Back in 2006 I began the process of researching which technology systems to use to sell an online teaching course.
I had originally planned to release an ebook and was looking at using Clickbank, or even just selling directly with a Paypal link. There were a few other dedicated ebook selling services around too.
After 8 months I scrapped the ebook project and switched my focus to releasing a membership site. I gave myself a hard deadline this time and got busy working.
With a membership site I knew I would have to password protect my content and also have a way to take payments and automatically set up accounts for my new paying members.
At the time I looked closely at a few options, including –
I had previously played around with the 1SC software and loved how much of an all-in-one-system it was. It could handle payments, affiliates and also had an email autoresponder and broadcast tool.
Mike Filsaime had just released his Butterfly Marketing software, which could be used to take payments and protect membership content. It also had some cool built-in viral affiliate marketing tools that I was eager to use.
Amember was the default tool a lot of people were using at the time to host membership sites. It focused on protecting content and didn’t have many other features outside of this core function. You would have to add on an affiliate system and a payment system, while aMember would password protect the content and create member accounts.
Amember is still going strong today and have no doubt increased the capabilities of the software.
Back then I explored a few other options, but because many of my peers and mentors were using these three technologies, they were my lead contenders.
My Early Technology Setup
I decided Butterfly Marketing was the system to use, primarily because it had the simplest, and I believed, most effective affiliate system.
Bear in mind I do not use or recommend Butterfly Marketing anymore. In fact I don’t think you can even purchase it, although my original review of the software still ranks well in Google search.
Since I was planning my first ever product launch process, I liked that Butterfly Marketing encouraged people to share the free resources you release via the in-built and well structured affiliate system. Theoretically this would help you reach more people. Nothing motivates like the potential to make a commission, especially if all you have to do is share great content.
From the affiliate system point of view Butterfly Marketing worked well. Unfortunately much of the rest of the system was quite buggy, especially integration for re-billing, which with a membership site is obviously important.
To put a long story short, I did manage my first ever membership site launch with Butterfly Marketing, but it was a harrowing experience with lots of intervention from my tech people.
After that initial experience I switched to 1ShoppingCart, which was more stable software. However, because I was using AWeber for my email lists and not the integrated 1SC autoresponder, I didn’t get the seamless experience as if I was using all of the 1SC tools.
There were also some challenges regarding Paypal not working for recurring billing back then. Instead I had to set up my first ever merchant account, which I did with Eway, an Australian provider that still leads the way today.
I wasn’t 100% happy with 1SC re-billing or affiliate tracking, which resulted in quite a few hours put in to manually verify sales, make sure members were charged appropriately and affiliates were credited with their commission.
Due to these less than ideal experiences with 1SC I decided to once again change, this time over to Clickbank. I made the change because I was sick of the confusion and hassles and liked that Clickbank would pretty much handle everything and just pop the money into my bank account directly once a week.
While Clickbank isn’t the most comprehensive tool, and the interface is archaic, they do provide a good service.
I liked that I didn’t have to track affiliate sales and payout affiliates manually via Paypal – Clickbank handled this for me.
I used the software EasyClickMate with Clickbank to create a Butterfly Marketing style system for my affiliates and I was good to go.
For the remaining years that my training programs were available, my technology set-up was wonderfully simple. I used…
My Original Technology Setup
- WordPress with password protection created via htaccess (so no need for membership software, not even something like Wishlist)
- Aweber to deliver membership content in a drip release sequence just using an autoresponder
- Clickbank to take payments with credit card and Paypal, and also to handle all affiliate sales and commission payments
- EasyClickMate to give my affiliates lots of tools to promote my products with
And that was it!
This combination served me well for many years and I still highly recommend it, especially if you only have one or two products. Although I missed out on the bells and whistles and advanced features of some of the newer tools that were coming out, I didn’t mind.
This system was delightfully simple and reasonably hands off. It meant we experienced fewer technological errors and it was closer to a passive solution.
If you want a more detailed breakdown of all of this, I encourage you to read or listen to my Membership Site Masterplan report.
Doing It All Again
I closed down all my training programs in the last two years, which gave me the opportunity to reinvent my product delivery system and bring it up to date.
With the recent opening of EJ Insider, my new system was tested live for the first time. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment…
I have to admit I was very tempted to stick with the simplicity of my previous system for the release of my new products.
The reason I decided not to was because I have quite a few new products coming out and I want them to be integrated.
To create a proper Sales Funnel, you need to seamlessly move people from suspects (website visitors) to prospects (email subscribers) to warm leads (segmented subscribers), to customers (buyers) and then hyper-responsive customers (buyers of multiple products up to your high end products).
1ShopppingCart, from all those years ago when I first played with it, could have done many of the things I wanted. I haven’t looked at it recently, but I have no doubt they have upped their game since I used them.
Having been scared away by all the talk of how confusing Infusionsoft is and how much easier Office Auto Pilot is, it made for an easy choice.
You can read my recent timeline update post for more on my research process to choose a new system.
I Still Love AWeber
The only thing I was concerned about was moving away from AWeber.
