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/

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.

 

Make the Most of Your Ad Space with Level Specific Ads Targeting

Advertisements are a classic method of monetizing your website, and ad-serving networks such as Google Adsense make it fast and easy to start displaying ads.

It’s important for a membership site to consider which ads to display for non-members, per-level or completely hidden to members for an “ad-free” experience. Read on to explore how to control ads for your PMPro-powered membership site.


Considering Ads for a Membership Site

Your site’s membership is often the most lucrative product sold through your website. That said, ads can still be a component of your revenue stream if you make smart choices about ad placement for free members and site visitors.

With the methods outlined below, you can target which ads display to which users. This unlocks a unique opportunity to target your ads for each membership level, not only to hide ads for members, but to show premium ads with exclusive partner offers to your paid members.


Ad Networks, Affiliate Ads, and Direct Ad Sales

The simplest way to insert ads is via an ad network. These services connect advertisers with sites that want to make money by displaying ads. You’ll be provided with a script or other integration method to dynamically embed third-party ads on your site. Some popular ad networks that you may be familiar with include Google Adsense, Facebook Audience Network, and Amazon a9.

Alternatives to an ad network include affiliate networks or direct ad sales. For this case, you would be obtain ads (graphics, links and promos) directly through company’s affiliate program or via a service such as ShareASale or CJ Affiliate. These methods take a bit more time to set up and manage, but generally offer a higher commission than an ad network.

Option 1: The pmpro_displayAds() Function

This PHP function checks against the “Hide Ads from Non-Members” settings under Memberships > Advanced Settings. It allows you to wrap and insert ad blocks that will load based on how you have configured the admin setting.

if(pmpro_displayAds())
{
//insert ad code here
}

Option 2: The [membership] Shortcode

If you are inserting ad blocks into posts or pages, you can simply use the shortcode to wrap your inserted content. Using this method, the ads will only be shown to the specified visitors or members.

View Shortcode Documentation

Option 3: The pmpro_hasMembershipLevel() Function

This PHP function allows you to check whether a user has any membership level or a specific membership level. You can then insert your ad blocks wrapped in the appropriate conditional check to achieve the desired result.

View Function Documentation

Option 4: Using Advanced Ads Pro

Advanced Ads Pro has just released a native integration for Paid Membership Pro. You can now target ads on your membership site in relation to the membership level of your visitors.

View Premium Plugin

Option 5: Integrating with Other Ads Plugins for WordPress

Many ads plugins for WordPress make use of shortcodes to allow you to insert the “ad block” into your content, then manage the content of the ad in a central place. In most cases you can use these shortcodes in combination with the shortcode method outlined above.

Alternately, I have seen ads plugins that offer ads widgets. You can use these plugins in combination with the hide widgets for members recipe outlined in this post.

Lastly, if your ads plugin automatically inserts ads on pages or posts, please post a topic on our support forum (Plus or Unlimited membership required) and we can help you locate available filters in your plugin to conditionally display ads based on membership status.

Designing a Logo for your WordPress Membership Site

How can a new or existing membership business design a stunning logo to carry through their website, social media, presentations, and email marketing?


In the past (and still today)…

Large companies and funded startups would work with expensive agencies to develop their business’ logo and brand. The result is a highly detailed and valuable corporate brand direction.

Today’s small businesses, start-ups, and individual web entrepreneurs have a new means to design their brand using a variety of inexpensive and powerful logo development tools available online. And many large companies are using these same methods to create their dream brand, too.

Let’s discuss the main categories of rapid online logo design, including: Logo Generators/Builders, Tournament-style/crowd-sourced Flat Fee Logo Design, and Pre-designed Logo Templates.


Before you get started…

I used to do logo design for our previous consulting company. At the start of any logo project I’d ask a few key questions:

  • What are your brand’s current colors? Are these changing as of this brand redesign?
  • Do you prefer a logo that uses an icon/graphic or a “wordmark” (fancy/stylized text only)?
  • Would a portrait or landscape logo orientation better match the customer’s main marketing outlets?
  • Does the customer use the logo more often in physical/printed materials or in a digital format?
  • Do we need a logo version that is icon only?
  • Do we need a version with a tagline or variety of taglines?
  • Is the logo used on a dark background or light background (or both)?
  • and, lastly, What are some other logos you have seen that you like?

