Rainmaker Platform Review
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.
Before we get started, you should know that Rainmaker is no longer available as a stand-alone software as a service product. Meaning, you can no longer just go to their website and sign up for a subscription to use their software.
The only way to get the Rainmaker platform is by signing up for one of their done-for-you service packages, like content marketing assistance, website development, or copywriting services.
So, keep that in mind as you read this review, which was originally written when Rainmaker was available as a regular piece of software you could pay for each month to use.
For this reason, and several others, Rainmaker is no longer our top pick for the best all-in-one platform to use for creating your website, online course area, email marketing, and payment processing functionality. That top spot goes to Kajabi currently. You can read our in-depth Kajabi review right here.
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 online courses, software, WordPress themes, and hosting services) have created what became 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. 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 get 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 some aspects of 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 most 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
- opt-in/squeeze page/landing page creation
- web form creation tools
- automated marketing tools
- list building pop up opt in boxes
- integration with a good collection of 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 pretty amazing.
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 or Infusionsoft and Kajabi, or Ontraport + WordPress…keep reading.
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 figuring out if they will even all work 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 sits 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, which does email marketing, and Optimize Press, which does opt in pages, landing pages, launch funnels, and sales pages, and Member Mouse, which does membership site and ecommerce processing, and BB Press, which creates 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.
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 well and have been using it for this business for three years now.
Also, I’ve built and run three 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 pretty beautiful.
Below is the dashboard of the admin side of a Rainmaker site.
The graphs and charts and stats on this dashboard are actually pretty 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.)
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:
In the Design area, 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. This means 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. Currently, there’s 39 available themes.
And here’s the built in theme editor, which allows you to make some customization changes to your theme without touching 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.
Note that you will likely want to make more customizations than you’ll be able to do with the theme editor. To do that, you’ll need to know HTML and CSS and be able to enter in the correct custom CSS code, for both desktop and mobile screen sizes, into the custom CSS area of Rainmaker.
If you think you’ll want to adjust a lot of things about a given theme in Rainmaker, and if you don’t know HTML and CSS well, you might want to think twice about using Rainmaker.
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 Learning Management System (LMS) for online courses, 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: large sets of features and functionality are built right into the platform (using modified versions of existing WordPress plugins), 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 Kajabi, LeadPages or Clickfunnels, but for having a tool like this built right into your website, it’s pretty good. You’ll be able to create great looking landing 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.
Rainmaker also has a 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.
The Rainmaker platform is one of the only all-in-one solutions that actually has online course features built right in, though, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this review, Kajabi is much better at creating an online course area than Rainmaker is. 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.
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 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 unfortunately need to be placed on the page by you, using shortcodes. More on that later…), 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, using a modified version of the BBPress WordPress discussion forum plugin.
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 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 nice about this 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 lot of time.
Rainmaker removes that hassle and puts that functionality right into the platform.
On to the Conversion area.
All of this functionality you are about to see is not in a plain WordPress site.
The Set Up Wizard 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.
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 experiments to optimize the pages of your site. Again, this kind of A/B split testing, which can improve the revenue of your business, 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.
The Results section. 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 pretty useful and can save you many trips into Google Analytics when you just want to do a quick glance at your basic traffic stats:
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 useful data if you’re 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.
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 useful learning materials that can get your business off the ground quickly.
- 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 useful, live classes taught by instructors on the Rainmaker Digital team.
- New Rainmaker Training, which is a great 10 lesson beginner’s course on how to create successful content marketing to grow your business.
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.
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) 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.
4) 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.
5) There is a self-service billing area built in for members of your online programs.
This is necessary 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.
6) 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.
7) 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.
8) You don’t have to worry about keeping WordPress, and all of the plugins you’ve installed, up-to-date.
Rainmaker is a fully managed platform. This means that you don’t have to worry about keeping your core WordPress files and plugins up-to-date. Not keeping those things up to date in a regular WordPress site is the number one way that hackers find security vulnerabilities. But you won’t need to worry about that with Rainmaker.
9) 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. However, you may be a bit dismayed at how much custom CSS is required to customize certain basic things you’d think should be easy to customize on the site, but which in reality aren’t easy to adjust without custom code.
10) 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.
11) Podcast publishing and feed tool built right in.
Rainmaker makes it 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.)
12) 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.
13) 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.
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.
14) 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.
15) SEO keyword research and optimization tools built right into the page editing area.
The Rainmaker team has taken their SEO (search engine optimization) 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 useful, but if you really want to get some powerful SEO analysis work done, you’ll find that you’d want to use something like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEM Rush.
16) 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.
17) Creating a podcast page with an audio player and metadata is quite simple.
No third party plugins needed to create beautiful podcast pages with mp3 players.
18) Forums are built right in.
No need to install a plugin to create discussion forums for your program or course members.
And, it’s easy to create specific access to certain discussion boards in your forum so that some members can see some discussion boards, but not others.
19) 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.
20) The social media share buttons that are built right into the app are really nices.
It’s 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.
21) Order forms for products are good looking.
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.)
22) Their customer support is great.
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.
23) 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.
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.
That said, let’s get to the list of things that are currently not so great about Rainmaker.
1) Rainmaker is no longer available as a stand alone web app that you can buy and use.
In mid 2017, the Rainmaker team decided to take their software off the market for half a year and build a new service based business. Instead of offering just their software, they wanted to primarily offer done-for-you services like copywriting, content creation, website design and development, and several other done-for-you services, and when you sign up for those services, you get their in-house website and marketing platform, Rainmaker.
It was a massive business model change and I’m curious to see how it pans out for them. I wish them well with it, honestly. I got my start in internet marketing learning from Brian Clark in his very first online course, Teaching Sells.
