6 months in, how are memberships going?

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In January, I rolled out the Creator Crew, a membership that allows people to support the show directly in exchange for more, ad-free content. 6 months in, how do I think it’s going? Find out about this behind-the-scenes episode. And in Build Something More, we’ll talk about exact numbers, metrics, and what I’m measuring. 

Show Notes:


Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Real quick before we get started, I want to tell you about the Creator Crew. If you want ad-free extended episodes of this podcast as well as access to a community, live streams archives, bonus episodes, and deals, check out builtsomething.club and sign up for just $5 a month. You’ll get a bunch of great content and you get to support the show directly.

And today on Build Something More, I’m going to dig deep into some numbers in how I measure success because this is a six month check-in on how memberships are going. So I’ll talk about some future plans, I’m not quite ready to make it public yet, I’ll talk about how I’m measuring success and things like that. So again, that’s buildsomething.club. You can sign up for $5 a month or $50 a year. And every member gets an exclusive member chip in the mail. Head over to builtsomething.club today.

All right! Hey, everybody, and welcome to Episode 224 of How I Built It, the podcast that offers actionable tech tips for small business owners. It’s a solo episode today to round out the first half of 2021. I can’t believe we are already halfway, a little more than halfway I guess now, through 2021. But I generally take a month-long break for the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July. So this will be the last episode for about a month.

And when we come back, I’ll be all refreshed. So you can use that time to catch up on old episodes, maybe join the club and listen to the bonus episodes because members will still get their quarterly special at the end of this month. And I’ll be live streaming and things like that. But this will be the last episode for a couple of weeks, a few weeks.

So I wanted to do a check in. Now, before we get to that check in, I should tell you, today’s episode is brought to you by TextExpander, Restrict Content Pro, and The Events Calendar. You’ll hear about them a little later. So a while back when I first launched this membership in January actually, I published an episode about my failed Patreon experiment and why that didn’t work, all the reasons I thought that didn’t work. I’ll link that in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/224.

So now that I’ve got six months under my belt and I think I’m in a pretty good groove for the membership and I’m thinking about ways to grow and things like that, I want to do a quick check in. So we’ll talk here about a few things, starting with the launch and how it went.

I did this kind of rushed. And to be honest, at this point, I can’t remember why. If it was just that I wanted to launch at the beginning of the year. I think it was that I was starting to do bonus episodes and I knew if I didn’t start releasing them I’d fall behind. Like I actually do have a few bonus conversations I haven’t released yet. Maybe that’ll be another thing I do for members over this break to give them some extra content.

I have a conversation with David Sparks about Star Wars and a couple of other side conversations. Actually, I basically recorded an entire full episode as a bonus with Brian Krogsgard about gear. And we got to catch up with that. So those will be things that I can release to the membership. But I did it kind of quickly.

You know, I remember why now. It’s because I publicly mentioned it on a couple of other podcasts that I was going to be on as well as I think one of these episodes. So I kind of publicly committed to a launch date of sometime in early January and I’d started preparing for that. So I wanted to get the memberships launched before that episode went live because my call to action was to check out the membership and I didn’t want there to be nothing to check out.

The way I did it was I kind of bolted it on to the current How I Built It website using Restrict Content Pro—They’re a sponsor, you’ll hear about them a little later—using Restrict Content Pro, as well as the private feeds from Castos. I’m working on a walkthrough video for members of the website and kind of how I put it all together.

But I used Restrict Content Pro. There’s another plugin Uncanny Automator that adds some automation aspects to Restrict Content Pro because RCP does not have Zapier integration yet. And Zapier integration is kind of the linchpin of everything. So when someone becomes a member, I use Uncanny Automator to send that request… to send information to a webhook, essentially, with the name and email address. And from there, they get access to a private feed on Castos, which I can then revoke if they ever churn. And then they also get an invite to the Circle community. And I’ll talk about the community in a little bit.

But I did it pretty quickly, like over a weekend. And the first iteration, the first automation didn’t work. Actually, a couple of people did sign up on that first day, shout out to Kate and Amber. Members, builders, Kate and Amber, thanks so much for supporting the show and the membership from the very beginning. Aside from a couple of little hiccups here and there, I rolled this out over a weekend.

First of all, shout out to WordPress. I know I dog them a lot. I dog the platform sometimes and some of the decisions over on WP review. But I mean, I wouldn’t be where I am today without WordPress. And I say that a lot too. So shout out to WordPress and Restrict Content Pro for making this super easy, shout out to the Castos team for rolling out private feeds, because that made one aspect of this a lot easier. I don’t know if I would have been able to use Restrict Content Pro or I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it as cleanly as I am today. So shout out to them for making the launch easier.

