The Secret to Building a Successful Business & Community with Less Than 1,000 Subscribers
***Note from Nathan – Recently I was introduced to Leah Hynes & Nazrin Murphie, whom are the Founders of RYPL – Rock Your Purpose Live. When Leah and I were chatting she mentioned to me her frustration with the online business world and the strong emphasis everyone has on “Building Your Email List”. While having a big email database is desirable to build a successful business, she raised with me the fact, that so often people are treated as numbers, and there is a strong disparity between actual real life connections and the size of your email database.
Leah and Nazrin have built an extremely successful business while busting the common mantra that you need a big email list to succeed in business and the online world. I wanted Leah and Nazrin to share with you guys exactly how they are building such a raving community and successful business from building REAL relationships with their email subscribers.
So take it away guys!
Time to blow the ‘list building’ lies out of the water!
‘Build your list.’ ‘Create a lead magnet’. ‘Get them in the sales funnel!’ ‘The money is in the list!’ ‘THE MONEY IS IN THE LIST!’
Perhaps you have been making attempts at building your list, guest posting, lead magnets, commenting on other blogs… You have followed all the conventional advice and yet it doesn’t seem to be working.
You have thrown your heart and soul into your project and yet still the money doesn’t seem to be coming or if it is, it is in very small drips.
These list building ‘shenanigans’ have made us cringe since the beginning. See, the problem is…people aren’t stupid. And none of those strategies actually work. Well, not if you want to make a real, meaningful, and long-term impact in the world.
The heart-breaking thing is: as an amazing, aspiring entrepreneur, you perhaps have considered giving up before you even got started because you’ve been led to believe that you need 1,000+ subscribers to make a real go of it.
Well we’re here to blow that myth out of the water! Whether you have one subscriber or 100 you already have everything you need to kickstart your dream and get into action!
We kicked off our business with just 34 subscribers. Yup, we had 34 subscribers when we both left our full time, solid paying jobs.
And now at RYPL we’ve built a successful business in less than two years that sustains a team of four, with less than 1,000 subscribers.
Yes you read that right…815 subscribers to be precise.
We invite you to join us in ditching the common approach of ‘list building’ for a new mindset and strategy we like to call community building. Because the fact is: behind every subscriber, Facebook like, and retweet, there is a human being screaming for your love and attention.
The same community that is sustaining our business today. And to give you a little taster, to whet your appetite, and to see what results are possible from unleashing a community building strategy, check out how our email open rates and click throughs compare to the widely accepted industry ‘average’. We want to kick that average to the kerb by creating a new way of thinking when it comes to engaging your audience.
The below is based on the open/click through rates of the ‘Social Networks and Online Communities’ industry group (Source: Mail Chimp):
1. Know exactly who you serve (and who you don’t)
So many people fall into the trap of wanting to serve everyone.
Apart from it being next to impossible to actually do that, it is also a sure-fire way of falling flat on your face, and fast. You must get very very specific about who your ideal client is and then speak directly to that person – always. What you will discover is you will start to attract many hundreds if not thousands of these people who you can now very specifically serve with a laser beam focus.
- Create a detailed description of your ideal client (their fears, delights, education, salary, age, passions, annoyances, etc.).
- Find 5-10 people who you think fit that description and interview them, asking them what their top frustrations and challenges currently are.
- Implement offerings fast so that you can learn what does, and doesn’t work for your community.
- Start to get clear on who you LOVE to work with, and who you simply can’t stand working with and then begin filtering for them.
2. Build collaborations
Most of us have grown up in a society where competition is not only encouraged, it is purported to be the only way to get ahead. We are here to suggest another way:
Just as you can’t serve everyone, neither can anyone else! And this is where the beauty of working together comes in. See, if you know your ideal client extremely well then you can start to find other people in your space to collaborate with so you can expand your reach faster.
Human beings generally sit on a growth spectrum so find other people who are serving your people just before and just after they actually become your ideal client. Now start partnering on projects with those peers and provide them with access to products and services that serve your community on a wider spectrum.
Not only will you be growing your client base, you will be building solid relationships that will last AND serve your clients much more powerfully. Don’t be afraid to send your community somewhere else if it’s in service of their journey. They will thank you for it.
- Get clear on the journey or ‘path’ your client will be on before and after they come to you. For example, at RYPL we don’t focus on helping people when they are trying to work out their passion (it drives us a bit crazy!). We help them after they know what that is and they are ready to take action on it. Where we come in is we help them implement their passion or project. We get them through the ‘thrash’. So that knowledge meant we started to collaborate with peers, like Scott Dinsmore from Live Your Legend, whose speciality is ‘find your passion’. Now we have someone awesome to refer our peeps when they are in that part of their journey. Every one of them has come back once they got what they needed.
