Four and a half years ago, I released Restrict Content Pro on Code Canyon.net. It was not my first big plugin, nor even the second, but it was the first one that I developed a more intimate relationship with. I heavily relied on the plugin for my own site and thus had a greater commitment to it than the large plugins that came before. For the first two years, the plugin thrived. I updated it constantly and continued to push it further and further. In 2014, however, I began to lose touch with the plugin as my other two big projects, Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP, dominated more and more of my time.
I continued to let Restrict Content Pro dwindle for nearly two years before making a decision. I had several options. I could let it die a slow, drawn out death, I could sell it, or I could work to bring it back to life and let it kick ass again.
I chose the last of the three options and, over the last five months, my team and I have been working to revitalize the product that was once the majority of my monthly revenue. It has a long way to go but we’re making significant progress and I’d like to share some of the journey with you now.
Among the very first steps was to set goals. What exactly did we want to achieve beyond just keeping Restrict Content Pro alive?
Ultimately, there were a few specific goals we had in mind.
First, we wanted to transform Restrict Content Pro from a good-but-simple membership plugin to a full-featured membership platform that is a top-contender among other membership systems. Doing this was to require a lot of work but, if done properly, should lead directly into the success of this project.
Second, we wanted to double or triple Restrict Content Pro’s monthly revenue within six months and then continue to grow it monthly from there. At its peak Restrict Content Pro was earning ~$7,000-8,000 per month. Once the project began to lose attention, that number steadily dropped each month, as should be expected with any project that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.
Accomplishing these two goals would make the revitalization project a success in my eyes.
Addressing pain points in plugin features
In order to transform RCP into a full-blown membership platform that was as good as or better than the plethora of other options, we really had to add a few specific features that’d been missing. Since Restrict Content Pro was released in January of 2012, I had a huge list of pain points the customers often encountered. This gave us a very good idea of what we should focus on first in terms of development.
Some of these features included:
- Pro-rated upgrade and downgrade support between subscription levels for members.
- Expanded merchant processor support. PayPal and Stripe were the only two options for a very long time.
- Dripped content to aide in member retention.
- A full REST API to provide developers with a platform to build upon.
- Improved WooCommerce integration.
- More intuitive interfaces for configuring member-only content.
- Umbrella memberships.
- Improved administrator areas that are mobile friendly.
There were many other improvements (see some examples here and here) that we identified as well, but these were some of the primary pain points we wanted to address.
As of yesterday, every one of these features has been completed and is available as part of the core Restrict Content Pro plugin or as one of the many “pro” add-ons.
Many of these features are ones offered by other available membership platforms, but a few of them really help to set Restrict Content Pro apart. For example, RCP is the only membership plugin for WordPress that offers a full REST API. It is also only one of perhaps two or three that offers grouped (umbrella) memberships, which is fundamentally important to a huge number of organizations.
Part of building a successful product is offering the “standard” features. Another part is offering the features that set you apart through exclusivity. We have succeeded there and we will continue to succeed as we develop Restrict Content Pro further.
Increasing revenue by raising the average customer value
Research into revenue models has proven time and time again that it is easier and more profitable to increase the value of your existing customers than it is to acquire new customers.
Restrict Content Pro has had a fairly large number of customers over its lifetime. Between the time it lived on Code Canyon and the time it lived here on Pippin’s Plugins, RCP acquired some 5,700 customers. What this number really means is this: we can dramatically increase our monthly revenue if we can find a way to encourage those 5700 customers to renew and/or upgrade their existing license keys.
If we encourage just a small percentage of those existing customers to upgrade their license from the first level to one of the top tiers, we can meet our goal of doubling or tripling our revenue.
With AffiliateWP, we learned that using a model where add-on features are available free of charge to high level license holders, we could dramatically increase the average customer value, especially if enough pro add-ons were available to sufficiently justify the higher cost.
We decided to implement this same add-on model for Restrict Content Pro. By implementing many important features as add-ons available to top-tier license holders, we gave existing customers a significant incentive to come back and renew and upgrade their licenses, while simultaneously encouraging new customers to opt into a high level license instead of the basic license.