Once I launched, I was kind of promoting it, you know, mentioning it here and there, tweeting about it. First of all, I wanted to make sure, first of all, that I can do it organically. Actually, before we get into what I’m doing to grow the audience, let’s take our first break.

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But that’s not all. Their extensive add-ons library allows you to do even more, like drip out content, connect with any number of CRMs and newsletter tools, including ConvertKit and Mailchimp, and integrate with other WordPress plugins like bbPress. Since the Creator Crew rolled out earlier this year, you can bet it’s using Restrict Content Pro. And I have used all of the things mentioned here in this ad read. I have created free levels. I’ve created coupons. I use ConvertKit and I’m using it with bbPress for the forums. I’m a big fan of the team, and I know they do fantastic work.

The plugin has worked extremely well for me and I was able to get memberships up and running very quickly. Right now, they are offering a rare discount for How I Built It listeners only: 20% off your purchase when you use RCPHOWIBUILTIT at checkout. That’s RCPHOWIBUILTIT, all one word.

If you want to learn more about Restrict Content Pro and start making money with your own membership site, head on over to howibuilt.it/rcp. That’s howibuilt.it/rcp. Thanks to Restrict Content Pro for supporting the show.

And now let’s get back to it.

Joe Casabona: Okay, we are back. So let’s talk about what I did or what I’m doing to grow the membership. So, first of all, I guess we can call January a soft launch. I did promote it a bit and I ran a deal where the first few people, like the first X amount of people, got 25% off. So I did do that.

I basically just wanted to see what listeners, what people who followed me would sign up. And I got a handful. I have about 30 or so members, and almost all of them at the annual rate. And this is students too. So anybody who pays for my Creator Courses membership gets access to this membership as well. Maybe that’s something else that I could talk about and Build Something More, like what I’m doing to combine the two memberships. Because running two that seemed different wasn’t something I really want to do. I don’t think I have a big enough audience to do that.

Pat Flynn has his Academy and SPI Pro and some other thing, but I don’t think my audience is big enough to kind of promote and support two different memberships. And the build something club, that’s the one I want to focus on.

So what am I doing to grow the audience? First of all, I wanted to make sure that the value adds for members were things I could deliver. And so extended newsletters, office hours, live stream archives, those are all things that I’m doing and continue to do. I think those are of high value because they’re paying essentially for extra content and to hear ad-free episodes.

So I think that I’m adding the value. And that’s not to say I’m going to rest on my laurels. I have a few other things planned. But I have proved to myself that I can deliver what I think can reasonably be delivered for five bucks a month.

So the first thing I decided to do was change the call to action at the top of the show. You might have noticed, if you’re a longtime listener a few weeks ago, it switched from “join the mailing list” to “become a member,” and I give a little teaser of what we talked about and Build Something More. So the join the mailing list one, that was pre-recorded and just automatically added to the beginning of each episode.

But the new one, that’s recorded as a bumper after each episode. And I think this is really important because I want to let people know what they’ll get immediately after they sign up. I think at this point we’re only a couple of calls to action into that. I think most of them are coming after the break. But I’m excited to see how well that does.

I also have made public the failed Patreon experiment episode so people can get an idea of what the show is all about. And on that note, I have redesigned the landing page. So it’s a real landing page with testimonials and other content. That was the other thing. I just kind of threw a page up with a payment form and a few benefits.

But now there’s all the benefits, and then there are some testimonials, there’s a sample episode, and then there’s the, you know, this is who this is for. So I think it’s cleaner. I probably maybe want to add a little bit more to it. Maybe I’ll try something like Hotjar to see how this page is performing. But I’m trying to drive a lot of traffic there.

So we’ve got the new call to action at the top of the show. We’ve got the new landing page. And I’m promoting it a lot on Twitter. As I start to do more of other people’s podcasts, I think that’s going to be my main call to action there. Like I’ll have a special landing page where people can become a member and maybe they get a little bonus something. Maybe I do an interview with the host or something like that. It’s pretty good idea. I should remember that. But that’s going to be my main call to action almost everywhere. And it’s because I want to take this membership and grow it into something more. So that’s what I’m doing to grow the show.

And then the other big, big piece of what I’m doing to grow the show actually is adding a blog to How I Built It and have more content upgrade stuff for members. This is an idea that I got from Chris Lema. Restrict Content Pro rolled out a new Gutenberg block. That’s essentially a content upgrade to get people to sign up for memberships.

