Episode 57: Scaling Small – How to Launch a Membership

We’re continuing our exploration of what it means to scale small, with a dive into launching a membership program in your coaching business. I’m walking you through the key questions to ask yourself before starting your membership program and how to get it off the ground.
Keegan Jennings

57: Scaling Small: How to Launch a Membership

Scaling small is all about growing your business in a way that allows you to serve more people in less time, all without overtaxing your resources. When we scale small in a manageable, sustainable way, we create processes that are flexible and that can grow with us.

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Show Notes

Scaling small is all about growing your business in a way that allows you to serve more people in less time, all without overtaxing your resources. When we scale small in a manageable, sustainable way, we create processes that are flexible and that can grow with us. That’s how we set ourselves up for long-term success.

For part two of our four-part Scaling Small series, I'm going to walk you through what it looks like to scale small with a membership model.

In the online entrepreneurship space, we often hear about scaling in the context of reaching the masses. While there’s nothing wrong with that model, I would argue that if you want to build a strong foundation for your coaching practice, you don’t need to reach thousands of people at once.

Today I’m sharing the four key aspects of a membership program, what you need to consider when creating and launching your program, and why you don’t need a huge email list or following to have a successful, profitable membership program.

Topics covered

  • Creating a strong foundation by taking small steps forward
  • Why scaling small is the best way to get started
  • Questions to ask yourself before starting a membership program
  • The importance of consistency, structure, and systems
  • Creating community in your membership program
  • Figuring out the benefits and results that members will experience in your membership program
  • How I structure the various elements of the Coach with Clarity membership
  • The benefits of launching a membership program with a founding member round
  • How I launched the Coach with Clarity membership

Resources mentioned

Now it’s time for you to show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity! Screenshot this episode and tag me on Instagram @coachwithclarity and let me know what you’re more excited to explore in future podcast episodes!

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Well, hello there, my friend. Welcome to the Coach with Clarity Podcast, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough, I'm your host, and I am so happy to have you join me for this week's episode of the show. This week, we are continuing our look at what it means to scale small.