Having some of these questions answered helps to guide the logo design process. Designing a logo isn’t just about “what you think looks good” (even though that last question is all about preference). It has to function for your business in the places you use it most. There’s a happy medium between your personal likes/dislikes and a functional logo for your company.

Now, on to the logo design options!


DIY Logo Generators/Builders

Use their templates and inspiration, then tweak it to your heart’s desire (including colors, font, layout).

Tailor Brands [website]

Tailor-Brands

How it works
  • Get started for free
  • Enter logo name, business description, select a logo type (icon based, name based, initial based)
  • Answer a few quick “this or that” questions about your style
  • Tailor Brands prepares a collection of logos you can customize further
  • After selecting your logo, you can add on a brand book, letterhead and business card layout, social media covers and profile pictures (Facebook, twitter, etc.), and a basic presentation layout
Pricing

Basic Bundle includes logos for web and print for $39. View Full Pricing »


Graphic Springs [website]

Graphic-Springs

How it works
  • Select your industry or keyword to browse the gallery of high quality logo designs
  • Fully edit the pre-built logo with your business name, graphics/iconography, and colors
  • Save and download for unlimited use

Pricing
Build your own logo and download for $19.99. Full custom logo design for $149.99.


Tournament-style/crowd-sourced Flat Fee Logo Design

Receive 30+ logo designs submitted by international designers based on your design brief. Review + feedback, refine, iterate, download!

The features of the tournament-style design sites are all quite similar:

  • Set up your logo contest by providing general brand information and logo preferences
  • Define your content’s prize amount (higher prize amount attracts the higher quality logo designers)
  • The tournament lasts around 2 weeks from start to finish. This includes the initial design period (1 week), the selection phase, and then the iteration phase where you and your selected logo’s designer work to tighten up the final product.
  • Your selected logo is delivered in a variety of formats, including a vector EPS that you can shrink and scale without pixelation.

The bonus of this method is that you will get hundreds of entries from multiple designers and can iterate and provide feedback along the process. It’s like “circling in” on the perfect logo.

The key to success with a crowd-sourced logo is the feedback you provide along the process. If you can, try to select the most “designer-like” member of your team to manage the feedback. You will want a creative person who can see potential in the submitted logo options, not just take them at face value.

More keys to success:

  • It’s important to give feedback on every design you receive to guide the iterations on individual logos as well as the entire tournament (all designers can see other designers’ logos and your feedback).
  • Remember that there are humans on the other side of the process, so be kind. (it’s easy to forget this with how automated the process is).
  • But, be careful you aren’t wasting their time or being overly harsh.
  • Some designers will wait to submit anything before you’ve given other designs some ranking/feedback, so be diligent about providing feedback at least daily.

Logo-Tournament

Logo Tournament [website]

Pricing: Tournaments start at $275.
View full pricing »



99Designs [website]

Pricing: The Bronze package is $299.
View full pricing »


Design Crowd [website]

Pricing: Logo design packages begin at $240.


Design-Hill

Design Hill [website]

Pricing: a “Fast Track” logo package starts at $129.
View full pricing »


Pre-designed Logo Templates

Buy a pre-fab logo then add your name, customize the font and download.


BrandCrowdBrand Crowd [website]

Browse the gallery of pre-designed logos and logo templates. Designs are only sold once (exclusive and full copyright). You can instantly customize the logo with your business name and change the font, or work with the designer for changes.

Pricing: Logos start at $99


LogotionLogotion [website]

Filter an extensive gallery of pre-designed logos by category, keyword, price and more. The purchased design is exclusive to you and you’ll retain full copyright license. Submit your business name, tagline, and any edits you’d like to see made.

Pricing: Logos start at $300


GraphicRiverGraphicRiver [website]

A huge marketplace of logo templates for sale. Filter by categories, tags, price, and number of sales (logos in this marketplace are not exclusive to you once sold).

