Do you really need a big list to launch a membership?
Today I’m answering the big question:
Do I need to have a big mailing list, or a big online community to sell and to launch group programmes or memberships?
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But, I just want to remind you before I jump into this that group online programmes or memberships are just two of the many business models available to you.
Other business models that you might choose instead include working one-to-one with clients, consulting, training, or high-end masterminds or mentoring. All of which you can do either online or offline. So, you can make your business work any way you want, and that’s the sort of thing I support my members with inside the Business from the Heart membership, my own membership community.
I Disagreed with something my Mentor said:
Last year my own mentor Stu McLaren did a video where he talked about what size of community or audience is good to start with when launching your first membership. And he stated a figure – 10,000 people. And this is relevant to any sort of online group programme – you need a certain size audience to be able to sell it to in order to get reasonable numbers of people to join.
However I disgareed with him about the figure – you see I don’t believe you need anything like 10,000 people on your mailing list or in your social media following in order to launch your group programmes, have great fulfilment serving your clients, and actually create a business that feels really good for you.
However, it does of course it depend on your financial goals and your long term ambitions, so starting by growing a large list might be the right course of action for you. But I did get a bit of a bee in my bonnet and let me explain why.
Does Size Really Matter?
First of all I have personally never had a mailing list of 10,000, and yet despite that for the last 7 years I have consistently done a business revenue of 6 figures every single year. I’ve had over 600 people go through my online programme, Get More Clients Saying Yes!, and I’ve currently got about 260 members within my membership community. In addition I’ve worked with many, many private clients over that time period as well as running a high-end mentoring programme for 4 years.
So I would like to think that I’m an example of alternative view to “you need a big list”. Which is that your business is not dependent on the size of your list or the size of your following.
I’s actually much more dependent on the quality of that following, and even more so on the quality of the information that you’re putting out. Because if you sharee good, solid, reliable and genuinely valuable information and people like you and trust you, and you have a good reputation then you can grow a very successful sustainable business with a lot less than 10,000 people. (Of course if you’ve set your sights on doing 7 figures a year then you’ll need a bigger list than I’ve got – but many of us don’t need a business of that anything near that size for it to sustain us and be fulfilling).
A Lesson From How I Started…
The other thing I thought I’d share with you is that when I first launched my online programme 8 years ago I actually had a mailing list of just 300 people. Out of those I had 20 people join me for the pilot online programme which brought in £6,000. Believe me, at the time I didn’t think that was a small number! On the contrary, I was over the moon to get paid to create my first online programme. About 6 months later I decided to launch again. I’d signed up with a business mentor by now, and invested some money in filling in some of the gaps in the “don’t know that I don’t know”. This time I did more of a “proper” launch. I still had only 300 people on my mailing list when I started but with the right advice by the time I’d finished that launch my mailing list had grown to 1800, I’d sold 81 places on my online programme, and made sales of £32,000.
Now here’s the interesting thing for those of you interested in memberships: imagine if instead of offering my online programme at that time I’d actually launched my membership. Imagine that I decided to charge £50 per month, and the same 81 people joined me. I would’ve had a recurring revenue of £4,000 per month straight out of the gate. Interestingly, the idea of a membership was not even on my radar at that time, but when I think about it now I realise what a great opportunity that could have been for me so early in my business.
But what I really want to get across here is that it’s not necessarily the size of your mailing list that counts when it comes to launching your group programmes or your memberships.
Here’s what to think about instead:
Your Expectations matter more than your List
What I see time and again is that it’s when your expectations are out of alignment with reality that it causes the misery and disappointment. Let me share a couple of examples – this time of clients I’ve worked with:
I worked with a private client who had a mailing list of about 100 people. She decided to launch her first ever group online programme – and she sold 5 places!
She came to the first mentoring call with me after she had done that and she was really despondent. She was beating herself up, and she felt like a failure, because she had only five people. But, from my point of view I was: “You’ve got five people out of 100? That’s a 5% conversion of your entire mailing list! Oh my gosh, I would do anything for those sorts of figures. All of the big marketing gurus out there, they would also give anything for those sort of conversions”. So, that five actually has a percentage of her overall list was just incredible result.
Now she knew her process worked and all she needed to do was scale that result – so when her mailing list is 1000 people that would be 50 people in her online programme, or a mailing list of 2,000 would be 100 in her programme. These figures showed that she was really on to something special.
So the thing that caused the problem was not the results, because her results were outstanding. The probably was her expectations, because she had expected to get much larger numbers into that programme from a very small reach.
I later worked with another private client, this time she wanted to launch a membership and she wanted to launch it to a list of about 280 people. So we had the very important conversation about expectations. I asked her to really get clear about what would be the ideal number of people she wanted to join that membership, and what would be the minimum number she would actually feel happy and wholehearted about running it for without any sense of resentment or feeling like she’d failed.
The figure that she gave was something like about 12 people. I remember doing the sums with her and saying “Listen, if this is the number that you enrol into this membership right now, you’re going to be bringing in about £700 a month. Would you be happy with that in return for the work you’re going to put in?”. She said, “Absolutely. I would be delighted with 12 members and a £700 a month revenue, because I know I would be getting started. And, if I can do a good job for those first members and help them get results I know that I can grow and scale it from there”. And, that was exactly what she did! And she was delighted with the result she got. I know that she’s launched at least two more times since then, so she’s well on her way to a bigger membership community.
