006: Starting a Membership Business with a Free Community
🗓 June 02, 2019
Ward and Annie chat about her 1 on 1 consulting business, email marketing strategies, and figuring out how to determine the right pricing.
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Ward: [00:00:07] Hi Annie thanks for joining me.
Annie: [00:00:10] Hey had it's nice to be here. Thank you for having me.
Ward: [00:00:13] No problem. So why don't we jump into you giving us a little bit of information about your professional background?
Annie: [00:00:19] Sure. Well, my professional background is a little bit Meandering, but basically I. I am a business consultant and I've been doing that in person with people for a long time and I've decided to take it to a virtual space and to open up an online community for people to do more of that business Consulting. My other background that got me started in that is owning a massage school. So I opened a massage school about eight years ago and through that I just. I was in contact with a lot of new massage therapist opening a business. And so that started me down the business Consulting track.
Ward: [00:00:58] Very cool and wanted to give listeners a little bit information. What is your business? What does it do? What is it called?
Annie: [00:01:04] Sure, so my business is the is Brainy boss and it is focusing on micropeneurs. Basically very very small businesses that have teams of approximately five or less people where the owner is doing most of the work in the business with a little bit of support from people around them. And that that's my focus. That's who I've always primarily worked with and so I have an online community and then I also have a podcast called brainy boss and that focuses on that same thing as well. And then I offer one-on-one Consulting for people that need more than what's provided in the podcast or the website.
Ward: [00:01:40] Cool. So the actual business that what you're charging for is the one-on-one consulting or is it also for the online community?
Annie: [00:01:47] RIght now It's just the Consulting. The online community is completely free and I'm working on building that which is how you and I got connected. So I'm working on building that right now, but at this point everything is free, except the one-on-one Consulting.
Ward: [00:02:02] Right and just so everyone's aware. This is a relatively new Venture, right?
Annie: [00:02:06] Yes. I just started in January. So a month and a half old at the time that we're recording this so very new. Yes.
Ward: [00:02:14] So, yeah, let's dive into some of the strategies that you're thinking through. So how what sort of the game plan here as far as building an audience and getting people to even find out about brainy boss?
Annie: [00:02:23] My primary focus is to build an email list, and and I know that. A lot of people do that through social media and I'm using that as an Avenue, but I just want my community to be on my email list and on my website. So what I'm doing right now is I have the podcast and I'm inviting people to become email subscribers and then on the website, you can also become an email subscriber as well. I am accessible on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, but that's more as a gateway to get people to know about me and my goal is to build my email Community. That's that's my strategy again. I'm super new so I'm just trying stuff out and I'm I'm happy with trying different things and seeing what works and that that's the phase. I'm in so I'm totally happy to share how some of that's going and what not.
Ward: [00:03:16] So the strategy to focus on building an email list is interesting. I personally agree with it. Some people though that we've spoke I spoken to and in the past have said they are more focused on building up like a Facebook group or building up an Instagram following or some other third party social network type thing. And I'm just curious what made you say. You know, what I'm going to do is focus on funneling everything to that email list. Why is why did you decide that?
Annie: [00:03:47] Well, basically I did a lot of research about different ways to build it and that the common thing that I've heard that makes a lot of sense to me Is that when you build your community on a social platform like Facebook you're building it on rented space. We all sort of assume that Facebook is never going to go away and Instagrams never going to go away. But but we don't know that and we also don't know what changes could happen to it that would affect our audience. So if I build an email list, it's mine. I have access to that and no matter what changes in the social Arena. I still have access to my. Community and so I just I feel like it's more stable and I don't want to be on you know rental rented virtual space.
Ward: [00:04:34] Yeah, I couldn't agree more especially with you know, some of the news at least these days about Facebook and some of their nefarious business practices, you know, it's a lot of people I've spoken to are kind of like yeah, I hate Facebook. But you know you got to do what you got to do right? I got to run ads. This is how I find people so what other alternative is there and and it's tough once you get to a position where your business is relying on Facebook. But it seems like it's a really smart strategy to from the beginning like you're doing to focus on built using those tools but using them to build up an email list. So yeah because you own that write emails never going to go go out of style or it's not gonna stop working because it seems.
Annie: [00:05:14] Exactly and it and you touched on the Privacy thing to it is nice to not have to be on Facebook. If you don't want to be some people are getting away from Facebook because of privacy issues or concerns and a you know, that's a bigger discussion. You could say that if you're on the internet at all, there's privacy issues and sure but I don't want to have to force my community to be somewhere where maybe they don't want to.
Ward: [00:05:40] So when people are going to join this email list, what what's the incentive? What do you how are you kind of phrasing that to say join my email list? Like why right? Everyone had gets plenty of email already. So why should they join your email list?