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 Now a few weeks ago on the podcast, I introduced this idea of scaling small. And we looked at it in the context of creating a workshop for your audience. So you might want to skip back two episodes to, Episode 55, to listen to the discussion about what it means to scale small, why I think it's important, and then specifically how we do that in the context of a workshop. You certainly do not have to listen to that episode before you listen to today's but I do think you will find it helpful. So make sure you add it to your feed if you haven't listened yet. Now when I'm talking about scaling small, all I'm really talking about is how we can grow your business in such a way where you are serving more people in less time, without overtaxing your resources. In the online entrepreneurial space, we hear a lot about scaling, about growing big, about reaching the masses. And don't get me wrong, if that is what you want to do, more power to you, I am behind you 100% of the way. And I myself am excited to share my work and my message with more people too. I mean, let's be honest, it's one of the reasons why I'm doing this podcast. But that being said, I don't believe we need to reach thousands or millions of people in one go. And in fact, I would argue that the foundations of a sustainable coaching practice, start with small steps. So if we can explore how we can scale small in a manageable, sustainable way, so that we're creating processes that are flexible and can grow with us, then I believe we set ourselves up for long term success. It is entirely possible to grow your business and serve thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. And to get to that point, let's talk about the early stages, let's talk about what it means to scale small, so that we can build that strong platform from which you can grow.
So that is what we are looking at in the scaling small series. So it will be a collection of four episodes, today is episode number two, and I'm going to walk through what it looks like to scale small with a membership model. Now some of you may already be saying, “Well, Lee, is it even possible to scale small with a membership? I mean, don't you need a lot of people to sustain a membership?”. Well, my thoughts on that, I don't know if they're controversial, but they may go against the grain a bit. And in fact, I would say that scaling small not only is possible with a membership, it is the best way to get started. And this does fly in the face of conventional wisdom. In fact, I remember a couple months ago, I was listening to another podcast, it's been around for years, it's hosted by a very well known and well respected coach and podcaster, who I respect very deeply. But I have to say, it gave me pause when I heard her talk about memberships. And she said that it really doesn't make sense to have a membership if you're looking at fewer than two hundred members. And I was like, “Wait, what? No, I don't believe that's true”, and in fact, I would say I'm living proof that that is not true. I currently do not have two hundred members in the Coach with Clarity Membership, I have a little less than half of that. And I can tell you that the membership is still highly sustainable, profitable and in many ways the community is even richer because we started small, we're growing slowly and sustainably. And so I would argue that, no, you do not need a minimum of two hundred members to get started. In fact, what I'm going to talk about in a little bit is that, truthfully, you might just need four to six members to get started – more on that in a bit. So to answer the question, can you really scale small with a membership? I'm here to say yes, you can. And in fact, I'm going to suggest it's the best way to do so. But before we do that, let's talk about whether a membership model is right for your business. And there are a few factors I'm going to invite you to consider if you are exploring adding a membership program to your suite of services.
The first thing I want to explore is the theme of your membership. So what is it that your membership is going to be about? What kinds of content do you want to present? What kind of topics do you want to discuss? And is that a viable topic or approach for long term support?
Because that's the thing about a membership model, it works best when the theme or topics that you're talking about are such that your members can grow and evolve and require additional support from you, as they move into the next phases of their life, their business, their health, whatever it is you're focusing on. So question number one is when you think about what you would want to create a membership around, is it a viable topic for longer term support? Is there a way that you can support your members and sustain their continued involvement over time? So that's question number one is the theme that you want to organize your membership around viable for long term support. Number two, I want you to think about the membership model itself and whether it is a model that works with your preferred way of providing support to your clients and to your audience. In most membership programs, the membership facilitator is adding some sort of benefit or some sort of content on a regular basis. So members know that whether it's every week, every month, every quarter, they can expect additional content to become available for them within the membership. Now the benefits themselves can vary, the timeframe in which the benefits are introduced can vary. But consistency is the key, your members will be more likely to stay in the membership and engage with you when they know what to expect, how often to expect it and how to apply it in their own lives. So when we think about that, and the importance of consistency and having a structure and having a system, does that work with the way you like to engage with your clients? And here's the thing, no shame, if the answer to that is no. You may be someone who does really well creating bespoke, customized coaching offers for your clients or for your small groups. And the idea of doing a membership that requires kind of a regular consistent, I do this, then I do this, then I do this. If that doesn't work for you, that is okay, and you do not have to dive headfirst into the membership model. There are other ways that we can talk about supporting your clients, and in fact, we're going to continue to talk about that in this scaling small series. But if you are considering having a membership, it is important to know that having that consistency and having that pattern of what benefits you will provide and when you will provide them, that is a very important component of a membership model.
