I haven’t been this excited about a piece of software in SEVEN YEARS. (So excited that it’s making me use my caps lock.) Yes. Rainmaker is that good. And in this post, I’ll pull out all the stops and attempt to give you one of the most useful Rainmaker reviews around. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to use it for your business, you’re in the right place.
Table of contents
What is Rainmaker?
What will Rainmaker do for you?
Why use an “all-in-one” solution like Rainmaker?
Why you should trust me
Rainmaker: A visual tour.
Learning Management System
The benefit of having things built in
The Great Things About Rainmaker
The Not-so-great Things About Rainmaker
What does it cost?
Who’s using Rainmaker?
Who is the Rainmaker platform good for?
If you don’t know what Rainmaker is, here’s the scoop: The team at Rainmaker Digital (the folks who run one of the best blogs on the web, which used to be called Copyblogger, and who have also launched a whole slew of amazing online courses, software, WordPress themes, and hosting services) have created what is becoming a very popular all-in-one app for online content marketers and sellers of digital products, like online programs.
It’s built to make it easy for you to build your own full-blown marketing and selling platform. It’s called an “all-in-one” app because it allows you to do all of this in one piece of software:
- build a website
- host it on the Rainmaker servers (no other webhost is needed)
- use one of the included premium themes to design and customize your site
- publish a blog
- handle all your email marketing (which also means you can build and store your critically important email list right within your Rainmaker site)
- sell online programs with paid member’s only areas
- publish a podcast and syndicate it to podcast networks
- sell products and process online payments
- track affiliate sales of your products
- give your affiliates their own affiliate center to login to so they can check on their stats.
In this post, I’m going to do an extensive review of Rainmaker…and I mean really extensive. Detailed, in-depth, up-to-date Rainmaker reviews are hard to come by, so I wrote this one for you. I’ll give you my opinions on the good, the great, and the parts that could be better. And then I’ll make some recommendations about who Rainmaker is good for.
But before I get too far here, let me give you a quick rundown of what Rainmaker is and what it allows you to do.
Rainmaker is a turn-key website building app that is essentially a highly modified version of WordPress.
But that word “website” needs to be qualified a bit: you don’t just get a pretty WordPress site with a few clicks. You get that, but more importantly, you’re getting an entire platform to build a business on: A media platform that makes it easy for you publish content that can do the heavy lifting of your marketing efforts for you, which then leads to you making more sales of your products, programs, and services.
When you sign up for a Rainmaker account, you’ll instantly get a WordPress website set up in a matter of seconds. It’s hosted on their very solid, secure, and fast Synthesis webhosting servers (one of the most popular dedicated WordPress webhosts on the web.)
The site that this system will set up for you is built on their Genesis theme framework (which is a tool that allows you to customize a WordPress site without touching any code), and many of the available child themes for that WordPress framework are built right in to the Rainmaker platform. They also sell these themes as stand alone WordPress themes on their StudioPress website. (That screenshot above is of one of those themes.)
That means that many of the themes from their StudioPress site are available for you to use for your site, and they’re all just one click away inside of Rainmaker.
You also get a site that has:
- ecommerce functionality to sell products
- membership site functionality
- built in forums
- the ability to offer a free content library (to use for building your email list)
- opt-in/squeeze page/landing page/sales page creation
- web form creation tools
- automated marketing tools
- list building pop up opt in boxes
- integration with leading email marketing platforms
- and a full affiliate marketing tracking system.
On top of that, you get access to a very large library of learning materials inside their Authority membership site. The amount of valuable, useful content inside this member area is staggering. No, it’s GOLD. Actually, it’s like drinking from a firehose. Okay, that’s one too many metaphors, but any way you look at it, the Authority membership content is amazingly helpful to those trying to build a successful online business.
If you’re heading towards, or already have, an online business that publishes free content like blog posts, podcast episodes, video blogs, or even a full library of free downloadable pdf ebooks, and if all of those content marketing strategies are part of a marketing strategy that leads to selling online courses of some kind, you should keep reading.
Rainmaker is the app I’ve been dreaming of building for the last 3 years (which is great, because they already built it, and now I can focus on other things!) If you’re in the process of deciding on which combination of software to use to build your online business, and if you’re trying to decide between Infusionsoft and Customer Hub, or Infusionsoft and Kajabi, or Ontraport + WordPress…keep reading.
Rainmaker is WELL WORTH the time it will take for you to consider it as a solution for your needs.
Well, you can spend A LOT of money every month if you choose Infusionsoft or Ontraport as the foundation of your tech system (between $300 and $500 per month.) Or, you can spend A LOT of time duct taping together a ton of different apps to a self-hosted WordPress site.
That second option will cost less, but brings it’s own set of downsides, like the time it takes to build and manage it all, and all the effort of trying to figure out how to tie all those apps to your WordPress site (or if they will even all integrate together in the first place.)
In the end you’ll eventually have a Frankenstein system that has a lot of functionality, but not as much tight integration (and thus not many possibilities for automating processes in your business) as you’ll eventually want.
Rainmaker hits the bullseye right in between the more expensive all-in-one apps (e.g., Infusionsoft, Ontraport, HubSpot) and the less expensive duct tape Frankenstien systems (e.g., WordPress tied to Mailchimp [email marketing] and Optimize Press [opt in pages, landing pages, launch funnels, sales pages] and Member Mouse [membership site and ecommerce processing] and BB Press [forums for your membership area.])
