How to get around this post:

Context

So, I accidentally made a movie. It’s called The Migration, and if you’re interested it’s available right now. (Check it out)

But the reason I say “accidentally” is because I honestly didn’t plan for this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of how it turned out, but I’d be lying if I said I started this project with the intention of producing a feature length documentary.

I didn’t.

This whole thing started as a membership project – we set out to move my courses and content from Customerhub to AccessAlly.

I didn’t know what this migration process would require, so I decided we should document it step-by-step. I figured there were other people would would benefit from peeking over our shoulder.

Things just kind of snowballed from there.

Let me be clear – I use AccessAlly in my business, and I dig it. So, I’ve signed up as an affiliate partner. This means I earn a commission for any sales I refer. I’m sharing my first hand experience in case it helps you, but if you decide AccessAlly is a fit I’d love it if you used my links to get started. Thanks!

Now then, one of the most common questions I’ve had since launching my new membership site, is “Why did you choose AccessAlly?”

Why AccessAlly?

I wish I could say that I made a comprehensive list of pros and cons, that I thoroughly investigated my options, weighed what was important to me, and made a strategic decision.

But I didn’t, and the truth is actually kinda embarrassing.

I chose AccessAlly because my friend Jamie recommended it, and I trust her.

Now, it’s turned out to be a really good fit, and I feel comfortable defending the decision (see the features section below) – but at the time I made the choice, it was solely because of Jamie’s endorsement.

There are an infinite number of small business tools out there, and you could spend months testing and researching – but sometimes the easiest path forward is by leaning on the people who have earned your trust.

Sidenote: I put together this list of Tools I use – feel free to grab it and see if anything in there helps you. (Get the Ebook)

What is AccessAlly?

I guess at this point I should clarify WHAT AccessAlly is, and what it does for me.

At it’s core it’s a membership plugin for WordPress.

It controls who can view which pages on my site, and it connects with Infusionsoft (and a handful of other CRM softwares) to make sure that people are only presented with the things to which they have access.

If you’d like to section off pages of your site so that people have to log-in to view them, then AccessAlly might be a good fit for you.

Or, if you sell courses and you want to automatically unlock content for customers – well, AccessAlly can do that too.

I use AccessAlly to deliver free and paid content – and because it’s inside a login area you can also measure consumption and engagement.

(Here’s one of those cheeky AccessAlly affiliate links😎 )

Why should we listen to you, Greg?

Fair question.

I’m a normal guy running a business. And I was using CustomerHub, and it was working just fine.

But that’s the issue, it was “fine”. And so I stuck with it for three years, not because I liked it, but because it wasn’t broken.

And because change feels…hard.

Sound familiar?

So it took a catalyst for me to change. I knew there were fancier and more robust solutions out there – I just had other priorities.

And unless something is broken, it’s easy to focus elsewhere. Anyway, more on that in the documentary.

Features I Like

Honestly, my path into AccessAlly was a little unconventional.

You have to remember, I wasn’t just building a membership site – I was also creating a piece of content about building a membership site.

And for the sake of the content, I tried to keep myself in the dark – so that I could experience everything “for the first time” on camera.

It worked…sort of.

On the one hand, I was definitely surprised when I finally got to see the tool in action. But on the other hand I think I made things harder for myself because I didn’t do my homework in preparation for the project.

Anyway – I really like how easy it is to set up permissions on a page-by-page basis. I use Infusionsoft so I can designate certain pages that people can view if they do or don’t have specific tags on their contact record. Additionally, I can set up redirects so that if someone tries to view a page they don’t have access to they wind up somewhere else explaining what just happened.

That’s all pretty standard membership site stuff.

But AccessAlly also offers ProgressAlly, which has a set of eLearning features I’m digging.

When I was using CustomerHub I didn’t have any real method for tracking progress, and so one of the first things we did when getting onto AccessAlly was add checkboxes for each module so that my customers can track their progress.

There are options for triggering actions when someone checks off a module, and I’ll probably dig into that over time – but the first thing I wanted to do was get some easy wins in place so that people knew where they left off, and could easily see what to do next.

Another ProgressAlly feature I implemented was the Private Notes section. This gives customers the ability to jot down notes during a course – this is perfect for action items and making to-do lists without having to leave the course or video they’re on.

I’m a new AccessAlly user, so my focus has pretty much been on getting things moved over.

But I’m live on the new membership area now and I’m starting to get excited by all the different options this opens up. I’m not using them yet, but I’m planning to layer in quizzes to help measure retention, and gamify the process of unlocking certain bonus content.

What Surprised Me

Yeah, so, it’s turning out to be a really good fit for me, and I’m a proud AccessAlly partner – but it wasn’t really love at first sight (more like “love at first site”, am I right? 😉).

When we first moved my membership content over and I got to see it I was…underwhelmed.

Everything kinda looked the same. And initially I put that on AccessAlly.

I assumed that because I had seen good looking sites built on AccessAlly, that AccessAlly made your site look good.

And that’s simply not the case.

Like any WordPress site, the way it looks is controlled by the theme. And once I figured that out it helped me realign my expectations, and things started to click.

AccessAlly controls what pages people can see. It also offers a set of shortcodes you can use to hide and reveal content within a page, show course icons, and display subscriptions, credit cards, and user data.

ProgressAlly allows you to add checklists, progress bars, quizzes, private notes, and a handful of other features.

But neither really affect the actual look and feel of your site, those things are handled with your theme, or through little snippets of CSS code here and there.

Now that I know that, it’s all good. But I could have avoided some frustration if I had taken the time to understand this at the onset.

Competition

There is no shortage of options if you’re looking to build a membership site. So two questions to ask yourself early on are:

1. What will integrate with my website?
2. What will integrate with my CRM?

In my case my website is on WordPress, and Infusionsoft is my CRM – and from what I can tell there are three clear leaders when it comes to membership tools that integrate with both of those, AccessAlly, Memberium, and iMember360.

As I said in the “Why AccessAlly” section above, I chose AccessAlly largely based on Jamie’s recommendation – but I want to be clear that I have a very positive impression of both of the other tools as well. I’ve seen very high quality membership sites built on Memberium and on iMember360, and both platforms have proud and loyal users.

It feels like a cop out – but I simply don’t feel qualified to give a blow-by-blow comparative analysis because I simply haven’t spent enough time with all three options. However, if you’re looking for guidance there are plenty of capable Infusionsoft Partners who specialize in building membership sites. (Let me know if you need a recommendation.)

CustomerHub

Finally, Customerhub is Infusionsoft’s membership solution. As a former employee it’s a tool that I knew pretty well, and so it was the obvious choice when I was getting started and needed somewhere to host my courses.

I should point out that at least part of why I left CustomerHub was that it hadn’t evolved in several years – just last week Infusionsoft announced that CustomerHub had been reacquired by the original team that founded it. I’ve already transitioned onto AccessAlly, but I’m hopeful that this may mean that CustomerHub soon has some new life. (Read More)

What do I do next?

Well, if you need a membership site, and you’re ready to get started – then check out AccessAlly.

It’s a powerful tool, and while I’ve only been using it for a few months I am more than happy to endorse it. Beyond the plugin itself, I’ve been just as impressed with the team and community behind the tool.

Now, if you’re curious about what the process of building a membership site actually takes, well, then check out The Migration. I created it specifically for people like you: