AccessAlly & ProgressAlly:
A Real World Case Study
In the spirit of full disclosure, this article contains affiliate links, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase anything through those links. I only recommend products and systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.
In this project, we created "VisionistaLand," a new home for Lynn Bardowski’s existing Million Dollar Party Girl monthly subscription programs, which were previously managed through a private Facebook group. We set up a WordPress membership website using AmbitionAlly’s AccessAlly plugin for content protection, gamification and user engagement. The design of the new site matched her existing branding to create a seamless visual extension of her existing marketing site.
We integrated with Lynn’s existing CRM, ONTRAPORT, and migrated her existing members to the new system. Note that the solution described in this report could just as easily be implemented with any of the other CRMs that AccessAlly integrates with.
We created three new standalone eCourse offerings, along with new opportunities for cross-sell and up-sell.
Our solution added scalability so that Lynn could better leverage her time. We included the ability for members to self-manage their accounts, including updating their own passwords and credit card information.
Lynn's affiliate partners log in to the same Dashboard as her members. Since most of her affiliates are also members, this simplifies the experience for them.
Lynn and her members were delighted with the final solution, and she has immediately attracted new members.
2. The Client
Right out of the gate, I enjoyed working with Lynn. Lynn Bardowski is a multi-million dollar revenue generating direct sales entrepreneur who has made her fortune through PartyLite Candles. From her official bio, she “is a sought-after Direct Sales expert and empowering keynote speaker for Direct Sales conferences and Women's Organizations.” She has been included in the Top 100 Small Business Influencers, Enterprising Women of the Year, and Top 101 Women in eCommerce. None of that is surprising once you get to Lynn. She’s full of energy and drive. I have a great deal of respect for Lynn. Through the course of our project together, it became quite apparent that she has a genuine desire to serve her community, and deliver a product to them that is truly beneficial.
Lynn also has a fun personality, and that’s reflected in her work. Her protegées are affectionately known as “Visionistas!” Her humour is apparent on her website, too. About attending her first PartyLite party, Lynn writes, “The glow of candlelight illuminated the friendships these women had…it stirred something in my gut. Was it the onion dip? Or, was this the sign I had been looking for?”
Before building the new website, Lynn’s offerings included a monthly subscription to a Visionista VIP Group, whose central touch-point was a private Facebook group. It that included the delivery of monthly webinars and monthly Q&A sessions. She also had a premium monthly subscription for her Power Team group, which included one-on-one coaching sessions, and monthly webinars. Finally, she had an affiliate program. Lynn wanted to continue all of these programs within a new central hub.
Our project together was about creating a new home for Lynn’s Visionista community; a group of women whom Lynn is teaching and mentoring to help them earn success in the world of direct sales. Until our website, Lynn was using only a private Facebook group, and a series of webinars, to deliver her program. Her Visionistas needed a proper home.
Lynn had several objectives for this project.
- Lynn wanted to move beyond a one-on-one consulting model so that she could both reach more people, and better leverage her time. She needed a solid, scalable platform to support that.
- She didn’t want to rely solely on her Facebook private group. She wanted to move to a platform that she owns and controls.
- She wanted to provide a more valuable experience for her clients. To do that, she needed a user-friendly way to store and organise her content in one easy-to-reference, easy-to-navigate place for her community.
- In keeping with her desire to genuinely benefit her community, Lynn wanted to enhance the learning experience she provides by encouraging more engagement and helping her students retain what she teaches.
- Lynn wanted to smoothly transition her existing Visionistas into the new environment.
- She wanted to maintain consistent branding with her main website.
- Last, but not least, Lynn wanted more opportunities for (gentle!) cross-sell and up-sell of her various offerings.
4. Platform Selection Criteria
The defining criterion of the solution was that Lynn wanted a central hub through which she could provide members-only content.
When Lynn came to me, she was already using Ontraport as her CRM, and WordPress for her marketing website. It made sense to stick with the familiar platform of WordPress for her membership site. That meant we needed to find a membership solution that worked with both WordPress and ONTRAPORT, and met all her other requirements.
Our choices boiled down to PilotPress (ONTRPORT’s built-in membership solution) or AccessAlly.
