Why We Moved Away From OptimizeMember To Thinkific For Our Membership site

ShoutMeLoud’s mission is to help you become your own boss, and for this, we do lots of stuff.

This article is for anyone who is planning to launch a membership site or already has one and is looking to optimize it. I have shared some of my lessons learned after spending countless hours and money on building and migrating  a membership site in 2018.

Note: This is only part 1 of our “Building A Membership Site” series; there are more coming soon.

The Hardest Part Of Launching A Membership Site:

When you are an expert in your field, then creating content is not a problem.

The biggest challenge is laying out the structure and building your membership site.

When we planned to launch ShoutUniversity (A membership program), we looked for tons of platform options, including WordPress-based membership solutions like OptimizePress and independent LMSs (learning management systems) like Thinkific, NewKajabi,  Teachable, and Coach to name a few.

Since I’m well-versed with WordPress and wanted to self-host my e-learning site, I picked an OptimizePress + OptimizeMember combination for our membership site.

Also, as we are using our own payment gateway, I thought there’d be no need to give away money to an LMS to host the courses for us.

Site view when using OptimizePressAnother reason for selecting OptimizePress was the control of customization.

Since our idea was to do a pre-launch offer and run special deals during festival times, using a system which offered us more control made more sense.

However, we were proven wrong.

Finally, after working on OptimizePress, my team and I made ShoutUniversity live. The system was looking pretty dashing and everything was working great.

However, one of our lead guys (@Sharatnik) had to spend countless days of work to change simple things. Personally, I was in charge of content, and adding content on OptimizePress was a challenge.

After using it for a month, we realized that OptimizePress is more for internet marketers rather than for a dynamic and evolving coaching program.

In fact, we were researching the whole thing all wrong; instead of looking for a membership-creation platform, we should have looked for a learning management system that let us build a membership site.

We needed something optimized for teaching and learning.

Well, we used OptimizePress for 8 months, and after understanding that the platform was not suitable for constantly updating content (and was not even that great for our course students), we decided to move on to another platform.

The Hunt For The Best LMS Membership Platforms

When you are launching a global membership site, you should really do your homework.

For us, it was a big learning curve. We now had to:

  • Find a new LMS (membership builder platform).
  • Move the content to the new LMS.
  • Build landing pages again.
  • Restructure everything.
  • Migrate existing students (100+) to the new platform.

Well, this time we made a few things clear in terms of our expectations. Here were the things we wanted:

  • A platform which was easy to use.
  • A platform which made learning easy. EX: Showed progress, course completion, certifications, etc.
  • Something affordable.
  • The ability to sell courses individually or as a bundle.
  • Something that allowed us to offer an affiliate program to interested users.
  • A platform which offered more branding opportunities.

And the hunt began…

This time, I signed up for all popular LMSs as both a student and as a coach. Here are the ones that I tested:

Since most of them offered trial accounts, I signed up and tried launching a course. Two of my team members also joined as students, and we spent about 10 days testing each platform to find out which was the most reliable.

I also took the help of Google Trends to see which ones were gaining traction.

Membership CMS Google Trends

Eventually, I shortlisted Teachable and Thinkific.

Teachable vs. Thinkific

When I started comparing Teachable and Thinkific, both of them seemed equally solid. When two products are so similar in features and quality, it gets really tough to make a choice.

However, there was just one missing feature in Teachable that made us pick Thinkific…

The problem (and we see this as a problem) with Teachable is that when a student clicks on “login”, instead of using the custom domain URL, it shows the Teachable domain URL:

Teachable domain URL

Here is ShoutUniversity on Thinkific:

Shout University on Thinkific

Personally, I don’t like to confuse people. Since both of them look rock solid on paper and have similar features, we picked Thinkific for this better branding advantage. Thinkific was also a little better in price!

We spent the next week migrating all the courses from our WordPress-based platform to Thinkific.

Earlier, all of my videos were hosted on Vimeo where I was paying $199/year, but now, we were able to host on Thinkific and save some money. Note: Both Thinkific and Teachable allow unlimited video hosting.

It’s now been 2 months on the Thinkific platform, and so far we have been getting a positive response from our members.

Thinkific

Side Note: Changing The Payment Model

We also changed the payment model from needing to buy all the courses to just buying individual courses as per a student’s needs.

This has been helping us get more users on board, as users who are already familiar with AdSense, for example, don’t want to take a course about it. So now, these users could pick only the affiliate course which costs $69 instead of paying $250 for all the courses they don’t want.

Conclusion: OptimizeMember vs. Other Platforms

If you are launching an online course or are planning to launch one, I would suggest that you don’t opt for OptimizePress or another plugin that takes away the essence of learning from your online courses.

There are specialized learning management systems out there like Thinkific, Teachable, and Coach that let you launch your online courses without any technical skills.

You should pick one of these platforms and focus on what you are good at- teaching.

Do you have an online course or are planning to launch one in the coming days? Do let me know what platform or system you are using/are planning on using. Share your ideas with us in the comment section below!

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

22 thoughts on “Why We Moved Away From OptimizeMember To Thinkific For Our Membership site”

  1. Hi sir,

    It was really a great help because I got to know about some new membership site. Thank you for teaching us and telling us about new great blogging tips. Thank you once again!!

