In the course of planning new content for VicDorfman.com I do a lot of research. I look for questions and problems that membership site owners, and aspiring membership site owners just like you face.
And without a doubt the one question that comes up in my research more than any other is “what is the best membership site plugin to use for my site?”
This is kind of like asking “what’s the best WordPress theme to use on my site?” Because it really depends on your needs, your future vision for your site, and frankly, on you.
You may be technical, or you may just barely manage to check your email. You may be a solopreneur or you may have a whole team working for you. You may have very basic needs, or you may have a mad, grandiose vision for a 6 or 7-figure membership site in the underwater basket-weaving niche.
Either way, “it depends” isn’t a particularly useful answer to give you, is it?
Luckily, when I gave it some thought, I realized that almost anytime a client asks me “Vic, which membership plugin should I use?” I generally recommend the same plugin over and over again.
That plugin is Digital Access Pass, affectionately known as DAP.
Rather than put you through a mind-numbing comparison of half a dozen different membership scripts on a feature-by-feature basis, I’ve decided to simply share with you why I like DAP so much and why I think it’s the best WordPress membership plugin on the market today.
*(FYI: the terms “membership plugin” and “membership script” mean the same thing and are used interchangeably.)
Before you dive in, I want to assure you that I have no special allegiance to DAP or to any other membership plugin. I do promote DAP using my affiliate link at times. But I’m going to leave my affiliate link OUT of this article.
I want you to know that I’m recommending DAP not because of any affiliate commission I might receive, but because I’ve worked extensively with all the major plugins, and I’m convinced that DAP is the best WordPress membership solution on the market right now.
So enough foreplay! What makes DAP so dang special…?
Support that doesn’t suck
Imagine for a second that you set up membership sites for a living. Yes, YOU.
You have two clients with successful membership sites each doing 6 figures a year. One client is using DAP, the other client is using a competitor’s solution.
Both clients are experiencing an identical problem: their members are getting charged monthly dues even after they’ve cancelled their memberships!
You investigate the issue but you can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong. So you send in one support ticket to DAP and another support ticket to the other membership plugin’s support team.
Veena, one of the developers of DAP, promptly replies and personally goes back and forth with you to get the issue resolved, even going so far as to investigate whether or not the problem is with your payment processor (something that she technically doesn’t have to support because it isn’t a DAP issue per se).
You may not be able to get the issue resolved but at least you’re satisfied that DAP support did everything in their power to help you.
Now you go to check the support ticket you sent to the other plugin’s support team.
The support rep from the other plugin starts off by telling you that you wouldn’t even have this problem if you had set up the plugin correctly in the first place.
<<<Thanks genius, you think?>>>
Then he tells you that you ought to consult the documentation.
<<<Don’t you think that’s the first thing I did?>>>
He then suggests that you contact a developer who could help you resolve this issue.
<<<Can’t YOU help me resolve this issue…?>>>
And finally, he tells you that if the problem involves a 3rd party – in this case, the payment processor – they don’t support it.
<<<So the purpose of your support is to tell me that I need to look elsewhere for support for YOUR product…?>>>
I know what you’re thinking:
“Vic, this ‘support’ reply couldn’t possibly be anything more than one of your fantabulous figments of fictional fancy. There’s no way this could be real…right???”
Wrong! It is real. It is aaaall too real.
This actually freaking happened.
In fact, this type of scenario occurred on more than one occasion, leaving both myself and my client exasperated and quite frankly, somewhat perplexed.
I mean, don’t these people want my client’s business? Don’t they care about their reputation? Or perhaps their business has grown large enough that they can take such a blasé approach to customer service without any real hit to their bottom line.
Whatever the actual case may be, you will run into issues with your membership site and you will need to submit a support ticket at some point.
And I share this experience with you not to vent my frustrations (well…maybe a little!) but chiefly to illustrate what a humongous difference support that doesn’t suck makes in your ability to run your membership site with peace of mind.
After all, what is support but a sort of insurance that once you’ve paid the vendor your hard-earned money, he won’t just leave you up shit’s creek without a paddle? He should, within reason, help you solve your issue so that you can continue to use his software! It’s really in the vendor’s interest to provide great support, which is what makes poor support so incomprehensible from a purely selfish standpoint.
