The following is a section from my Ultimate Subscription Site Playbook for Service-Based Professionals. You can download the entire 10,000+ word PDF on my website here.
I’ve gone back and forth trying to decide how in-depth and technical I wanted this section to be and I’ve landed on a decision: I’m going to walk you through a distilled version but will include links to in depth tutorials and helpful resources along the way.
I should also preference that I work exclusively with WordPress and I’m assuming you already have a WordPress site set up for your business. If not, the following technical sections may be little use.
Glad we cleared that up. Let’s move on.
As you might have guessed by now, setting up a subscription site requires unique capabilities not typically present with ordinary eCommerce stores:
The ability to process recurring payments and deliver access to “protected” content to only those folks who signed up for the subscription.
I have found multiple solutions that address this conundrum, but have found only one worthy of mentioning here: Memberpress (yes, that is an affiliate link, I only promote tools that I use and love). Memberpress is the only premium plugin that provides the functionality, the documentation, support, and integration capabilities we need to make your subscription site a success.
The other tool you will need is a Stripe account (not an affiliate link). Stripe is a payment processing gateway and accepts all major credit and debit cards out. Stripe, not your website, will store the card and customer information and is highly secure (important to know in case anyone asks you). Stripe and Memberpress work hand in hand to make your subscription site function properly.
Stripe has a lot of documentation available to help through any issues however they tend to be a bit on the technical side. I did find YouTube to be helpful in setting up my Stripe account and this 5 minute tutorial video is a great place to start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST7BsUeQjvY
Setting Up Memberpress
Next we are going to install Memberpress onto your WordPress site.
Download the Memberpress plugin after you’ve purchased one of their licenses. (I have a Developer license which means I can share mine with other people, however, I’d have to bring you on as a client to ensure everything is Kosher with the Memberpress guys. Email me if you are interested in learning more.)
Upload the plugin to your WordPress site. (Terrific guide by WPBeginner on how to do this.)
Active Memberpress with your license key. Your license key can be found at memberpress.com/account at the bottom of the account page. (Memberpress Help Docs)
Next, we are going to configure Memberpress to function properly. Keep the Memberpress Help Docs open in a new tab for reference. Take some time to read through these documents to understand what each configuration means and does for your site. However, below is a quick and dirty rundown of the settings I’d recommend.
- Reserved Pages: Memberpress will generate these pages for you called “Thank You” “Account” and “Login”
- Group and Membership Pages Slugs: Memberpress will set these to “plans” and “register” I’ve never needed to change these
- Unauthorized Access: To keep things simple do not check the first two boxes but make sure the third one is (“Show a login form on pages…”).
- Default Unauthorized Message: Change the message to: “I’m sorry, to access this content you must be logged in. If you are not a subscriber, please visit our registration page” (We’ll set up the registration page in a bit.)
- Account Page Welcome Message: Feel free to set this to whatever you want. I use “Welcome to your Brick & Click Account”
You can use this section to create custom fields to collect info when people sign up. If a name and email will suffice, no need to change anything here.
This section is EXTREMELY important. I’m tempted to distill this section into simple terms but Memberpress has done an excellent job documenting step by step how to integrate your subscription site with Stripe. Follow the instructions here: http://docs.memberpress.com/article/35-stripe
I know this paragraph is buried in the middle of this document, but seriously, take the time to follow Memberpress’s directions.
I typically don’t mess with these but this tab allows you to customize the automated emails that are generated when someone signs up for a subscription. The only thing to take note of is the “From Name” and “From Email” and make sure these are set correctly to your name and email.
Marketing, Info, General, Taxes Tab…
These can be left as is, but if you want to learn more about them you can read up on the Memberpress Help Docs.
Setting up Subscriptions
Now that everything has been configured correctly, we can move onto setting up your subscriptions.
If you remember a few sections back when we walked through the Brick Method, I had you essentially create the 3 tiers of your subscription site. You can name these tiers or levels any way you like, Bronze, Silver, and Gold for example. Now it’s time to assign a pricing structure for each level. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Option 1: If you plan on adding more tools to your toolkit, charge a monthly recurring fee for subscribers to have access to (think Netflix). Charge no less than $17 a month
- Option 2: If you have a toolkit that’s unlikely to evolve (example a course), then charge a one-time lifetime access fee. Charge no less than $27 for this access
- Charge between $27-$47 a month to access to your toolkit (Level 1) as well as a community forum and group webinars with you. The more time you give to these subscribers the higher this level should be priced
- This level is reserved for one on one time with your clients. So how much do you value your time? I would not set this any lower than $97 a month. Think of a number and double it, I mean it, don’t undervalue your time.
Now it’s time to set up the subscriptions on your site. If you haven’t noticed, Memberpress calls subscriptions “Memberships” and the settings are the first tab in the Memberpress section. Click on that section then “Add New.”
To create a basic monthly recurring subscription:
- Give your subscription a name (“Enter title here”)
- Under “Membership Terms”
- Next to “Price” assign a dollar amount
- Click on “Billing Type” drop down and select “Recurring”
- Click on the “Interval” dropdown and select “Monthly”
- You can add a trial period for your subscription by clicking on the box and setting a custom price and duration.
