How to Build a Successful Online CommunityMar 23, 2022
Community is a key pillar here and something that we truly value. Today we are chatting about how to build a successful online community, including how to grow and scale a successful community and what specifically we did to give our membership a makeover.
If you missed the blog posts I did at the beginning of the year, I chatted about business trends. You can find part one here and part two here. These are really important because the entire membership idea came from two of these trends.
1) People are craving community and support. I don’t know about you, but I do. I want to interact with people, not just download a course.
2) Physical products are making a comeback. Doesn’t everyone love getting mail? Specifically, a box with glitter and a planner in it? Kidding. But hint hint, ours does.
How to Build a Successful Online Community
When looking at our membership makeover and how we built it, the story actually goes all the way back to October.
I want to tell this story because so often I think people only see the surface of a business. The forward-facing part. The IG stories, the fancy graphics, the final product. But the strategy (the piece I actually love) is where the magic happens. Part of our strategy was honoring the current state and trends of the business market but also mixing it with our priorities.
Step One: Visualize it
Back in October I actually took an entire three days off the grid and mapped out our strategy for 2022. My first tip in building a community is to visualize it. As a family, we went to Wisconsin to visit my coach and her family and did a weekend intensive. It gave me a minute to dream. To not worry about the technology, the actual how to make it happen, and to really think about what we wanted to build. And by we, it was a combination of what I wanted to build from a business perspective but also how we wanted the business to work in our lives as a family. At this point, I hadn’t retired from corporate yet and we wanted to create a community that honored family priorities. I knew I was maxed out from 1:1s, but I also knew that I LOVED community and teaching. So we slowed down and really thought about it. Every single detail.
My first piece of advice is to think about what you want to build and how want to build it. Let yourself be creative. This is the fun part!
Let Yourself be Creative
The second thing we did to map out how to build a successful online community (on the 8-hour drive home from Wisconsin) was to actually draw it out. We talked about things like:
What happens when someone joins?
What is their experience?
What content do we want readily available?
What do we want to create? How often do we want to create it?
And even down to, how is this going to run on a day-to-day basis?
I knew I wanted this community to be different than every other membership so we really considered it from a customer experience perspective.
Step Two: Create a plan of what needs to be created
While my kids were reading their American Girl Doll books, I had little boxes on a piece of paper that represented every step of the customer’s journey. What web pages did we need? What tutorials did we need? Etc.
These are great questions to ask when you are mapping out a community or a course.
Step 3: Take a Look at your Audience
I have been open about saying that you do not need a website to grow and scale quickly, but you do need a home base for people to hang out. Our email list is small compared to most businesses that make 6+ figures but is still powerful, so I knew email was going to be the tool to help us grow. We spent three months prior to revealing the new membership focused on growing our email list.
To reach new customers, we went all-in on the podcast and emails. Every single week for three months we shared a new free tool on the podcast. Building trust and rapport is super valuable.
So if you are following the plan for how to build a successful online community, we visualized, made a plan, and then started to attract our clients WAY before the membership was ready. And then shared the journey along the way.
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In December we took the additional step of asking for some help. We hired an ad agency and got support with content creation. Both of these agencies held several strategy sessions with us helping us look at our plan, matching it to our vision, and eventually coming up with a launch plan.
While I know hiring an agency might not be in the cards for everyone (this is the first time we have in two years), you can ask for help. Who can you ask to review your work? To ask for feedback? I asked for feedback any chance I could get. We built in enough time to do 800 reviews of everything. This is an exaggeration, but I did ask every chance I had.
Those are the steps I would recommend:
- Visualize / Dream
- Create a Plan
- Ask for Feedback / Help
But because I know you guys love logistics, here's what that looked like :
- We completely shut down our free Facebook group and drove everyone to the podcast. I love the podcast more than FB (just saying) and since we have made that change, our numbers have tripled. This was our home base. And now I am able to focus on it even more.
- We gave the planner a makeover. We lowered the price, added 5 weeks per month, included a bookmark and even tutorial videos. This all came back to the customer experience. Remember that drive home from Wisconsin? :)
- If you are a tech geek, we re-built the entire planner platform on Shopify with new payment plans. I love having every option available because our goal with this membership was and is to make it accessible at all phases of business. I truly believe that if I had this type of support years ago, it would have been life-changing which is why I am on a mission to give back.
Shopify offered us ways to bundle the planner + membership with a payment model that made it easy. As in less than $75 a month. This is unheard of. A physical product + 1:1 support. I share this because this was probably the most tricky part and even included me re-doing the pages myself. This is also what I am most proud of. All because I truly believe this toolkit can change your life.
- We layered on a content strategy with Ybanez Media and started running ads to grow our email list with the Till Agency. Both are amazing partners. We did this because while they were focused on that, I was focused on the actual club content. We layered in our “Find your Focus” assessment that I talked about last week, added in co-working sessions and new quarterly masterclasses. Remember our home base was “podcasting,” so a lot of my time was also spent on strategizing podcast content and guests. This goes back to knowing what your focus should be so you can have others help you with tasks that you don’t necessarily need to do.
- We launched a pop-up training to show everyone what the community was all about. As in let’s actually host a community for an entire week so everyone could experience the power of it. This was our CEO Week Live challenge.
I am happy to report the challenge was probably one of the most motivating weeks of my career, but there was A LOT that led up to it.
I hope you can see that the steps of creating something that is different from what most people offer takes some time (in this case combining a product and service and a membership that is more than just content download). It also takes intentional thought. What does your client want? What are they asking from you? In our case, it was 1:1 time which we solved through our assessment and co-working sessions.
I hope this inspires you to keep creating what you are passionate about. The world wants to learn from you.
Looking for more on this topic and your High-Level Action items? Check out the Strategy Lab in the Crush the Rush Club!