easy to understand. After you identify what data is collected and stored, update your policy by removing legal jargon and making sure to place the policy in your main navigation and/or footer area. It’s also a good idea to add this to the custom home page or member dashboard if you are utilizing that functionality in your UI.

https://monosnap.com/file/i7F9XdTTQDaRfOtGfcUav3wSz8QdQ0

If you are not using one, you should also include a Terms of Use that outlines what user information is required to use the site. Under GDPR a user has the “right to be forgotten” but being forgotten may preclude them from using the site.

Then make sure you get users to opt-in by activating the Require Terms of Service on Sign-up Feature. It adds a check box to your checkout page that users are required to give their consent in order to process their membership.

 

Encrypt Your Database

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Once you have everything in place, don’t forget to email your members to let them know of the enhancement that are taking place on your site. Outlining your organization’s committment to keeping their data secure and safe will generate a sense of security and goodwill that can’t boost retention.

The Process

As it stands right now, WordPress does not yet provide a user-facing method for requesting data export or data erasure.

 

References

  1. https://make.wordpress.org/core/tag/gdpr-compliance/
  2. https://github.com/strangerstudios/paid-memberships-pro/blob/v1.9.5/includes/privacy.php
  3. https://www.gdpr-guidelines.com
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Data_Protection_Regulation
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How to build a Video Membership website: School Tools TV Case Study

Look at how SchoolToolsTV.com  used Paid Memberships Pro to help build an educational online video membership website. They offers daily one-minute social skill videos to help teachers increase teachable time, reduce bullying, and improve academic results.

Screenshot of webpage


Making a membership only video library.

In order to build an effective video library that was only accessible to members, Schooltoolstv.com decided to use a really useful plugin called Vimeography. This plugin allows you to display videos hosted by Vimeo in a beautiful, modern gallery. This plugin is a simple solution for a membership site, portfolio, online course, or any other video collection.

Vimeography has a Pro version which unlocks an array of great features including hiding your videos on Vimeo but displaying them on your site, offer downloadable videos, and more.

In addition to Vimeography, Schooltoolstv.com is using Paid Memberships Pro to handle the membership side of their website. This includes restricting video and other content as well as handling the checkout process of the website. The WordPress theme that is being used on the website is Masterstudy, a premium WordPress theme by Stylemix themes.

Key components to creating a video membership website.

  1.  Install Paid Memberships Pro on your WordPress website.
  2. Create a Membership Level for your membership site and proceed to set up Paid Memberships Pro with all your relevant settings.
  3. Create a Vimeo Account and upload the videos that you want to include in your video library.
  4. Download and Install the Vimeography plugin.
  5. Use the Vimeography plugin to embed and display your videos on your WP page of choice.
  6. Use Paid Memberships Pro to restrict the page so that only members will have access to your video library.
  7. When users visit your video library they will be greeted with a login/register message encouraging them to either sign up for a membership level or if they are already a member, login to see your videos.

Top Tips for your video membership website

  • Select a theme with strong membership components like Memberlite.
  • Offer some free video content so that your visitors will have an idea of the type of content you provide.
  • Sync new PMPro membership signups with a MailChimp list. This will allow you to send out email newsletters, letting members know that you have released a new video(s).

Meet Rusty May

Rusty is a passionate educator and coach who is committed to helping teachers create caring working relationships with every student and giving them powerful tools that will help reduce negative classroom behaviors that rob them of their teachable time.

 

 

My web designer recomended Paid Memberships Pro, I found it easy to set up and use for my membership site. 

—Rusty May, SchoolToolsTV.com


About SchoolToolsTV.com

Effective teaching relies heavily on a healthy relationship between a teacher and the student. The better the relationship, the better the results. Schooltoolstv.com have made great effort to put together various videos and workshops for both teachers as well as students to help improve things like Social Skills, Classroom management and reducing bullying.  By subscribing to the School Tools TV membership, users will be granted access to daily educational videos, the SchoolsToolsTV community forum, and resources provided by subscribing teachers. Some of the benefits of being a subscriber and watching the SchoolsToolsTV show are:

  • Better Relationships
  • Fewer Problems
  • More Teachable Time
  • Improves Academic Results
  • Reduces Bullying

Visit SchoolToolsTV.com

Character Education Resources, Help against Bullying, Classroom School


If you have an interesting business that uses Paid Memberships Pro in a component of its technology suite, please submit an application and we will get in touch about preparing an in-depth showcase of your application.

 

The GDPR and How it Impacts Sites Running Paid Memberships Pro

The European Union (EU) has passed new regulation related to data privacy for its citizens called the “General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP)”. This regulation carries important considerations for anyone operating a website that uses Paid Memberships Pro and serves customers residing in the European Union.

Continue reading to see how the team at Paid Memberships Pro is preparing for this regulation and what steps you should take to better understand and comply with the GDPR.


What is GDPR

GDPR is a set of regulations will affect all companies that processes and hold personal data for people residing in the European Union. The regulations will begin to be enforced on 25 May 2018 and apply to all companies worldwide, regardless of location.

Failure to comply with the GDPR could carry huge penalties, regardless of whether you are located in the EU or not. While it may be possible for smaller non-EU companies in particular to fly under the radar of these regulations, it is our opinion that all businesses do their best to comply with the GDPR. Following these best practices to respect the privacy of your users is good whether it’s required or not, and it’s very likely that other jurisdictions will adopt regulations similar to the GDPR. You should review the full GDPR documentation and gain a firm understanding of how to comply fully. The home page of EU GDPR provides a great overview of the GDPR and links to additional resources for further reading.