Annie: [00:05:53] Yeah, that's such a great question and I'll be honest and say that I am I'm working on parts of that right now at this point. Basically you get my you get everything right to your inbox so you don't have to log in somewhere else. If you if you want to listen to my podcast there is a link right in the email so you don't have to go to iTunes or Stitcher. If you don't want to if you want to read my blog it comes right to you so you can get things on your time instead of havin g to go. Oh, I've got to remember to log into Facebook to read the newest blog or log into wherever to listen to the podcast so everything gets delivered there and then also overtime my email subscribers will get things that other people don't get I'm I'm in the process of creating some courses and some video tutorials that will only go to my email subscribers. Those have not launched yet. But when they will that's who we'll get.
Ward: [00:06:47] Right makes a lot of sense and this email list again. It's free to join right? That's the idea that this is the right. So this is sort of like a way to deliver free value build up good will help in genuinely help people and then some percentage of those people I assume are going to convert or choose to to buy some sort of paid product from you, whether that's the one-on-one consulting or anything else that you might launch in the future like like a course like you were saying.
Annie: [00:07:14] Exactly and probably at some point in the future that my membership at this point is free and at some point in the future I may look at changing that and putting more stuff that there'd be a lot of stuff that would still be accessible for free, but then there'd be even more things behind that for people that wanted to join as a member and I'm looking at launching that maybe later in this year, which is. You know why I'm using members to base and getting familiar with it because I want that ability. I want to be able to put stuff in a members-only area, which at this point is free. So, yeah, the it depends if you wanted to buy a course if you wanted to buy Consulting, but really right now I just want to offer. Some of the insights that I had to learn the hard way and I'm hoping to make the Journey of time management and efficiency and Effectiveness easier for other people who might be building a business,
Ward: [00:08:09] So why don't you give us a little bit of information about how things are going so far since you're kind of in this raw beginning state of a business where a lot of people are I think a lot of people can relate to that. When you're building this initial email list this initial audience. What have you specifically done so far and how has it gone?
Annie: [00:08:29] so far It's going great. I I approach everything like it's a beta test. So I've just started and I'm seeing how it goes, but the podcast has been doing really really well and I release to podcasts a week one is on Tuesday and it's a little longer interview format with other small business owners. And then on Friday, I have a really short one that's 10 minutes or less tips on time management. And it's just going really well I've gotten great feedback people have been really excited about it. I've gotten messages from people. I don't know that are just like, oh I love this stuff. So so that is going really well. The response is great and I'm learning stuff along the way. I'm. You know podcasting like anything you have to start and you get better over time. And so I'm learning what I want to do and what I don't want to do and the people that are listening have been very gracious and been very supportive. And so it's going really well. I that's kind of the stage. I'm at right now. It's so new that it's hard to say what I'm going to do different, but I'm learning stuff every day.
Ward: [00:09:38] And how are people finding out about the podcast?
Annie: [00:09:41] Right now, I when it comes out I share it on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and that that's kind of the Gateway that mean the social areas do make good introductory for places. So I share it on all of those places and then it goes if you are my email subscriber, you know about it you obviously get it right in your inbox and then I've had a lot of people. Telling other people about it. So that's been helpful. And then I interview people and the people that I'm interviewing share it on their channels as well. So it's kind of spreading that way and I want it to grow organically in that respect. I'm not necessarily looking for a lot of people and looking for people that can really resonate with what I'm saying. So I'm just letting it grow organically in that in that regard.
Ward: [00:10:28] And for those the social platforms that you're initially broadcasting this, how did you even get a following on those or how are you? How are you building that right now?
Annie: [00:10:37] The same thing sharing interacting with people. I I've probably put most of my energy into Instagram and I'm just interacting with people there and having conversations and doing the same thing on Twitter. And so that audience is slowly growing. It's definitely small right now, but my engagement is good and the people that I'm talking to are interested in what I'm offering so it'll grow.
Ward: [00:11:01] Cool and you've already started to write blog posts or if you launch some already?
Annie: [00:11:05] Yes, I've got a bunch of blog posts. I write those are not those aren't on a schedule. I when I have a thought I put it to paper. Some are longer some are shorter. I am a real Neuroscience geek. So a lot of my blog post dive into more of this sciency part of why we need rituals and routines for good Effectiveness. And so that, the blocks are sort of my outlet to get geeky.
Ward: [00:11:32] And how do you actually the topics for the blog post? It's really just whatever pops into your head or have you tried to reverse-engineer some sort of search engine optimization or anything else like that?
