Have you been considering building your own membership program? How would you manage it? What if you want to have live events? Could most of the system be automated? Are there any solutions out there that are easy to use, provide key functionality while all at a reasonable cost?
In this post I am reviewing Wild Apricots member management system. They call it “Member Management Magic.” I don’t know if I would call it “magic” but I will tell you what the system can do and show you a real life case study of a recent implementation that eliminated six different systems reducing duplicate work and saved several thousands of dollars in annual costs.
The Challenges of Online Member Management
Choosing a membership management system can be a daunting task. Why? There are really two sides to it. On one side you have what you would like to do and on the other side there is what is actually possible based on the system you choose.
Some questions you may have asked…
- Should I buy software that I install on my site to manage my member program?
- Should I use a hosted (a monthly service subscription) membership solution?
- What if I want to have multiple membership levels?
- Can I take registrations for events?
- Will I be able to build a subscriber list?
- Can I segment my list?
- Can I control the content that the members have access too?
Plus many more!
Fundamentally I think a membership management system needs to accomplish two main things:
- It must save you and other administrator’s time and be easy for everyone to use
- It must also be easy for your members to use.
How does Wild Apricot solve Membership Software problems?
Wild Apricot Membership Software is designed to make managing a membership program easy for you and for your members.
Wild Apricot is a SaaS (Software As A Service) system. That means you do not install software on your own computers. The software is completely hosted on their servers. There are advantages and disadvantages of SaaS that we won’t get into for this review.
Here are the high level items you need to know about to help you make your decision. Learn More about Wild Apricot
Let’s address this first. Site Administrators can take member payments online via Paypal or Authorize.net. If you are running an association or deal with corporate accounts you can also provide information so that members can mail in checks.
Contacts in Wild Apricot
The basic system is set up with a distinction between contacts and members. Your contact database includes all members and non-members. You can add custom fields to the basic contact level to help you segment your list from the subscription form on your website. The primary benefit is that all your contacts are in one database.
Simple Member Management
Member management is very easy with Wild Apricot. You can create as many levels of membership as you want. Each one can have its own price point and options. You can also create custom fields for capturing additional information so you can segment your list further. You are in full control of what you want to do with your members.
Once you set up the default emails your membership program runs on autopilot. There are a number of options available for length of membership, etc. You can also upload an existing database that you have and can export the database quickly and easily out of Wild Apricot.
For associations and clubs you can create searchable directories that are either public or private for members only. You can also control which information is seen publicly. For example you may not want others to see email addresses and mobile phone numbers.
The system is setup for Self Management. Each member can manage all their data quickly and easily. Take Wild Apricot for a Spin with their Free Trial (no CC needed)
Groups and Membership Segmentation
You can segment your membership further by letting them signup for different groups. This could be various committee’s if you’re an association.
Wild Apricot’s Event Management Component
Events are easy to add. Here you can also set up many different options for how people can sign up for events. You can offer different price points for members and non-members. You can even create custom discount codes. With each registration type you can add additional options for free or additional costs.
When members register for events it notes their account so you can segment your list in the future by those that attended events. Once you add an event in your back office it instantly appears on your event calendar on your website.
Hint: Events can also be used as a way to sell instant download products and training not just for live events.
Email Management with Wild Apricot
You can send emails from the contact or member section in your back office. Searches of your database are easy to do and the system is very fast. Once you segment the list you can send an email out in just a few clicks. You can save draft emails and recall previous emails for fast edit and resend.
Basic email tracking is included for number of opens and clicks on links. There are many automated emails tied to Membership and Events that you can customize. It does not currently integrate common autoresponders like Aweber.
Note: The emails are sent from Wild Apricots domain names not yours. Return email addresses are customizable.
Reporting with Wild Apricot
There is a nice dashboard in the members section that gives a high level overview of what is going on with your members. There are quick income reports that you can run as well as quick views of event attendees.
Wild Apricot’s Website Integration
Wild Apricot includes a CMS (content management system) for building your website. Their system includes many different template options that you can choose from. They all have a variety of customization options to get the look and feel that you want. You can use a subdomain name on their system or you can setup your own domain name.