WordPress Core Efforts for GDPR Compliance

There are updates we need to make to our Paid Memberships Pro plugin for GDPR compliance, and we plan to have those released before the May 25th deadline, and will detail them in more detail below. However, the GDPR requirements affect other plugins and WordPress core in general. And so we always knew that a full solution for GDPR compliance was something that impacted more than just our plugin.

For a while there, it was looking like GDPR compliance for WordPress was going to require one or many third party plugins to reach full compliance. I thought we might even have to create some of these plugins, not just for PMPro users but for all WordPress users.

This year a few plugins developed by other groups started looking very promising, with a lot of effort and functionality in place to meet the requirements of the GDPR in a way that was adequate but general enough for the wide range of sites (each with different models of data collected/etc) that run on WordPress. I started looking into what it would take for PMPro to integrate with these plugins, but then discovered that a group of veteran WordPress core contributors was working on GDPR updates to WordPress core.

The WordPress core developers have started a number of efforts to support Right to Access and other GDPR requirements, with a the target of including these updates into WordPress 5.0. These updates will add hooks and filters for plugins to use. We hope to release specifics soon (i.e. code on GitHub you can test), but our plan is to support these core updates and use the features, hooks, and filters added to make sure the PMPro plugin is compliant.


Data Subject Rights

There are 6 key areas of GDPR that outline a subject’s rights to their data. Below is an overview of each area and how we plan to offer compliance:

  1. Breach Notification

    The GDPR outlines that if a subject’s data is compromised (breached) in a way that is likely to “result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals,” the company must notify their customers within the first 72 hours of their awareness of the breach.

    This area of GDPR does not have a specific effect on how Paid Memberships Pro works as a plugin on your WordPress site. We’re including it here so that you as the site owner are aware of the requirements related to your knowledge of a breach in your website data. This article on “Hardening WordPress” via the WordPress.org Codex is a good resource to review if you would like to strengthen your website’s security.


  2. Right to Access

    This portion of the GDPR provides subjects with the right to request a full report (electronically) of all data that the company is maintaining about them, what that data is being used for, and with whom that data has been shared.

    We plan to use new hooks added to WordPress for GDPR to add our own default report about the data that Paid Memberships Pro tracks for users and how that data is shared with third parties. This report would be editable for you to adjust based on your specific use case.

    As for what third parties may have accessed or processed data about the subject, we plan for the electronic report to also include a list of third party sources that our plugin recognizes may have received a copy of the data. These may include (but are not limited to) your payment gateway, email marketing services, CRM services, other integrated plugins, and analytics software.

    There will certainly be other sources that may have received some portion of a subject’s data that are outside of our awareness. We will leave this portion of the electronic report up to the site owner to add in any additional sources that may have processed data about the subject.


  3. Right to be Forgotten

    As the name states, this area of the GDPR allows a subject to request all of their identifying data be erased (also known as Data Erasure). The data controller must erase and cease to share all data about the subject, and is also potentially responsible for forcing any third party with access to the subject’s data to stop processing it.

    We will ensure GDPR compliance by making sure our Core Plugin and Add Ons completely clear identifying user meta and options saved about a user when the user is deleted (when the WP_User object is deleted). We already do this in our plugin, we’ll want to make sure it functions for GDPR-related deletions and covers all the data that it should.

    We will not delete related order data about the user as it needs to be preserved for accounting records. The order data does not include any identifying information aside from the User’s ID (which will be deleted and no record of the user’s ID will be present after the WP_User object is deleted). The fact that this data is retained for business reasons will be included in the Right to Access blurb generated by PMPro.

    This data erasure will include all captured fields about the subject that were added via the Register Helper Add On. If the subject has provided upload files as part of completing a Register Helper checkout field or profile field, this uploaded file must also be removed.

    Other requirements that fall under this section include anonymizing data, either up front or instead of deleting data when a user requests to be forgotten. We will evaluate our plugin for data that should be anonymized this way.


  4. Data Portability

    Data Portability refers to the regulation that a subject should be able to request and receive all personal data the company stores about them in a ‘commonly used and machine readable format.’ The subject should have the right to transmit this personal data to another controller.

    As it relates to Paid Memberships Pro, we will use the new hooks and filters added to WordPress for GDPR compliance to include PMPro-related data in any exports. Per the requirements of the GDPR, these exports will be in a digital and accessible format (CSV, JSON, or XML) that can be readily shared by the subject with another controller should they so desire.


  5. Privacy by Design

    A key factor of PCI Compliance, Privacy by Design outlines that a data protection must by a component of how you design your system, not an afterthought. This includes both the technical and the operation aspects of your systems.

    It is important for you as a membership site owner to only share a subject’s data with the people in your organization that need to process that data. You can do this by sharing a limited number of Administrator or Membership Manager Roles (which both have access to member data) among the core organization and remove access to this data for unnecessary user accounts (developers, test accounts, etc.). It is also important not to request and store data that won’t be needed for your operating activities.


  6. Data Protection Officers

    This regulation refers to how a data processor must share their data processing activity with officials in each member state of the EU. Former EU regulation required reporting of data processing activity to each individual member state’s appropriate offices. The new regulation as outlined in the GDPR removes this requirement in most cases. We suggest exploring the full GDPR resources for more information about whether or not you must report data processing activity.

    This is not a factor that Paid Membership Pro will create a system or integration for, but rather the scale and operating activity of your organization.


