Interested in creating courses and membership products?
Have you heard about ActiveMember360 and were wondering if it could help you protect your course or membership content?
Great, because in this article I will be covering not only what ActiveMember360 can do and why it could well be a perfect membership site solution for you, to the limitations it has and why it might be best for you to avoid it entirely.
But why listen to me? Here's a quick bit of backstory.
I first stumbled on ActiveMember360 in 2016.
At the time, I had been toying with numerous free and inexpensive membership site plugins for WordPress...and I was almost at the end of my rope. It seemed that I just couldn't get them to do what I wanted.
They all showed glimmers of promise, until the eventual disappointment would come. The realization of the wasted hours invested in trying to get the membership to work as it should. Time that you will never get back.
Then, I found ActiveMember360 and signed up for the free trial.
It was completely different to any of the other membership plugins for WordPress that I had tried. Once I saw what it could do, I began to have hope at last; "THIS" had been what I was looking for the whole time and didn't realize it.
I experimented with it, made short tutorial videos about it and next thing you know I created the first course for AM360 back in 2017 on Udemy as well as shared an early version of the full course with The Active Marketer membership.
More than three years have passed and I'm still using ActiveMember360 and have more plans ahead for it, so I'm quite certain that I can pass along some helpful insights if this is some software that you're serious about investing in.
Is ActiveMember360 the right Membership solution?
It might seem odd to ask if ActiveMember360 is the right solution for you before we've even talked about how it works and what it can do for your membership...but there are a few key "gotchas" with ActiveMember360 that if they are 'deal breakers' for you, well it's not going to matter what else AM360 can do.
So if you don't want a membership platform that:
- Is based in WordPress
- Only works with ActiveCampaign
- Core functionality is lost if there is an ActiveCampaign outage
Why would any of these potentially be a cause for concern?
First up - WordPress is a great platform to build a website or a membership site with. It's been around for well beyond a decade...truly standing the test of time. It's open source and integrates with all kinds of amazing third party plugins (like ActiveMember360) to give it even more features.
The bad news is that because WordPress is so popular...it can also be a target for hackers. You can also encounter issues whenever there are major updates to WordPress and your theme and/or plugins may not function as intended for some time.
Not to mention your WordPress installation is also only as good as the web hosting provider it rests on top of. If you build a high traffic membership site on cheap, shared hosting...expect problems. So if you're not going to invest in decent hosting and keep your WordPress version, plugins and themes up to date...it's only a matter of time before you run into trouble.
Next - ActiveCampaign. If you're using anything other than ActiveCampaign for sending email and your marketing automation...then sorry, ActiveMember360 isn't for you. As the name likely implies the "active" part relates to "ActiveCampaign"...which means ActiveMember360 doesn't work with anything else.
Lastly, functionality loss during ActiveCampaign outages. As you'll learn further down in this article, ActiveMember360 reads through the data on your contact profile in ActiveCampaign to determine which content visitors can and can't browse on your membership site. This also means that if ActiveCampaign suffers from a service outage for 5 minutes....or 5 hours, you'll lose core functionality for your membership.
Things like logging in successfully and viewing protected content will be impossible during an outage.
This won't likely be much of a problem when you're first starting out, but just imagine if you have a site with hundreds of members and suddenly your inbox is flooded with complaints and even refund requests because there just so happens to be an ActiveCampaign outage happening that is beyond your control.
I'm not trying to paint a bleak picture here, but I want you to enter into using ActiveMember360 with open eyes regarding potential vulnerabilities that could result. There is no perfect solution, so you need to weigh the pros and cons that work for your business.
Outages are rare, but they do happen...and the timing never seems to be right for your business when an outage happens. It always seems like it's on the start or end of an important launch...doesn't it?
So now that we have some of the drawbacks out of the way...here are some of the reasons you might want to go with ActiveMember360 to build your membership site.
Power In Simplicity
ActiveMember360 isn't necessarily easy to use at first, because in many ways you have to "unlearn" experiences picked up from using other WordPress membership plugins.
However, the genius behind ActiveMember360 is that it isn't trying to be "smart" by trying to be a shopping cart and an affiliate program...
...all it does is protect your content.
