062: Defining the concept of community for businesses – with Andrew Guttormsen

Andrew Guttormsen, the CEO & Co-founder at Circle.so, the modern community platform for creators, joins us to explain the different types of communities out there and which could be the most appropriate for a membership business.

✍️ Show Notes

πŸ“„ Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors πŸ™‚

Ward Sandler: Welcome everybody. Today I’m talking with Andrew Guttormsen. The co-founder of Circle.so, the modern platform for creators! Before that, he spent almost five years at Teachable, where he joined as employee number 7 and led a 15 person Growth & Marketing team as their VP of growth. He has in-depth knowledge of startup growth, Saas and creators needs! Andy, welcome to the Membership Maker podcast.

Andrew Guttormsen: Thanks for having me. I’m excited.

Ward Sandler: Sure thing. Ward Sandler: There’s been a lot of innovation with online communities in the last year, but the concept of community for a membership business is not always clear to everyone! Can you explain to our audience the difference, the different types of communities there are and what could be the most appropriate for a membership business?

Andrew Guttormsen: Yeah. So there are a lot of different types. There’s, there’s a handful though that are most common. So, uh, we see a lot of like product driven communities where it’s some combination of like, it’s a membership experience, but it’s a product, and there’s a community attached, by the way, MemberSpace has a version of that! But then there’s a lot of like, Content-focused memberships that are just totally paid. People that are in there, they pay to get access to or they might even apply to get access, to make sure that the right people are in their room. Some other types of memberships that we see are just like totally free open communities where anybody can come and they kind of like use them more for acquisition, and for like building the brand and so that when they have something to sell, they’ll sell it. We’ve seen hybrid communities, which are kind of like part of the community totally open. And they use it to build connection and build the brand, all things we just talked about. But at the same time, then parts of it are paid and gated and, you get something extra, you get more connection with other people. You get higher-touch relationships with the people running the community, uh, extra resources, things like that. Uh, like those are the common types of communities that, that we see, it’s product-driven, paid memberships that are closed, open community experiences, or like hybrids where you kind of combine a couple of them.

Ward Sandler:Yeah. I mean, obviously, the open communities are going to get the most amount of people in them, right? Because there’s no gate, there’s no walk to get in there! But I’d be curious about like the engagement, right? Like not just necessarily the total number of posts or the total number of comments, but like the deep answers, good answers, not just, Oh, great idea! Or, Oh, this looks good though! In-depth paragraph type responses where it’s like really thought through, you know, things that apply for different topics. Is there any kind of community that you’d say kind of delivers that more? That kind of, cultivates that?

Andrew Guttormsen:Β A hundred percent! This year we’ll have done over a thousand one-on-one demos with people thinking about starting communities and, um, you know, we have all the data on UPC, what people do and yeah. Two things that are really important for getting the outcome that you just described, which is like really thoughtful discussions. People who are really excited, people, who they feel enough belonging, where if you will leave that community, people wouldn’t notice those communities. They focused on two things: They focus on getting the right people in the room, and they focus on creating a really great onboarding experience for those new members. Because when you get them in, even if they’ve applied, they’ve jumped through some hoops or they’ve paid. Even if you’ve made the sale, you’re still selling them on ‘Hey, you just made the right decision’, and now you should come and give us, uh, something more important than money, which is like, you’re tying your credibility, helping people, all that kind of stuff. So what we recommend often, if people are thinking about doing some type of free community experience with some paid community experience, it’d be having both. I always tell them like, start with like 30 founding members. Be really clear about what those folks get when they join the community and why, if you were in there, she was like, why is it worth it for them create like a nice sales page, even, um, do a lot of like one-on-one calls with the first 30 people. It’s so unscalable, but like hop on a call with all of them, figure out exactly what they need help with, really get them, then bring them into the community and in that first couple of days, make sure that they have some of these magical moments where their vision for what the community was going to be and what they were hoping it was going to be that gets validated. So like introduce them to some, some cool people, send them to a resource, give them something that they wouldn’t expect to get. And by the way, uh, we have a bunch of committees that do a really great job of this. One of my favourite things that people can do is set up kind of an onboarding questionnaire. It’s actually something that we’re implementing in our own community right now, which is, we’ll figure out like, what do people need help with? And then we’ll try and connect them. With all those resources and different people and, and all of that makes sure people get really fast responses, but you can do things like having a, like a new member checklist, like go do these nine things, um, in the community in your first 24 hours, uh, like introduce yourself to everybody, go in and like sign up for a new member event, go and ike share something, you know, that kind of stuff. And then the other thing, I think I was like a little kind of like Hack hat, one of our most popular communities does Pat Flynn from smart, passive income. They have a virtual tour of their community where they bring people in, and they do things like they have, they have a book club, and they have a place to share their wins every week, and they have these like masterminds and small group cohorts and things like that. And they try to make it really clear, like, ‘Hey, there’s all these ways to get the value of. It’s a buffet, come and eat what you want’ Like get what you need. You don’t need to eat everything, but they want you to know it’s there. And they want you to know, is there like in the first 24 hours, so that your decisions get validated, right?

Ward Sandler: So if I could boil that all down is nurture, nurture those initial members, it’s kind of like a seed, like from the analogy I’ve heard about communities because, you know, we have our own at MemberSpace and it’s growing and the way we kind of think about it is, you want to get everybody right, turn it into a thing, cause it can be a little quiet at first. If you don’t have active participation and you can’t be the one always posting everything, in the beginning, that you kind of have to, right? But the goal is eventually the community takes on a life of its own and kind of runs itself in a sense where people are proactively posting things! The community members are proactively responding to each other, and you can start to take a step back further and further, or not depends on your level, how engaged you want to be. But the idea is that kind of let it grow and then it becomes its own thing. And that’s kind of the ideal community. That’s what most people want at some point because if you don’t want your community to work if you don’t do an input.

Andrew Guttormsen: A hundred percent! And the analogy that I like to use it’s like starting a fire: It’s like, imagine if you were going to go camping, right? You’re out there camping, and you think ‘Oh, I’ll start a fire, we’ll cook some food, and you look at your friend, and say hey, can you throw me over the matches? And your friend says, Oh, the matches are gone. Now, You got to use like these like two rocks. You got to rub them together to start a fire from scratch. It’s so much work’, And that’s what creating a community is like in the early days. It’s so unscalable; you have to have all these one-on-one calls. You have to do so much work that it’s just not sustainable. But if you start that little flame. You know, you can start to get the kindling going, like you could burn the forest down, and the next few hours, if you wanted to cause like it could start to pick up on itself, but it takes time, and it takes, it could take a few months to get to that point.

Ward Sandler: Right! Andy, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. We really appreciate it. Would you like to share any resources or recommendations for folks that are trying to learn more about Circle?

Andrew Guttormsen: Yeah, well, I mean, you know, if you ever want to run a community and, and kick the tires and see just what the experience can be like, uh, recommend you grab a, a trial circle and play around, um, or to say hi on Twitter it’s @aguttormsen on Twitter! You don’t have to search pretty hard to find that, but if you can be great to connect there!

Ward Sandler: Awesome. All right, Andy. Thanks again!