Now, keep in mind that Rainmaker has its limitations. That’s true of ANY app, anywhere, but this needs to be on the table as you’re considering all the options available to you.
I’ll get to the details of it’s limitations in a bit. With any app you choose, the game is ALWAYS a game of weighing the pros and cons, because there are always cons…always downsides.
Rainmaker isn’t immune to this law of the software universe, but in my opinion, the pros greatly outweigh the cons.
Okay, now, before I get into the nitty gritty here, let me get something out of the way: The links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you click on a link to go check out any of the software I mention in this post, like this one, and if you eventually sign up for a paid account for a service like Rainmaker, we make a small commission.
I know things can get weird when you realize that an author is using affiliate links, because you can start to wonder if they’re being honest, or just trying to get you to click on links so they make a commission.
That’s not the case here. We are as unbiased about the software we review as possible, and we level the playing field by having affiliate accounts for each of the apps we review (when possible), so we don’t unconsciously become biased to those we can earn commissions from.
First, for this particular review, you’re in good hands because I’ve been using Rainmaker for Clarity Lab since Rainmaker came out in its beta version, before it was released to the public. That’s simply to say that I know it really well and have been using it for this business for two years now.
Also, I’ve built and run four online businesses over the last decade, and in each case, I did all the research, testing, and assembly of the tech systems that ran each business. (Oh, and that’s me on the left in the photo above. The chap on the right is my business partner and fellow software reviewer here at Clarity Lab, Chris Bleill.)
Each of those businesses became six-figure businesses, and three of them became multi-six figure businesses. The software platforms that powered each of those businesses were the tech engines that made that kind of revenue possible.
Because I’ve used several dozens of different apps in real-world business applications, I’m able to spot aspects of apps that could either be a huge win for your business, or a potential pitfall. It’s nearly impossible to spot those kinds of things when you haven’t actually used similar software in a business situation with real customers.
Okay…stick with me. There’s a bit of reading ahead, but this post has been carefully, painstakingly designed to save you a ton of time in your process of deciding whether or not to use Rainmaker software for your business.
Let’s get into the gritty details of Rainmaker: What it does, what it doesn’t do, what it looks like, what it costs, and how it compares to other options you’re probably considering.
First, a quick tour of the user interface of Rainmaker. I’m not going to show you every nook and cranny, but the main thing you should take away from these snapshots is this: They have completely overhauled the user interface, and even the very fabric of the user experience, of WordPress…and the results are absolutely beautiful.
Once you see and use Rainmaker, you’ll probably feel similar to most of us that have tried it: THIS is how WordPress should have been designed.
Below is the dashboard of the admin side of a Rainmaker site.
The graphs and charts and stats on this dashboard are, holy shit!, ACTUALLY REALLY USEFUL. Unlike what usually appears on the dashboard of a WordPress site, which I have grown accustomed to ignoring (don’t get mad at me, WordPress. I love you. We’ve been through a lot together, but Rainmaker just made you better than a chocolate chip pancake topped with maple syrup and whipped cream.)
The main navigation of WordPress has been totally reworked in Rainmaker. Here’s the new structure of how they’ve organized things in the platform:
There’s even an option to use a collapsed, much thinner version of the left column menu, which looks like this:
In the Design area, here’s what you’ll see. This is where you manage all the bits about the design of your site, like the theme, menus, custom CSS code, and widgets, which are called “content areas” in Rainmaker. (There’s even a handy-dandy “site offline” setting that allows you to put up a nice “Our site is offline for maintenance at the moment” message if you need to do some major work on your website.)
Below are the StudioPress themes that are available from right within your Rainmaker site. Let me highlight that this is HUGE. You have a whole set of some of the best premium WordPress themes on the web right at your fingertips, ready to use for your site design as a starting point for you to customize, and all you need to do is click once to select any of them.
Not all of the Studiopress themes are available in the Rainmaker theme gallery, but most of them are.
And here’s the built in theme editor, which allows you to make a slew of customization changes to your theme without touching a bit of HTML, PHP, or CSS code. The coolest part about the theme editor? It shows real-time changes on the right side of the page, where you can see what the changes look like on the front of the site.
Alright. Let’s go into the Content area.
This is where you’ll create posts and pages, and other types of content you’ll want to publish on your site.
This section also gives you a place to create image portfolios, podcast episodes (or an entire network of podcast shows!), a full-featured Learning Management System (LMS), and a physical and digital library of books for sale or download.
There’s even a content publishing calendar built right into the platform, making it easy for you and your team of content creators (wait, you have a team of content creators? I’m jealous) to all be literally on the same page when it comes to your publishing schedule.
The Posts, Pages, and Media areas will be familiar to you if you’re familiar with plain, vanilla WordPress.
What’s interesting to note in this area of the Rainmaker platform is the Landing Pages, Podcasts, Learning Management System, and Forums.
The recurring theme you’ll see when using this Rainmaker software is this: massive sets of features and functionality are built right into the platform, which means you don’t have to spend weeks shopping around for the best options to create things like landing pages, opt-in pages, podcasts, an LMS for your courses, or discussion forums for your course members.
The Landing Pages area is where you can create squeeze pages or opt-in pages, similar to the core functionality of Optimize Press, LeadPages, or ClickFunnels.