Okay, that's a lie - because ActiveMember360 now also boasts a simple payment extension for selling digital products via Stripe; but the core focus is to protect your content by tightly integrating ActiveCampaign with WordPress.
It allows or denies access to content based on the tags and/or membership levels that are associated with the contact record inside of ActiveCampaign.
In essence, this makes ActiveCampaign "the brain" behind a membership you build with ActiveMember360.
Since ActiveCampaign is already great at email, automation and managing contacts - ActiveMember360 does the other part; it communicates back and forth with ActiveCampaign - "reads" the tags related to each contact and allows or intercedes whenever necessary to ensure that only those with adequate permissions ever see protected content.
That is the core of what ActiveMember360 does. If you can wrap your head around that concept...you'll get the hang of how it works much quicker.
What Third Party Apps Work With ActiveMember360?
Here's the good news, as long as the software you want to use can apply a tag or trigger an automation inside of ActiveCampaign, it will work with ActiveMember360.
Want a list? Here's just a s few of the cool shopping carts that you can use with ActiveMember360 (if for some reason you don't want to use their built-in payment extension that integrates with Stripe):
Not to mention that AM360 is compatible with HTML builder software for WordPress like Beaver Builter, Elementor, Thrive Architect and Oxygen.
Stupid Membership Sites
Have you ever had to add a free member to your membership and found it next to impossible?
This was the problem I was wrestling with when I found ActiveMember360.
I find it very ironic that the fact other membership plugins couldn't elegantly handle "free" members was the main reason I was ready to pay money for ActiveMember360 instead.
How bad were those other membership plugins?
- Some free membership plugins forced you to pay to upgrade to allow free members.
- Others forced a member to pay some fee to get in, even if it was only $1.
- Another had a free option, but the form was so ugly and had to be manually filled out by the prospect, that it was essentially a non-option anyway.
The smart thing about ActiveMember360 is that it doesn't pretend to be "smart", it just lets ActiveCampaign do all the thinking.
Getting Started with ActiveMember360
Choose Your Membership Levels
You can have as many membership levels as you want, but it's best to keep it simple. You could have a "Free" and "Paid" level. Or you could have "Silver", "Gold" and "Platinum" levels. You could have individual courses protected as a level and then offer a membership with a single tag that grants levels to all of the courses below it. In short there is plenty of flexibility to set up your content protection the way you want to.
Assign a Tag for each level
You can choose from a pre-existing tag inside of your ActiveCampaign account of come of with a new one. It could be as simple as MEMBER: Gold Level - to grant access to the gold level of your membership level, there's no need to be clever here right? As long as the tag exists inside of your ActiveCampaign account, you can assign that tag to protect a level inside of your ActiveMember360
Lock down your content
Once you've assigned a tag to protect your content only people with the tag can access it. You can lock down content at the membership level all the way down to the post level. Heck, you could even protect content within a page with a tag which is a bit more advanced (but entirely possible) using ActiveMember360. The bulk editor inside ActiveMember360 allows you to add tags without having to click into each and every page one at a time.
Grant Access to your content
Granting access is super simple. ActiveMember360 automatically creates a password for new contacts via the way it integrates with WordPress and ActiveCampaign, so you just need to send along their credentials (the login url, their email address and the password) via an email after they've opted in for a free membership level (friction-free because you don't have to send them to a shopping cart) or after they've paid for access. As long as your shopping cart integrates with ActiveCampaign and can pass a tag to the buyer after a confirmed purchase, ActiveMember360 can handle the rest.
Want to manually add a free member to a membership site?
- Find or create the contact inside of ActiveCampaign
- Assign the access tag to their contact profile
- Done! You don't even need to create a password because ActiveMember360 generates one automatically.
Want to gift a paid membership to a friend?
Just add the paid membership tag to their contact record - now they have full access.
- No jumping through hoops of any kind.
- No conflicts between your website and shopping cart.
Once I saw how easy it was to do this without involving a shopping cart and coupons or whatever - I was sold. There simply wasn't an easier way to run a free or paid membership in my book.
