Searching for the right gym and the right membership software have a lot in common.
It has to be convenient. (Otherwise, why would you go out of your way?)
It has to be supportive. (Pushy sales people and trainers need not apply.)
It needs to be secure. (You’re going to be using it to conduct sensitive business. If you can’t trust the parking lot or servers responsible for transmitting your customers’ data, you’ve got a dealbreaker.)
And, above all else, it has to be a price point that you can actually afford to sustain.
Fortunately, there are a few differences between finding a new spot for leg day and choosing the best platform to sell memberships on, too.
Chiefly, that you’ve got a lot more options, you can skip the small talks and contracts, and if you choose well, you’ll land a source of recurring revenue that can free you from the cubicle farm.
Thus, to help you make the best choice for your business, we’ve compiled a list of the top-rated membership software suites. Before we talk about what we found, however, we should talk about what we were looking for.
What to look for in membership software
While you’re probably familiar with what a membership program should look like from the members’ side, the picture can be surprisingly different from the business angle.
And it’s an important angle to consider because while the customer should always come first, you have to protect yourself at the same time.
After all, only 67.8% of small businesses survive past their first birthday, and the mortality rate is highest for businesses with less than four employees.
We covered some of the metrics that businesses should consider in the introduction, but they go a little deeper than that. When you’re looking for the perfect membership package, you should be paying attention to:
- Integrations. Does it work with other programs and services you need to use to manage your business? How about marketing? Not having the right integrations may not break a membership program, but it definitely doesn’t make it better, either.
- Ease of use. Some people like learning new software and figuring out complicated processes. But most of us don’t have the time to do that, even if we do enjoy it.
- Support. Your business is on the line. Is customer support on that line with you? They should be.
- Scalability. Businesses change sizes. Your membership software should do that with you without charging a small country.
- Marketing. Does it help you promote your business and give you the tools you need to make more sales? Or do you have no choice but to pay another service for that?
- Price. This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you can’t afford it, you can’t fund your business.
Some of these, like marketing, may seem superfluous, but consider this: 47% of small businesses rate it as their top growth strategy.
Add that with the fact that manual tasks eat up 23% of the same business owner’s day, and any tool that isn’t as multifaceted and automated as possible is a tool that’s holding your bottom line back.
Becky Mollenkamp, a business owner who’s generating $10,000 annually in her memberships, corroborates this unfortunate time sink when talking about her day-to-day:
“So my days, when I'm actually in front of my computer, are spent creating content, managing my membership community, being highly involved in their administrative stuff that I don't always love to do, managing my VA or my team. So it's kind of, you know, all over the map.”
Does anyone actually enjoy administration?
(Probably. Not me, though.)
So with that out of the way, here’s how your options stack up.
Becky, the small business owner mentioned above, switched from a Podia competitor -- Thinkific -- and has been one of the biggest advocates ever since.
Why does she love Podia so much?
Here are some of the major pros:
- A flat monthly fee. It never changes. That makes budgeting a cinch.
- Multiple features all packed into one. You can sell online courses, digital downloads, and memberships from the same dashboard.
- A super easy-to-use editor that lets you create polished designs without a lick of code.
But, of course, nothing is perfect.
Here are some potential cons to using Podia for a membership site:
- Design customization is somewhat limited on the storefronts, although always expanding. There are a lot of nice features, but if you want to dig into the code and hack it together yourself, you may have to come at it sideways.
- Created for the creator. Any business can make it work, but the features are really geared towards the creative entrepreneur and not the corporate counterpart.
Now, let’s talk about how it lines up on features.
Ease of Use: 4.5 out of 5. Podia was designed for users who don’t have the time or want to get technical with their business, and it shows splendidly.
Support: 5.0 out of 5. There’s no feature that the testimonials and case studies tout more highly than Podia’s support team, and with live chat, it’s easy to see why.
Scalability: 4.0 out of 5. You only get one option if you want to run a membership -- the “Shaker” plan -- which costs this platform a point. On the flipside, your monthly fee for it doesn’t put any limits on your growth, which is an unusual feature for membership software.
Marketing: 3.0 out of 5. Email marketing and drip campaign tools are included, which is a definite plus, but the features aren’t nearly as robust as what you’d get with a free MailChimp account. Fortunately, they integrate.
Price: $79.00 a month.