The landing page builder in Rainmaker isn’t as fully featured as the landing page tools in LeadPages or Clickfunnels, but for having a tool like this built right into your website, it’s plenty good. You’ll be able to create great looking landing and sales pages that keep your visitors focused just on the message on the page they’re looking at, without getting distracted by things like sidebar content or the main menu of your site.
Here’s a screenshot of the landing page template options currently available:
And here’s a shot of the landing page creation/editing area:
And here’s what one looks like on the front of the site. Hello, beautiful:
Rainmaker also has a beautiful, built in system that allows you to create online courses for sale (or to offer for free as an email list building tactic). Once people purchase access to your online course, they login to a member’s only area to access the modules and lessons contained within any one of your courses. And yes, in case you’re wondering, you can sell multiple online courses and present a dashboard of all your available courses.
The Rainmaker platform is one of the only all-in-one solutions that actually has online course features built right in. Other all-in-one platforms, like Infusionsoft or Ontraport, still require you to attach other apps in order to get the functionality needed to create a member’s only area for paid online courses.
In Rainmaker, that’s not a concern. And they have taken things a step further than most online course software by adding the ability for you to present quizzes to course members, restricting access to certain media files, controlling the drip schedule of content in your course, and giving members a way to mark that they have completed a lesson.
Having an LMS built into your website tech system is a huge win if you’re looking to sell any kind of online training.
Here’s a few screenshots of a sample course I built using the LMS.
This is the upper part of the dashboard page that a member would see after logging into this online course. Notice the nice module menu in the right sidebar, which is automatically created when you build out the modules and lessons within a course:
And this is lower down on that same dashboard page. I’ve got the modules showing on this page, and a table of contents as well, showing which lessons I’ve marked as completed, and which one’s I’ve favorited:
Here’s the view inside one of the individual lessons. Notice how the module menu in the sidebar expands to show you where you are and how to easily navigate to other lessons:
A little lower on a given lesson page, there’s a button to click to mark this lesson as complete (which you can place anywhere on the lesson page you want), navigation to get to the next or previous lesson, a button to download any files associated with this lesson, like a PDF workbook or checklist, as well as an area for members to comment and ask questions of the instructor:
If you’re going to create and sell some kind of online course, you’ll probably want to create a discussion forum for your members to ask questions or connect with each other.
Forum functionality is built right into the Rainmaker software.
Here’s the forum creation area on the admin side of the site:
And here’s a forum on the front, as a member of your program would see it:
There’s something I want to point out before I move on…things that are not normally in a plain, self-hosted WordPress site.
For example, the built in Web Form creator, which allows you to create really nice looking web forms for things like a contact form that people can use to send you a message right on your site:
And here’s an example of what a web form looks like on the front of a site:
What’s amazing about this, which is the same for so many other features of Rainmaker, is that if you have a plain, self-hosted WordPress site, in order to get things like web forms on your site, you need to shop for, compare, decide, install, and learn to use, various plugins for WordPress. One plugin for web forms, another for social sharing icons. Another for publishing podcasts, and so on.
Finding them, deciding which ones to use, and keeping them updated can take a heap ton of time.
Rainmaker removes that hassle and bakes that functionality right into the platform. If you use Rainmaker, with this aspect of its design alone, it will save you 30 hours of your time that you can now spend doing other things that will grow your business. You can hug your Rainmaker now.
On to the Conversion area.
ALL of this functionality you are about to see is NOT in a plain WordPress site.
The Set Up Wizards area
This is a section that helps you set up the content and workflow necessary to sell an ebook or an entire library of ebooks or other downloadable files. This is not only novel, it’s awesome. More on why it’s awesome in a bit.
The Products area.
Create products to sell on your site, like ebooks, online courses, or even free products to use as lead magnets.
When people buy any of your products, they can be added to a list inside your email marketing platform of choice, such as Aweber, ConvertKit, or Rainmaker’s own email marketing platform, Rainmail.
This is where you can create discounted promo codes for your products, and also where you go to create unique links for affiliates to use to promote your products and get credited for sales.
The Orders section shows you a list of all the orders, or sales, that have happened through your site.
Member Groups are where you create different membership groups, or levels, for your various online programs.
Creating groups are how you protect different posts, pages, whole sections of content, or forums, on your site. People who are tagged with certain membership group tags are allowed to see certain content.
The Download Manager is where you upload and manage the digital files you’ll be selling, or offering for free (in the case of content that’s designed to be a lead magnet or email list builder.)
The A/B split test section is where you can set up super sciencey experiments to optimize the pages of your site. Again, this kind of A/B split testing, which can improve the revenue of your business in a huge way, usually requires you to search for, decide on, install, and maintain a third-party split testing application. With Rainmaker, it’s built right in. You can test variations of a page against each other to find which one converts visitors into customers, or prospects into people who sign up for free offers on your site.
The marketing formulas section is something I’ve never seen in any other platform like this. It’s a visual code builder that allows you to set up triggers that will cause an automated sequence to happen in your system based on the actions a visitor to your site takes. For example, when a visitor joins one of your email lists and then visits a certain page you your site, you can have automated events happen, like sending them a special email from your email marketing platform.
This feature of Rainmaker allows you to do some pretty advanced, automated processes that can really grow your business like nuts. (Do nut trees actually grow fast?)
