083: How to build a highly engaged membership – with Damian Erskine

Damian Erskine is the founder of BassEducation.com. His online platform provides inspiration, courses, and a community for musicians. In this episode, he joins Ward to discuss his favourite strategies to keep his customers highly engaged with his membership.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler: Welcome, everyone! Today I’ll be talking to Damian Erskine, a very talented musician with an impressive career, now founder and creator of www.BassEducation.com, an online bass academy with over 150+ members, built with MemberSpace. He’s also the author of two books, a contributor of several music magazines, and a prolific MemberSpace community member! Welcome to the Membership Maker podcast, Damian! It’s great to have you here!

Damian Erskine: Oh, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me and thank you for MemberSpace. You guys have been wonderful.

Ward Sandler:Glad to hear it. You lead quite a vibrant and large community of members. Keeping your members involved and encouraging their participation can be very challenging. How do you keep them engage?

Damian Erskine:I focused well early on, I very much realized that since I don’t know everything, I want to essentially crowdsource my students and the members who joined. So I make it very clear from the get-go. I use an app called Bonjoro. So whenever somebody signs up to the community through member space, I immediately get a notification via Zapier, in Bonjoro. So I immediately send people a video, thanking them for signing up, but also letting them know. That, um, I’m open to feedback and requests and if there’s something you’re looking for, you’re not finding, please just let me know if I can make it happen. I absolutely will. And I, I kind of immediately try and engage people in the process of using my site and helping me to make the site better because it makes them a little more invested in the website itself. If they feel like they have input and they very much do. Um, and I also. I host two Q and A’s two webinars a month, uh, where the floor is open and people can help direct the communication and conversations. They’re really putting all of my energy into being as available to people as available as I can be to everybody.

Launching the Circle community was one of the best things I ever did. Um, that really, you know, at this point, actually now I have 209 members, and 165 of them are active in the community, we’re hyper-engaged in there, and I’m very active in there as well. People can post questions about lessons or just I set up spaces so they can share music and albums they love, you know, it just, it turns it into a much more of a here’s some lessons, watch some stuff, and let me know, if you run up against a wall and need help, it really turns it into a series, a lot of one-on-one relationships that I’m developing with people.

Ward Sandler: Yeah. That’s something we’ve mentioned in previous episodes. Like the community aspect of a membership, all the pop-up ones that I know of. Ones that have been the most successful on member space, for the most part, have community asks, right? Cause there’s something about you may connect with each other. And that if you want to use like a tactical term, but it’s also just more like just being more human it’s like, yeah, I have an actual chip with people. It’s not just buy my thing, go on my website to access it by another thing. But my website it’s, we’re actually having a conversation. We’re actually talking about things that are not necessarily my membership that I offer you. It’s just, you know, common interests in like that’s awesome. I would imagine, right? It’s like, okay, it’s not just about me selling my course. It’s also about like, who are these people? And I’m sure there’s a lot of cool things we have in common that we can talk about, right?

Damian Erskine: Yeah, exactly. And my goal was always kind of in support of the musical community. I don’t charge very much for their site and a part of that is because of that, I want it to be accessible for everybody. It’s only seven bucks a month. But, yeah, and at this point I’ve got so many videos and so many things on the site, and it’s pretty robust and laid out very well. So actually a lot of my energy these days is spent within the community, helping people one-on-one and engaging in discussions with people about various aspects of their musical lives. That’s, that’s become a very, very large part of my Bass Education life. At this point, it’s the community.

Ward Sandler: So, I wanna put a pin in the pricings. I’m curious, I’ll ask you about it in a sec, but you go back to what you were saying earlier about using to send people basically personalized videos when they sign up. I’ve actually done a webinar with them before, so I’m definitely familiar with them, and it’s something I’ve actually considered myself. I’m just curious, how do you do? Do you send them like an email through your personal email account? Or do you use a MailChimp or something to it to them?

Damian Erskine: It goes through Bonjoro. I just record the video directly in the Bonjoto app or using the browser access to their site and it funnels straight through Bonjoro to them. And if they respond, I get a message within Bonjoro and I can respond within as well. So it’s almost like it’s a little sub-community.

Ward Sandler: Oh, cool. So I would imagine that email sort of templates instead, it makes it clear to people, this is like a video for you. This isn’t some generic marketing email.

Damian Erskine: Yeah, exactly. And if, you know, depending on your tier within Bonjoro you can, you know, essentially white-label your thing have all of your own branding there, or they have a free, scalable thing where if, you know, if you have less than 50 bond gyros a month, you can just actually use it. It’s a phenomenal service.

Ward Sandler: Yeah, no, it’s something I’ve really thought about. And it’s one of the things that maybe at first people were like, there’s no way I could do that. But if you think about it, I mean, if you have some insane membership, you have like hundreds of people sitting up every day. Yeah.