So we've talked about the theme and whether it is appropriate to provide long term support around. We've talked about the membership model itself and the importance of consistency and regular deliverables. And finally, I want to talk about your audience, and I want to talk about it in two ways. The first way, the people that you work with, are they looking for longer term community based support, because in a membership model for a coaching program, that's typically what it involves, in addition to the regularly recurring content that we just talked about. Many memberships also have an opportunity for members to connect with each other and to support each other. Is that something your ideal clients or your ideal members want? Are they going to thrive in a community where that level of group interaction and support is expected? Or are they better suited for one on one or even smaller group support? So first, we want to think about whether the membership model is the best way to serve your ideal client. The second piece I want to talk about with regard to audience, is the size of your audience. Now, stay with me here because I do not believe you need a huge audience in order to have a successful membership. And in fact, when I began the Coach with Clarity Membership, my audience was still relatively small. I had a few hundred people on my email list, I had a few hundred people in my facebook group, significantly fewer than I have now, and yet I was still able to get a membership off the ground and running. So you do not need an enormous email list or a huge Facebook group or thousands of followers on Instagram. But you do want to make sure that you have a large enough base that you can introduce the membership to some people, and they're going to be interested in taking the next step with you. And I will be talking about how to do that in a minute. But if you are thinking to yourself, you know, I'm not even sure I have four, or five, six people I could invite into the membership, then we may want to first look at how we can build your audience and create connections with the people you want to serve. And let's do some of that work so that then we have a pool of connections that you can reach out to and invite into the membership. So we've talked about the theme, we've talked about the model, and we've talked about your audience. If you're still with me, if you're thinking, “Yep, I got it, I'm still in, I want to do this membership thing”, let's now dive into how to launch a membership program.
A quick caveat, I will be talking mostly about service based memberships. Now there are memberships out there that are largely product base and, for example, I am a part of a stock photo membership where I pay a fee every month and then I have access to all of the stock photos and they release new photos every month that I get access to, so that's an example of a product based membership and it can work beautifully. In fact, I know coaches who have product based memberships that are centered around new templates, new forms, all sorts of things that they can use to grow their business so if you're interested in a product based membership there's definitely ways to make that happen, however the vast majority of coaches I know provide service based memberships and I include myself in that. Yes, there are definitely some fantastic products available within the Coach with Clarity Toolkit that my members have access to including a coaching contract, all of my coaching session templates, there are a lot of downloadable deliverables there, but what really brings people into the membership is the service components that I include – the weekly live calls, the Facebook group, the partner match program, and the like so as I explore starting a membership please know that I am coming at it through the lens of a service based membership. So when you're looking at getting your service base membership off the ground there are four questions you need to ask yourself. The first one is around the concept of your membership, so essentially what is your membership about, what do you want to explore with your members through your program, so when I was thinking about putting my membership together I knew that I wanted to look at how we could build really strong coaching businesses and become really powerful coaches in our own right. So I knew I was looking at both the coaching skill side and the business growth side of being a coach, so as I was conceptualizing the Coach with Clarity Membership I knew that I was going to want to explore both of those tracks. So my question to you then, would be, what would your membership be about? What are the key topics, the key struggles, the key desires, that your ideal clients want to explore? So we want to make sure that we've got a very solid concept.
So a very general theme for your membership, that's step number one is the concept step, number two let's talk about results. So way back in Episode Six of the Coach with Clarity Podcast I explored a results versus benefits approach to creating an offer and I'm going to talk about those two things right now, in fact, number two is results, number three is benefits, but let's stay with results for a second. When we're looking at the results of a program we are looking at what your clients, in this case your members, will be able to think, feel, or do differently as a result of being a part of your program. So how will your membership specifically improve the lives of your members? What will they be able to accomplish as a result of being a member? So ideally in the Coach with Clarity Membership, the result is that my members feel increasingly confident about their ability to provide coaching services and competent around building a coaching business they know they have the skills, the tools, and the know how to do both, to serve their clients powerfully and grow their business and they also know that they can come back to a supportive environment where they can ask questions, seek support, and explore what