AccessAlly offered Lynn a few key things that PilotPress was missing: cross-sell opportunities, flexible membership levels, auto-generated tags that help with handling payment failures and suspending access, and the ability for members to update their own passwords and credit card information.
AmbitionAlly Pro’s gamification add-ons (formerly ProgressAlly) offered the rest of the member engagement and gamification features Lynn was seeking to make sure her materials would be used, digested, and retained.
One of Lynn’s key goals was the ability to scale her offerings from one-on-one to being able to reach members as a group. More members means more overhead, so in order to scale, the administration of the site must be automated as much as possible. An AccessAlly solution allows automation of a key pain point that Lynn has, namely handling the inevitable failed credit card transactions, which is time-consuming, and keeps Lynn out of her zone of genius! Members are able to do their own account management, viewing past orders, and updating their own credit cards and passwords.
Lynn’s audience is largely non-technical, so our solution must be easy to manage and navigate for visitors. We can achieve this with good content structure, reflected in a straight-forward, intuitive system of navigation.
AccessAlly offers a new opportunity for Lynn to increase her sales through cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. As a result, we made the decision to split off three distinct pieces of content into individual eCourses that could be sold separately as add-ons. Icons for these new programs are visible to members in their Dashboard, acting as teasers, and are linked to Lynn’s sales pages.
5.The Solution in Gory Detail
The first thing we did was build the new members site on a subdomain of milliondollarpartygirl.com, namely members.milliondollarpartygirl.com. Although this does result in two WordPress sites to maintain, there are a few significant advantages. Lynn’s main site will not get bogged down with additional users, nor with the plugins required to run her membership site. There is a now a clean separation between the two.
Content structure and organisation:
We used AccessAlly to set up five programs that Lynn can sell separately:
- Visionista VIP Group (monthly subscription)
- Visionista Power Team (monthly subscription)
- Facebook Live (eCourse, one-time purchase, new offering)
- Facebook Party 2.0 (eCourse, one-time purchase, new offering)
- Killer Vendor Event Strategies (eCourse, one-time purchase, new offering)
For the Visionista VIP Group, Lynn hosts two kinds of webinars each month: informational webinars, where she often has a guest speaker, and Q&A webinars. She wanted to be able to provide an archive of all past webinar recordings for her Visionista VIP members. Given that Lynn had two distinct tracks of content, and that each one would continue to grow in size each month, I opted to divide up the content. From an AccessAlly perspective, I created two separate courses, one for each track, as well as an over-arching “container” course that represents the VIP Group membership. That means that the two tracks of content can be easily separated, which is good from a maintenance perspective, and from an end-user perspective, when trying to navigate the members area. It also “future-proofs” the content, and will allow Lynn to sell either track individually in the future, should she so choose. When someone purchases the VIP Group product, the corresponding ONTRAPORT sequences are set up to give them access to both the webinar and the Q&A tracks.
For the three eCourses, we set up a single order form where customers could purchase one or more of the courses. We set up a special product in ONTRAPORT for “purchase all three” which allows Lynn to offer a bundle discount.
When it comes to content protection, AccessAlly offers a very flexible mechanism, whereby pages or posts are protected with ONTRAPORT (or other supported CMS) tags. A visitor’s corresponding ONTRAPORT contact record must have that tag before access is granted to the content.
In addition, AccessAlly offers another feature that we used for Lynn: file protection. Lynn has bonus PDFs for her members to download. On many membership systems, your only protection is page protection, but if someone outside the system can get hold of a direct link to a file, they can download it. AccessAlly offers an additional level of protection that requires the contact to have the required access tag before being able to download the file. Even better, this protection system integrates easily with Amazon s3 so that Lynn can store her downloadable PDFs there.
One of the significant benefits of the AccessAlly platform is that it allowed us to create a Dashboard that displays icons for each of Lynn’s offerings. When a member logs in, they see all of the icons. The icons that represent the programs they have purchased are green (Lynn’s brand colour), and clicking on them leads in to the program’s content. The icons for programs that the customer has not (yet!) purchased are grey, and clicking on one of them leads to the corresponding sales page.
These grey icons are a gentle cross-sell, tantalizing members with the potential for additional content, and provoking curiosity to click and find out more.
Pro Tip 1: We included an extra grey icon that for Lynn’s one-on-one consulting services sales page. Lynn’s consulting is not actually implemented as an AccessAlly program, but the parallel icon allows her to show members that it’s available, and send them to the sales page.