And so, do you see that what matters is NOT the size of your mailing list, it’s not the size of your community, it’s your expectations – and how the plan fits into your longer term strategy.
For example you might choose to launch a small membership purely as a way to nurture people ready to join you for your 121 or high-level work.
So if you would be totally happy to enrol 6 people into your first online programme, just because you want to get going, to get feedback, see results, build your own confidence, get testimonials so that the second time you launch it it’s going to be so much easier, then go for it.
But, if what you want is to launch your online programme, and have 100 people join it that very first time, and right now you’ve got a mailing list of 150, chances are it ain’t going to happen.
Not unless you have got access to some collaborative partners who do have access to those numbers or a really good budget for paid advertising – and a paid advertising campaign that you know actually works.
Won’t my Members be Disappointed?
Don’t be afraid of starting with small numbers. I hear this sometimes as well, “I don’t want to start my programme with small numbers, because the Facebook group is going to feel like a ghost town”. But you see not necessarily. It all comes down to how you sell it. So, if you tell everybody that it’s going to be this thriving, buzzing community, with people posting every day and they join and find there are only 6 other people there, yes people may feel misled.
But, what if you tell them up front it’s going to be a small group? Tell them it will be intimate and they will be getting lots of your personal attention. Who wouldn’t want to be in your first programme or membership where they know they will get a lot more of your personal attention than later when you have more people join?
So while I know your ego can get hung up sometimes on the size of your Facebook Group, your clients actually benefit.
So again, it’s not about the “size” of your community – it’s all about expectations.
The One Question I Recommend you Ask Yourself:
So this is the question I recommend you ask yourself before deciding to launch a membership or group programme:
Would you be happy with the number of people in that first programme or membership that is realistic based on your current reach?
If the answer is yes, then go for it! We all have to start somewhere – I started with 20 in a group programme (and the truth is I would have been happy with 6 just to get started).
But what if that’s not right for you?
What if that doesn’t feel fulfilling and rewarding?
What if you don’t think it’s going to feel motivating for you to be serving just a small group of people, maybe less than 20?
What if you know that you do want to get started with bigger numbers straight right from the start?
Maybe you want to kick off your membership with over 100 people, like I did last year. Or you want to launch your first online programme with at least 300 people in it. If so that’s easy too.
All it means is that your first job is to go out and grow your emailing list and grow your community. And honestly, it’s so much easier than you might think if you only put your mind to it and take consistent action.
How to Grow your Mailing List
You just need to make sure that you’re going about growing that mailing list in the right way.
1. Create a Free Giveaway
The first thing you need is to have something that your ideal client really sees as valuable and useful in return for giving you their email address.
It’s hugely important that your free giveaway is really compelling and adds value to your audience. Nobody wants to sign up to receive more emails, thank you very much. So if you already have a free giveaway on your website and nobody is signing up then I’d encourage you to take a really good look at that. You may need to go back to the drawing board and design something that your audience really does want to get their hands on.
2. Nurture your Audience
Once you’ve got people signing up you then need a system for staying in touch and nurture them until you are ready to make them an offer
3. Get it Seen
Then all you need to do is get in front of as many people as possible with that free giveaway.
There are 3 main ways of doing that.
– Organically through social media – organically does mean slowly and gradually but again, as long as you understand that, it’s still really exciting to see your list grow every single week.
– Through paid traffic – this would be Facebook Ads or other online ads depending on your business. This way you do pay to reach those people but you can grow your list more quickly.
– Through other people’s audiences (This one is my personal favourite) – this might be someone agreeing to email their list about you, giving live talks or podcast interviews. This can also grow your audience more quickly if you make the right connections.
So, I hope you found this useful. I wanted to share this because I know that when we listen to the big marketers – you know those people with the really big seven figure businesses – it can be too easy to think: “Oh my gosh, for me to be successful I have to have a following like yours”. And it can feel so far off that it’s almost impossible and this can stop us even getting started.
But I’ve seen clients launch programmes with a following of just 100 people, or even less. All that matters is that your expectations are realistic and you are going into it with your eyes open.
And if of course if you are right at ground zero your first focus really needs to be on growing your mailing list, community and contacts.
There is also a really great advantage to starting small with a beta programme because it gives you a chance to learn, and hone, and find out more about your clients, get results, and get testimonials. Then when you discover that it actually works, and you can see it’s got potential you can then to press pause for a period of time while you grow your mailing list in order to launch it again the next time.
Start your Own Membership – Free Workshop Series
If you would like to learn how to turn what you already know, love and do into a profitable membership business then starting tomorrow my own membership mentor Stu McLaren will be starting a 3 Part Workshop Series on how to create, launch and grow your membership.
Register for the Workshop Series here.
*Note: I’m an affiliate for Stu McLaren’s Tribe Course so if you sign up for the workshop via this link and later join Tribe I may receive a thank-you payment.
With Love & Gratitude,