might come next in their business. When I think about the results, that's really what motivates me to continue to grow and improve the Coach with Clarity Membership. I want my members to know that this membership, this community, is there to help them expand their skills and abilities and their presence as coaches and will equip them with the specific strategies and tools they need to create a sustainable business. That gets me excited, that gets me motivated, and that's why I'm showing up week after week in the membership for my members because I want to help them achieve that. So that's what the key result is for my membership, when we think about your membership, what would the key result or results be for your members? How will their lives or their health or their relationships or their business, whatever you're focusing on, how will that look different as a result of being in your membership? What will they be able to do differently? And where will they see gains?
So that's the results piece we've talked about. Number one, the concept, what is your membership about? Number two, the results, so how will your membership improve the lives of your members? Number three, as I mentioned, these are the benefits. So benefits are specifically what your members will receive as a part of your membership program. So again, earlier when I mentioned providing content on a consistent regular basis, this is what I'm talking about the benefits. So as an example, in the Coach with Clarity Membership, I would say the key benefits are the weekly live calls. So every month we have four calls – one is a Q&A, one is a hotseat coaching call, one is a guest expert training, and one is a co-working session. No matter what month it is, my members know that they are going to get access to those for live calls, we got a schedule, it's planned out in advance, and so it is regularly occurring. In addition, some of the benefits are having access to the private members only Facebook group where they can ask questions, they're going to get feedback directly from me, as well as the other members in the group. They also get access to bonus programs like the partner match program, which is such a fun program. I offer my members an opportunity to be paired or matched with other Coach with Clarity Members for peer support, peer coaching, accountability, and the like. In fact, I just completed the matches for the next quarter of the partner match program and I'm really excited to see how this goes for our members, but that's another benefit of membership. So we've got the calls, we've got the community, we've got the partner match program, and I also have the Coach with Clarity Toolkit. So these are more of the product oriented deliverables that are available exclusively to the Coach with Clarity Members. So if they need a coaching contract, it's there for them in the toolkit. If they need some guidance about how to structure a session, my session template, they're in the membership. So there are products there that are intended to supplement or reinforce the work that they're doing in their own businesses and the concepts we cover in those weekly live calls. So I'm very clear about the benefits or the tangible services and products that they get from the membership, and that goes hand in hand with the results. So those benefits are what helped my members achieve the results that they want. So when you are launching your membership, you want to think about the concept, you want to think about the results, you want to think about the benefits. And then of course, you want to think about the format, how will you structure your membership program. And as I just mentioned, in my program, we're looking at four live calls a month. So most months, that's a call every week, I've elected to schedule that call on the same day at the same time. So Tuesdays at noon eastern because then my members know, “Okay, no matter what, Tuesdays at noon, we're showing up and we're having one of our live calls”. So there's a regularity, there's a consistency to it. So my members know what to expect and then within each session, I've created a repeatable structure that we do month after month. So for example, in the Q&A calls, I start them with a deep dive into one of the coaching core competencies as defined by the International Coaching Federation. So we'll have a discussion for fifteen to twenty minutes where I share one of the competencies, some of the key points about it, open the floor for any questions or discussion around it, and then from there, we move into the questions that the members have, they have an opportunity to submit those in advance. And if time allows, people who are on the call live can also ask questions as well. So I have a very clear format that I use for those Q&A calls every month, and again, my members know exactly what to expect. And I think this is really important when we have a clear framework. When we have a clear process that is repeatable and our clients or our members can see it, then they know, “Okay, I'm going to be taken care of. My coach, my facilitator, they know what they're doing. I'm safe here, this is the program for me”. So that's why being really clear on your structure, and ideally, having a repeatable format can really serve your membership well. Plus, it makes life a lot easier for you because you're not constantly reinventing the wheel. You don't have to create something brand new every time you hold a session for your members, you can go back to the format that you've tested and created and that you know works.