- Start building relationships with peers by inviting them to be in a Mastermind Group and seek out individuals who fill the gaps that you can’t or won’t fill for your ideal client. This is an incredible way to grow all your businesses faster than you ever could on your own.
3. Show up (in the real world)
Showing up has been a huge factor in our success in building a hyper-engaged community. It can be an easy trap to fall into: hours spent behind your laptop posting on social media and waiting for something to happen, for someone to buy or subscribe.
Except human beings want human contact and given that we live in a connection economy now, relationships are everything. People are itching to be seen and heard; providing and creating spaces for connecting has been 99% of our success in getting RYPL into momentum quickly.
- Host an in-person meet-up
- In the early days we hosted an in-person meetup in Sydney, Australia for like-minded people. At that time, we couldn’t find a place for aspiring and like-minded entrepreneurs in Australia to hang out and get supported. So we created it. What is missing in your area of interest that you could fill by hosting a meetup?
- Attend conferences/meet-ups/events
- Before we were even established as a company, we took out our credit cards and booked trips to the United States. It turned out to be super important to get in person with our ‘seed’ community. It made all the difference. It showed our community how much they really meant to us. There is nothing quite like connecting in person to solidify your raving fans into life-long fans.
- Host events/workshops
- Put on incredible, valuable workshops and events. In the beginning you have to be prepared not to make a tonne of cash. Look at it as an investment in your community, to foster new connections and relationships. We made a small loss on our first two events before we started making any kind of profit.
4. Give a sh*t about your peeps
Have you ever joined a community or signed up for a course only to be left feeling as alone or ignored as you did before? Perhaps you even felt ripped off. Giving a sh*t about each of your community members does not just apply when they first sign up, or when they buy a product. It means caring about them in-between times too and giving them attention for no reason at all. Don’t just contact your community when you have something to sell them. It’s sleazy.
And don’t fall into the trap of forgetting about your ‘raving fans’ – taking them for granted and as a result ignoring them. Don’t piss them off! They have been there from the beginning and are your biggest supporters – give them the love and attention they deserve.
If you focus on cash flow above all else, then you will likely focus on new clients, instead of fostering the ones you already have. Don’t do that!
Relationships (and the trust borne from those relationships) are EVERYTHING: with peers and your community. No matter whether your peeps buy things from you, they are still contributing to what you are building by being part of the community, commenting in your Facebook group, sharing your posts, etc. – show them that they matter too.
- Send video messages
- Regularly send video or audio messages or quick emails to check in on your peeps. Almost no-one does this and this alone will set you apart in a big way.
- Personally respond
- Respond to your community’s posts in your Facebook group, on your blog, and to every email. Under no circumstances should you outsource this job. How would you feel if you emailed the leader of a community you were part of and the assistant responded on their behalf? That stinks!
- Foster conversations
- When a RYPL Warrior (that’s what we call our community) signs up we ask him/her what his/her biggest frustrations are. This kicks off a conversation and gets our heads into their world (we reply with some advice, mentoring or coaching).
- See every communication as an opportunity for conversation. Create two-way conversations as much as possible. End emails and Facebook posts with a question.
- Add value in every offering
- Find out what they really need by continually asking great questions, listening, and then delivering. Never assume what is needed and at no cost ignore any person in your community. Be flexible in your ideas of what value to provide.
- Follow up
- We personally check-in with people if they have gone quiet in the community to see if they are ok. Usually it is just when they need it. Don’t assume once someone subscribes or buys that you can stop paying them as much attention.
5. Ruthless prospecting and saying NO
When someone unsubscribes from our list, we celebrate. Why? Because it means we’ve done a great job of clearly communicating what we stand for and it was clear to the person we were not the right fit for them.
We are ruthless in protecting the safe space our community has become and because we are not in the numbers game and actually want to make a difference to people, we work hard to clearly communicate our style, brand, and what is expected. One person’s bad attitude or energy can spoil the whole community experience.
It can be hard to tell someone they are not the right fit, but it is essential for the rest of the community. You need to have the ability to say NO to some people. Sometimes this can take courage. We are so ruthless about this, that we even ‘spring clean’ our Facebook community twice a year. We do this by asking individuals in the group if they are still committed. If people choose to no longer be committed we simply remove them from the group. We don’t have time for ‘lurkers’. They do nothing for raising the level of the community.