Maybe that won’t work, but most of us don’t have that. Most of us have under a dozen new signups a day. So like, yeah, you can probably get through this in like five minutes. Right. And that, in that one-on-one connection that you build by just taking that effort, that personalized video, I would imagine that really sparks an interesting conversation.

Damian Erskine: Absolutely. Every video I send is between one and two minutes long. So it takes exactly that long to do it. But, I’d say 80% of the time, the response that I get, if I get a response is, Oh my God, I can’t believe you took the time to do this. You know, like, you’re not just some, semi well-known musician on a pedestal presenting something, but not engaged with people at all. They can’t believe the interpersonal connection, especially when I maintain that over time and, and let them know it’s not just an onboarding device, you know, I’m really here for you. Let’s dialogue. Let me help you in your process. That goes a huge way towards retention.

I feel like people are getting a lot of value. I immediately thought I want to charge something that everybody can afford as much as possible. But I want to provide far more value than that. I’ve had a lot of my business-minded buddies yell at me for my pricing. It’s a global market, you know, I don’t need to rake people over the coals and nickel and dime people. I just want to support the community. And I think that kind of honesty and, and, general energy, I think it translates and people resonate and appreciate that. And they’ll, they’ll support that middle it’ll support itself.

Ward Sandler:I think that’s a nice notion. I think it’s good to not try to squeeze as much money as possible out of folks. I definitely agree with leaving something on the table for sure. At the same time, I think it’s also important to sort of consider, what happens at scale, right? So like right now you said you have around 200 or so members and it seems to be going good. And it sounds like you’re the kind of person who really goes the extra mile to engage with folks and talk for them. So, you know, just to do what happens though, when they 200 turns into 500 people, right? And just do some quick math 500, you said seven, $7 a month. That’s $3,500 a month. Right. So. I don’t know if that’s enough for you to be hiring like a part-time support person or something like that to help you. But eventually, as the numbers get larger just because you’re only one person, right? And so if you’re not charging enough to at least hire someone to help you do this, at some point, it might lead to a disservice you do to members, right? Because you’re spread too thin you don’t have time to engage more because you have so many members to handle. So have you thought about that part too?

Damian Erskine:I have. And kind of feel like i will cross that bridge when I get to it. And I hope it’s a problem. I hope to have, um, you know, a good friend of mine Scott’s Bay. Scott has Scottsbasslessons.com. He has 25,000 miles. I think, you know what I think of, I think of him, I’m like, yeah, there’s no way that that’s feasible. I would probably need to hire people to help me just manage the community, let alone everything else involved with the site, but yeah, again, that’s a bridge I’ll cross when I get to it. If it becomes too much, you know, I may pull back on some of that a little bit, but I’m going to pull back on as little of it as I can.

Ward Sandler:Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Damian; we really appreciate it; would you like to share any resources or recommendations for folks that are trying to learn more about BassEducation?

Damian Erskine: Yes. Well, I was thinking of different resources. Like I knew that we should talk resources, and I was thinking more about the site type of resources. But some of them relate. YouTube is your friend. If you have questions, search for it on YouTube. I’ve learned how to do everything from fixing my dishwasher to fix my roof, to learn how to play Teen Town on the bass. YouTube is your friend, one suggestion. I wanted to make this suggestion to MemberSpace people and anybody interested in this kind of things: Research. One of the mistakes I made early on, you know, I’d be researching a lot of apps to use, for one service or another one functionality or another. And I made the mistake of just, well, it’s, you know, it’s cheaper. If I do the annual plan, let me just do that only to realize that service. There was some kind of deal-breaking obstacle with that service, like ‘Oh, I can’t actually do this.’ And then I wound up wasting that much money. So I would encourage people to explore sites, even if you’re paying more first, do the monthly plan, make sure the thing really works for you and then upgrade to an annual plan.

With regard to bass players, I would encourage everybody to reach out to me if you have any questions first and foremost. But I, I tell all my students, the best thing you can do is think about the type of player you want to be. You know, think about your idols, who you want to sound like, what you want to do. And I think there’s probably a relates to every, but beyond just the musical realm, and then reverse engineer that process a little bit. You can look at that player and think, okay, that type of player probably needs to know. You know how to read music, stylistic diversity, if they want to be a session, musician, whatever it is, and reverse engineer your, shed process and devote your time to your weaknesses, you know, prioritize your shed time or your study time when building a site, based on what’s most important to you and your goals. Don’t feel like you need to be able to do everything, be able to know everything, just focus on what you actually want to achieve, and what’s going to help you get from point a to point B as efficiently as possible.

Ward Sandler:That is really great, and what’s your website URL?

Damian Erskine: www.BassEducation.com

Ward Sandler:Great. Thank you!