The Results section. Ohhhh, the Results section. Stats and info that actually matter. Tie your Google Analytics account to your Rainmaker site and you’ll get the essential traffic data you need right in your Rainmaker site, without the 98% of Google Analytics that you will never use cluttering up this interface in Rainmaker.
And here’s the Analytics info, showing just the first Summary tab of data. This area is so useful and beautiful that I want to eat it:
Web Forms. This is where you can see results on all of the submissions from any web form you’ve built in Rainmaker and put on your site.
The Affiliate Reports section shows you a ton of useful data if you are running an affiliate program for your products, where other businesses promote your products to their audience and earn a commission from any sales when their community members buy your products.
Conversion Reports. Finally. The conversion and sales data you’ll need to keep an eye on to tune your business system. I can’t tell you how hard and costly and infuriating it is to try and get data like this in Infusionsoft.
In Rainmaker, this data is just right here. A couple of clicks and the exact information you want to see is there. No more manually creating big ass spreadsheets in Google Docs, laboriously copying and pasting and typing in numbers from your ecommerce app to get the data you need to see in order to see what’s working and what’s not.
There are also reports for your A/B split tests, podcast shows, and quizzes that are a part of your LMS online courses. So many reports!
Lastly, in the navigation menu, the Education area leads you to a dashboard with multiple options for training courses that can help you learn how to build a successful online business:
- The Authority training is FULL of an outrageous amount of useful learning materials that can take your business from zero to hero. Crap…that sounds like a freaking commercial. Sorry.
- The Rainmaker Forum, where you can ask business development questions, get support, and support other entrepreneurs.
- Rainmaker Webinars, which are held almost weekly. These are highly useful, live classes taught by instructors on the Rainmaker Digital team.
- New Rainmaker Training, which is an incredible 10 lesson beginner’s course on how to create successful content marketing to grow your business.
I’m pretty blown away by not only the quality and quantity of education materials available to you as a Rainmaker user, but also the fact that it’s just one click away from RIGHT INSIDE THE APP. I’ve only ever seen one other app have this kind of training available inside the app itself, which is The New Kajabi.
The Rainmaker Digital team doesn’t just give you a beautiful, powerful tool to create a platform for your business. They keep going and give you the knowledge you need to make the best use of the Rainmaker software.
That’s just plain brilliant.
To finish up this tour, here’s a quick shot of the front of my test site. I’ve customized a bit of the text in the theme I chose, but that’s about it so far. It’s just this beautiful out of the box with the sample content loaded in:
Also, the site you’re reading this post on is running on the Rainmaker platform, and has been since the Rainmaker software was launched in 2014.
Alright, that’s it for the tour. Let’s move on to the pros and cons of Rainmaker.
I’ve already named a number of positive things about Rainmaker above, but here are the rest of the positive things about it, at least in my opinion.
1) The user interface is beautiful.
This is one of the best looking user interfaces of any app I’ve ever used. I used to think that the plain WordPress interface was nice looking, but the Rainmaker interface makes plain WordPress look downright ugly.
2) Amazing set up process.
Setting up a new site is very clear and well thought out. You are guided through an easy, step-by-step setup process that doesn’t take too long. There’s even a guided, on-screen tutorial that points out how to use things on every single page right inside the app.
3) Rainmaker is affordable.
Currently, it costs $125/mo when you pay for an entire year up front, or $145/mo when you pay monthly. For comparison, Infusionsoft costs $300/mo plus a required $2,000 training fee up front, and Ontraport costs $300/mo. And to get a similar feature set as Rainmaker with Kajabi, you’d need to pay $300/mo. Infusionsoft, Ontraport, and Kajabi are all competitors with Rainmaker.
4) Super clear guided text or video based tutorial tour
When you first arrive in the Rainmaker admin area for the first time, the guided tour is great, takes only about 10 minutes, and makes things very clear in terms of where to go to get things done.
5) All the theme options are responsive and mobile ready.
This is a big one. Having every single available theme be mobile ready is a huge benefit.
All the themes you can choose from within Rainmaker use HTML5 and responsive CSS, which means that when people view your site on a phone or tablet, it will dynamically reorganize its elements to present a version of your site that’s easy to navigate on small screens that you need to touch with your fingers.
Having a mobile responsive site is vital, and with Rainmaker, you don’t even need to think about it. Every theme you can choose from is already mobile responsive.
6) Learning management system for online courses is built in. I’ve already spoken about this above, but it bears repeating that it’s incredibly nice to have the large set of features needed to create online courses built right into the platform.
7) There is a self-service billing area built in for members of your online programs.
This is a Godsend when you have any kind of payment plans or recurring subscriptions because inevitably, people’s credit cards will expire or decline for one reason or another, and if they don’t have a way to update their billing information and credit card information themselves, it quickly becomes a customer support nightmare. No need to worry about that with Rainmaker though, because there’s an easy way for folks to update billing information on their own.
8) Your course members can login with their social media accounts.
This makes things just that much easier for your customers. Instead of having to create new login credentials using their email address and a new password, people can simply login with their Facebook or Twitter account login information. Easy peezy.
9) Affiliate sale system built in.
If you’re planning on having affiliates or joint venture partners help you get the word out about your products or programs (and make a commission for making sales for you), everything you need to do that is built in to Rainmaker.
10) Built in email marketing platform.