GDPR Resources for Continued Reading

Here is a list of other resources you can review for your protection and understanding:

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How a Custom Member Dashboard Streamlined Client Communications for We Manage Your Site.

We Manage Your Site helps their members with everything from mundane WordPress maintenance tasks, right up to custom development and design. Iwan Pieterse, “WMYS” founder, has built his online business completely around Paid Memberships Pro and has collectively used the plugin for close to 3 years.

We Manage Your Site


About We Manage Your Site

We Manage Your Site officially launched on June 15th, 2017. The business model behind WMYS is simple, yet effective. By offering their customers and members different website maintenance and development packages, Iwan and his team have built up an online recurring income business that offers quality digital solutions that can be attained by pretty much, anyone—regardless of their budget.

Some of the tasks that members can expect from their monthly subscription include: routine backups, updates, SEO Reviews, graphic design, and custom WordPress development. The higher the package, the more time and energy the team allocates to that site. This is a great way to offer quality, custom developed solutions at an affordable rate, regardless of the size of their website. For Iwan, it means having a more ‘predictable’ income flow and a more structured, sustainable and scalable business model.

Visit We Manage Your Site

Paid Memberships Pro helps us facilitate not only the recurring payments and user login functionality, but we also use the Paid Memberships Pro’s membership levels feature to offer various benefits for our different packages.

—Iwan Pieterse, We Manage Your Site


The Paid Memberships Pro Technology

Some of the specific Add Ons and customizations being used on WMYS include:


Other Plugins and Themes powering WMYS

  • Theme: The site is built on the Divi Theme by Elegant Themes (recommended by Iwan: “The Divi community is awesome!”)
  • Hosted on AWS, with Serverpilot as a management tool
  • Uses Wordfence for security and ManageWP for daily backups, performance monitoring, SEO rankings and an additional daily security scan. WMYS also performs daily database backups from the AWS server to our Hetzner server.

WMYS Custom Dashboard

One of the most impressive features that has been developed by WMYS is their Member Dashboard. This is a custom developed dashboard that masks the generic WordPress Dashboard and adds specific functionality to allow members to:

  • Log tasks and “to-dos”
  • Chat with the development team
  • Get an update on what has been done at any given time to their site
  • Get an update on how long development tasks have taken

This well-thought dashboard provides much needed clarity for both the developers and the clients. It is easy for the client to see how much work has been put in, what time is still available for new tasks. This solution creates transparency, prevents scope creep and streamlines member communications overall.

The WMYS team are now looking to include content writing, social media management and other more marketing-focused services to their dashboard.


Iwan Pieterse

Our entire system was built around PMPro, we depend on the levels and other properties of the plugin to do stuff within our own customer dashboard, so it’s an absolutely crucial part of our business. What I can say is that the support received from joining the PMPro premium offering has proved invaluable to us as we we’ve built this
—Iwan Pieterse, We Manage Your Site


If you have an interesting business that uses Paid Memberships Pro in a component of its technology suite, please submit an application and we will get in touch about preparing an in-depth showcase of your application.

 

Thinking of starting or growing a WordPress-based Business in 2018?

My experience in the WordPress products world has taught me a thing of two about the full stack of issues facing an entrepreneur. This post aims to share my thoughts on starting up in the WordPress economy as well as experience-based actions you can take to improve your chances of success.


Is there space for my next big idea?

As a serial entrepreneur, I can’t stop myself from considering every hobby from a business standpoint. It’s something I may need therapy for, but has done me a great service throughout my life. I see this same energy in our plugin users—largely new businesses entering the online marketplace to get paid for a broad range use cases, from premium content to communities, premium services and many verticals in between.

Today, our support customers lean toward the non-developer, roughly a 60/40 split. I understand that these are just the plugin users we interact with, certainly not the full 60k active sites using our plugin. This trend leads me to believe that there are more DIYers going it alone to create their online membership or subscription site presence. We strive to build a core plugin that can be configured without developer support because I believe:

  1. Projects don’t have a “one size fits all” budget.
  2. Developers of all levels should be able to charge a fair price for their services.
  3. An open web means that site owners should have access to the key tools they need at a price that’s comfortable.

Where my entrepreneurs at?

As it relates to the solopreneur or DIYer, there are some notable shifts to be aware of in today’s changing WordPress economy:

  1. There’s been an increase in managed web hosting, specifically services to monitor your site, perform updates and provide security.
  2. Page builders and the new Gutenberg Editor (which will be soon be part of core) are available to help you improve content layout and design.
  3. Coming changes to WordPress.com’s hosted platform now allow users to pay for premium services and unlock added features.
  4. A rise in retainer-like WordPress management services allow businesses with smaller budgets to leverage skilled developer support at scale.
  5. Let’s not forget changes outside the WordPress bubble, specifically the rising popularity of all-in-one website tools such as Squarespace and Wix.

Take a moment to reflect on how these factors will affect you. How will they impact the competitive landscape of the market you are hoping to enter? How will these shifts affect the ease at which you can launch and grow?


Let’s not forget the developers!

As it relates to a developer, you may be facing some interesting choices for how to stay competitive and profitable in today’s WordPress economy. Just like most businesses, be it a plugin product like Paid Memberships Pro or yourself as a freelancer, there are only four ways to get paid more:

  1. Work more.
  2. Raise prices.
  3. Acquire market share from your competitors.
  4. Grow the market by obtaining new entrants.