The concept of the pro add-ons was fundamentally important to the success of this project. Ever since Restrict Content Pro was made available on pippinsplugins.com in 2013, it was priced based on the number of sites supported by the license. For example, a single site license was $42 and an unlimited sites license was $132. Being that the only distinguishing difference between the license levels was the number of sites it permitted to be activated, the vast majority of customers purchased the $42 license. Now there is a significant difference between the Personal license and the Professional license; that difference being the access to the pro add-ons.
Getting more hands on deck
Restrict Content Pro, like nearly all of my original plugin projects, began as a solo project run purely by myself. I was the developer, the sales person, the support team, the tester, and (originally) even the accountant.
I’ve written about it before and I still feel the same today. Easily one of the best decisions I’ve made for the health of my business is bringing on other team members. Easy Digital Downloads was the first to get additional team members, followed by AffiliateWP shortly after. Restrict Content Pro, however, remained as a solo project all this time. I kept thinking about as my personal “pet” project. It was the project I worked on when I was tired of Easy Digital Downloads or AffiliateWP.
In order to accomplish the goals outlined above, however, keeping me as the only person working on the project wasn’t going to cut it.
John Parris joined the Easy Digital Downloads team full time in summer 2015. Later that year he began to express a lot of interest in working on RCP and membership sites so when the time came to put another team member on RCP full time, he was a logical choice. John is now working almost exclusively on RCP and has been fundamental in moving the project forward.
Michael Beil has been an unstoppable machine of efficiency in the AffiliateWP (and recently Easy Digital Downloads) support teams. Along with his prowess in support, Michael is a great tester and so getting him involved with Restrict Content Pro was an easy decision.
Andrew Munro is our site wizard and is wholly responsible for giving Restrict Content Pro a shiny new home at https://restrictcontentpro.com.
By involving these team members in the project, and staying actively involved myself, we’ve had great success in transforming Restrict Content Pro back into a vibrant and successful product that is here for the long game.
You can run a marathon alone but a relay takes a team.
Improving development activity
One of the many signs of a dying project is the cease of active development. Restrict Content Pro was no different. In the last two years, the plugin only received occasional updates and rarely, if ever, did those updates include anything beyond minor bug fixes.
To grow Restrict Content Pro into a strong product, we needed development activity to be constant. The same goes for non-development activity, such as marketing efforts and documentation improvements.
A lot of development work was required in order to get RCP to the basic level it needed to be at, but the development won’t stop there.
As shown by our blog, we’ve been very actively releasing updates and new add-ons for Restrict Content Pro. This is a trend that will continue for the next several months and beyond.
The results thus far
We have a very long way to go but so far the results are very promising.
In terms of increasing development activity, I believe we’ve been incredibly successful. Since April, when we officially began this project, we have released:
- Two major updates for the core Restrict Content Pro plugin (2.5 and 2.6)
- Pro add-on: Group Accounts
- Pro add-on: WooCommerce Member Discounts
- Pro add-on: Restrict Past Content
- Pro add-on: Drip Content
- Pro add-on: Site Creation
- Pro add-on: Restriction Timeouts
- Pro add-on: Help Scout
- Pro add-on: Hard-set Expiration Dates
- Pro add-on: REST API
- Pro add-on: Custom Redirects
- Free add-on: EDD Wallet integration
- Free add-on: EDD FES Vendor Limits
Several more pro add-ons are in the development and planning stages and the next major version of Restrict Content Pro (2.7) is in the planning stage.
Revenue wise, I feel we’ve done well. Our goal was to double or triple the monthly revenue within six months. In March, 2016, RCP brought in $7,700. Last month, July 2016, it brought in $11,400. August, 2016, is estimated to bring in a little over $12,000.
We’re at the five month mark and have increased monthly revenue by about 1.5. That’s not double yet, but it’s getting close. Within another few months, I expect we’ve surpass $15,000 in monthly sales. Even with just an increase of 1.5, we’re still looking at more than $100,000 in annual revenue, and the monthly revenue is higher than it ever was in the past, so we’re succeeding.