- Under the “Membership Options” “Price Box” tab
- Give the subscription a title
- Add “Heading Text” if you want to include a little details about the subscription
- Under “Benefits” add all the cool things folks can access when they subscribe.
- Include “Footer Test” if you want
- Change the “Button Text” to “Subscribe”
Repeat this process for each of the three levels.
Tip: Since Level 2 will most likely be your money maker (people statistically settle for the middle option), in the “Membership Options” box, click on the “Price Box” tab and be sure to check the “Highlighted” box. This will make the Level 2 option stand out compared to Levels 1 and 3 when compared side to side (more on that in the next section).
Since there are many more combinations and variations of subscription payment structures, Memberpress does an excellent job of breaking down the set up into easy to follow steps:
- How to create a subscription (membership)
- Subscription options overview
- Subscription pricing terms overview
If you are stuck on some of the settings Memberpress offers up some case study examples here. If you still need help setting up your subscription feel free to email me and I can have a look.
Let’s quickly recap because we’ve covered a lot so far.
- We’ve had you sign up for a Stripe account to process credit card payments on your site
- We’ve had you download, install, and configure Memberpress which handles all of the subscription capabilities
- We’ve had you create your subscriptions within Memberpress
Now you are ready to build out the customer facing bits of your subscription site. I’m assuming as a service-based business owner you already have your website set up with your home page, about page, and contact page. What we are going to do now is build out the following pages:
- Landing page
- Level 1 access page
- Level 2 access page
- Level 3 access page
Creating Your Landing Page
There’s no reason to create a landing page for each level in your subscription. This landing page will represent your entire ecosystem and give your visitors an option to select which level works best for them.
First, we are going to need a side-by-side comparison of the different levels to your subscription site. Memberpress calls these “Groups” and they are easy way to give your customers a snapshot of the benefits for each level. To group your levels together, go to the “Groups” tab and click on “Add New”. Give the group a name such as Subscription Levels. Scroll down to Group Options and configure the following sections:
- Upgrade Path: Most likely you’ll want to keep this checked that way your subscribers aren’t subscribed to multiple tiers at once
- Downgrade Path: No need to select this
- Memberships: Use the drop down to select the 3 levels you previously created. The top one listed should be your Level 1, the middle Level 2, and the bottom Level 3.
- Disable Change Plan Pop-Up: Keep this unchecked
- Disable Pricing Page: Keep this unchecked
- Pricing Page Theme: Play around with the different themes to see what you like. If you know CSS or know someone who does (ahem, I do ? ) you can create your own theme
- Group Price Boxes Shortcodes: Click on this link and copy the shortcode that looks like [mepr-group-price-boxes_id=”123”] and paste this in a notepad, we’re going to use it in a bit
Memberpress has more documentation on creating Groups here.
Next, go to Pages and click “Add New,” give your registration page a good title, example “Join our exclusive community!” Then structure your page with the following:
- Add a catchy header image that’s on theme for your business
- Include a couple paragraphs of copy to help your visitors understand what this whole thing is all about.
- Then paste in the Group shortcode you saved from the previous section (be sure to change the “123” to match your Group):
- Include client testimonials that showcase your ability to deliver results
- Include a longer form sales copy that goes more in depth your story as a service-based professional and how you’ve been able to transform the lives of your customers.
- Finish with one more call to action
- Again, paste in the Group price box shortcode:
Click publish. You know have a landing page that will then redirect visitors to a registration page after they click one of the “Subscribe” buttons. (Memberpress has already saved you the hassle and created those registration pages for you!)
Creating Protected Access Pages
Now we are going to create the different pages that will house your digital goods and protect those pages with rules to only allow paying subscribers access.
First, go to Pages and create 3 pages, one for each Level.
On the Level 1 page, click on the “Add Media” and upload the files in your toolkit. Customize the page any way you like, for example including instructions for each tool/resource.
On the Level 2 page, include a link to request access to a private Facebook Group for only Level 2 and Level 3 subscribers. I’m torn between using private Facebook groups versus a community forum hosted on your website. A forum is entirely possible but is another beast to set up correctly. If you need help or resources feel free to email me.
On the Level 3 page, include a link to a scheduling app for subscribers to put time on your calendar. As a service-based professional you might already have a favorite scheduling app. I personally use Calendly.
Now that we have the pages set up we are going to protect these with “Rules.” Head over to the Memberpress tab and select “Rules” then “Add New.” Before proceeding, I highly suggest reviewing Memberpress’s explanation of their rules functionality because there are so many variations you can use to creatively deliver a unique experience for your subscribers.
For our purposes we will be using the “A Single Page” Rule. Select this option in the dropdown box. A prompt box with “Begin Typing Title” will appear. Type in the page title for your Level 1 page we just created. Then under the “Give Access to Members…” select Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Save the rule.
Go back and create a new rule except this time type in the title for Level 2 and only assign access to Level 2 and Level 3. Save the rule.
Once more, but for Level 3 and only access to Level 3 subscribers. Save the rule.
Congrats, you officially have a subscription site.
Now let’s fill it up with happy customers.