If you really want to keep as much of your tech platform all in one solution, you can use Rainmail, which is their own version of an Aweber or Mailchimp type of email marketing platform.
11) The feeling of using Rainmaker is that it’s easy to use.
Very easy. This is a little hard to explain, as I’m pointing out a first-person experience that I have when using Rainmaker. You have to spend some time using it to see what I mean. It just feels easy to use. Things just make sense to me when I navigate around to get work done in building a site.
12) You don’t have to worry about keeping WordPress, and all of the plugins you’ve installed, up-to-date.
Rainmaker is fully managed for you. This is a major headache removed. Not keeping your core WordPress files and plugins up-to-date, always, is the number one way that hackers find security vulnerabilities in websites. But you won’t need to worry about that with Rainmaker. Everything will always be up-to-date.
13) Theme customization settings and custom CSS editor to customize your theme.
There are a good handful of things you can customize about your theme’s design using a number of settings in the Appearance editor. This area isn’t as fully fleshed out as, say, the Squarespace theme editor, but it’s very similar.
This editing area shows a live preview and instantly shows your changes to the design. This greatly cuts down on the amount of flipping back and forth from one tab to another to check to see how your changes look on the front of your site.
If you know CSS and want to do further customization of your theme, there’s an area for you to enter your custom CSS code. This is great to have for those of us who like to get in and customize the layout and design of our themes at a code level.
14) Web form creator is built right into the app.
No need to find a good plugin to create good looking contact forms. With plain WordPress, in order to get good looking web forms built for your site, such as the one you’d have on a Contact Us page, you need to install a plugin, like Gravity Forms.
15) Offline maintenance mode page built in.
When you want to take your site offline to do some major work on it that you don’t want anyone to see, Rainmaker gives you the option to easily flip a switch and set your site to offline mode, which puts up a message letting visitors know that your site is offline for maintenance.
In order to accomplish this trick with regular WordPress, you’d need to find and install a plugin.
16) Podcast publishing and feed tool built right in.
This is crazy cool. Rainmaker makes it super easy for you to upload podcast recordings (this means they host your podcast recordings too), embed them on pages of your site, and also creates your podcast feed that you’ll need to publish to the itunes podcast directory (or any other podcast hosting service.)
17) One click option to install sample content and widgets.
Having this greatly speeds up the process of setting up a theme. What it does is install all kinds of sample content, such as homepage content in several content areas (which in regular WordPress are known as “widgetized areas”), static pages, blog pages, sidebars, and even a free content library.
18) You can drag and drop boxes in the UI of the admin area to your liking.
This is pretty amazing. You can change the organization of some of the boxes in the user interface to suit your desires and workflows.
19) Built in social media post scheduler.
Similar to Buffer App, which allows you to set up schedules of updates to your social media network of choice on a set, automatic schedule, Rainmaker has a social media scheduler built in. You can easily set up sets of Tweets or Facebook posts (or posts to several other social media networks) to happen automatically on the days and times you set.
20) Landing page builder is built right into the site.
To get good looking opt in pages, or landing pages, for list building and marketing purposes, you most often need to install a big plugin like Optimize Press, or use a third party app like Lead Pages or Clickfunnels.
Having this functionality built right in to Rainmaker is amazing. There’s currently a great selection of beautiful landing page templates to choose from, and they often add new templates.
The landing page features are not as fleshed out as Optimize Press or Lead Pages, and the templates are going to look different than the theme you choose for your site, but the basics are definitely there to build beautiful opt-in and landing pages.
21) A/B split testing is built in.
I mentioned this above in the tour, but with respect to landing pages in particular, built in split testing is a big win.
22) SEO keyword research and optimization tools built right into the page editing area.
The Rainmaker team has taken their very successful Scribe software and built it right in to Rainmaker.
Scribe analyzes your page and post content and helps you optimize it for your targeted keywords.
It helps you do keyword research, tweak your content for optimization, and it also helps you create internal links to other pages and posts on your site, which can have a big impact on your SEO work. Having this kind of tool right in the page editing area is crazy useful.
23) Ability to add a web form after the content on a page by page basis is built right in.
Again, there’s no need to install a plugin like Magic Action Box to get optin forms at the bottom of pages or posts. It’s built right into Rainmaker.
Often, online marketers will have some kind of free offer, or free content, or a content upgrade, like an ebook or email course, that they want to offer so that they can build their email list of qualified, interested potential customers.
One method that many people use to increase the number of opt ins for their various free offers is to put a simple web form at the bottom of every blog post with an image of the product, a little bit of copy, a couple fields for a person’s name and email address, and a “Get it now” button.
In order to do that with a regular WordPress site, you need to find and install a plugin that allows you to do this, or manually paste in the code for your web form at the bottom of every post (which is a major pain).
Rainmaker builds this functionality right into it’s structure.
24) Advanced SEO settings and other tools built right into the editing area of every page.
There’s even an easy to access 301 redirect field, to create a custom url for a page that you want to redirect people to instead of the old url for a given page.
25) You can set the Facebook and Google+ metadata with ease.
This means you can set the Facebook description, image, and Google+ image and description, that will be pulled from your site when someone links to the page you’re editing. Amazing.
This is called “setting your meta tags” for Facebook and Google+, and it most often requires opening up code files on your server and adding several lines of code in the right place, so that when someone links to your site, or a given page, the exact site name, post/page title, and image that you want to have appear in someone’s Facebook or Google+ post will appear.
