The story of how I started a Membership
As I shared in last weeks video about Business Models, over the past couple of years I’ve had a big shift in my own business model, moving from a high-ticket mentoring programme to a low monthly investment membership community.
However, it wasn’t an overnight thing – it was a shift that happened gradually over a long period of time. First there was a long gap for me between realising that my old business model wasn’t working for me, and eventually launching the membership. So today I’m sharing the story of how I came to give up what was a 6 figure revenue stream (without really knowing what came next) to ultimately create the thriving membership community I have today.
Watch the video below or scroll down to read more.
My business model before the membership
In the early days, my business grew very quickly – in 2013 I went from £7,000 to £118,000 in annual turnover.
I did that by following a strategy taught to me by my business mentor of selling an online programme which included a free ticket to a live event where I sold a £5,000-£10,000 mentoring programme. For four years I had a consistent six-figure turnover year-on-year by following this simple model.
This model also meant I got to work with some amazing women every year, and the programme I’d put together helped them get incredible results. It gave me a huge amount of joy and satisfaction to see how they thrived – both in their businesses but also how how they thrived as people too.
You could say I’d created a “dream business.” The problem was it was someone else’s dream business, not mine. But it took me a long time to see that.
At the time I just couldn’t figure out why it felt so hard. It all looked good from the outside and my clients had a great experience and definitely got results, and there were definitely things I really loved about it. But behind the scenes it was always a challenge. There were always problems with my team or problems with systems, or I made bad decisions that. Somehow it never got into flow.
Now I look back at that time and think that the universe or my higher self just knew I wasn’t on the right path and so did the very opposite of lining things up to help me!
The 3 things niggled away at me…
1. I wasn’t reaching more people
I had an online programme called “Get More Clients Saying Yes!” that took people from no clients to getting clients regularly and consistently and people got great results. It was fully scalable, yet I felt I was hardly anyone. During the years that I ran the high-end mentoring programme, I had from 55 – 81 people do the online course each year, but I wanted to reach many more people and would always feel frustrated that I didn’t.
2. I wanted to build more of a community
I had a sense that I’d created a really strong community of people who had done the “Get More Clients Saying Yes!” course, but once they finished that course, if they weren’t ready to invest £5,000 for the next step there was nowhere else for them to go. I would always have ideas of keeping the community connected through regular events, and did have a summer party one year, but mostly I was too busy to make those happen.
3. I was leaving my “ideal clients” behind
Over time I became more and more aware that my passion was helping early stage business owners, or people who’d been in business a few years but were barely making ends meet. I realised that the people who bought the Get More Clients Saying Yes! course were my true ideal clients, but many of them simply couldn’t afford or (more commonly) didn’t have the courage or the investment mindset to get my help growing their business beyond that. I was leaving many of the people I was most able to help behind.
My Change of Direction
Finally in 2016 I made the decision to stop running the high- end mentoring programme.
At the end of that year, I ran my live event as usual but I made the courageous decision not to offer that year long mentoring programme. Instead I offered some small group online mentoring for just 3 months, designed to taper off over the course of the year as I built up the online programme.
The big vision was to go all-in with the online programme, and so I did the big courageous thing and cut off my main income stream in one hit.
And then I went on holiday.
I lay on a lounger by a pool in Goa and, in theory, I should have been really excited about the year to come and FINALLY doing more with that online programme.
But guess what? I wasn’t excited!
In fact it was the opposite. This feeling settled on me like a cloud, like a knot in my belly. It was a whisper “But that’s not it Catherine.”
But I just didn’t know why. I just had to do what I’ve always done and trust the whisper when it came.
I returned home that January with no idea what was next.
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I’d just given up the core revenue stream in my business for something that didn’t feel right either. I actually thought maybe I’d finally come to the end of the road in my business, that I’d lost my passion for my work and this was the end. But I had no vision for what I might do instead. In fact I felt so confused that I came home and booked 4 readings in 2 weeks – with a psychic, an intuitive business coach, an astrologer and human design specialist! But while they gave me a lot that was useful, I still didn’t have any clear answers.
But what came through that was fairly consistent from all of them was that not a lot was going to happen for me in 2017. They said that whether I pushed hard or not I wasn’t likely to see anything much happen in that year so I may as well take my foot of the pedal for a while and enjoy life! So I decided to do that. The revenue from the group programmes I’d sold was enough to see me through a few months, so I decided to relax and not push for answers (OK, that was easier said than done – in case you are wondering that definitely wasn’t a comfortable time!).
The Turning Point
On 27th March that year I was driving home to visit my parents in North Wales. I was listening to a podcast about using Facebook Groups to grow a business, and it just happened that the person being interviewed had a membership site.