“Don’t create an easy crowd; they won’t grow. Create high expectations and performance. And be relentless about it.”
You too can take steps to ensure you get the right people from the beginning. It is easier to keep people out then have to kick them out later. Make it super easy for people to work out if your community and offerings are right for them. Be polarising. The worst place you can be is in some kind of middle ground. No-one has time to try and work out what you do, and what you stand for. It will save you and your prospective clients a heap of time and heartache.
- Know who you serve (see No.1) – we know exactly who we serve and who we don’t serve (down to what they eat for breakfast!)
- Accept and celebrate you are not for everyone
- Be willing to turn down prospective clients if they are not right for your offering (or not at the right stage in their journey)
- When offering our signature program, the World Changer’s Blueprint, we interviewed every prospective applicant to make sure they were the right fit for the program. We have on several occasions turned down someone who desperately wanted to be a part because they simply weren’t the ‘right’ person. Be prepared to say no, even if someone is willing to pay you $10,000. Yes we have on several occasions said NO to this kind of money. In the long run, you (and your community) will thank yourself for it.
- Share your message using your natural, personal style that is authentic and vulnerable. Make it easy for people to connect (or not) with you.
6. Resist the pull of mass marketing and create intimate offerings
There’s nothing like a massive list to make someone feel like ‘just a number’. On the other hand, there is a real pull toward this type of marketing and selling, especially when you first start out.
Don’t waste your time!
We have deliberately created intimate and small online, and in-person, spaces, events, mentoring groups, Facebook groups, and coaching programs so that we can focus on each and every person and blow them away with value. This is not usually possible when you create a product or service and sell to the masses. It becomes impersonal, mundane and there is simply nothing special about it. It becomes a cookie-cutter solution instead of an experience of a lifetime.
The result of this approach has been that we have created raving fans who tell others about us. Because after all, there are very few places where you can feel special and cared for. Do that one thing consistently and you will have supporters for life.
- Consider making your programs invitation and application only
- Build a small Facebook community
- The only way to access our Facebook group is by invitation or recommendation and we only accept people who participate (we recently removed people from the group who were in observation mode only)
- Encourage participation and interaction
- If you want your community to grow while keeping the intimate feel, you must encourage your raving fans to participate and step into leadership to guide others coming through. We know the fastest way our people grow is to get uncomfortable. And that usually means participating (instead of being in ‘view only’ mode). For example, our mentoring calls require participants to interact and contribute (no hiding out allowed) and our participants are responsible for creating the experience alongside us, by offering their thoughts and experiences.
- Personalisation goes a long way
- Personalise ALL of your invitations, whether they are video messages, emails or Facebook messages. Make sure they are conversational, not salesy, and written/recorded with the individual in mind. Do not bulk send a template.
- Don’t rush it. We view sales like dating. Take it slow and don’t propose marriage on the first date! Let them know they are special, check to see where they are at, let them know you have something that could make a difference, and the let them know the offer. Our conversations sometimes take place over a number of months depending on the intimacy of the offering.
- Qualify your leads
- Don’t just reach out to everyone on your list! All you will do is annoy the people who your service and/or product is not for. Get to know your people so well that it’s easy to decide whether the product or service is for them and only reach out to those people.
7. Less sugar, more realness
There are few occupations in the world where you get to tell the truth and be ruthlessly honest with your clients and prospective clients. Coaching and personal development is one of them.
At RYPL, we have built a brand known for ‘telling it like it is’. We challenge our peeps because we know that’s where growth happens. There is no sugar coating and we call you on your B.S.
Most businesses operate from a place of fear. Fear of:
- losing clients
- looking bad
- people not liking you
- messing up
In fact, we have found the opposite to be true. The more ‘real’ we are, the more people love what we do. Lean into your truth, speak it, and you will have fans for life. Making people feel uncomfortable is all part of the process for us. And if we didn’t truly love our people, we would simply never challenge them.
- Speak your truth
- Stop worrying about how you are going to look and do the one thing that is in the best interest of your client
- Become ruthlessly compassionate and honest
- Share with your people your mistakes and own them
8. Grow them up (instead of keeping them small)
When starting out, many aspiring entrepreneurs are afraid that if their people/community accelerate too fast, they won’t be able to keep up with them, they won’t be expert enough, and that they will lose them as clients, and afraid that they will outgrow what you have to offer.
We don’t keep our people small so that we can stay big. We all grow up together and we encourage them to stride ahead too.
