A Membership with both Digital AND Physical Products…. Part One: The Problems


I’m smack dab in the middle of the most massive change I’ve ever made to the systems/software I use in my business.. switching to Infusionsoft.

I had heard of Infusionsoft long ago, but they market themselves as a ‘marketing software’ and between not knowing how much more it does, and also not having the budget for it back then, I never even really gave it much of a thought at all.

I rediscovered the software again recently, while Googling an issue I was having in my own systems (more about that in a second). That’s when I found out that Infusionsoft does pretty much everything.

About the logistical nightmare I’d created:

Last year, I started a Kit of the Month Club, and in the last 17 months, it has exploded. We went from 0 to over 2,000 members.

I open it up once a month, and we average over 100 new members each launch, with even more during the Christmas season.

What makes this membership unique to a lot of the other memberships out there, is that the product is both digital AND physical. So, members get access to a membership site with content, but then most members also get a physical product sent to them in the mail, too.

When I started the club, I had a PayPal “subscribe” button, integrated with AWeber (email software), and a Facebook group. And that was it. It worked for a month or two, when our numbers were about 2-300.

But, as we started growing, I realized a Facebook group alone was not enough. Mainly because I had content I was giving my members, and you can’t organize content in a Facebook group. I was also emailing stuff to my members, but this still didn’t give me the central location for the content that I was looking for.

Aside from that, sometimes when new members joined, they didn’t get their emails, and would never get the Facebook group link, the content they’d paid for, or anything else. In the beginning, a few mishaps don’t seem like a huge deal and are easy to fix, but when you are starting to deal with hundreds and hundreds of members, it can turn into a customer support nightmare.

I realized I was going to need some sort of membership site.

The idea was, new members would join, then be re-directed into our membership site, where they would find all the information they needed about their membership, their eBooks and content, & the link to the private Facebook group. They would ALSO get an email – so I had 2 touchpoints instead of just one.

The problem I ran into was that every membership site software I found was made for digital products, not digital and physical. The only software I found that would help me manage a physical subscription product was CrateJoy, but that one did not have the digital component (a place my members could access digital content). It was also a little more ‘shake n bake’ than I liked, not very customizable. I am not a fan of building something on a platform I don’t own or have the ability to customize.

You would think this situation would not be that difficult, right? Just create a membership site with all the digital content, and then also ship out everyone’s kits each month, using a separate application.

That’s what I thought, and it was what I decided to do. I set up a membership site using WishList Member software, which integrates with both PayPal and AWeber – awesome. A new member would join through a PayPal/Wishlist button – be brought into the membership site – and be automatically added to my AWeber list.

And, to handle shipping each month… after all of the month’s payments were collected, I would download the list of ‘active’ members from WishList, upload them into my shipping app, and ship away. Life was beautiful.


I learned a few things very quickly.

  1. PayPal integrations are not 100% reliable. They just aren’t, and I have no explanation as to why – but sometimes the new member would be added into the membership site, and sometimes they just wouldn’t. Sometimes they’d be added to the AWeber email list.. and sometimes they wouldn’t. And, sometimes a member would cancel and be auto-removed from WishList – and sometimes they wouldn’t.
  2. Payments skip sometimes. Meaning, if a member’s credit card expired or something like that, their payment would just skip. Another awesome thing about PayPal? They don’t notify the customer. They notify YOU, the seller. AFTER the skip has happened. So I would email the customer, let them know, ask them to fix it in their PayPal account (and 90% of the time the customer would write back with their credit card number asking ME to do it for them, which of course I can’t… so I have to explain that I can’t, which never goes over well) – and then both the customer and I have to wait 5 days for PayPal to re-try the card. PayPal does not let a seller re-charge the card themself.
  3. As a continuation of the above issue (because this problem caused multiple issues) once we were up there in number of members, this skip thing was a complete nightmare. There are usually at least 50 skips a month. This meant that we would also have to temporarily de-activate those people from the Wishlist software so I could download all the paid members…  because by this time, I have begun our shipment for the month. THEN, we would have to re-activate them when their payment came through and add them to a list to manually ship later.
  4. Sometimes even when the customer thought they had fixed their account, it still skipped again. After 2 more skips, PayPal cancels them. We now have a confused and possibly angry customer, and if they aren’t angry enough to want to be done with us completely, we would re-join them by having to get them to sign back up again from scratch. Sigh.
  5. PayPal absolutely sucks as a CRM. They are good for collecting payments (sort of), but you can’t manage your customers easily at all. Their recurring payments dashboard looks like it was designed in 1995, and works like it, too.
  6. On top of all of this, Facebook group adds are completely manual (and that is unchangeable no matter what). If someone canceled but had already paid for that month, we would leave them in the group until the end of the month (because it just felt like the right thing to do). But, this started becoming just one more thing to have to stay on top of in what was fast becoming an utter disaster.

Yes, I did and do have help (thank God!), but you can just imagine our conversations to each other:

Me: Betty Sue Jones just emailed in, asking why she hasn’t received her kit. But, she is in WishList. How comes she wasn’t on the shipping list?

My poor assistant: She was a cancel, but decided to re-join after the main shipment. I sent her a separate invoice and I just added her back in WL yesterday, so she hasn’t been shipped yet. You can ship her now. It’s in Evernote. Oh, and she was originally a June member , so we need a link for the $26 VIP Level so I can re-join her on the 1st.

Me: Oh.

Me (a few minutes later after I thought of something else): Be sure to add her to the list of re-joins to watch for on the 1st, so we can remember to take her back out of WL if she doesn’t actually rejoin, so I don’t accidentally ship her the next kit!

My poor assistant: I know, got it!

Now multiply all this by 2,000 members, and a whole slew of unique situations.

We had been doing our best, but by about last summer, I felt like I was spending all my time putting out fires and trying to stay on top of this logistical nightmare I’d created.

I started getting quotes to have a system custom-built for my needs, the very least expensive quote coming in around $100K. And, you know what? I wasn’t unwilling to pay that. The problem was, our club was literally still in its infancy, and I knew that I didn’t know all of our needs yet.

Each month that I launched the membership and welcomed new members, half of me was cringing that I was bringing more members into this convoluted system.

By this past January, we had also decided to move the business out of the house. We were busting at the seems, and I didn’t think I could handle one more shipment out of my garage. I was basically busting at the seems everywhere, physically and digitally, and I started feeling almost desperate.

Finally, as the tiny and seemingly unrelated straw that broke the camel’s back, my affiliate software broke. I don’t know what happened, and honestly, I was so over my entire system that I didn’t even care – the affiliate software I’d been using hadn’t been great anyway. My assistant started googling affiliate software for me, and sent me some articles, and in one of them, Infusionsoft was mentioned.

I researched it further, and discovered that Infusionsoft is not just for email marketing. They are a full-on CRM, with eCommerce, email marketing, affiliate software, and payment system & management, all in one. And, there were membership platforms that fully integrated with it. Meaning, I could manage payments and memberships, AND shipping, all under one roof.

This was almost 2 months ago. I jumped into Infusionsoft feet first, but let me tell you, somehow I still landed flat on my face. Infusionsoft is both amazing, and the hardest flippin’ software I’ve ever had to learn. I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to go for it.

What I can tell you now, though… now that I’ve picked myself back up off the floor and have dusted myself off a bit… is that it solves every issue I’ve had this past year in managing my membership.

Getting to that point has been quite the journey though. In Part Two of this post, I’ll tell you more about the new system, and how it’s working to solve the issues we had.

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