On this score, Digital Access Pass goes above and beyond. I’ve submitted dozens of support tickets to DAP over the years and my experience has been nothing short of excellent. Not to mention, DAP doesn’t outsource their support to some disinterested, ill-informed 3rd party. Nay! They, the developers, Ravi and Veena, often answer tickets themselves.
In a nutshell, DAP cares about their customers and it shows.
Damn Good Documentation
One of the biggest and most well-known membership plugins for WordPress is called Wishlist Member. It’s a decent plugin and I’ve worked with it numerous times. But whoever did the documentation was on drugs! It’s sparse, grossly incomplete and difficult to find.
I recently contacted Wishlist support to ask them whether or not they have some documentation that explains how to use the Wishlist Member shortcodes and merge tags, a seemingly reasonable request. I even offered to collaborate with one of their developers on my own time to sort out the exact function of each shortcode and document this information for public consumption.
The support rep replied that they do not have such documentation and that the shortcodes are ‘pretty much self explanatory’.
Well, I had to chuckle at her pretty much idiotic and probably unintentionally insulting reply. Surely, if I, a dude who sets up membership sites for a living, haven’t found their shortcodes to be self-explanatory, then the lay user of WL certainly won’t either.
Thus, you’re left with a long list of shortcodes that have all these supposedly awesome capabilities (that you paid for!) but have no clue how to use.
Which shortcode does what?
What is the proper syntax? (which will make or break a shortcode if it isn’t exactly correct)
What are some use cases that illustrate the difference between seemingly similar but actually entirely different shortcodes?
This may sound like sophisticated complaining on my part. And perhaps that’s the underlying reason people start blogs in the first place. But today it serves a valuable purpose as a means of a contrast! That’s because unlike many of its competitors, DAP is very, very well documented. And furthemore, DAP’s documentation isn’t written in Klingon. It’s in normal, layman’s language.
What does this mean to you?
It means: when you have a question about DAP, all you have to do is Google “digital access pass + (question | issue | bug)” and 9 times out of 10 the appropriate DAP documentation or a thread on the DAP forum will pop up to address your concern.
This is priceless because it allows you to resolve issues without having to wait on support. It empowers you and your team to administer your site yourselves and quickly address issues that would otherwise take 24+ hours to correct.
Almost every single integration, issue and question about Digital Access Pass is addressed in the documentation or support forum. I should know, I’ve been resolving issues for DAP customers full time for 2 years now. I’ve even contributed a thing or two to the docs myself. 🙂
Freakin’ Cool Features
Ze features. This is the sexy stuff you really care about, isn’t it?
Since it would take forever to cover all of DAP’s features, I’m only going to highlight 3 particularly interesting and useful features that most competing membership scripts don’t have.
1. DAP’s Built-in Autoresponder
DAP has a built-in autoresponder that allows you to send emails to any or all of your members. Much like Aweber or Mailchimp, you can compose emails and schedule them to go out in preset intervals. You can also send broadcasts.
Unlike 3rd party email autoresponder services, however, you can completely bypass confirmed opt-in (you know, that annoying step where people who sign up to your email list or buy your product are forced to ‘confirm’ their email address by clicking a confirmation link…?)
Granted, the DAP autoresponder doesn’t have the detailed analytics and reporting of these other services. But then again, it’s free and not really meant for the kind of hardcore marketing that would make such features useful.
I personally use the DAP autoresponder as a part of my unlimited membership site support service to automatically send out a welcome email to new clients. This email contains all of the information the client needs to begin using my service. It’s also addressed as coming from my personal email address, so when the client replies with their first support request, it goes directly to my primary email inbox.
This kind of automation removes friction for your members and gives them a smoother, more pleasant experience with your brand. It also makes your life easier. Which makes your members’ lives easier. And so on in a virtuous cycle.
2. DAP’s built-in affiliate suite.
DAP has its own affiliate module, so there’s no need to use a 3rd party script like iDevAffiliate in order to run your own in-house, 2-tier affiliate program. There’s also barely any setup involved. You simply create a commission profile for the products you’d like to include in your affiliate program, have your affiliates sign up (or add them manually), and they’ll be able to generate their affiliate links and start promoting your products and services right away.
One feature of DAP’s affiliate program that I absolutely LOVE is the ability to generate affiliate links that direct the visitor to any URL (not just any URL on your site, but any URL, period!) It works by first sending them to your site for a split second to cookie them, and then instantly redirects them to the destination page. This happens seamlessly on the user’s end.