This alone has not only built incredible trust among the community in us as its leaders, it’s also created flag bearers for our message, vision and walking testimonials for our products and services. This means that as they grow and are given the space to flourish, instead of buggering off, they actually stay around to support the community and recommend people they think would be the right fit. This is fundamental to building a small but hyper-engaged community from the inside out.
- Continually grow yourself
- Find a mentor or coach that makes YOU feel uncomfortable! We have our own business and personal coaches and book into courses/events at least four times per year.
- Celebrate when they ‘outgrow’ your offerings – it means you’ve done your job well! Grab a testimonial from them and invite them to become leaders in your community and help others grow – it will make your job easier too.
9. Focus on how you want them to feel
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
It doesn’t really matter what products and services you offer, nor how many people are on your list, what matters is how you make your community feel. If you make people feel good when they’re around you, they’ll likely want to keep connecting with you.
- Do all of the above!
- Check in with your peeps, ask lots of questions including ‘what do you love about this community’ and ‘what could we do better?’
- Listen! Have you noticed how rare it is to feel ‘heard’? By simply repeating back (verbally or over email/message) to people what they are saying will have them feel connected with you and probably more heard than they have in a long time.
- Always lead with gratitude – show your appreciation for individuals and the community as a whole in your blog posts, newsletters, and messages.
- Create a safe space for your community to share openly and vulnerably, without judgement from you or the rest of the community.
- Give attention and appreciation – for no reason.
10. Adore them or forget about it
Speaking of feelings, when you think about your people, you should feel amazing! You don’t want it to feel like a burden to serve them…why bother!? If your peeps aren’t energising you and lighting you up, you are serving the wrong people. It will be a sure sign you have fallen into the trap of either chasing the cash, or you just haven’t been clear enough on who you do, and don’t, work with.
We absolutely ADORE our community. We love them to pieces. We genuinely want them to excel and triumph over whatever’s holding them back. We want them to grow faster than they even believe is possible, and we want them to eventually say, ‘Thanks guys, I don’t need your coaching anymore!’ Woo hoo!
Now THAT is making a difference!
If you don’t feel this way about your community, then you are going to be very unlikely to run the long race. You will be excited at first, only to run out of steam and energy and eventually run out of people to serve! If you aren’t putting out the right energy, your people will end up leaving in droves. Eventually they will see through the B.S. and you will become redundant.
- Every month we do an audit on how we’re feeling about our work and our peeps. Each month, ask yourself this question: “Do the people I’m serving breathe life into me or do they suck the life out of me?”
- Get clear on your top values. For example if your top value is aliveness and freedom, ask yourself if you feel more or less alive and free when you do what you do?
- Ensure you ONLY work with people who energise you and that you have fun working with. Otherwise what’s the point?!?
It’s Worth It?
The truth is, conventional list building is becoming redundant. It is no longer working the way it did in the past 5 – 7 years and the ‘big’ guys are feeling the pinch because the people who actually give a shit are moving in. Have you noticed lately ‘those’ people are starting to move away from the consistent online selling and moving into more intimate, private, face-to-face events. It’s not because they care. It’s because they can’t make the $$ like they once did.
The problem is, if you don’t genuinely give a toss, it becomes hard to maintain your ‘online’ personality when you actually get in person.
So as you can see, building a hyper-engaged community goes against all of the mainstream advice out there. But the real question is, does all this hard work actually pay off?
We will let the numbers speak for themselves:
- October 2013 – we hosted our first live paid event with less than 100 subscribers – we sold 53 tickets in 10 days
- October 2014 – we opened our first group coaching program. Zero promotion, 36 personalised invitations sent, 7 said ‘Hell yes!’ – resulting in a 19% sales conversion rate
- February 2015 – we opened our second group coaching program. We did zero promotion, sent 34 personalised invitations, 14 said ‘hell yes!’ – resulting in a 41% sales conversion rate (a number were repeat clients from first program).
We never actually set out to create a hyper-engaged community. We just followed what felt right to us because we were sick to death of being spammed, ignored, and lured in by ‘lead magnets’ that made us feel used and ultimately made no difference. What we discovered is that it works. And it works in more ways than we anticipated.
Yes the income is important but the true wealth of a hyper-engaged community is in the stuff money cannot buy: the life-long relationships and connections and the ripple effect that happens when someone is empowered to do something that matters. And there is no greater gift than to see your people release their shackles, step into their power and create incredible, impactful ripple effects in the world.
So if you’re willing to lean into the uncertainty and take the time to foster relationships with your peeps and your community, we promise you the result will not only be worth it, it will blow your mind! You won’t have a business for a year or two, you will have a thriving community for a lifetime.