Each factor above has an appropriate time and place. At Paid Memberships Pro, we leverage all of these methods to grow. But, the most interesting piece I want to touch on relates to item 4: growing your market by obtaining new entrants.

I believe that leveraging new trends and technologies are the secret to helping you grow your market and obtain new entrants. In fact, this approach is how Paid Memberships Pro has grown into the solution it is today. When we started out, our plugin didn’t offer every payment gateway, email marketing integration, or a majority of the other third-party integrations now available to our users. By keeping an eye on new plugins and services that are growing in popularity, we are able to extend Paid Memberships Pro the right way: the way that the market is already responding to.

This same type of thinking applies to many other aspects of the WordPress economy, such as social marketing, SEO, security, e-learning and more. What are the trends in these markets and how can you become a go-to resource on these new technologies?


Is it too late to enter the WordPress economy?

Let’s go back in time and talk plugin products.

Circa 2008 the plugins repository was far less dense. Innovative plugins as well as “me too” plugins with stiff competition in the closed source market could launch as open source projects in the WordPress plugin repository and steadily grow their user base. Paid Memberships Pro launched around this time, and we chose to put our full plugin in the repository because we (1) believe in open source software and (2) saw it as an excellent path to create and grow our user base. We were the only membership plugin that included the Stripe and Authorize.net gateways for free, right out of the box, and available in the repository.

So today, just like in years past, there are many ways to attract and grow your user base, deal with competition, and have an advantage. And, if you’re entering an existing market, you must consider established competitors and develop a marketing/product development/pricing strategy that wins. So what are some techniques you can employ to get paid?

  1. Be the ONLY product that does something
    Great – you’re innovative. But ask yourself, “Do I do something that people even want?” Usually you don’t want to enter a market with NO competitors. While it can mean you are truly new, it could also mean there is no demand for what you’re building.
  2. Be the CHEAPEST product among your competition
    Great – you’re a discount. But is that your true value? Using price as a differentiator can be a component of a launch strategy, but I don’t recommend competing solely on price. Just take this as a warning that competing on price and price alone makes it difficult to raise prices down the road. But if you must, it’s best to qualify a lower price as a “launch discount” or sale, not the implied value of what you’re offering.
  3. Do the same things as your competition BETTER
    Now we’re talking! It is perfectly acceptable to launch a product in a (somewhat) crowded marketplace if you are doing things “better”. Maybe your code leverages newer technologies and trends in development. Maybe your user interface is more intuitive and friendly for non-techies. Maybe you’re just friendly, nicer, and people like you. Maybe you offer more friendly integrations via third-party tools and open APIs. These are all differentiators that would allow a not-so-innovative idea to gain traction.
  4. Position yourself for ACQUISITION
    While this is generally a long road, products (and maybe more specifically the teams that develop them) are actively being bought up by larger players. If this is a path you’d consider, it may be useful to think about as a “back of mind” motivator.
  5. Slow and steady can WIN the race
    Scott Bollinger recently wrote about the differences in today’s WordPress products market. In his post, he writes about bringing products to market, stating, “It’s going to be a lot harder than it used to be, and it’s going to take longer.” I believe this was always the case to some degree — unless you laid a golden egg: being the ONLY product doing something with the funding to push hard and fast in terms of marketing and dev.

    Paid Memberships Pro was built over many, many years of client services work. We sold just $2,300 worth of support memberships our first year. Now we sell that much every day. We transitioned from general WordPress site development, to WordPress Membership site development, to a WordPress Memberships Product company over the span of 8 years. Not a quick-win or “golden egg” by any stretch of the imagination.

In short: building a [website, product business, client-services team] may not be as easy as it once was. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying.


What broader or alternate economies must your consider?

A conversation about launching new businesses in the WordPress economy would be incomplete without noting that your [website, product business, client-services team] is part of many additional economies.

For example, we consider a few distinct markets as our own. We compete not only with other OSS membership plugins, but also with closed source and hosted membership SaaS companies. Separate from the membership software market, we also consider the market of our customers (membership-based websites), asking:

  • What kinds of membership businesses are people launching online?
  • What new or existing tools do membership site owners want to integrate with?
  • How much of the “problem” should our plugin solve – just be a tool or offer a complete platform?
  • What is the skill-level of most people starting up a business with Paid Memberships Pro?
  • What services other than technology do these new membership-based businesses need support for? Who can provide that support?

Try to create a similar list of “questions” for your business. What broader economies are you part of? What changes are happening in your target customer’s economies? These questions are great talking points to launch a conversation on the bigger picture of your business’ market.


So should we all just quit now?

Depending on how your business does WordPress, you may be feeling more or less pain in this changing WordPress economy. There is more competition within every channel—be it more developers ready to discount their work or your former clients bringing web development in-house.

Then consider the WordPress plugins market: so saturated with offerings and increased difficulty getting noticed without a big name attached to your product.

And, while I can’t cover every flavor of web presence, I doubt the solopreneurs / DIY site owners reading this will have difficulty identifying some basic factors facing your unique web-based market.

In summary, I think the most important takeaways from this rambling post are:

  • Stay on top of trends and leverage them as a differentiator
  • Position yourself/your business as a specialist rather than a jack of all trades
  • Launch your minimum viable product, then grow with control
  • Cash out along the life of your business

Even in a competitive market, there’s a place for your business. Discard the nostalgia of how it once was and embrace the new landscape before you.

Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below.