What ActiveMember360 Can Do
- Fully integrates with ActiveCampaign
- Allows two-way communication between ActiveCampaign & (self-hosted) WordPress
- Unlimited Membership Levels
- Paid or Free Memberships
- Automatic password creation for subscribers
- Drip content (via ActiveCampaign automation you build)
- Ability to "autologin" members
- Direct integrations with Woo Commerce, LearnDash, Lifter LMS, Contact Form 7 & more
- Built-in Simple Payment Extension that integrates w/ Stripe for sales of digital goods
What ActiveMember360 Doesn't Do
- Doesn't work with non-Wordpress sites
- Doesn't work with other email automation platforms
- Doesn't have a built-in Learning Management System
- No built-in course design or template
Beyond Free and Paid Memberships
What I really love about ActiveMember360 is that I get access to all of the cool automation and tagging features I already love inside ActiveCampaign and can use them to manage access to content on my WordPress site.
Not only is it a great way to deploy a free or paid membership, but it's also a terrific way to create a third-style of gated contact that I like to call VIP or "restricted content".
What is restricted content? It's content that isn't necessarily free or paid - but you can only get access to it based on your behavior.
Now you can serve content based entirely on your prospects behavior - no more guess work needed. Reward those who are most likely to upgrade to become a customer.
I love this degree of control that you just can't get with memberships that don't tightly integrate with your CRM.
Take it to the next level by building in lead scoring inside ActiveCampaign.
Have a prospect that is devouring all of your emails at a frantic pace? You can grant them access to paid content in the hopes of getting them to upgrade.
You can have a "preview" campaign where you allow free access to paid content for a short time. It could be for a week or even a weekend.
All that's required is to build a simple automation to both add and remove the access tag after the desired amount of time that you want for the campaign. Then add a few emails to let them know about their chance to view the inside of your membership for a limited time.
When everything is ready, activate the automation and move the contacts in via the bulk editor inside of ActiveCampaign and your preview campaign is underway!
Your chosen contacts will instantly have permission to view content that was previously blocked.
When the preview is over, the automation will remove the tag and your contacts will revert without any further work on your part.
You can qualify free subscribers by attributing a lead score for specific actions that they take on your site, weighing scores more heavily as they near the point of making a purchase.
This is just one way you can reward your prospects for taking any action that moves them closer to becoming a customer, and possibly give them a nudge to purchase a little bit faster.
You could also offer them a deeper discount if they same like they are the ideal prospect for your products or services.
How much does AM360 cost?
If you were hoping that the answer to your membership troubles was less than twenty bucks, then you might be disappointed.
[Since this article was originally published, ActiveMember360 have changed their pricing. You can see the most up-to-date pricing by viewing the ActiveMember360 pricing page here.]
The truth is, if you want membership options as powerful as you get with ActiveMember360, you need to pay for it.
Paying for software is actually reassuring to me, because I've lost track of all the software companies that start by offering something for free and then abandon it later.
There's nothing worse than building an elaborate membership with software that goes obsolete or is no longer supported inside of six months. That's not going to happen here.
In the years since I've been using ActiveMember360 there have been numerous updates that have only improved the product (like that Stripe payment extension).
Is ActiveMember360 Right For You?
We've touched on many aspects of what I like about ActiveMember360, this hasn't been a typical blow by blow listing of all of the features and tech involved that you might find elsewhere.
It's worth noting that ResponseFlow - the company behind ActiveMember360, has been working on membership software since 2009. They built iMember360 which allowed users to integrate Infusionsoft (now know as Keap) with WordPress and is the precursor for ActiveMember360.
When I first started using ActiveMember360, I found features that were "baked in" that I hadn't seen in any of the other plugins I had tested. ActiveMember360 is a mature and stable product that has evolved from years of experience in the field.
However, for all of the power you can get with AM360, you will be confronted with decisions. If you're looking for a simple membership solution that requires three clicks and you're done - this isn't the product for you.
There is a bit of a learning curve involved and depending on the complexity of the membership you want to set up, there could be many steps involved between dreaming it and building it.
But in my experience, ActiveMember360 can do pretty much anything you can dream of.
They have a helpful team that are attentive, often offering one on one consults to customers. There is also a community of enthusiasts on Facebook consisting of web developers and other product owners who are happy to answer questions and help new users along.
Don't forget that you can also sign up for a 30 day free trial of AM360, plenty of time to try out all of the bells and whistles and get a basic membership site up and running with their platform and then decide from there.