Overall the project has been a success and is something we will continue to work on for many months to come.
Restrict Content Pro will be one of the premiere membership platforms for WordPress.
36 thoughts so far
Have your say
“Part of building a successful product is offering the “standard” features. Another part is offering the features that set you apart through exclusivity”
Good one for me to remember while working on my own products.
Great post. As an RCP customer, I truly appreciate the transparency and your initiative.
When I get a project that has paid ‘membership’-type requirements, I have confidence that I can implement a solid platform for the client.
Even though it seems to be earning more, I think you should consider renaming/rebranding the plugin in 2017, if you really want to “compete” with membership plugins. It’ll require a slow transition perhaps, but you’ll be one of the choices when people look at the name of membership plugins in listicles.
I’m saying this because I’m an active WordPress shopper and do my research mainly with plugin round-ups; and the names of the plugins definitely matter. Even though I know Restrict Content Pro is a quality membership plugin, I still would hesitate to buy it simply because I “feel” the plugin’s focus is on the content instead of the members.
Of course, I’m just one guy, one person, a single bit of data. You should ask your existing customers.
“RC Membership” or “ReCon Members”. Think about it. Cheers! 🙂
Thanks for the feedback!
I do not entirely agree, however, because one of the primary purposes of a membership plugin is to restrict content to members. That’s actually the source of the name: restricting content to members.
I agree with Baris on this one.. Sure as you say (Pippin) one of the main features is restricting content on your WordPress site to paying members. But for many people that are interested in starting a Membership site/community restricting content is just one of the things they envision. They also envision membership areas, account creation, insights/stats and promo tools like coupons and such.
Also using the word “Restrict” in the product name might play into the sense that it’s less feature rich than a Membership plugin. People who read this blog know that it’s not true, but I agree a rebrand could work!
Based on your existing products/brand and goals
– Easy Membership Pro
Either way, I’m excited to see how the product will take shape and keep up the good work RCP team 🙂
If I may…
“one of the primary purposes of a membership plugin is to restrict content to members”
Well… I disagree with you.
I am an Amazon Prime member… that does give me discounts and next day delivery, but no content.
I am a member of the “frequent flyer program” of British Airways. No content, but some paid benefits that become free.
Anyone can read a book in a library. Only members can borrow them and bring them home for a few days.
A membership gives you access to all kinds of stuff, but not necessarily content as it is commonly defined…
And, look at you features page and what each is about:
Member dashboard? About members.
subscription levels? About membership levels. Not about content.
Prorated upgrades/downgrades? About what members can do. Not about content restriction.
WooCommerce integrations? OK, this one is about content.
Integrations? About a payment choice to members. Not about content restriction.
Discount codes, member emails, member management… Alle these about members, members, members. Not about content.
And add ons?
Many are not about content restriction (e.g: group accounts)…
There is not a word on one of the strengths of this plugin: its restriction capabilities. Very fine grained (subscription, access level, paid or not…)!
Few plugins and believe me, I tried loads of them.
RCP is my favorite except for one thing: a member can only be a member of 1 membership level (if my memory is correct).
Can’t use it to sell courses, as Udemy does it (but can do with the Lynda.com model)
Despite this, many things give RCP an edge on its competitors:
Subscription prorating (Only three of them -that I know of- do that…). You can’t pause a membership though. Never got the need, but in a magazine subscription or a gym membership, that could be a huge one.
The content restriction options are great. And integration with WooCommerce is a feature I saw only in WooCommerce membership addon.
Drip content: for a long time, RCP didn’t have this one (strange for a “content restriction” plugin!!). So, it’s great.
Member emails: I’m sure many don’t realize how much a PITA it is when you need to integrate each member into a list (one list per level/duration) in an autoresponder just to remind them to renew their membership. RCP does it out of the box. Come on this one is huge!
And many things for developers (which I am not, unfortunately… I only know how to sell stuff!)…
Thank you for the feedback, Vincent! You’re absolutely right 🙂
I feel the same as Baris.