Gift Ideas for People in WordPress

Aside from all the fab items in the WordPress Swag Store, what are some great gifts for your favorite WordPress pros? Browse our list of unexpected gift ideas for Biz Owners, Designers, Developers, Marketers, and (the group that probably needs the most love) Customer-facing Support people.



Select an item below or jump to the list.


Office Signage

Managing the work-life balance can be a major struggle when you work from home. Design your own reversible “Open/Closed” sign, or send your team these classic signs with a custom message space. While it may not be a cure-all for the workaholic, the signs do provide a visual reminder of the importance to step away from the MacBook (at least to use the restroom and grab a Mountain Dew).


Float Tank Sessions

Who wouldn’t love the opportunity to float in a dark pod of highly salinated, skin temperature water? Float tank spas are springing up everywhere, and our founder Jason Coleman is a major fan. The experience, usually referred to as “sensory deprivation,” allows the floater to turn off every external stimulus and rest the entire body. I’m sure there are a few people on your list that could use some downtime. So if a week on the beach in Mexico isn’t possible, treat your stressed-out team lead to an hour of escape.  


Survival Garden Seeds

These days, the passing thought that “we’re all gonna die!!!” has become more common. Give the doomsday-ers on your team some peace of mind with these seed kits for the apocalypse. No prepper’s stash is complete without a collection of preserved, non-GMO, self-pollinating, heirloom seeds. I mean, how could we survive without Dragon Kale and Kohlrabi? Check out Open Seed Vault or the Legacy Premium Basic Garden. Hopefully they’ll never have to use the gift.


Smart Speakers

Assistive devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home offer a variety of features, from streaming your music, helping you build to-do lists, making quick purchases online, or setting an alarm hands-free. We’d like to take the features a step further and give you, the gift giver, something in return. After gifting everyone on your team your preferred device, host a hackathon among the team to code a new app for the device. When doing this, try to get their device access keys. Now you can “measure their productivity” (i.e. spy on them) and they’ll never suspect a thing!


Movie Theater Tickets

All joking aside, building community and rapport in a distributed team can be a major challenge. Why not sync up and go see the same movie in your area (at roughly the same time) then hop on a Hangout to share your thoughts (I laughed, I cried, I fell asleep).

Send each team member a gift card or give them a bump in pay that week so the event is covered. This could become a quarterly or bi-annual event, or just timed when that hot new film hits theaters (Star Wars, anyone?).


Next-level Notepads

These quirky sticky notes and note pads from Knock Knock will get you ROFL. Check out the Today’s Plan of Attack notes for the overachiever on your gift list. Or, for the customer-facing person that needs to get their frustration out, see the Paper Tantrum notes. Need to brighten someone’s day? Grab yourself a Notes for Grumps Fill in the Love® book and get ready to share little pick-me-ups throughout the year.


Wine

What do you do when you’ve lost your faith in humanity? When you’re unable to unplug, stop, and let go? Some people meditate or do Yoga, but in a pinch a great glass of wine is all that’s needed to put one right again.

Gift a bottle (or four) of your friend’s favorite wine in a nifty gift bag—like this Harry Potter “Accio Wine” bag on Etsy. Or, for the gift that keeps on giving, check out a wine club such as Rewined by Traveling Vineyard or the Winc Wine Club. There’s also a new-ish subscription service called Vinebox that sends wine by the glass in an elegant tasting collection every month. Go this route if you’d like to extend the enjoyment of wine with a bit of wine education. It’s a win-win.


Groovebook Photo Prints

Groovebook is a subscription service that sends photo books generated from your mobile device’s library. This is a super cool gift for almost everyone, but particularly for the people on your list that work with visual art. The monthly photo book (hopefully) reminds us that, hey, we aren’t just working all the time, right? I did actually go outside one day this month. Go me.


Meditation Tools

If you’re gifting to an avid meditator, or someone that should start, gifts to support meditation are a great idea for any client- or customer-facing person on your team. While you don’t need any physical items to participate in mindful meditation, there are a few cool gifts that support finding your zen. Check out this Zafu Meditation Cushion by Gaiam, available in a variety of colors and doubling as the perfect pet bed. Or, help them to focus and become more monk-like with a set of Mala beads for meditation—Etsy has loads of options.


Prints on Metal, Wood, or Canvas

We mostly work on digital products, so how can we turn these virtual work products into reality? Print them! First you’ll need to find a beautiful wireframe, mockup, website, ad, campaign, or other design that the recipient was particularly proud of. Then, find your favorite printing company such as these Shutterfly Metal Prints, WoodSnap Prints on Wood, or Canvas Prints by Canvas Champ.

Note: this works with code too. Why not print a beautiful block of code—that 100% meets the WordPress Coding Requirements—out for your developers, too? It’s an interesting piece of wall art that your developer can place on the wall in their office (or bedroom, basement, or garage depending on the individual).


Felt Letter Boards

Everyone who is anyone is getting in on this retro letter board trend. These throwback boards allow your recipient to set the tone for their workspace with a pertinent message just for them. Search your favorite online shopping marketplace for “Felt Letter Boards” to see loads and loads of options. I like this simple “The Poet” option from Letterfolk. Ship the gift directly to your recipient, or deliver it to yourself so you can customize with the first message just for them. Some classics: “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”, or “Coffee: Because crack is bad for you”.


Pixel Pictures Coloring Books

If you know someone whose motto is: “A place for everything and everything in its place,” then a pixel coloring book is for them. Think graph paper + map legend + awesome. Each pixel block maps to a specific color, and the image reveals itself as you complete the coloring page. I’m a fan of the Pixel Pictures collections available on Mudpuppy and possibly a limited selection at your local Target. This gift is also recommended to treat PTSD when dealing with a problem client, customer, boss, or maybe even the day’s political news.