Pro Tip 2: Many of Lynn’s members are also affiliates for her program. We also added an icon for her affiliate program on the Dashboard page. If a member is an affiliate, the icon leads in to their custom affiliate dashboard. Otherwise, it leads to the registration page for the affiliate program.
The user experience:
a. Home page
When a visitor arrives at the main members.milliondollarpartygirl.com URL, they will see one of two pages. If they are not yet logged in, they will see a Login screen.
If they are already logged in, they will see the main “Home” page. That is also the page that a visitor will come to after they log in through the route described above.
Aside: Note that through AccessAlly, we set up a set of “special pages” that control where the user is redirected after logging in or when they have insufficient permissions to view a particular piece of content. For example, we decided that users who attempt to access protected content without being logged in will be redirected to the login page, and then after logging in, will be taken directly to the page they were first trying to access.
The Home page features a friendly “get started” section with the first steps that a visitor should take to get oriented to the membership site:
- “View the Welcome Video” pops up Lynn’s welcome video introduction.
- “View your programs” takes the visitor to a Dashboard that shows all of Lynn’s available programs, with the member’s active program icons shown in green.
- “Introduce yourself” links to Lynn’s private Facebook group.
b. Design and Layout
Although AccessAlly works with any theme, to jump-start the design, we chose to use one of the Headway templates that AccessAlly provides as part of their plugin. Lynn’s team provided custom header banners, and custom course icons, and I added them to the site, along with her brand colours and fonts. This helps to provide consistent branding, and a seamless transition when moving between her main marketing site and the member site.
We followed a conventional layout with a main, horizontal menu bar across the top that remains consistent throughout the site, no matter what page you’re on.
We then added a course-specific menu for each of Lynn’s programs.
Note that the “My programs” menu only displays the menu items that correspond to programs that the member has purchased. Other programs do not appear in the menu.
In addition, the “Partner Center” menu item in the main menu only appears for those members who are in fact partners. This keeps the interface clean and intuitive.
AccessAlly handles this functionality out of the box, using the access tags to control menu visibility.
We further customised the course menus to add the course icon at the top of each course-specific vertical navigation menu.
Finally, we added a special vertical menu that groups together all of the Account-related pages (billing, orders, user profile etc).
Integration with the ONTRAPORT CRM:
Granting website access
Typically, you want to take a few actions when a new user subscribes to your membership site, and Lynn’s case is no exception. On the ONTRAPORT order form for her products, we add the contact to a few sequences that deliver daily inspirational emails from Lynn, as well as SMS messages. We also add the member to a key welcome sequence that gives them access to the website by adding special access tags, creating a WordPress user on the AccessAlly system, and then sending a welcome email with the userid and password and login URL.
Automated handling of cancellations and failed credit cards
One of Lynn’s goals in setting up the new system was to automate the handling of cancellations and failed credit cards. As she grows, handling these scenarios manually becomes tedious and time-consuming.
One specific scenario that was causing her repeated grief was the case where someone’s credit card failed, and they didn’t notice and correct it until after their membership had been fully cancelled (in spite of receiving several emails about the situation!).
In an ideal situation, a credit card failure leads to temporary suspension of membership access, and an email notification to the member asking them to update their credit card details. The card is retried several times, and an email sent to the member on each failure. After a pre-determined number of attempts, the user’s membership is finally fully cancelled, and their website access is permanently removed.
Initially, Lynn was sending a link to a special form she had created for the member to update their credit card. Often, the member, having finally realised that they no longer had access, would go back through their old emails, find the link to the form, and use it to update their card details. The problem with that was that at this stage in the game, the member's access was no longer just suspended, it had been removed. The member, however, was still able to use the update credit card form, which that it led to a new open order, without the corresponding membership access being granted. That led to a mess that needed to be manually cleaned up.
We were able to use AccessAlly to our advantage to correct this problem. Instead of sending the delinquent member to an ONTRAPORT form to update their card, we are able to send them directly to the membership website, where they can login and update their credit card on their personalised billing page. The key difference is that if their membership has already been fully cancelled, they won’t be able to log in any more, so the trouble-making loophole is closed. The member is forced to sign up again through the normal order process to regain access, exactly as we would want.