So the way it works is you have a blog post. At the end of that blog post, you have a call to action that basically says, if you want to read more about this topic, there’s a continuation post essentially that’s only for members. So you are releasing half of the post for free, and half of it for members only. And I’ve really taken to this strategy. I think it’s a good one.

What I’ve generally been doing is releasing the blog post, and then members get a little extra write-up and then a video where I talk directly to them about whatever, give them a tour of Podcasts Lift Off, which I just relaunched, or give them a backstage tour of How I Built It, things like that.

So this is a strategy that as I add more content to How I Built It, I hope will work. I’m saying I hope but I think it will. Chris has written about this. I’ve partnered with my friend Jackie over at PodReacher. They are converting some episodes to blog posts for me and they’re doing a really great job. And then I create the membership upgrade for it.

So perhaps now would be a good time. We’ll take another break. But then I’ll talk a little bit about the How I Built It redesign and how I went about with that.

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And now let’s get back to it.

Joe Casabona: Okay, so we’re back, let’s talk about the How I Built It redesign a little bit. I’m certain I’ve written about it in other places, maybe the newsletter, maybe the members newsletter. But for months, I’ve been thinking about redesigning How I Built It. I wasn’t the happiest with the current theme. I was like, why rock the boat, sort of. And adding a blog really gave me an excuse to do that.

So I switched to Astra. And I specifically pick up picked Astra because in the near future, I might want to make WP Review a sort of sub-site of How I Built It, because they’re both feeds on the same account, and so I can’t have a separate domain for them. But I can change the design thanks to Astra’s templates, where I can say, if a post is in this category, then use this template instead, which is neat. It’s like a no-code solution for that.

But the main reason was I wanted something that was maybe a little bit more readable, not just totally focused on the podcast. When I first launched this, I had sponsors, but I didn’t have transcripts. I thought that this is going to be a little podcast side project. So I didn’t put that much thought into it. And now, I mean, geez, as I record this, it’ll be four years since I’ve gone full-time self-employed.

This podcast has been a major part of my business. This podcast is five years old. This podcast is five years old. And me being self-employed four years old and relying on this podcast. So a lot has changed since then, memberships, sponsorship, a big archive, multiple shows kind of on this one site.

And I wanted a lot of reorganizing. And in that I made it easier for members to log in, I made their navigation easier. Just two months ago, if you’d visited the site, as a member, you’d be like, “Where’s all my stuff. I don’t know what to do and nor to go where my benefits. So I made it easier to sign in, I made it easier to join the club.

I have this big focus on content, written content, and then the recorded content. So on the bottom of each episode page, there’s the “want to get even more?”, ad-free episodes. There’s the call to action there. On the bottom of each blog post, there’s a specific call to action about the content that you can get as a member. And now I’m adding other things like the live stream archive and things like that.

So I use Astra. I picked a couple of fonts I really liked. I had the color scheme ready to go. But my biggest part of the redesign and testing was making sure everything worked with Beaver Builder. I’m still using Beaver Builder for the landing pages because I didn’t want to do that major redesign like I did with the Podcast Lift Off.

But I made sure that the membership stuff worked, that buying is as easy as possible, which I’m not convinced it is yet. I maybe want to streamline that a little bit more. But accessing the members-only episodes, I wanted to make sure that was easier, accessing the members-only articles, I wanted to make sure that was easier. And I wanted to make sure that none of the members exclusive content was leaking out. So I changed a bunch of things. And I think the site’s better for it. It’s not perfect yet and I need to put a little bit more time into it. But the membership was a big part of why I decided to redesign the site.

So we’ve talked about how the launch went, we’ve talked about what I’m doing to grow memberships, and we talked about the redesign. Let’s take one more break, and then I’ll talk about assessment and plans for the future before we get into Build Something More.

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And now let’s get back to it.

Joe Casabona: All right, let’s get into assessment. How do I really think things are going? Well, it’s slower than I’d like. I saw a little boom at the beginning. Thank you, builders. Those are the people who are really into this show and want to support my work. And those are the people whom I’ve already sold through putting out quality content for the last five years.

But I’m not discouraged. I don’t think I wasted my time or launched this too early or anything. This isn’t like Patreon because I put a lot of thought into a clear plan for this and I’m actually delivering on the promises. Something that I’ve been saying to people over and over and over again with memberships is low effort and high reward. So I’m not saying cheap out. But if there’s something that you can do easily that is highly valuable to your members, like the bonus episodes or like the live stream archives, right? The live streams, I do them weekly anyway. But now there’s a benefit to members who can’t make the live streams. They get access to all of them.