He’s onto something. Although I know it must be a quality plugin (as all your plugins are) I never considered RCP as I thought its focus is on content rather than the membership side of it.
Just my two cents.
Will definitely be upgrading my old license by the year end. It has always been the perfect balance of plugin for me. Gives clear instruction for non-developer types and also people who are happy to get their hands dirty under the hood.
That positioning is already a huge win amongst the others. Plus WooCommerce integration, perfect.
Thank you for your support!
I haven’t had nearly as much experience as I would like with your products, but the experience I have had has been very good. I’m hopefully days away from getting a client to pull the trigger on some WooCommerce/RCP integration work.
I wouldn’t change the name. You have 4+ years of goodwill associated with RCP.
I don’t usually comment as I’m more the introverted blog reader who absorbs, but rarely responds, but I just wanted to say thanks for always being so transparent about your development journey and even the critical details that other WP devs like myself can learn from. I can relate to many of the things you’ve mentioned in this post and find it extremely motivating to me to know others run into the same struggles and crossroads in their WP dev businesses, and it’s super helpful to see the results of others as they blaze ahead. Keep up the awesome work and keep sharing your insight along the way!
Hi Pippin, I currently use EDD and would love it if RCP would be able to turn my EDD into a membership where I could have membership levels and certain ammounts of monthly credits for each level. I have 100’s of digital products in-store and would prefer to limit the monthly downloads while still being able to have recurring memberships. I know Amember Pro has it, but I’d much rather prefer a solution for this in EDD and I think RCP would be awesome with it. I’d honestly buy it in an instant with this feature but as it is I just cannot use it because I cannot allow members to download all the EDD products in one go, because it’s highly likely they just would not stay a member and I’d be making a loss in terms of all the downloads in a month.
I’m so happy to hear this. I’ve always been a fan of Restrict Content Pro but it did get overtaken by newer membership plugins so I’m glad that it is now back in active development, and the features that you’ve added recently are great (especially umbrella/group memberships). I’m actually planning to create a course on RCP for our membership in October, and these changes have meant that rather than just recommending this as an option for people who only need a simple membership, I can recommend RCP for a much wider range of our members instead. Looking forward to seeing how else the plugin evolves over the next 12 months!
I was very happy to see the update recently. It was always a great choice, but now it’s my go to option for membership sites with all the new options.
Keep being awesome.
Thanks for the update RCP is ideal for my site and I will be continuing my membership. One thing though – would it be possible to improve the Search faciilty so that it has a “fuzzy” facility and can search for a number of conditions such as first name, last name, nickname etc.
Also would it be possible for administrators to see members passwords?
SearchingL yep, we can definitely improve that and is on our todo list already!
Passwords: no, for security reasons the passwords can never be made visible to site admins.
Great news about the search facility. However I am scratching my head to understand why I can’t see the passwords – since its my site and I can see everything else. Could you explain the reasoning on this one?
Passwords in WordPress are encrypted with a “one-way” encryption, meaning we cannot decrypt them. This makes showing them as plaintext to site admins not possible. That’s a bit of an over simplification of the technical reasons but is more or less accurate.
From a security perspective, it’s never a good idea for passwords to ever be stored in such a way that they are visible by site admins (or anyone else). Passwords that are visible in that way are inherently not secure because it means it’s significantly easier for those passwords to get compromised.
While there may be many reasons that someone wishes to have direct access to user passwords, there’s really no legitimately good reason for that that supersedes to severe risk doing so imposes.
Pippin, that was a wise decision. I love the plugin, it is intuitive and easy to use. If you add multiple memberships for members the present features sum to what most people will ever need. Keep up the good work, as a software developer I know the pain and effort and you deserve the success.
That’s on our todo list and I hope to make it a reality sometime in the (hopefully not distant) future.
+1 on multiple membership per membership.
But +100 on better integration with EDD, the way WooCommerce Membership Extension works with WooCommerce.