With this option you truly have one single platform for your entire online membership management system. You can also use the key parts of membership system on your own website using their widgets. No HTML knowledge needed and there are more options for those who are more technical.
Content Management with Wild Apricot
Content can be controlled on multiple levels. Every page you set up can be public or private for member only access. You can create segments of member levels that have access. For instance you can make a page only available to your Gold Members while another page may be accessed by both Gold and Silver level members. Wild Apricot also has options for blogging and member only forums.
Wild Apricot Support
I have found the Wild Apricot support to be solid. They are just a phone call away. Their staff is very knowledgeable about the system. Their online help and tutorials provide step by step, easy to understand instructions on every aspect of the system. They also have a very responsive online support team for addressing any specific problems. More info on Wild Apricot Free 30 Trial (no Credit Card) here
The Membership Management Challenge My Client Had
The challenge that a small association faces that uses an all volunteer staff are many. Not having an easy to use member management system can be a really big headache. At the heart of it is having systems that are easy to use and do not create redundant work.
Example of what my client was using to manage their membership:
- Constant Contact for email
- WebOffice for backend database (both prospect and member)
- Eventbrite for event management
- Quickbooks for Invoicing members (more on Quickbooks in point Six here)
- Shopping cart on GoDaddy for taking membership payments
- Membership software on their website for member directories
- Multiple users needing to access all of these systems
The implications were that it was very hard to manage the data. Consistent communication was poor. Revenue was lost because of poor records, and each of these items had a separate cost, etc.
Wild Apricot has done a really nice job of solving all these problems by providing one easy to use and manage system. We were able to pull everything into Wild Apricot and eliminate all of these other systems. In this case we integrated Wild Apricot with the client’s website using the Wild Apricot widgets.
The result has been that registration for events are up and we are seeing new members join on a regular basis.
What I Like About Wild Apricot
There is a lot to like about the system. It has a lot of customization options that as you start to experiment with you will find yourself coming up with new ways to share content and engage your members.
One of the things I like most is the free trial. The free trial really gave us the chance to work with the system so that we could make all the critical decisions to make sure it would work for what we needed.
I found that changes made in the back office like events, member information, etc. instantly update on the website as well…eliminating duplicate work.
The backend system is very easy to navigate and find the information you need as well as managing all aspects of membership, events and content.
We did training with the other administrators of the system and every one of them found the system very easy to use and picked up things right away.
The overall end to end management of the database is very good.
The One Thing I Wish Wild Apricot Offered
There are a couple of things I wish Wild Apricot offered. I guess if I had to pick one I would say that I would like to see more of a CRM (customer relationship management) component to the system. It would be great to be able to make date specific notes and create follow up sequences for a specific member or prospect. Maybe that will come out in a future release.
So How Much Does Wild Apricot Cost?
Wild Apricot provides several price levels to fit your specific needs. In my opinion the price points compared to the functionality are a significant value.
They have a complete breakdown on their website but basically there is a Free Level and Free Trial option then monthly options of $25, $50, $100 and $200 per month. The main difference is how many total contacts you can have in your database.
The free option is up to 50 contacts, next is 250, 500, 2000 and finally up to a maximum of 15,000 contacts. (contacts include contacts and members) You also get more file storage and larger single file uploads as you move up the scale.
The pricing is a flat rate. There are no additional costs and at the $50 level and up you can have as many administrators as you want. Try it Free.
My Take on Wild Apricot Member Management Software
I think it is a great system. It does take some setup time to get the system the way you want it to be and then its smooth sailing. Wild Apricot Member Management Software has really made managing an association so much easier and saved a significant amount of time for our volunteer staff. Everyone is really happy with the system.
Find out for yourself if it is right for your membership needs by utilizing the Wild Apricot free trial. No credit card needed.
Guest Columnist: Peter Brissette is the Digital Marketing Dude. He provides marketing strategy consulting, membership management, and other implementation services.You can get his free digital marketing tips and other gifts at http://www.dmdude.com