I've closed my community: what worked and what didn't

Hi IH community!

Last October I closed GrowthSeeker.io community. I want to share what worked and did not work, to help others in the path to build a paid (or not) community.

Before starting, if you want to know more about all the "failed" trip, the three pivots, more lessons learned, figures, and how I manage failure with a growth mindset, have a look at this Twitter thread and listen to the podcast attached. I was interviewed in a podcast to talk about failure:

Now, let's go!

Things that worked for me to build the community:

  • Understand what the members were valuing the most and pick a tool for that (live chat communities vs forums vs live streamings/room). Eg: If one of your rituals is a live call (let's say you roast a landing page to help somebody every week to improve conversions), maybe your tool is discord because of the live rooms.
  • Personally introduce members that share interests. Drive networking and show them you care about their businesses. Have a list of "members care" like a CRM to do this personal touch. I was using Notion.so to keep track of this list.
  • Have a calendar of events so that people can download the appointment and block their agendas.
  • Live calls (depending on the purpose of the community and the audience might work or not).

Things that did not work:

  • Change from Discord to Circle after having some tens of people. Fight vs change management again, onboard again, and lose the momentum. That was the wrong decision.
  • I'm a firm believer in having a why embracing the brand, and in my case is a deep why. However, people did not seem to care about that. Probably why + charge + apply the rules would have been a better combination.
  • Not getting serious enough about some stuff. Eg: Some members were spamming others. I could have avoided charging money early enough to filter the quality of the members.
  • Too many groups / overcomplicate the community.
  • Keep the conversations out of the community. The 1:1 talks to start having my initial cohort of engaged people were through email, twitter, linkedin... not in the community. Change that inertia and have the people share things in the community instead of sharing with me in private via other channels was hard. I could not incentivize them enough to share and talk in the community and switch from the usual communication channels.
    Not having an accountability ritual (this depends on the community's purpose, not always makes sense).
  • Gamify the use since the beginning to incentivize participation. Works best to add value, dynamize the networking, have exclusive content, and be patient to little by little having people in the community.
  • The scalability of the paid community model vs my purpose with the community. My goal was to democratize the access to mentorship for entrepreneurs with no access to mentorship or guidance via the community. That was a full-time job, a considerable amount of time. To make a life from this, I needed to charge around 45$/mo (with discounts for 6mo or yearly). But I've learned that that's a high pricing point for the target audience.

I've learned so much with this process. My top learning is the huge amount of time and effort that's needed to make a community work. Now I know that our beloved @rosiesherry and other community builders are not from this planet... you all have my total admiration (you already had it, but now even more)!! Huge kudos for your hard and excellent work!

Now, I'm trying the other way around. I've built https://startupbuilder.mba as a digital product (a notion template) to help with the idea validation process. I offer the community an extra feature to validate and get help from other innovators worldwide following my validation program.

That's it! I hope it helps somebody :)

AMA, happy to help ;)

    1. 2

      Please BIG THANKS to you for the opportunity to share the story with your audience!!

      Thank you John!!

  1. 2

    Thanks a lot Jose for sharing and sorry it failed! Can you please be more specific on why the move from Discord to Circle did not work so well?

    1. 1

      Thanks for your comment and your kind words :) Sure! Happy to help!

      I think there were 2 factors:

      • Change management: I had the MVCommunity in a tool that everybody knew after fighting to understand it (technology adoption). That's human behavior, right? We are hesitating to change and learn tech that changes what we are used to using. So after all those people have been struggling to learn discord, then I change for a new tool (Circle) and they have to create a new profile, start again to learn how a new and 100% different tool that doesn't know works... That a lot of friction for the average user, and more when you are not solving the problem with the right value proposition. Effort/value is not a good ratio for them to change.
      • After I changed, I did not give enough time to have again the MVCommunity (yeah, it's like starting from scratch!) before start charging money for the membership, so it was double friction for the people that were in discord added to the value proposition problem.

      If I may, to be honest, I don't think it's a failure itself as I've plenty of positive things that happened and are happening because I started GrowthSeeker. But yeah, I get that it's how we use to "judge" businesses that did not work 😃 Sorry for this "unsolicited comment", but I'm working to help others change the failure mindset for growth mindset, so when I have the chance, I talk about it. I think the world needs it.