I don’t usually comment either, but think this post is a little unsettling. I had no idea RCP was a “dying” product. Likewise I had no idea that RCP was “dwindling” for a while and have had no real issues with the features. I am a developer and have used it on many client websites and been very happy with it and appreciate it’s simplicity.
No plugin is perfect, but RCP is consistently listed on the best of lists: http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/5-best-wordpress-membership-plugins-compared/
I do appreciate your transparency, but as a developer my #1 concern with any plugin I use is support and this post makes me feel like it is a lesser priority to you than say easy digital downloads. Hope I am wrong. I think it’s a terrific plugin.
Sorry for not seeing your comment earlier! I had some issues with Akismet automatically trashing a bunch of comments.
I really appreciate your concern but in this case you’re in good hands. The point of this post was to highlight how RCP was a dying product but not anymore. We’re now very, very actively working on building it back up and have very long-term plans for its success.
I’m really happy you’re back to developing RCP. Such a great plugin as it is and I’ve been really impressed with your latest improvements and the great customer support your team offers. Definitely excited to see future improvements! Thanks for the amazing work…it’s allowing me to pursue my dream of teaching guitar online.
Thanks Pippin and team.
All the best with this project. I’m totally with Barış on considering renaming it. I haven’t used the plugin yet but while reading this, I thought the plugin’s all about restricting content – something I’ve seen you do on your site. I didn’t make the leap to “Membership plugin”
Any chance of “add on” purchases yet?
For instance: Monthly/Yearly subscriber can buy access to a live event for an additional fee, without it changing their current membership.
That’s on our todo list for the near future 🙂
I applaud your willingness to speak honestly and openly about your decision-making process and business goals with the developer community. It’s refreshing to read from _anyone_ who works in business, not just software products. I read your entire post because I’m interested in listening to what you had to say (and I’m just a newbie WP developer). Keep up the good work, and keep talking to us when you are moved to do so.
Pippin, thanks for discounts. I just made an early update of license key. Thanks gain. This is great.
Great post, Pippin. Thanks for sharing your journey. 🙂 What I like, in particular, is that you’re approaching this with a strong cadence. (Looking at the timeline of addon releases here.) From a customer POV, it’s reassuring; this isn’t just one big update getting pushed out and abandoned.
TL;DR = Love it. Now I gotta find a project to use RCP on. 😛
Although I am not a heavy WP user, I have to thank you in general for your great article and openness in regards of revenue/income! Really appreciate that. Rather unusual among other systems/developers.
I’ve been trying to find a membership plugin for a long time now and my frustration is on top level. On all the once I’ve tried the developers don’t even know for who they developed their plugin. There is no business model or niche. They just want to sell to everyone and fill it up with features and extras. Why?
I have to agree with some of the comments here, Content Protection and Memberships are not the same. The wording itself makes it clear. In Content Protection the main aspect is the content. In memberships the main aspect is members (or so it should be). It is a different point of view and the problem to be solved is a different one. It might be that content protection is a vital part of many membership systems, but that is exactly what it is, just a part not the whole thing.
Regarding changing the name, that depends what you want it to be. But it is not just a name change. If you want this to become a top-level membership plugin, you need to look at it from the members perspective. The question has to be which problem you’re trying to solve. Only after you’ve identified the problem and for who it actually is can you develop a product that stands out and does what it says. Everything else is just a market stall hoping for the best.
I just bought RCP in the hope that I can find a way to make it work for myself and my site, but I had to spent money not really knowing if it will work for me. Like with all the other plugins I’ve tried, I hope for the best.
Great work Pippin! Well, I haven’t used RCP yet but I used EDD to sell my ecourses and I loved it. Most especially the Paypal integration. I got instant payments every single time. Thanks
You are truly a genius, there is no question about that. I just wished the plugins were better integrated.
For instance, why can’t I sell a product and automatically add someone into a membership level?
Also, if I were you, I’d check the quality of third-party add-ons before I put them on my site – which kind of equals an endorsement.
That said, the plugins are great. I have to make a switch from Learndash because it’s ugly and WooCommerce because the CPU demand for nothing is bizarre.
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