Coffee for Fancy Adults

Ditch the tired K-Cups and perform a system upgrade for the coffee lover on your list. Check out the Chemex line of pour-over coffee accessories or transport them to Italy with a classic Bialetti Stovetop Moka. No coffee gift is complete without…coffee. Round out this gift with a subscription to Bean Box, gift card to Starbucks, or a few bags of your personal favorite roast.


Beard Support

Let’s face it—beards are here to stay. I’ve spoken to our resident beard guy, Andrew Lima, and got the lowdown on his favorite grooming products. Check out the Honest Amish line of Beard Balm and Beard Oil. If you’re looking for an easy gift for your bearded bud, check out the subscriptions from The Beard Club and Badass Beard Club.  


Bozo Bop Bag

It’s generally frowned upon to punch another person in the face. So, why not punch a bop bag? Frustration in the workplace is a real thing, and I believe in finding a safe way to destress. For some, stress is reduced through mediation, for others it’s something more physical. Check out the classic Bozo Bop Bag, available in a full size 46” height or more respectable table-top version at Retro Planet. You can also opt for a more staid version of a punching bag (just search your favorite shop for options) and design your own custom theme.


Rush Hour (puzzle game)

This is the gift for any person that loves a big picture challenge—and the sheer joy that comes with positive outcomes. Rush Hour® by ThinkFun presents “traffic jam” scenarios where the goal is to get your car through the puzzle by only moving other cars forward or back. Feed your endorphins with a “quick win” when other work stress may not be so easily resolved. Similar mini-games like this include Kanoodle®, Cat Stax and Flexi Puzzle™. Or, go classic with a Tangram set. I like this twist on the classic Egg Tangram set from UncommonGoods.


Boogie Board Tablets

When you’re a visual person, note taking on a traditional mobile device or laptop can be a bit lacking. Check out all the products from Boogie Board—from the Sync eWriter to the new Blackboard featuring Liquid Crystal Paper. Gone are the loads of scrap paper notes and notebooks (Jason, I’m talking about you). Plus, the boards double as both a functional work tool and an on-the-go board for family games of tic tac toe or pictionary. Parenting small children FTW.


WordPress Swag

Joking aside, the WordPress Swag Store does include some pretty neat stuff. Check out the Accessories tab for some alternatives to the classic WordPress t-shirts. You’ll find a WordPress beach towel, cell phone cover, scarf, pennant, and even a stuffed Wapuu.

How to Set up a Data Backup Process for your WordPress Membership Site

The last thing any website owner wants to deal with is lost website data. This is particularly important for a membership site, where revenue is directly generated online. Keeping up to date backups of your website’s data is not as difficult as you may think. This post covers that often overlooked but highly important topic: data backups, but more specifically:


Your WordPress database contains every post, every comment and every link you have on your blog. If your database gets erased or corrupted, you stand to lose everything you have written. There are many reasons why this could happen and not all are things you can control. With a proper backup of your WordPress database and files, you can quickly restore things back to normal.
via WordPress.org

First, ask yourself “What is my current backup process?”

If the answer to this question is “I have no idea”, you really need this post. Most people aren’t aware of their backup process (or lack of one) until they experience a devastating loss of data. You don’t want to be in that position – so put a solid process in place now.

If you have some process in place, great job! You’re probably 90% ahead of most websites we work with. But be sure to also test recovering from a backup every once in a while to make sure that your backup is actually working.

I’m interested to learn any unique insights you have about your backup process in the comments below.


What to Back Up

Your WordPress website is powered by two key components: your site’s MySQL database and the files in your site’s web folder. Both components should be backed up and both offer unique backup options.

If you store protected files or video outside of your “web root folder” or on a third party service like Amazon S3, make sure that those files are also being backed up.

Depending on the size of your website and number of plugins installed, the database and files may be over 1GB of data. If this is the case, take a look at your data and see what information could be excluded from the regular backup process. Also, make sure that you are not including your backup archives in an automated backup (this would happen if you are storing a copy of your backup in the web root folder, and the backup process includes the entire web root folder).


Where to Back Up

We advise backing up in three or more distinct places. You can store a backup on your membership site’s web server, on a totally separate web server or cloud environment, emailed to a “backups” email account, as well as local copies saved to your computer, a local server, and physically saved to external media (DVD, external hard drive, flash drive).

wp-backup-infographic


When to Back Up

Depending on how frequently you update your site, it may be important to perform a data backup on a weekly or even daily process.

Since you are running a membership site, you are managing all of the key data that synchronizes the member subscriptions from the payment gateway. Losing this data would cause a huge headache and may require you to piece together weeks or months of data manually. No thank you!

We recommend setting up a more frequent automatic backup process (daily) as well as a weekly or monthly manual backup. Pick a day, put it on your calendar, and do it. Once the process is in place it will be a quick step in your workflow providing invaluable piece of mind.


  1. Option 1: Host Backups

    Your host is (or should be) mirroring your site across a few data centers. This is one small level of data assurance but not a replacement for a true backup plan. This only insulates you from your host losing your website data, not from data corruption, a virus or malware injection, or the administrator that accidentally deletes all or some of your site data (true story).