If you don’t like using FTP software to access the files of your website and adding large blocks of code for things like this, setting your meta tags can be a big pain. Not with Rainmaker though.
Are you seeing the pattern here? I know I sound a bit repetitive, but in so many ways, you can see that the Rainmaker team has really thought things through and removed a huge amount of the hassle and time it takes to get many of the basic kinds of functionality you’ll need your site to have.
The Rainmaker team seems to have this overarching goal to just remove a crap-ton of the wasted time it can take to get important things done when it comes to certain pieces of functionality that your site should have.
You’ll see this again and again as you use Rainmaker, and I think it’s brilliant.
26) You can turn comments off and on for any given blog post or podcast.
That’s not easy to do with out of the box, vanilla WordPress.
27) Creating a podcast page with an audio player and metadata is amazingly simple.
No third party plugins needed to create beautiful podcast pages with mp3 players.
28) Forums are built right in.
No need to install a plugin to create amazing forums for your program or course members.
And, it’s super easy to create specific access to certain discussion boards in your forum so that some members can see some discussion boards, but not others.
That may seem like a simple thing, but it’s not easy to accomplish, at all, with most other existing solutions for membership site software.
29) You can manage forum post and replies from the admin side.
This is another great thing. Most often with forum plugins, you have to moderate the forum posts and replies from the front of the site, logged into the forum as an admin.
I’ve always found this to be clunky and annoying to have to login to the front of the site just to manage and moderate a forum. Finally, with Rainmaker, you can do these things from the admin side of your site.
30) You can create products for sale right in the app.
No need to tie another ecommerce checkout cart to your wordpress site to sell products, whether they’re free or for sale. You simply need to connect a Paypal, Stripe, Braintree, or Authorize.net payment gateway to your Rainmaker account, and you can begin processing payments right on your site. (Though, you’ll want to contact the Rainmaker support crew and have them install an SSL certificate on your site if you’re using the Rainmaker cart to have people pay right on your site. This keeps the transactions secure and encrypts people’s credit card information to keep everyone safe from hackers.)
31) You can select what list people should be put on in your email marketing app after they purchase a product.
This allows you to target specific emails just to people who have purchased specific products on your site.
This can come in handy when you want to send out certain emails just to members of one specific program or course you’ve sold, such as emails announcing that the next learning module has been published.
32) There are built-in conversion assistant wizards.
They help you set up the workflow needed to deliver paid ebooks or an entire free content library, which is a huge free content lead generation magnet, and the wizards look like characters from Harry Potter movies (I’m kidding, but they should.)
The team at Rainmaker Digital has found, through testing, that creating a free content library with multiple ebooks in it, and that people simply register to gain access to, has grown their list much, much more (400% more, to be exact) than just offering something free, like a 30 day course delivered via email.
The main difference between the two methods is that with the free email course, you’re using a traditional opt-in process: people give you their name and email address to get the thing that you’re offering for free. That can work well, but not as well as offering an entire library of content that you simply register to gain access to.
It’s a slight difference between opting-in to get a free thing delivered to you and registering to gain access to a library, but it seems to make a huge difference.
Rainmaker comes with a content library structure already set up for you. All you need to do is add in your own content into the library area.
33) Very intuitive user interface.
I’ve was able to figure out how to use most of the app without looking at any of their tutorials on how to use it. That is almost unheard of. That’s a sign that they’ve really put a ton of thought into making the user interface easy to understand, and truly intuitive.
To be fair, I’m very familiar with WordPress, and there are many things that are somewhat similar to the regular version of WordPress in Rainmaker. Still, the Rainmaker platform is MUCH easier to use than plain WordPress, in my opinion.
34) The social media share buttons that are built right into the app are amazing.
It is so freaking easy to create great looking social media share buttons, with counters, that will appear above or below your post or page content, without needing to hunt for the best social media sharing button plugin to install. The screenshot below is one version of the social share buttons you can easily create on posts or pages on your site.
This is so refreshing, as most of the social media share button plugins I’ve used end up being quite buggy and unreliable.
35) Great data on the dashboard of the admin side of a Rainmaker site.
Once you get google analytics hooked up to your rainmaker site, and once you enable a payment gateway and run through some test products, the dashboard starts to come alive. It’s got some great data and charts on it.
36) The presentation of google analytics data in the Results section is clean and clear.
As I mentioned above, I actually like it better than the actual Google Analytics interface, which has too many options for most people.
The Rainmaker version of the GA data just seems to show the vital stats that most people want to see on a regular basis.
37) Order forms for products are beautiful.
This is not always the case with ecommerce software that creates order forms for your products, so it’s nice to see well designed order forms. (Order forms are where a customer enters in their name, address, and credit card information during the purchase process.)
38) The server side security of the hosting environment for your Rainmaker site is some of the best I have ever seen.
That’s another set of things that you don’t have to worry about: the security and safety of your site. The Synthesis hosting environment is solid when it comes to securing your site against
losers who have nothing better to do with their life than hack your site hackers.
39) Granular, scheduled content dripping is easy to set up.
If you’re selling access to an online program that moves a group of people through the content of the program at the same pace, you’ll likely want to drip out the content of the program on a set schedule, so as to not overwhelm people in the program with too much information too soon.
