The 5 Challenges of Implementing Membership Software
If you want to run a membership site with either free or paid membership you essentially have two affordable choices:
- You can purchase membership software and install it on your server. The software can either plug into your existing website (e.g. Amember plugs into WordPress), or it can be complete solution which includes everything you need to build a membership site (e.g. Membergate)
- You can sign up to a membership site managed service, which provides a complete, ready-to-go membership site solution (e.g. SubHub). A managed service provider takes care of the hosting, maintenance and upgrades of your membership software, leaving you to spend your time running your site. Usually you will pay a monthly or annual charge and be able to manage your site via a web browser, on any computer, anywhere in the world
In this article I will look at the main challenges of choosing, implementing and managing membership software.
Challenge #1 – Upfront Costs
The most sophisticated membership software packages are expensive for a small business or entrepreneur ($4,000 – $15,000). All of this cost is upfront, whether your site is successful or not. With most good managed services you just pay a monthly fee, usually between $49 – $199, with no contract commitment. Your investment is spread out and if your site does not perform as well as you hoped it can be closed down with minimum loss. If you have purchased software outright all of your money is wasted.
Challenge #2 – Software Implementation Devours Your Time
If you are not technical (and even if you are!), implementing membership software on a server will take time to get working as you want it to and even more time to regularly maintain. The most valuable resource that an entrepreneur has is his or her time. Is spending time working out how a software package works the best use of this valuable resource?
Challenge #3 – Who Is Responsible For Problems?
If you install the membership software yourself on a third-party server and it does not work, who is responsible for the problem? The server provider will blame the software. The software vendor will blame the server provider. Where does this leave you? The answer is, with a big headache which can take days to resolve. With a managed service there are never any software-hardware conflicts because the service provider is responsible for both parts of the service.
Challenge #4 – Maintenance And Monitoring
Third-party hosting companies are getting much better at enabling you to monitor your site. However, if you are woken up in the middle of the night by an automated text message saying your site is down, what do you do? The hosting company probably won’t have 24 hour support, but even if they do they are only responsible for issues caused by their hardware. Usually you will have to prove it is a hardware problem before they will fix it. Do you have the knowledge and skill to know what has caused an outage?
Challenge #5 – Upgrades And Backward Compatability
Recently WordPress released a new version of their software. Users of the WordPress service simply had to click a button to implement the new version. What WordPress did not make clear to their less technical customers was that by upgrading they could break any functionality which was plugged into their WordPress site. What they also failed to say was that it was a one-way upgrade. Once you had chosen to implement the new version you could not go back to how it was before. As a result thousands or maybe millions of WordPress sites no longer worked properly. Problems with upgrades, conflicts with plug-in functionality and the lack of backward compatibility are all common problems.
The big advantage of buying a membership software package is that you ‘own’ your site. You own the software and control the server. Your destiny is in your own hands.
However, there is a cost to this control, which is the time and effort you use, managing your membership site, which could be better spent building your business.What is more important to your success? Total control of your website or spending time increasing your revenues? You have a fixed number of hours in the day, so be ruthless about how you maximize your productivity.
If you are very technical and can keep the time overhead to a minimum, buying membership software is worth considering. If you are not technical, you should give someone else the headache of managing the difficult and tedious tasks of hosting, maintenance, monitoring, backup and upgrades by using a managed service.