    Depending on your web hosting company, there may be a simple way to create a data backup, either via a web tool installed in your WordPress admin, or directly within your hosting account dashboard. These one-click backups can often be downloaded or emailed to you for the local/physical backup copy I discussed above.

    It’s important to make sure that this one-click backup is including BOTH your site files and the MySQL database for your WordPress site. I suggest exploring your host’s support library or contacting them directly to better understand your backup options.

    Here are some backup processes for commonly used WordPress hosts:
    WP Engine | SiteGround | Bluehost | Pagely


  2. Option 2: Direct File Transfer + Manual Database Backup

    This requires a bit more developer experience, but the basic concept is that you are manually downloading the web server files and creating a direct backup of the MySQL database via phpMyAdmin.

    Files Backup

    Connect to your web server and simply download the entire folder via FTP. Or, if you have SSH access, you can use the command line to create a .zip backup of the entire website files on the server. We create this .zip file and name it according to the date the backup was taken. A copy of that .zip file remains on the server in a “backups” folder, and a copy of the .zip file is downloaded locally to our computer and saved to external media.

    If your web root folder is called public_html, you could use these commands to make a backup. Note that we backup * (all files) and also list .htaccess separately. Because this is a hidden file, the zip command will ignore it unless you specify it like this. If you have any special caching or rewrite rules in your .htaccess file, you will need these to restore your site 100%.

    To download the .zip file, just navigate to the folder and file name in your web browser. (i.e. http://www.YOURDOMAIN.com/backup.zip)

    Be sure to delete the backup.zip file or move it out of the web root after you download to keep others from stumbling upon it.


    Database Backup

    Access your website’s control panel or web hosting admin. From here, you should be able to access your site’s MySQL database via phpMyAdmin. (You can alternately use the Adminer plugin by Inpsyde to access your MySQL database directly through your WordPress admin.

    Click the “Export” tab. We recommend the following settings:

    phpmyadmin_export_settings

    If you database isn’t too large, you can also use the plugin WP DB Backup for an on-demand backup of your WordPress database. The backup file created by this plugin is saved in your site’s /wp-content/ folder or you can download the backup file for a local copy (we recommend doing both). Backups of large databases can be slow no matter what method you are using, but because of the way WP DB Backup works, we’ve found it to be especially slow for very large databases. You can usually just leaving it running for a while in a background tab of your browser if you find this is the case.

    Database Backup From the Command Line

    You can use the mysqldump command to create a backup of your database from the linux command line. If you grab the database name, username, and password from your wp-config.php file, you can then use the following commands.

    I have this saved as a shell script outside of my web root folder and run the script before any update or risky change to the site.


  3. Option 3: WordPress Site Backup Services

    These third-party backup services offer many features related to file backups (themes, plugins, uploads), database backup, site cloning/migration, as well as optional spam security, automated restore points, and support should you find yourself in a data-loss pickle.

    The features vary by company and price, so I’d encourage you to explore the options below when making your decision. These are some of the most widely used options available:


  4. Bonus #4: Restoring From a Backup and Testing Recovery

    If you run a website for any number of years, the chances are you are going to have to restore from a backup at some point. Stuff happens.

    But, even if your site is running flawlessly and you never have experienced a data loss, you should still test restoring from a backup to make sure that your backup is actually working.

    To restore your site, you will need both the backup of the files and the database. Exactly how to restore your site by creating a “dev” or “staging” site will depend on your specific DNS and hosting setup, but here are the rough steps.

    1. Ideally, create a subdomain for your test site, like test.mysite.com or staging.mysite.com. If you can’t create a new subdomain, you can create a subfolder on your existing site like mysite.com/test/.
    2. Create a new database for the test site. Import your database backup.
    3. Upload the zip file of your files backup to the server and then unzip them.
    4. Edit the wp-config.php file in your test site to change the database name, username, and password and any other settings that might need to be updated.
    5. Edit your .htaccess if needed.
    6. If doing a test (vs an actual restore on the same domain) use a script like searchreplacedb2 to change instances of your domain in the database to the domain of the test site.

    Special Notes on Staging Sites with Paid Memberships Pro

    Please note that staging sites are still real websites that might interact with your customers directly or indirectly. Emails initiated on your test site will get sent to real email addresses. If you cancel a PMPro membership on the staging site, your members will get an email, and PMPro will try to cancel the subscription at the gateway and/or the user’s subscription to your mailing list at Mailchimp/etc.

    Additionally, plugins like Paid Memberships Pro perform certain actions like expirations and subscription synching every night as a “WP Cron” process. If you make an exact copy of your live site to a staging site, your staging site will also run these scripts at night. It is important to disable these services using something like our PMPro Toolkit addon or disable your staging site after testing (by deleting it or maybe adding break; to the top of your .htaccess file) to keep these scripts from running. The PMPro Toolkit addon specifically stops PMPro related scripts, but other plugins may still be running scripts of their own.

    Staging sites can also be an attack vector for malware and viruses if they are left online and not updated regularly like your main site. So be sure to either delete your staging site when you are finished with it, set up a plugin like Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd, or keep it up to date like any other WordPress site.


Now go make a backup! Then, design and initiate your backup process.

The easiest first step is to choose one of the methods above and create your first backup. Once you have done that you will get a feel for how the selected method works for you, your skill set, and your workflow. There is no one “right” answer here, just the very wrong answer of doing nothing at all.

I hope that the backup process you select on easily fits within your week-to-week (or day-to-day) business. Post a comment below if you have more to add or a questions about any of the methods outlined above.

