Is a Custom Membership Management System Best for You?

Submitted by Candace Saunde… on 08/05/2019 - 09:00:am

Building a custom membership management system often requires a significant time commitment, as well as a surplus of resources. However, off-the-shelf membership systems don’t always offer all of the tools an organization needs to serve its users to the best capacity. In this way, choosing between custom and off-the-shelf solutions can be a relatively difficult decision. 

In most cases, the answer to which choice is best for your organization lies in what your needs are. If your organization is limited in terms of resources and isn’t in need of too many customizations, a custom membership system may not be worth the investment. But if customization is a must-have, building a membership system that’s entirely your own will be most likely be a win.

To determine if a custom membership management system is the right fit for your organization, ask yourself the following questions. 

How unique are your needs?

Every business has its own model, mission, and workflow, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need an entirely custom solution. Many off-the-shelf membership management systems include a variety of plugins and tools that can be used to accommodate a wide range of workflows and needs, but they often come with their fair share of limitations.

If your organization is highly-specialized, the one-size-fits-all approach of off-the-shelf membership management systems most likely won’t align well with your needs. For example, if you want to build your own social network, you most likely want to create an entirely custom platform, so you can provide your members with an exemplary social experience like no other. 

Do you need a system to support future growth?

While it may seem early to do so, you’ll also need to consider is what the future of your membership-based business could look like. Most business owners anticipate that their memberships will increase over time—you likely have the same expectation. That said, you’ll want to evaluate how quickly your memberships could outgrow an off-the-shelf system. 

If substantial growth is several years into the future, an off-the-shelf management system may be all you need for now. On the other hand, if your current forecasts predict that your business will shortly outgrow any of the available off-the-shelf options, going custom is the most logical choice. Plus, you can continue building upon your custom system in the future.

What do you want onboarding to look like?

When your business model is based around an online system, that means that you and most (if not all) of your employees will be using that software. Whether you choose an off-the-shelf or a custom membership solution, your current and future employees will need to adapt to the workflow and features that come along with it.

For an organization that follows a simple workflow, off-the-shelf software may easy to adapt to, not to mention most off-the-shelf software companies offer free over-the-phone support.

That said, because off-the-shelf software is designed for the needs of the many, you may find yourself developing several workarounds to meet your members’ needs. In that case, building a custom membership system may simplify onboarding for everyone involved. 

What level of security do you need? 

Your membership management system will not only house your personal information but the personal information of hundreds (if not thousands) of your members. From credit card information to home addresses, you’ll want a secure system that will keep that private data under lock and key. 

One of the greatest benefits of an off-the-shelf membership system is that security measures and updates are automatically rolled into your software. And while this is convenient, it means that you are limited to the security offered by that software provider. 

With a custom membership system, you can get your hands on secure-save credit card information to other enterprise-level features can’t achieve with an off-the-shelf solution. It’s important to understand, however, that you will need a license from your developer to acquire on-going support and maintenance for keeping these features in check.  

How much time do you have?

While you look into your options, you’ll also want to think about how quickly your organization needs a membership management solution. If time is of the essence, off-the-shelf systems can be purchased and used by your organization almost immediately. Conversely, you may have to do without some specialized features. 

As they say, however, “The best things in life are worth waiting for,” and while your custom membership system will take longer to build, it will be unique to your organization. But if your deadline is just around the corner, say two weeks, you may only be able to achieve a basic custom solution or need to opt for an off-the-shelf option in the meantime. 

What does your budget look like? 

While we don’t really like to talk about the “b” word either, your budget will play a significant role in what you can achieve with your membership system as well. As with most things in life, the greater the budget, the more you can do, and the inverse stands true as well. 

Although a custom membership system is often the best way to meet your customers’ needs, it will come at a price. Custom systems often cost several thousand dollars to develop; beyond that, you’ll need a budget for on-going maintenance and updates. Of course, if you have an in-house IT team, they can often take care of it for you. 

Building Custom Membership Management Software?

While we’d like to tell you that a custom membership management system is necessary for every organization, that’s not the case. Every organization has its own unique set of needs as do their customers. If you haven’t tried off-the-shelf solutions, you might want to give it a shot, so you can get a better idea of what you want your custom software to look like in the future.

But if you’ve now recognized that a custom membership system is the only thing holding your business back from growing, why not take the next step toward bringing your vision to life today? At ClikFocus, our team has built complex membership management systems for small to enterprise-level businesses for over a decade, and we’d love to help you create yours.

Let’s talk about your vision—get in touch with us today!