She talked about how she and her partner used to sell an online course and why they decided to stop and set up a membership site instead.
I still remember exactly what point I was at on the South Circular on Clapham Common when I heard her talk and suddenly all the lights went on at once! I suddenly saw so clearly why the other business models were not quite right for me.
“Oh, my gosh,” I thought to myself. “It’s a membership community!”
She talked about community and how hard she found it when people finished her programmes and courses and she couldn’t support them any more unless she sold them the next thing. The pressure was always on trying to sell them the next thing, or get completely new people in to the programme, rather than just being able to help and serve the people she had.
She also talked about the pressure of needing to launch online courses and all the stress that comes with that, especially the stress of having all the eggs in one basket if one launch was to fail.
Listening to her talk I could suddenly see how I could really help and serve all those people who I was leaving behind because for various reasons they were not ready to invest £5,000 or more to get help beyond my online course. I saw how I could take everything I’d put together over the past five years for that “high-end” group and turn it into something that could be really affordable for many more people.
In that same interview she talked about the person she learned from when it came to setting up a membership – a Canadian called Stu McLaren.
Right there, within just minutes of realising that Membership site was it for me, I decided I needed to learn from him.
And finally the universe lined up and I got into flow
From this point on, right to the present moment, the synchronicities started and my business got into flow, in so many different ways that I won’t go into here.
As soon as I could next get online I googled Stu McLaren and signed up to his mailing list.
Within less than a week he started the launch for his course for building successful memberships, Tribe (he only launches this once a year!). I remember watching all of his launch videos thinking “come on, when are you going to get to the offer part?”. I had my credit card ready and waiting!
However, this was April 2017 and at the time I bought the course I’d already committed to both a house move and a website rebrand during May 2017 so I knew I wouldn’t be able to engage with the course. I was full throttle ahead with moving, writing copy for the website, a photoshoot, and liaising with the designer.
So I would just watch the course modules here and there when I could – mostly on Sunday mornings over breakfast at a local café. I didn’t have time to implement, or to show up to any live calls – I just watched and absorbed the information.
My membership was born
It wasn’t until November 2017 that I was finally ready to start my membership, when I did a “founding member” launch at the live event.
Instead of the £5-£10,000 level programme that I normally offered, this time I made an offer join my membership at a “founding member” rate for 6 or 12 months, with a promise of nothing but a skeleton of 2 Q&A calls per month plus access to my existing training library, and a vision of what I wanted to create.
I came away from that event with 114 new members and a revenue of just over £2,000 per month for the first 6 months. It was certainly a lot less than I was used to bringing home from that event! But was enough for me to feel I was getting paid to build it.
With the feedback of the founding members over the coming months I built the membership out, adding more features and events, and having a lovely new members area built.
In May 2018 I launched it properly, and did another launch in November. By the end of 2108 I had 265 members and a recurring monthly revenue of around £7,000.
My business model is now much simpler than it used to be, and with less moving parts it feels much easier for me to run. It consists of the “Get More Clients Saying Yes!” which feeds into the “Business from the Heart” membership, and the membership in turn feeds into the online course. I’ve also got two other courses ‘Selling from Webinars’ and ‘Selling from Speaking’ that I don’t promote very often – you could say they are on the “back shelf”!
Of course, I still feel that I’m very much at the beginning with this membership. I’m still learning like crazy (a bit like the swan that looks graceful from the outside but is paddling like crazy under the surface!). The membership is a long way perfect and I’ve got lots of ideas for things I want to train and improve, and I’m still learning a lot about all the factors that go into creating a successful membership – things like how to bring lots of value but without overwhelming people, and how to keep people engaged and wanting to stay part of it month by month. But it’s definitely been a great decision for me and I’m really excited about how much more is possible with this business model.
What about you?
Are you curious about whether a membership site could be the perfect business model for you to? If so then sign up to get this free guide to starting a membership from the guy I learned from, Stu McLaren. Get the Membership Guide here.*
*This is an affiliate link. If you download Stu’s guide through my link and later buy his course I may receive a payment.
P.S. If you’d like to find out more about my membership story and maybe start exploring if this business model could be great for you too, I’ll be doing a Q&A in the free Facebook group on Wednesday 3rd April at 1.00pm UK time. You can join us here.
P.P.S. Stu McLaren is the real expert and has mentored me through this whole process, so I highly recommend you download his Membership Guide here* It’s got a whole section on how to know if a membership site is right for you! Why not download it now and then bring any questions to me on the live Q&A tomorrow?
*Note: The link to Stu’s membership guide is an affiliate link. If you download it via my link and later buy his course I may receive a payment.