New Integration for Holler Box: Popup/Banner Notifications to Increase Sales and Leads

Display Holler Boxes by Membership Level with this new integration between Holler Box and Paid Memberships Pro.

View the Add On


How it Works

The Holler Box plugin by Scott Bolinger allows you to create popups or banner notifications that display on the front end of your website. eCommerce site owners are using these popups to collect leads and generate more sales.

Our new integration adds Membership restrictions to your boxes, allowing you to display unique content based on the user’s membership status, either a specific level or for no level (non-member). This integration requires the basic version of Holler Box from the WordPress repository and our integration plugin, Holler Box Integration for Paid Memberships Pro.


Other Holler Box Features: FOMO Popups

The Pro version of Holler Box has another extension that displays Sales Notifications. This means that as members complete checkout on your site, the box will notify visitors of the sale. Your site visitors will think, “hey other people are buying, I should buy too!” You can read more about this extension on their documentation page.

Special Discount for PMPro Members

Save 20% off the Holler Box Pro bundle, which includes Holler Box Pro and the FOMO popups. Use discount code PMP20 at checkout. https://hollerwp.com/pro/

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How Our Sales Increased 18% by Adding an Auto-renewal Option at Checkout

A couple years ago we started allowing our customers to optionally setup automatic renewal at membership checkout.

This post covers how many customers choose the auto-renew option, and how many of those customers actually renew. I’ll also provide some stats on users who manually renew. These kinds of stats should make their way into the Memberships > Reports dashboard sometime soon.


Renewal Stats from the PMPro Plus Launch

The data below tracks the renewal rate for members who initially purchased PMPro Plus membership between July 28th and August 9th, 2015. During this time, customers were incentivized to choose the auto-renewal option since it locked them into the lower $47/year price instead of the coming $197/year price. Let’s compare the renewal rate for customers who selected automatic renewal vs. those who had to manually renew.
Sales Data for Initial Purchase
Total Sales: 695
Revenue: $26,350
Yes Auto-Renew: 515 (74%)
No Auto-Renew: 180 (26%)


Automatic Renewal Sales

2015 – Initial
515 (74%)
2016
288 (56%)
2017
229 (44%)

Of the 515 users who checked the auto-renew option, 288 (56%) of them had a paid order 1 year later in 2016, and 229 (44%) of them had a paid order 2 years later in 2017.


Manual Renewal Sales

2015 – Initial
180 (26%)
2016
5 (2.8%)
2017
3 (1.6%)

Of the 180 users who didn’t check the auto-renew option, only 5 (2.8%) had a paid order 1 year later in 2016, and 3 (1.6%)  of them had a paid order 2 years later in 2017.


Renewal Data Recap

Perhaps unsurprisingly, users who checked the auto-renew option were much more likely to actually renew. In this case, they were 20 times more likely to renew. Total sales for the same 13 days in 2016 was $25,759. $13,771 of that (or 53.5%) were the 293 renewals at $47.

The above stats are for a promotional period when there was a lot of incentive to check that option since it meant locking into a lower price. Let’s look at similar stats for a more regular period when membership was for the full $197 and there was no incentive for checking auto-renewal since even users who manually renew get the same $50 discount (although the wording of our checkout page might still encourage it a bit).


Renewal Stats for PMPro Plus from Winter 2016

The below stats are for our PMPro Plus members only who made their initial purchase between January 1st and March 31st, 2016. These members paid the full price for membership and were shown a box to optionally set up automatic renewal for $147/year.

In this data set, the stats have almost reversed, with twice as many customers leaving the auto-renewal option unchecked.

Sales Data for Initial Purchase
Total Sales: 489
Revenue: $92,599
Yes Auto-Renew: 150 (31%)
No Auto-Renew: 339 (69%)


Automatic Renewal Sales

Initial
150
2017
110
Renewal Rate
73.3%

Manual Renewal Sales

Initial
339
2017
50
Renewal Rate
14.7%

Of the 150 users who checked the auto-renewal option, 110 (73.3%) of them had a paid order 1 year later. Of the 339 users who didn’t check the auto-renew option, only 50(14.8%) of them had a paid order 1 year later.

Total sales for the same 3 months in 2017 were $126,770. $23,520 of that (or 18.6%) were the 160 renewals at $147.


Conclusion

There are many factors that go into why a user would renew their membership that are hard to suss out of this data. Besides changing our pricing, running promotions, and updating the formatting and language of our checkout page; we were also releasing product updates and running content marketing campaigns throughout the year. It’s hard to tell if these other factors played a bigger or smaller role in renewal numbers. We also can’t tell how many of the users who checked the auto-renewal option would have been more likely to manually renew.

Still…the data is pretty clear in that users who checked the auto-renewal option were 5 to 20 times more likely to actually renew there memberships one year later. When you account for failed payments, cancellations, and eventual refunds, more than 50% of users with auto-renewal setup resulted in a renewal payment one year later.

 

If you are using Paid Memberships Pro, you can add a renewal option to your checkout using our Auto-Renewal Checkbox Add On.

View the Add On

Further Testing

Some things to test further would be actual A/B tests within the same date range where some customers were shown the auto-renewal option and others were not. We could A/B test offering a renewal discount or not. It also might make sense from a revenue stand point to require automatic renewals for all customers or at least default to having that option checked. If auto-renewal was required, you would likely have more refunds for users who don’t want it. (We’ve seen a lot of cases where users cancel immediately after checkout to clear up the subscription.) Still, you probably would get more revenue to make up for those refunds.