Annie: [00:11:43] Mostly at this point they are what pops into my head or things that I'm reading that I want to want to share with people or questions that I've had from some of my existing clients. So sometimes what a lot of times as I've consulted over the years, I realized that people struggle with a lot of the same things. So those common struggles I like to make into blog post to help people so that it's it's mainly what's in my head, but a lot of its just come from my.
Ward: [00:12:11] Okay, and for the one-on-one consulting which is right now the only paid product what is that involved? How much does that cost? And what do people get exactly ?
Annie: [00:12:20] That is a hundred and twenty five an hour and you get an hour with me we do a video connection on Zoom because I like to be able to see people's face and talk and that can be what you need it to be. With with most people what I do is strategic stuff. Like we think where are we going? How are we going to get there? How can I help you? Get there and sometimes people just need another voice as I found that with a lot of entrepreneurs they're alone, they feel isolated and they just need to run things by other people that I have a business consultant and that's how I use him. It's kind of a sounding board for a lot of stuff. So I often that's often the position I feel for people and I do a lot of strategic planning with people and we'll put stuff in writing and will will set dates for when we're trying to achieve stuff and then look back at those and see if we're meeting the goals that we've set forth to reach for the business.
Ward: [00:13:18] Right, and for this what a one on one Consulting is this something that's always a one-off kind of ad hoc, or do you have clients that are on a recurring schedule or you trying to move towards that?
Annie: [00:13:29] It's available either way. I have some people that are recurring because that that's what works best for them and they know they have a time but I make it available for people as needed because I know some people they'll get busy and they won't need anything for a month and they don't want to have to think about that. And then I have other people that need to talk to me three times in two weeks because they're going through some big project or some big growth spurt in their business. So I make it available as needed. There's no. No commitment beyond the one consult and I just find that that works for people the best.
Ward: [00:14:04] So regarding the next steps here in your business the the course it sounds like it's going to be the next big product or thing that people can actually actually purchase right. What's what's going to go into that? Give it give us some details about what is the course involve? What kind of pricing are you thinking?
Annie: [00:14:22] I haven't decided on pricing so that's a great question. But in terms of content what I know that people struggle with is having good systems in place. So it's going to be a course about Building Systems and it's really going to be focused on people who have started their business and maybe didn't start off on exactly the right foot with organization and kind of need to dig into what they have get it organized get things automatic automated get things into systems that are more efficient. For what they're doing on a day-to-day so it'll probably be about I'm looking at four or five modules that go over the course of about four or five weeks and things to do each time. So that by the end of this course, you will be organized and feel like you're on top of your stuff and hoping to minimize the overwhelm that people feel when they don't have good systems in place.
Ward: [00:15:14] Yeah, that sounds like a great goal. So for the actual the four to five modules, is it all video? Is it all PDF? Is it a mix of that audio? What are you thinking?
Annie: [00:15:26] It's going to be a mix. It's going to be video with me doing some some of me talking some of It's like screenshots showing people how to do stuff and then some PDFs that support that where people can do some work booking as needed, but it's mainly going to be me talking and saying, okay, let's hop on the computer and I'll show you how to do this thing. So I know that for me that was something I taught myself so many things that that's what I wanted when I started I wanted somebody to just help me do some basic things. So it's going to be really geared towards people that know they need it know they can do it and just haven't made the time to really get systems in place mostly video.
Ward: [00:16:11] And you said you haven't decided on the pricing that have you thought about?
Annie: [00:16:16] Oh my gosh, I have thought about it and I could be honest. I'm all over the place because it's I know there's going to be a lot of value and I know it's going to be something that people need but I also want it to be accessible to people so I just don't know. I know that it's not it's not going to be free and I know that it's not going to be inexpensive but I feel like it's going to be an investment that people are ready to make and I just haven't I just haven't decided when I've bought courses they've ranged from you know, two hundred dollars to 900 dollars depending on what the course is about. So I know I do not have a specific answer for you and not because I don't want to I'd love to have a specific answer but I think that will also come to me when it's created because if I feel like if it needs more modules, I want to put more modules in it and I want it to be highly valuable to people so I think once it's created I'll probably know my pricing a little bit better. Do you have any thoughts?
Ward: [00:17:19] Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, I'm more I'm more oriented towards charging over occurring and then monthly and for that those types of pricing models. We always tell people we recommend at least $30 a month just because the math is difficult. If you don't make that much to pay for support team and to make it as a sustainable and all that. So in your case, you have the one-on-one Consulting and then you'd have this course. I'd be priced somewhere in the hundreds. It sounds like. And to figure out okay. Well, is that going to be sustainable? Because from your perspective it's not like you're going to have ongoing support forever it for the four to five weeks. There's going to be questions. I'm sure and some follow-up or maybe after that. But is it the kind of thing we're after the modules done its kind of done or is it like a lifetime access your thinking?