User Engagement with ProgressAlly:
As I mentioned early on, Lynn cares a great deal about her members’ experience in her programs, and wants them to have the best opportunity to learn and retain knowledge. To this end, we made use of a few features of ProgessAlly.
First, Lynn set a series of learning objectives for each of the modules within her courses. As members progress through the course, they can check off the material as they complete. This leads to a sense of accomplishment, not to mention the practical benefit of a visual notation marking where they are at in their progress though the course. We implemented an indicator at the bottom of each course menu that shows the member’s overall progress through the course.
In addition to regular objectives, Lynn made use of another ProgressAlly feature called Video Objectives. She has many long (over an hour) videos, and if a member wants to refer back to some specific content, it is cumbersome and time-consuming to try to skip through the video to find that content. Video objectives allow you to click a link to jump to a particular point in the video.
Lynn has a video on just about every content page of her site. Not all of them are currently set up to use video objectives, however, in order to “future-proof” the site, I added each video using the ProgressAlly video shortcode, rather than a straight WordPress embed. This means she can easily add video objectives for her existing videos later, if she chooses.
Here's the code snippet (super simple!):
[progressally_youtube_video id='1' youtube_id='XXXXXXXXXXX' width='600' height='350']
Lynn also made use of ProgressAlly’s Private Notes feature, giving her members a place on each page of their program content to add their own notes, visible only to themselves, and not to other members. Note-taking is known to aid in retention of the material.
Finally, Lynn added social sharing through ProgressAlly. She wants her happy members to easily be able to share their experience on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter. However, because the content is protected, it does no good to share the actual content page. ProgressAlly allows a member to click a “share on Facebook” (for example) button, and share a pre-determined image and message, but with a link to the program sales page, instead of the content page itself.
Because the private notes and social sharing are added on each page of content, we made the shortcodes part of the page template, so Lynn doesn’t have to add it herself every time.
User Account Self-management:
Using simple AccessAlly shortcodes, I implemented custom account management pages for the members, accessible through a “My Account” menu. Users can update their own password and credit card, as well as view their order history and profile information. Any changes the user makes here are pushed back into ONTRAPORT.
Providing the ability for users to update their own password and credit card information leads to less support calls for Lynn.
Note that the site must be running over SSL for this to work.
After building the site, my final step was to migrate Lynn’s existing users to the new platform. There were two cases to cover.
First, Lynn had existing VIP Group members and Power Team members. They were tagged in ONTRAPORT to indicate their membership. For those users, I created a special one-time sequence to add the new access tags, and then used AccessAlly’s migration tool to import them into the new WordPress site.
Second, Lynn had users who had access to her old WordPress site through PilotPress as affiliate Partners. I gave them new login credentials, and used the same migration tool to move them over to the new website.
Contacts who are both partners and paid program members have a single userid and password to access the website, which contains both their affiliate dashboard and their program content.
6. The Results
"I had been searching for a web solution that would allow me to offer more content to my VIP Members, but it had to integrate with Ontraport. I found it with AccessAlly. The ability to track progress and take notes were features I haven’t seen anywhere else, and AccessAlly makes it easy to scale and easily add membership levels. I’m so grateful I found Julie Waterhouse - who’s certified with both Ontraport and AccessAlly. She’s just the techie expert I needed to make my vision a reality. Julie “got" what I wanted to accomplish, offering support to guide me along the way. Her project management and communication skills are exceptional, going above and beyond to deliver on her promises every step of the way. I’m so glad I found her! If you haven’t hired Julie yet - do it today. She gets the job done."
Lynn now has a new central location that her members can call home. She houses two monthly membership programs there, as well as three smaller eCourses. Members who have purchased any one of those offerings can see the existence of the others in their Dashboard, tempting them to purchase. Many of Lynn's affiliates are also members, making the fact that everyone logs into the same Dashboard a bonus. Members have the ability to update their own credit card information and passwords, reducing the number of support calls to Lynn's team. Lynn includes progress tracking and private note-taking in all her courses to help her students stay motivated, and learn more. She also includes a social sharing feature that allows her happy members to share her sales page for a program right at the point where they are consuming content. A resounding success!
Want help building your own AccessAlly membership site? Contact me today!