And very soon I will have a better archive to find information from the live streams. That’s one of my other goals. I know ultimately having this in place is better for longer term growth of the show, the community, and the business. Again, one of my regrets with Creator Courses was not cultivating the community sooner.

So how are things going right now? Slower than I’d like but I’m in it for the long haul. I just recently read… I believe this was a thought from Marcus Aurelius. I’m reading meditations right now. But this was highlighted in “The Obstacle Is the Way.” Which, by the way, another member benefit that I’m adding now is my book notes. I usually do handwritten book notes for the books I’m reading that I highlight in my newsletter.

So now people in the newsletter will still get the highlights but the members will get my handwritten notes, the things that I thought were important. One of the things mentioned was follow the process, not the prize. Focus on the doing and not on how much money you’ll make. Because nothing worth doing is a get rich quick scam… scam. Freudian slip, I guess. Scheme.

I think anybody who promises you can get rich really quick is being less than truthful, will say. So I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to focus on the process and not the prize. And I know that through the process and through refinement, I will grow this membership bigger and the prize will come. And the prize by the way is not just money. It’s a community of people who listen to this show that we’re all learning together, we’re all growing our businesses together. I learned just as much from these interviews as hopefully you do. And that’s part of the prize as well.

So the other assessment there is the community. The community was not really an afterthought, but how I implemented it was. I’m using Circle now. I was going to use bbPress or BuddyPress, and I just thought there’s… I think I’ve talked about this on a previous show, too. I would just rather spend my time working inside the community and coming up with good content and discussions than working on the tech that drives the community. So I’m using Circle.

Engagement, again, is not as much as I’d like to see. But we’re getting there. The more people are there, the more people become aware of it, I’m confident the more engagement we’ll see. So that’s assessment.

Let’s talk about plans for the near future now. First of all, more engagement in the community is something I definitely want to do. And I’m trying to think of more ways to do that. AMA’s maybe, or piping live streams, maybe members only live streams into the community. But I’d have to give them notice, because not enough people are just hanging out in the community. So maybe incentivize the community.

I’ve been trying to do that through the newsletter, where I’m like, “Join the community and let’s discuss this newsletter.” I haven’t seen a ton of returns on that yet though. So I know that showing up is really important. Right now my VA posts a lot of the repetitious posts. I think that’s just something I’m going to have to do so people see my face more. I definitely get in there and comment and everything. But again, I think me being around there more, maybe getting more people, AMA’s, high profile people in there to engage with my community, I think that’s probably the way to do it.

By the way, you can join the community even if you’re not a member. There’s a free tier in the community. If you go to howibuilt.it/community, you have the community invite. So you can still go in there and share your work and things like that. But community members have access to a different part of circle, and their own space where there’s like office hours and things like that. If you’re interested, again, all of this will be in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/224.

I want to finish with the website improvements. There are a few user experience things I want to change after I’ve tested it a little bit. I want to get more feedback from visitors and listeners to see if there’s any way I can improve the website. But then, some of the bigger changes is I want to integrate courses in some way.

Right now I have two options for the membership, but it’s the same benefits. It’s $5 a month or $50 a year. So it’s the same benefits, but you get two months free. If there’s a way for me to have people sign up for the membership on the build something club and then kind of get access to the courses over at Creator Courses, that might be something I’m willing to explore in the near future, or offer a higher coaching tier or something like that, where for $25 a month, on top of all the member benefits, I’ll also teach you how to make websites or will have like weekly sessions on website development or WordPress or whatever. But that’s a little bit murky because I have my courses over at Creator Courses.

Or maybe just the model I originally had which was if you become a member on Creator Courses, you just get the build something club membership benefits. Maybe that’s really the way to go. But that’s something I’m trying to work out is I think there’s a way I can offer more value while integrating some of my other offerings. Consolidating them is another important goal of mine.

So that’s it for this episode. We talked about everything from launch to how I’m growing, the redesign and then the assessment, and future plans. In Build Something More, I’ll talk about how I’m measuring success. And then I mentioned something earlier about maybe combining the memberships. I think. I’ll have to go back and read the transcript for that. I’ll talk about how I’m measuring success, talk about exact numbers, and my goals.

So if you want to hear that and more and get ad-free extended episodes of every episode of How I Built It, sign up, $5 a month over a buildsomething.club. I hope to see you there. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks to our sponsors, TextExpander, Restrict Content Pro, and The Events Calendar. For all the show notes, you can head over to howibuilt.it/224. And maybe if you want to answer a question I have for you, are you interested in launching a membership? And if so, what’s it about? Let me know. Okay. Thanks so much for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.

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