Annie: [00:18:04] Oh people will get lifetime access for sure. And then eventually when I am ready to launch my membership that the paid membership people that are in the paid membership would also get all the courses available to them. It would always be lifetime. I think that's only fair when people buy something that they could always have access to it and then that will give people a little introduction to me get them to know a little bit more about how I work and then then when I'm ready to launch the paid membership that they're going to know a little bit more about what they're getting and the paid membership is what I'm looking for for the sustainability that you're talking about.
Ward: [00:18:42] Yes. I mean for the course for some reason the number 500 is hitting me but picking a number that you know, you can, one offer a bit of a discount on if needed right for a promotion or an earlier launch or like an early bird kind of thing. That's a classic sales trick is to you no charge 10% higher than you were going to then offer people a 10% discount. And then the other the other thing to think about here is when it does come time to offer that recurring membership and then to say okay, but you also get this course for free, which is normally, you know valued at $500 or whatever It's going to be. Yeah, the higher that number is the more valuable. It makes the monthly membership look right because it's you're comparing at you. Oh, wow. I'm getting x hundred dollars for free and it but I'm only going to be paying monthly for this court for this membership plan. So thinking about it thinking about it. That way I think is important if the course is too too low it right like if it's like $99 or something like that. I think it one. It sends a bad signal that you know, this isn't that this isn't that high quality and also might attract the wrong kind of people you want people who like you said are serious and looking to make a commitment because those are the people who are going to get the real value out of it. That's how you get good testimonials and actually help people the people that can commit and if it's too low people sometimes are like and I'll get to it later. But when it's a good amount of money people really say, all right, I'm making a real investment. I gotta really focus on.
Annie: [00:20:09] Exactly, and I the pricing along that same lines also when you bring in people that value it more since I also plan on doing things like having office hours where people can live chat with me and each other and and in the membership having Mastermind groups where we can talk and so I want everyone in the community to have a high value on that. And so the pricing becomes really important because if the other people are going to interact with each other you want everybody who's made a good investment who values not only the money that they've spent but the time they're putting into it and that everybody gains from it. So I think pricing is really important to make sure that that's the community you create.
Ward: [00:20:54] So regarding marketing the the membership side of things and the course is that going to be the same kind of avenues we were just talking about the podcast the blog and the email list or anything about something special for that ?
Annie: [00:21:07] I think it's probably going to be primarily my email list. I'm hoping to maybe build my email list to a point that I can reach out to them when I'm ready to launch the membership and say here this is what I've got. Now, I probably will promote it on Instagram and Twitter and stuff as well. But really I think that with my email list at least the way I see it in my head now is that with my email list and providing a light of high-value content to them now and the and meeting them where they need that that group of people will say oh, yeah, let's let's take this into a membership place where it's it's a little bit more private and a little bit more focused and there's even more stuff back there. I think that's going to be my where I'm really going to spend my marketing time to my email list.
Ward: [00:21:54] Yeah, we what we've seen work for a lot of people in the past is to really spend time building that email list and by building and I mean offering valuable content and information on a regular basis for a good amount of time, you know, for some people that might be a few months for some people that might be like a year. So that's why it's always a good idea to start an email list ASAP if you're going to have a membership business of any kind. Which it sounds like you were well aware of so, that's awesome. Because yeah, basically it makes sense. If you think about it, right? It's kind of like getting to know somebody if you get to know somebody, you know, you meet him once and then the next time you meet them they want to sell you something. It's a little weird or they tell you. Oh, there's this great product. You should buy it's like I don't really know you I'm not going to trust you yet, but if you've met someone or talk to them for for a year, and they've continually giving you. Valuable advice then when they recommend something or say oh, I have something that you might like to buy your much more inclined to trust them because they've proven that they are they know what they're talking about and that they're not just here to sell you things and run away. They're here to provide long-term value and now they happen to have something to sell.
Annie: [00:22:59] Exactly and I think that such an important thing when people buy something from you you you need to thank them and you thank them by making what they've bought from you exceptionally valuable an exceptionally good and they can't know that unless they've experienced a lot of what you have to offer prior to that and that's really important to me because I really take it seriously when people invest in me when they invest in consulting or whatever I'm doing I take that really seriously, but I want them to have enough information to make that decision.
Ward: [00:23:31] Yeah, great. All right, I think we'll leave it there any could you let everybody know how they can get in touch with you and learn more about you?
Annie: [00:23:37] Sure. My website is brainyboss.co and my podcast is also brainy boss and you can find me basically everywhere at brainy boss. So like Twitter It's at brainyboss, Instagram It's at brainy boss, but it all all of it can be found on my website Brainyboss.co
Ward: [00:23:55] Awesome. Thanks Annie.
Annie: [00:23:56] Thank you.