I really love AWeber. It has been a great system and I wholeheartedly endorse them as the place to go for your first email newsletter service (you can read my AWeber review here).
I used AWeber for eight years and they have helped me make hundreds of thousands of dollars online thanks to email newsletters.
AWeber is a list based email management tool. If you want to segment a subscriber, you need to either move them from one list to another based on an action, or add them to a new list, again based on action like opting in to a new web form.
You can also segment subscribers based on what emails they open or what links they click, as I did in this little case study –
Of course Aweber is not a shopping cart, nor does it handle affiliate management. It’s a great email broadcast and autoresponder tool and that is its core function.
My current plan involves releasing a series of products and having a series of email autoresponder sequences. I want to integrate affiliates under the one system as well, and also have the power to trigger events based on all kinds of different actions, from clicking a link, to landing on a page.
To put it simply, I needed a more powerful contact management tool with integrated email follow-up, affiliate management, product delivery and payment processing.
I wanted everything to be under the one system so I could take full advantage of all the features, unlike my first experience when I combined AWeber with 1ShoppingCart, limiting the integrative features I could use.
Office Auto Pilot
I signed up with Office Auto Pilot (OAP / now Ontraport) and started watching the training videos, which are unusually entertaining.
I quickly got my head around how the email system works, then followed the instructions to import my lists from AWeber to OAP. Everything went smoothly.
Instead of moving or adding a person from one list to another like AWeber does, you add tags to a contact. The tags can then be used to manipulate what happens to that contact.
I immediately began adding tags to my subscribers so I knew who signed up for what.
I can then send specific information based on what that tag means. If you joined via MembershipSiteMastermind.com then I know you are interested in membership sites, and can add you to an email sequence that delivers information about that.
You can of course do all these things with a list based system like AWeber. However as you dig into what OAP can do, you start to see the real power behind the system.
You can set actions if a person buys a product, or clicks a link (or doesn’t), or goes to a certain webpage, or have been subscribed for a certain length of time, or visited a page a number of times, or spent a certain amount of money or countless other criteria.
The action might be to subscribe or unsubscribe the person from a follow-up sequence, or send a postcard, or give them access to a membership site, or remove a tag or add a tag, or all kinds of different things.
OAP also provide a plugin for WordPress called PilotPress, which gives you the power to use WordPress as a membership site. This is exactly what I have done for the EJ Insider program.
The plugin connects OAP with WordPress, so you can set membership levels to grant access to resources inside your WordPress area that are controlled by all the actions and tags available inside OAP.
For the moment I am using OAP for email newsletters (broadcasts), follow-up email sequences, and as a content delivery (drip release) and membership protection system for my products.
As I roll out more products I will begin to use more of the features OAP provides. I look forward to telling you about all of this as I test things and see what impact it has.
What System Should You Use?
I still recommend you start with AWeber for your first email newsletter when you are just beginning. You can also use it as an advanced marketer comfortably, just as I have done and thousands of other businesses do.
If you have the funds and more importantly, are at a stage where you can take advantage of the features Office Auto Pilot provides, I can say so far that I highly recommend it too. I’m loving using tags and my eyes are continually opening to the potential inside the system.
I should mention that it’s worth also looking into 1ShoppingCart as a middle level option between AWeber and Office Auto Pilot.
To give you a rough outline, this is how my new system currently looks –
My Current Technology Setup
- Office Auto Pilot for email and contact management, shopping cart, affiliate management and membership protection via the PilotPress plugin.
- WordPress to deliver membership content, which thanks to PilotPress allows me to protect different pages and posts based on membership levels I define within Office Auto Pilot, and then apply to customers based on actions they take. All of this is automated, the technology does it for me once setup.
- Paypal and Eway with the Commonwealth Bank in Australia to take payments. Paypal “mass pay” to pay affiliates.
I have recently set up Paypal Pro, so I can charge different currencies, in particular USD, as at the moment with Eway and my bank, only AUD is permitted. Paypal Pro is a merchant account that basically allows you to take payments via Paypal without the person needing to go to Paypal.com.
This system is what I use right now to sell the first product I released so far this year – the EJ Insider Interviews Club.
The interviews are all inside the EJInsider.com WordPress content management system, protected by PilotPress. Membership levels controlled by Office Auto Pilot determine what people get access to after they take an action. In this case the action is making a purchase.
New interviews are drip released via an email sequence I have set up. There are also actions as part of the drip release sequence that “reveal” the new interviews inside the membership area as each week passes.
It took a while to set all of this up. Carly, the new head of tech at EJ Insider, and I have worked some long hours to make everything work as it should.
Now that the system is set up, it’s easier to release new products because they can all go inside the one membership area. I can do a lot fun things going forward thanks to OAP, which I am looking forward to playing with.
More Updates Coming Soon
I hope you have enjoyed this little look behind the scenes at the technology I am currently combining to deliver my training products.
There are a few other tools I will reveal once I have used them more and can explain how well they did or did not work. I also have a whole lot to test and then report back to you with results in regards to what Office Auto Pilot can do. It’s a beast.
For now, I have to get back to working on product number two for this year.
Talk to you soon, and keep up the good work on your business!