  2. Hi Harsh,

    You’re a smart guy and your timely update proves that. Thanks for being so hardworking for informing your audience about all the latest events of your professional life on time.

    Regards,
    SM

  3. Hi Harsh,

    This was really interesting for me.

    I’ve got a free membership site that upgrades to a paid one.

    I spent a LOT of time figuring it out and I did get it, but I wish I had this article in front of me a couple of years back.

    I was combining WP with a member plugin (Fastmember). I was handling payment through JVZoo because, yes, I paid a commission to them, but Paypal charges a fee, too. Plus JVzoo handles all the affiliate stuff so I don’t need to get involved in that.

    Like you say, I just wanted to teach, not become a WP junkie.

    Most of my courses are video based, and lately I’ve been using live audio coaching calls, then copying the mp3 over a video for my membership site.

    But this is all a lot.

    I’m trying Thinkific, too, (I signed up for the free trial just before posting this comment) and thank you for this..

    It’s so nice to have YOUR team do all the due diligence for me ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Donna

    1. @Donna
      I know how painful setting up & managing a membership site could be. However, after shifting to Thinkific, my productivity has improved a lot & more over I don’t have to worry about management. Made some notable changes regarding how I was selling the course & so far it’s working out great. Do come back & share your experience after a week or two. If yu discover something new, do share that too ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Good for you seeing that branding difference so quickly Harsh. I do have a course on Teachable and love the platform but this is something to note. Because I am a bear with branding. Gotta have Blogging From Paradise on it to make it branded. At least most of the time ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. @Ryan
      How’s teachable working out so far? The branding is not a major difference that I would recommend to move from Teachable to Thinkific. but for those who are starting out, picking the one offer better branding make more sense. The idea is not to confuse the students.

  5. I’m wondering why you only evaluated hosted solutions?
    Why not Learn Dash, WP Courseware, or Learn Press for example?

    1. @Mark
      I was looking for a solution where I don’t have to worry about technical issues, that’s what I mentioned in the article.

  6. I agree but have a question. I’m testing a project with free wordpress plugin like amember, i don’t like it much. Can you suggest a good free membership plugin.

    Thanks
    Snaap

  7. Hi Harsh,

    I have had a membership site in the past and I was using both Optimize Press and Digital Access Pass. I was selling my membership on JVZoo as well.

    It was extremely complicated to learn, but I finally did learn it. I haven’t created a new membership site yet, but plan too one day.

    I had heard a lot of great things about Thinkific and after reading this post, I may have to go that route when I do decide to do it.

    Like you, I don’t want to spend days trying to figure out the techie aspects of setting up a membership site, I would rather just focus on the learning management.

    Thanks for sharing these tips, I am learning a lot from you.

    Have a great day ๐Ÿ™‚

    Susan

  8. Hi Harsh

    As usual it is always something new that keep me updated about this blogging word. Thanks for sharing information on platforms.

  9. Hi Harsh,

    A quick question. How did you add Instamojo for INR payments? via the Zapier integration or API? Thinkific is offering that in the Advanced plan, which is costly.

    Is there any way to accept INR payments in the starter plan. I’m creating my first course so don’t want to start off with a high investment.

    Or should I ignore Thinkific completely, take up a vimeo account and go that route. Idea is to start up with low investment and then grow the site as students grow.

    Would really appreciate your advice.

    Thanks,
    Sid

    1. @Sid
      That part I’m yet to configure. Right now it’s all manual work. Like users contact us (Who wants to pay in INR) & then we offer them Instamojo link. If your majority of the target audience is from India, then you should look for something else or look at their higher plan that allows working with Zapier. Even I found Advance plan costlier. ๐Ÿ˜

      1. Sincerely appreciate the revert, Harsh. Yes, the core idea is to have a USD + INR gateway. I’m yet to come across any plug in (at least internationally) which does that. It’s always a win some/lose some case. Well, will find an alternate route somehow.

        Thanks again for your time!

  10. shivam chaudhary

    Hi Harsh,

    A fast question. Through the Zapier integration or API? Thinkific is supplying that at the Advanced program, which can be costly.

    Are there some way to take INR obligations in the starter program. I am creating my very first course and thus don’t wish to start off using a high investment.

    Or if I dismiss Thinkific entirely, take a vimeo accounts and go that path. Idea is to begin with low investment and grow the website as pupils develop.

    Would really appreciate your information.

    1. @Shivam
      If your target audience is from India only, you can built something on WordPress if you like.
      Use EDD + Instamojo EDD gateway + some membership plugin will do the magic.

      If you don’t wanna complicate then look for more options. With Vimeo you will get the same problem of collecting payment. Find something that supports Indian payment gateway. There might be some site like Gumroad or similar for Indian audience.

  11. Teachable now provide custom domain in basic plan also.

    Teachable also provide INR support using credit cards only. So thinkific now need to support INR , otherwise it is not for Indian coaches.

  12. Hello Harsh,
    I am willing to start my online course site for Indian users. I have confusion that does Thinkific accept indian payment methods like debit card or internet banking? Let say a student want to pay via normal debit card of SBI bank, will it support?

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