This is easy to set up in Rainmaker, using shortcodes that allow you to set a display timer for any given page of member content in your program.
40) Their customer support is amazesh.
I’ve always felt like an app is only as good as it’s customer support is. Poor support can wreck even the best app. Fortunately, the Rainmaker team knows how to take care of people, and in my book, that’s one of the most important things to get right when it comes to selling software as a service.
41) You can control what widgets appear on what specific pages without having to install a plugin.
In order to have control over what sidebar content appears on what specific pages in plain WordPress, you need to install a plugin, like Custom Sidebars. No need to do that in Rainmaker, as that option is baked right in.
42) Great knowledge base.
The situation with software companies and their instructions on how to use their software has been slowly improving over the last 3 years, but it’s still common to see the knoweldge base of nice looking apps be almost completely useless to new users trying to figure out how to use the software.
Luckily, this is not the case with Rainmaker. Their knowledge base continues to get better and better with each passing week. There are plenty of guides and tutorials in their knowledge base, and they’re all easy to understand. This is still a rare thing to see in the software world.
43) You can automatically cross post your blog posts on the Medium site.
This will save you a lot of time if you’re interested in posting original content both on your own blog site as well as on the popular social blogging network, Medium.
Instead of having to format and publish the same post on your site and on Medium, Rainmaker can automatically do that for you. In the process, it also automatically adds the bits of HTML code needed in each post to prevent you from getting penalized by Google for posting duplicate content on two different sites.
Alright, let’s move into the downsides of Rainmaker and flesh out the reality of the whole picture here.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of Rainmaker, but it’s not all unicorns and rainbows.
Every app, or combination of apps, that you might decide on to build a system for your online business will have downsides. Every. Single. One. There is no ideal solution out there for everyone’s needs. That’s just the nature of software.
If there are no ideal, perfect solutions for everyone, the game becomes a game of weighing the pros and cons for your particular set of needs.
There are more features and improvements coming for Rainmaker in the near future, but the main thing to take away from the list of cons below is that Rainmaker does have limitations. In many cases, you’ll end up having more freedom from those limitations in the long haul, though that may not be immediately apparent at first glance.
In other cases, there are just limitations…things that Rainmaker can’t do yet that some of you will likely want, or need, it to do. If you find yourself feeling that, and if you come across something below that’s a deal breaker for you right now, do yourself a favor and keep Rainmaker on your radar over the coming months and years.
I’ve spoken with many people on the Rainmaker team and I have a good sense of where they’re heading with the app, so you may find that in the not-too-distant future, Rainmaker will do almost everything you want a software platform for your business to do.
That said, let’s get to the list of things that are currently not so great about Rainmaker.
1) You can’t install other WordPress plugins.
This means that if you want to add other functionality to your site that isn’t currently available in Rainmaker, you’ll have to wait for the Rainmaker team to build in other functionality.
Remember though, there’s freedom in limitation. Rainmaker is fully hosted and managed. Remember the bit above about not needing to worry about keeping your site and all it’s plugins up-to-date (so that hackers can’t find a security hole and exploit it)?
Well, that’s the freedom that comes from the limitation of not being able to install any plugin you want to.
2) You’ll need to use the available child themes in the theme gallery from within the app, or have a custom theme built.
If you want a custom theme, it would need to be built on the Genesis framework and imported into Rainmaker. This means you can’t import, or use, your current site design unless it’s been built on Genesis platform.
That can be done, but it would cost a good bit of money to hire someone to do that, if you don’t know how to build a WordPress theme on the Genesis framework. This also means that you can’t buy a theme from another WordPress theme provider and use it for your Rainmaker site.
3) I’ve heard some users complain that Rainmaker wasn’t as flexible or easy to use as they’d like it to be.
Some folks felt like they had to use shortcodes to accomplish a lot of things. To an extent, that’s true. If you don’t like figuring out which combination of shortcodes to use for various things, like putting a button on a lesson page that will allow people to mark a lesson as completed (which requires you to paste in this shortcode in the text editor: [ lms_complete ]), then some functionality of Rainmaker can feel a bit complex.
Once you get a handle on how shortcodes work, and you find the full list of shortcodes and all of the variables you can use with them in the knowledge base, it’s not too hard to get things set up and functioning the way you want.
4) There is no comment spam blocking technology that you can turn on if you start getting comment spam.
This can get frustrating if the comment spam filter in Rainmaker doesn’t catch every spam comment, because then you have to always keep an eye on when comments come through (via email notifications) and check to see if they are spam comments or not. If they are, you have to go in and manually delete them. A simple captcha field for comments would solve that problem, but here’s a case where the limitation of not being able to install a WordPress plugin to solve that problem can definitely be felt.
5) When someone buys something using the Rainmaker checkout pages, the customer is forced to create a WordPress user.
They’ll end up needing to enter a username and password, even if there’s no reason for them to do that (such as when someone is making a one-time purchase that doesn’t involve logging into a member’s area to access a product.)
It’s always best to not have steps on a checkout page that are not necessary. You want the purchasing process to be as easy and seamless as possible. Requiring customers to create a user account, with a username and password, is often not necessary, so there should be an option to disable that part of the checkout page.
6) There isn’t a way to pause a subscription in Rainmaker and start it back up.
It would be great to be able to do that, since, for example, I often get requests from people who run into financial issues that need to take a break from payments for a month, so I need to be able to pause subscriptions and then start them back up.