But it’s hard to have a bigger downside for a piece of software than the fact that you can’t buy it anymore without paying for expensive done-for-you services. Brian and the Rainmaker Digital team are brilliant marketers though, so we’ll have to see what they have planned for this new business model.
For you though, as someone who’s considering using the Rainmaker platform, not being able to take it for a free trial and then subscribe to a monthly payment so you can use it in the long term is a big downside.
2) You’ll need to be good at HTML and CSS. As I mentioned above, it takes a lot of custom CSS code in order to make basic adjustments and customizations to most of the Rainmaker themes. And once you add a bunch of custom CSS code to move things around or change how certain things look on your site, you then need to know how to add even more custom CSS for all of the various mobile screen sizes, because the changes you make for the desktop/laptop sizes screens won’t work on mobile screens without more custom code.
After building many Rainmaker sites for some of our clients, I’ve come to feel pretty frustrated with the amount of custom CSS required to get a Rainmaker site the way you want it to.
3) You can’t display a menu of multiple courses. This is a common need for most online course instructors because almost everyone I know who wants to teach at least one online course eventually wants to teach multiple courses.
When you have multiple courses, you’ll want to have a menu page where you can easily list out all of your available courses in a visually pleasing format, and allow people to click through to learn more about each course or buy a seat in any course you have available.
This isn’t possible in Rainmaker, at least not without an incredible amount of advanced HTML and CSS.
With Kajabi, whenever you add a new course a new course tile image and title is added to a course menu page (for prospects who haven’t bought any courses yet) as well as a course library page (for people who are active customers that have logged into the member’s only area.)
You don’t need to lift a finger to have those pages created. They happen automatically when you create new courses.
4) Built in forums are bare bones basic. The forum functionality inside of Rainmaker is a customized version of the WordPress plugin BB Press, which is a very basic text-based discussion forum.
The interface and functionality of BB Press is limited and a bit dated. The forums feel as if they’re from about 10 years ago in terms of how they look and function.
Most course instructors want their course members to be able to upload photos and videos in addition to being able to post text in discussion threads. Posting photos and videos in the Rainmaker forums isn’t possible though. Most people that use Rainmaker end up using a closed Facebook group for their discussion forum, because that option will have all the functionality people are used to having (because almost everyone already uses Facebook anyway.)
5) Rainmail is bare bones, basic, and rather clunky. While it’s nice to have your email marketing features right inside the app you use for everything else in your tech platform, Rainmail only has the bare minimum of needed functionality for an email marketing platform. For one thing, it’s difficult to get an email to look nice and readable. They have only 3 basic, almost plain text email templates, and in order to change how they look, you need to know how to work with HTML and CSS code.
Also, although you can create multiple lists in Rainmail as a way to segment your email marketing lists, it is difficult to segment any of your lists with tags in Rainmaker and Rainmail. It can be done, but it requires a lot of extra work and a non-intuitive set up process. It’s much more ideal to be able to simply tag people when they do certain things, like buy a program or sign up for a free course. Kajabi’s built in email marketing features allow you to do this.
I also found it interesting and noteworthy that Brian Clark, the CEO of Rainmaker Digital, which also owns Rainmail, decided to use Drip for one of his side businesses and recommend it to his readers. He’s the owner of Rainmail but decided not to use it for one of his side businesses and instead recommended one of his competitors products.
I’m sure there’s more to that story than I know, but it was rather odd that he wasn’t using his own email marketing app.
6) You’ll need to use a lot of shortcodes to get Rainmaker to do things. A lot of the functionality you’ll want to have on the site, such as adding “favorite” and “complete” buttons on a lesson page inside of a course, or adding further information to a member’s profile page, needs to be done with short codes, and they can often get a bit complicated to use.
Everyone I’ve talked to who has used Rainmaker as a customer mentions that they don’t like or understand how to use the shortcodes that are necessary to get Rainmaker to do many things you’ll want to get it to do. Even after using Rainmaker for 3 years, I still have to go into their knowledge base and look up the long list of available shortcodes, then remind myself of all the variables I can add into the shortcodes, just to get certain functionality to happen on a given page.
Everything that requires complicated shortcodes in Rainmaker happens automatically in Kajabi. You don’t even need to think about it in Kajabi. Things are just already set up to function they way they should. No shortcodes required.
7) Setting up customer workflows inside of Rainmaker and Rainmail feels clunky and is more than a bit complicated for most people I’ve talked to who have tried to use Rainmaker themselves (and is even complicated to clients who’s Rainmaker sites we’ve built and then trained them how to use.) You have to know where to go within the app, in about 15 different places, to set up a full workflow for a prospect to buy an online course. It’s not intuitive to say the least..
8) 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.
9) 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.
10) 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.
11) 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.
12) 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.
13) 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.
14) 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.
15) 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.
16) 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, I don’t know what it costs, to be honest. You can’t buy Rainmaker as stand-alone software anymore. You can only get it by purchasing Rainmaker’s done-for-you services, and I suspect that those vary in price. If I had to take a wild guess, I’m betting that most of their done-for-you packages will start at around $2,500 to $3,000 and go up from there.
When Rainmaker was available as stand alone software, it cost $125/mo when you paid for an entire year up front, or $145/mo when you paid monthly. That option is no longer available though.
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:
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), I can no longer recommend Rainmaker as our top option. For a long time it was the best option out there, but Kajabi has leaped far ahead of Rainmaker at this point.
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.
If you haven’t been able to tell yet, in my opinion, if you’re considering Rainmaker as an option, I would reconsider, or at least pause for a bit so you take a look at Kajabi. You can head over to our full review on Kajabi and get a sense of what it can do for you and why we think it’s a better option than Rainmaker.