Pricing: Logos start at ~$10


Is that enough to get you started?

As you can see there are many methods to get you the logo of your dreams – and I believe it really depends on the vision you have at the start of the process. The bottom line is:

Logo generators/builders and pre-designed logo templates are best when you already have a semi-solid vision for your logo and want to do it yourself.

Use a tournament/crowd-sourced approach if you don’t have firm ideas, or if you simply want to see how other designers will interpret your business’ logo.

We used Logo Tournament for the Paid Memberships Pro logo and are very happy with the outcome. I chose to outsource our logo design not because I didn’t feel confident in my design skills, but because I was too close to the project to see it with fresh design eyes. If you’re feeling the same, try a tournament/crowd-sourced option.

PayPal’s TLS 1.2 and HTTP/1.1 Upgrade and How it Could Impact Your Membership Site

PayPal has announced several security updates set to roll out in 2016 which will impact sites using PayPal gateways. This post covers the TLS 1.2 and HTTP/1.1 upgrade scheduled for June 17, 2016. If all actors involved (your host, WordPress, Paid Memberships Pro, and PayPal) update before June (we plan to), you should experience no disruption in your service. However, if you are using the PayPal sandbox environment now or otherwise want to make sure your host and website are ready, please review the content below.

We’ve outlined the steps to take now to ensure compatibility and avoid a disruption of service.


Note: The contents of this post are highly technical and should be reviewed by your web hosting company and an experienced web developer.

About the TLS 1.2 and HTTP/1.1 Upgrade

PayPal is upgrading the protocols used to secure all external connections made to their system. This includes every connection your site makes with PayPal (onsite or offsite Membership Checkout and via IPN). TLS 1.2 and HTTP/1.1 will become mandatory for communication with PayPal on June 17, 2016.

The latest versions of Paid Memberships Pro have already been updated to use HTTP 1.1 in its API calls to PayPal. However, your server still needs to be updated to use TLS 1.2 for SSL communication.

If your server does not support TLS 1.2 and HTTP/1.1, payments processed via PayPal gateways (PayPal Express, PayPal Standard, and PayPal Website Payments Pro) will fail. You may notice the following error message after clicking to checkout at PayPal:

methodName_ failed: SSL connect error

In addition to this PayPal security update, WordPress also needs to be updated to specify the SSLVERSION for cURL to support PayPal Express moving to TLS 1.2.


Verify Support for TLS 1.2 and HTTP/1.1 With Your Webhost

To avoid disruption in service, you must first verify if your web server supports these security protocols. Contact your web host and find out if your server supports TLS 1.2 and HTTP/1.1. If the answer is no, you will need to work with your web host to enable support. In general, the host only needs to “upgrade OpenSSL to the latest stable version”.


Specify the SSLVERSION for cURL in your WordPress Site

After verifying that your server supports TLS 1.2 and HTTP/1.1, you will also need to make an update to your WordPress site to set an SSLVERSION for cURL (a tool on your server that transfers data from or to a server, using one of the supported protocols). For your site to continue to be able to communicate with PayPal, you need to set your version of cURL to explicitly use the TLS 1.2 protocol. Setting this version prior to PayPal’s TLS 1.2 rollout should not impact current communications with PayPal.

Here’s a code gist for setting the SSLVERSION for cURL that we will continue to develop and improve over time. Copy this code into your active theme’s functions.php file or a custom plugin.

Note: This or some version of this code will be moved in Paid Memberships Pro core or WordPress core prior to the security update in June. The above code gist is only needed if you need to use PMPro with PayPal in sandbox mode in the meantime or if you want to be sure your site will be ready before the updates roll out in the coming months.

Test Checkout via the PayPal Sandbox

The PayPal Sandbox endpoints have already been configured with the latest security standards to which the Production endpoints will be moving.

You can set your Payment Gateway in Paid Memberships Pro to the PayPal Testing/Sandbox Mode to verify support prior to the security release on July 17. See this post on PayPal Sandbox with Paid Memberships Pro »