So those are the four things to consider when you are launching your membership – the concept, the results, the benefit, and the format. Now you may be thinking, “Okay, Lee, this all sounds great and you know, I can talk about it, I can write it down, but how do I know it will actually work?”. Well, this is where the beauty of scaling small comes in because I believe when you launch a membership, before you announce it to the general public, and you make it available for everyone to participate in, I recommend starting with a founding members run. So it's almost like a beta program, you're giving yourself a little time to get the membership off the ground, try things out, see what works. And so you're doing so with a small population of people. The best way for me to describe this is to share my own experience with the Coach with Clarity Membership. So way back in the spring of 2019, I was starting to think, you know, I think a membership model could really serve my people. I've been doing one on one coaching for a few years, I've run quite a few rounds of the From Couch to Coach Small Group Program, which went well, and I can just see this continuing into a membership. So I spent a few months in the spring, creating my concept and deciding what it might look like. And then in July, I reached out to sixteen people. So these were sixteen people who were either past clients, past group members, maybe they were particularly active in my facebook group, or they replied to a lot of my emails. But these were sixteen people that on some level, I had a connection with, if not a full on coaching relationship, and I invited each of these sixteen people to become a founding member of the Coach with Clarity Membership. Now I'm going to be honest with you, I did not have a fancy sales page for this. I didn't have really anything other than a PDF that described what the membership was, the benefits I would be including, when we'd be meeting, and the price. Really, it was like one, maybe two pages of a PDF, but I reached out specifically to people that I thought would be good members, I let them know what about them, the qualities and the strength and the desires they held that I thought would fit well with the membership and then I invited them to be a part of it. And of those sixteen invitations, seven people said yes. Which, I have to be honest with you, exceeded my expectations. I reached out to sixteen people thinking, “Okay, well, if four people say yes, I can do this with four, I can do group sessions with four”, I was hoping for a 25%. So the fact that I hit almost 50% really exceeded my expectations and then I was able to get started with the membership with these seven founding members. And with these seven members, I spent ninety days testing out the membership. So I had a hypothesis about what the membership would look like, how each call would go, and I spent three months putting it into action. And because it was a relatively small group, I was able to connect with each member and get their input, their feedback, their guidance, and they helped shape the Coach with Clarity Membership. I really view that founding member process as an act of co-creation, and I'm still so grateful to those seven founding members, because they have helped make what the Coach with Clarity Membership is today. And in those first ninety days, I was able to test things out to see what worked, to make tweaks if needed, to solicit feedback, and create a library of content. So that when I opened the membership up to the general public, there were already recorded sessions in a content library that they could access.
Now, when I brought my founding members into the program, I felt it was very important that I'd be clear about the expectations. I needed them to know this is a beta program – I've never done this before, I'll be trying things out and I will be wanting your feedback, and if you're satisfied, I would also be honored to receive a testimonial from you. And I was clear with my founding members that in exchange for being a part of a brand new program, of helping me co-create it, and possibly providing a testimonial if they were satisfied, I would provide them with a special founding members rate. The founding members rate would be at a slight discount from what the full membership rate would be once I opened it to the general public, and they would be able to lock that rate in for life. So as long as they remained a member, as long as they held a continuous membership, they would pay the founding members rate and only the founding members rate, it would never go up. I also added in a monthly founders only call so that as we grew, as the membership grew, there would be a space for the founding members to come together and have time with me. I felt that was a way that I could honor their initial investment with me and quite honestly, their faith in me to be a part of a program that I was getting up off the ground and testing and trialing things out to have an extra call every month just for them was my way of saying thank you. So that's what I did, that's how I launched the Coach with Clarity Membership. It was invitation only, it consisted of seven founding members, and I spent three months really dialing in the processes. So that when I eventually opened it up to the general public, I felt confident about everything we've talked about before the concept, the results, the benefits, and the structure.
So after you've run a beta program, ideally, you've got your process down, you'll be ready to open it up to more people, and how you do that is entirely up to you. In fact, we could devote an entire podcast episode to that, but what I would suggest is that you start by first reaching out to current clients and current contacts, and offering them a personal invite. Now, I know there are a lot of fancy ways to bring people into your world. And whether it's an email funnel, or a webinar or workshop, all of these things, but I don't believe anything is more powerful than a personal invite, than reaching out to someone one on one and saying, “Hey, I have this program, I think it would be perfect for you because you are XYZ, would you be interested in learning more?”, and so we're making it really specific to them. And we're letting them know, I'm only inviting you because I know that this could serve you and it's what you've been looking for. So when possible, a personal invite is really powerful, and then taking that personal invitation to the next level. This is where you may also want to consider creating an affiliate program. So an affiliate program is where someone gets a benefit from you, typically a monetary benefit when they refer someone to your program. So for example, with the Coach with Clarity Membership, I have an affiliate program where members, or clients, or other colleagues of mine can receive a small cash payment from me in exchange for referring someone to the membership. So an affiliate program makes it advantageous for someone to make that referral. And it's also a way to kind of build that personal network. So you might also want to consider an affiliate program for your membership. I think whenever possible, when you can leverage your existing channels, so whether you have people on your email list, a Facebook group that you run, Facebook groups that you're involved in, when we can reach out to the people we've already connected with and share from a place of excitement, “Hey, I have this membership, we're going to do this, I think would be perfect for you, would you like to join?”, it's a great way to share your work with your ideal clients. But sometimes, instead of directing people directly into a paid program like a membership, we first want to show up and serve them powerfully through a free offer. And this is where having a free challenge or a free program of some sort can be really beneficial because you're bringing more people into your world, you're getting to know them, they are getting to know you, and they will get a sense for what it's like to be served by you.