7) There is no way to manually set up and run purchases for customers.
When you run a business that sells online courses or programs, you will inevitably encounter situations where you’ll need to be able to manually sign someone up for a product or subscription from the back end without requiring them to go through an order form on the front.
Currently, there’s no way to do that, since Rainmaker isn’t storing any credit card information, nor is it pulling stored information from either your Stripe, Authorize.net, or Paypal accounts.
8) There are no full site backup files that you can download or have automatically sent to an offsite storage server in case your site gets hacked.
Rainmaker sites are hosted on the Synthesis hosting service, which does daily backups of your site and keeps 7 days of backups on hand so they can restore your site to a previous version if they need to.
So, there are backups of your site being automatically made, but I always like to have multiple backup copies of my websites in different locations for extra insurance.
It sucks to have your site hacked and then find out that the one backup copy you have of your site is unusable, meaning, there’s no way you can restore that backup copy of your site…which leaves you without a website. Not cool.
I love it when hosts backup my site automatically, and that’s in place here with Rainmaker. But I also love to have the option to have daily backups of my whole site and it’s database sent to an offsite storage service of my choosing, like my Dropbox account or an Amazon S3 account.
When that’s in place, I have full control over keeping as many full backups of my site as I want. I usually keep 30 days of backups in my offsite storage, and that brings me peace of mind. I know I have two backup copies of my site in different locations that can be used to restore my site if it gets hacked.
9) No access to edit common files of WordPress.
If you’re a designer or developer who likes to be able to get into the code of your WordPress site to customize things (beyond adding custom CSS, which you can do in Rainmaker themes), you won’t be able to access any of the files you’re used to accessing via FTP, like the functions.php, template-blog.php, or header.php.
10) No automatic notification of replies to comments sent to commenters.
Many people who use the self-hosted version of WordPress also install some kind of plugin that will send an email notification to anyone who’s left a comment on your site when you reply to one of their comments. Currently, this functionality doesn’t exist in Rainmaker. It makes having a conversation with people in your comments difficult, because most people who leave comments will not come back to your site to check and see if you responded to them, which means your responses will mostly benefit future readers who read through the comments.
Currently, the Rainmaker platform costs $125/mo when you pay for an entire year up front, or $145/mo when you pay monthly.
If you use Rainmail, up to 1000 subscribers is free, meaning, you won’t pay anything extra to use Rainmail to send emails to your list. Once you get over 1000 people on your list, you’ll start paying at different rates per month, based on how many people are on your list. Their rates are very affordable though. For example, up to 2,500 subscribers costs $30/mo. Up to 5,000 costs $40/mo. And just to be clear, those monthly fees are on top of the monthly fee for the other features of Rainmaker, listed above.
One thing I always find helpful when trying to decide on new software to use is seeing what other entrepreneurs with similar businesses to mine are using the app I’m considering. If you’re interested, here’s a few online entrepreneurs who are using Rainmaker:
Brian Clark: Further and Unemployable. Brian is the CEO of Rainmaker Digital, the company that makes Rainmaker, so it’s obvious that he’d be using it, but it’s still good to see some more examples of sites that are using it.
Clarity Lab: Um…that’s the site you’re on right now. Yup, we use Rainmaker.
The number of variables involved in deciding if a particular combination of software is right for an online business is large. Like super large. This means that unfortunately, I can’t easily answer the question: “Is Rainmaker right for you?”
The answer is, in every case, “It depends.”
It depends on what you want to sell, how you want to deliver it, what your budget is like, and what kind of marketing strategies you want to implement within your software system.
I will say this though: if you’re starting a new business and you’re interested in building your own very powerful platform that allows you to market and sell products, services like coaching, and online programs using content marketing (like blogging and podcasts), Rainmaker should be in the top position on your list of solutions to consider. It’s designed, from the ground up, to do exactly (or probably very, very close to) what you’re wanting to do.
If that sounds like what you’re building or have built, the question “Is Rainmaker right for me?” is easier to answer: there’s a high likelihood that it would be a great fit.
If you’re attached to your current site design, you’ll need to have that design transformed into a custom WordPress theme that’s built on the Genesis theme framework, and then you can import that custom theme into Rainmaker. It’s totally doable and many people have that done, but it does add an extra cost to migrating over to Rainmaker in this case.
There are dozens of other cases I could think of where Rainmaker could be the best solution for you right now, and a few where it might be better for you to pause and evaluate other options as well.
The best thing to do is 1) to make sure you go through my tour, as well as the great and not-so-great lists above and see if the pros outweigh the cons for your specific needs, and 2) sign up to take Rainmaker for a free trial and see for yourself it it will meet (or exceed) your needs.
Okay, I hope you’ve found this review to be super helpful.
Deciding on software for your business can be a long, arduous journey. Reviews like this can make that journey much less difficult on you, which is my main desire here…to help make things easier for you.
I strongly encourage you to head over to the Rainmaker site and not only sign up for their free content, like any of their dozens of great podcasts, but also sign up for a free trial to take Rainmaker for a spin, which you can do on this page.
This software is something special, and the only way you’ll really know if it’s for you is to sign up for a free trial and take it for a spin yourself.
And if you’ve used Rainmaker and would like to leave your own review of it for others to benefit from, please let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Also published on Medium.