So if and when a visitor returns and purchases something from you, your affiliate will still get credit.
I’m sure you can conjure up all sorts of uses for this feature, including sending traffic to a webinar registration URL, or a Youtube video talking about your product, your press appearances, a podcast you were on, etc.
Also, DAP’s affiliate cookie lasts 1 year.
So if one of your affiliates sends traffic to your site, and then the visitor buys 6 months later, that affiliate will still get credited with the sale. Not only that, but your new customer will be chained to that affiliate for life. If he buys anything else from you, the referring affiliate will get credited for that sale as well (so long as you’ve set up a commission profile for that particular product).
These native affiliate program features are huge selling points for potential affiliates. Affiliates and JVs work hard for you and put their reputations on the line to drive qualified leads into your funnel. They deserve to be treated like gold, and DAP enables you to do just that.
At the end of your refund period, you simply go into DAP, generate a Paypal mass payments file, upload it to your Paypal account, and pay all of your affiliates in one shot. Easy, peezy, lemon squeezy.
3. Integration with WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is a free eCommerce plugin for WordPress. It allows you to sell products in an online store, where you add items to the cart and then checkout when you’re ready to pay.
Up until now, it’s been difficult to do this with digital products. But DAP’s new integration with WooCommerce allows you to create a storefront of digital and physical products to sell separately or in combination.
So, for example, you can sell silicone soap molds to be shipped to your customer’s home. And then you can also sell an eBook on how to make your own organic soap. If your customer adds both the physical item and the digital product to her shopping cart and checks out, the physical item will go through the fulfillment process you have set up in WooCommerce, and the digital product will be registered in DAP.
Your new member will get a welcome email from DAP with a link to login to the members area and download her soap making eBook while she waits on the soap molds to arrive.
The possibilities with this integration are really mind boggling.
If you’ve listened to the interview I did with Brittany Lynch, you’ll know that she’s making 6 figures by selling physical products on the front end (because physical products generally convert way better than digital products), and upselling her customers with information products on the backend.
Brittany achieves conversion rates with this approach that would make most information marketers green with envy!
As online marketers, we’re extra cautious about buying plugins and themes from little-known vendors.
After all, it’s not uncommon to buy a sexy looking theme on Theme Forest, use it for 6 months, and then when you upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, your theme explodes.
Quite naturally, you go to contact support. But they’ve disappeared like a gypsy caravan. And now you’re stuck with a piece of software that you can’t get support for.
A theme is one thing…
But now let’s imagine that you buy some fly-by-night membership script that lured you with its siren call from within the treacherous halls of the WSO section of the Warrior Forum. Let’s call it “Cheesy Member”.
Let’s then suppose that you manage to get 1000 paying members into your system. Cheesy Member works great…until it doesn’t. As a matter of routine maintenance and security, you update to the latest version of WordPress, and boom! Cheesy Member breaks down and cries for its mommy.
Now your members are pissed off. They’re emailing you with menacing comments about not being able to access their content, wanting a refund, and so forth.
So you go to the vendor for support. But like his Theme Forest brethren, he’s pulled the old Gypsy Caravan trick on you. He’s disappeared and now you’re stuck with a deprecated system and a 6-figure income that will go POOF! if you don’t do something purdy dern quick.
So what happens next…?
Well, you probably hire me to install DAP and migrate your members from the old system to the new system. 😀 And in fact, I can’t count the number of clients I’ve migrated from one membership platform or another to DAP.
Or you scramble to salvage your membership site by piecing together some kind of makeshift solution.
Of course, the best thing would have been to choose a solid membership plugin to begin with. One with a great track record and a fantastic support and development team, even if it meant spending a little more money at the outset.
Let’s be real, if your membership plugin cost $27, it’s shit. I’m sorry, but I guarantee you it is (and I’m not sorry.)
In the world of membership plugins you get what you pay for. But you also pay for what you’re going to continue to get. And DAP has demonstrated for 6 years running that they are the best WordPress membership plugin available.
Each release of DAP is more impressive than the last. And as they’ve grown, the quality of support has remained consistently high.
Let me be clear about something. I’m not saying there aren’t other excellent membership plugins; there are. I’m not saying DAP is perfect; it isn’t. What I’m saying is that for most membership sites, DAP is the plugin I’d recommend. Not for all, but for most.
Check out DAP by clicking HERE (not an affiliate link).
I know you have questions, so fire away in the comments section below!