      1. 2

        You're right, 'failure' is not a good mindset! Thanks for your clarification!

  2. 2

    love you sharing this. i'm meditating on it... and i want to give it more thought. maybe i'll write about it in my newsletter!

    thank you for sharing honestly, candidly. that's legit.

    1. 2

      Thank you John for your kind words. I did not know about your newsletter, just subscribed! What is the main topic you want to write about? Let me know if I can help.

      BTW, extended thoughts in this podcast in case it helps https://open.spotify.com/episode/69sVBr8trgpCnkLSxOV5gc

  3. 2

    Turned on the paywall only a day before for join.coulf.com

    And your insights can help. How many members were there when you limited access? How did you reach and acquire those initial members?

    Thanks for the ama 🙌

    1. 1

      Thanks for your comment! You value proposition looks good and the price point might work.

      I had 150 people registered in the discord community, and approx 20 where active before limiting the access.

      Acquiring customers: I had a daily free growth tips call that I use to publish in the meetups page of IH. My main acquisition channels where IH, twitter and linkedin in that order. To scale that should have been revised with content strategy, partership programs, newsletter, viral loops, affiliate program and finding more channels with look-alike audiences with sparktoro.com. There is way more you can do. Besides, what worked for somebody might not work for you if your target audience is not the same.

      In this podcast you have answers to this questions and much more https://open.spotify.com/episode/69sVBr8trgpCnkLSxOV5gc

      Good Luck with Cloulf!

  4. 2

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Jose!

    Do you think that having a Telegram community would be better than Discord? I tried Slack for my coffee community and felt too big.

    I am thinking to create a small community of founders to support each other, but to use telegram instead of something big.

    Circle felt a big "offline", I also tried it.

    Keep pushing, my friend!

    1. 1

      Thanks for the encouragement and the comment Jose!

      I'm not sure I can have the best answer for you. I think there is a factor of change management (product adoption), and the tech we pick should depend on the audience's behavior. Eg: if our audience is B2B, probably slack would work, as probably lot's of them are already using slack it in their companies.

      The question to answer and get engaged ASAP with a Minium Viable Community is, what tool is using my target audience that does not need to educate them and change their rutine? Is that telegram? I don't know, what about facebook?

      I did not start with facebook because I'm not a facebook user, but I'd do if I were a user just to not fight versus change management. Yeah, the reviews you'll read from facebook as a community tool (it is not) are bad, but as your article says, best if we do "downhill community making" and ease the things for the final user to make it work. Once engaged and once they see the value, with time, IMO will be better to migrate to an specific community tool, but not to start.

      IMO better telegram, whatsapp or facebook to start. Something your audience is already familiar with and can easily access and keep engaged at hand.

  5. 2

    Thank you for sharing. It takes character to look back at failures and truly learn from them. When you look back at your community project, can you say that you enjoyed it?

    1. 2

      Thanks for your comment and kind words :)

      I enjoyed it a lot at the begining. I was very motivated with the calls, connecting people, helping founders with tips, brainstorming, see how some ... Then I remember a point in which I thought "I'm so tired"... tired of connecting, of talking (hosted 300 hours of calls in 3 months). To be honest I started to get tired of that much effort with 0$ income (and no other icome stream, so that was important to have).

      But, regarding your question, I enjoyed a lot meeting, connecting and leanring from people while building the community!

      1. 2

        300 hours of calls in 3 months. Insane! You gave it your all that´s for sure. And a lot of valuable lessons learned for your next projects.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your comment! All that's said in the comments + the article + the podcast applies. Here is the podcast https://open.spotify.com/episode/69sVBr8trgpCnkLSxOV5gc

      In your case, I don't get the value proposition of your community :(

      1. I would review and validate the value proposition before building, know that your community is solving a problem (how many people in your target audience have you been talking to came up to this community idea?) in a different way that others that already exist or find a niche.
      2. Then if your goal is to make money, I'd test the willingness to pay asap after validating the value proposition and having a minium number of users engaged with your community.
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