This is what I did, leading up to the October 2019 initial public launch of the Coach with Clarity Membership. The month before, in September, I hosted The Clarity Summit. Now those of you who have been with me for a while, you may remember The Clarity Summit. It was a full week with over eighteen speakers and we really looked at what you needed to do in order to start and grow a successful coaching business. In fact, I still have all of the recordings from The Clarity Summit, and they're available to my Coach with Clarity Members, even now, a year and a half, almost two years later, I definitely refer people back to those summit presentations. But the summit was a wonderful way for me to show up, invite people in, serve them powerfully over the course of the week, and then invite them to take the next step with me in the membership. So you may also want to think about a big event. It doesn't have to be a summit, it can certainly be a challenge or even a free workshop or group, but something that invites people into your world. It gives you an opportunity to nurture that relationship and then you can extend the invitation into your membership.
Alright, so we have talked at length about membership programs, what to consider as you are conceptualizing it, how to talk about it, how to invite initial members in and then how to grow it. I think it is perfect time for this week's Clarity in Action Moment. So typically, the Clarity in Action Moment is brought to you by the Coach with Clarity Membership and you might think, well we're talking about memberships that would be a perfect thing to talk about here. Well it would, but I also want to tell you about another program I have coming up that is designed for you if you are looking at starting a group program like a membership, and that is my one day virtual retreat called Grow with Groups. We are holding it on Saturday, April 17th, and in this day, you will learn all of the fundamentals to get your group program up and running. So whether you are looking at a membership, a small group program or even a workshop series, the concepts we're going to talk about in Grow with Groups are designed to help you come up with a strong idea, a system to show up and serve your group members, and of course, a marketing plan to bring people through the doors. What I love most about the Grow with Groups Retreat is that it is highly actionable. So yes, it will be a little bit of me talking and teaching and sharing information, but it's also going to be a lot of time for you to get some good work done. And we will be doing so in partnership with each other. So there will be breakout groups where you can connect with other participants and support each other as you are building out your group programs. My goal is that when we wrap up the Grow with Groups Retreat, you will have a solid plan that you can implement to start, launch, and market your group program. So if you've been thinking about a membership or a small group program, and you'd like some support around getting it off the ground, then I would love to welcome you to Grow with Groups. Just head to CoachwithClarity.com/GrowwithGroups to learn more and register today.
So for this week's Clarity in Action Moment, let's go back to the four aspects that I suggested you need to consider when you are preparing to launch your membership, and I want you to ask yourself four questions. Number one, what is your membership about? What is the concept or the theme around which you will build this program? Number two, how will this program improve your members' lives? So what are the results or the expected outcomes they can receive by participating? Number three, what are the specific benefits you will provide in the membership? So are we looking at live calls? Are we looking at downloadable tools? What are the things you will be providing on a regular basis to your members that will allow them to achieve those results they want? And then finally, number four, format. How will you structure the membership so that you can ensure that your members are making consistent gains towards the results they want? Once you've got those four elements, figured out the concept results, benefits and structure, then you are in position to start thinking about who your ideal founding members are and how you can invite them to participate. And if you'd like additional support around doing so then definitely join us at the Grow with Groups Retreat on Saturday, April 17th. CoachwithClarity.com/GrowwithGroups to learn more and to register, and I hope to see you there. Okay, my friends, that's it for this week's episode. Thank you, as always, for joining me and a special thanks to my seven founding members of the Coach with Clarity Membership, you know who you are, and I am ever so grateful for your initial support and faith in me. Without you, the Coach with Clarity Membership would not be what it is today. So thank you, and thanks to all of you for joining me this week for listening in. I hope you find this episode actionable and helpful, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. So you can come connect with me at the Coach with Clarity Community, it is my free Facebook group for new veteran and aspiring coaches. So just head to CoachwithClarity.com/Community to join and I hope to see you there. Alright my friends, until next week, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough encouraging you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.

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