Growth November 29, 2020

Launched an Online Community - 4 Months to $112k in Sales & No Ad Spend

Codie Sanchez @CodieSanchez

Early Lessons Learned from Creating A Community
I got kind of obsessed with online communities after seeing YEC, Trends, Vistage, YPO, EO, Tiger 21 make anywhere from $3M to $200M off their communities --> https://contrarianthinking.substack.com/p/how-to-make-millions-by-having-buds.

Kind of made me chuckle when I realized how much I spend on communities as well. So we launched a community... https://www.unconventionalacquisitions.com/ for people who want to do deals, M&A and buy businesses. We did it super MVP, squarespace template website, maybe $1k in total startup costs and inside of 4 months we did $100k+ in sales and now trending towards $30k MRR.

So I thought I'd share how we did it.

Disclaimer: we are still small. I have no idea if this will be a multi-million dollar community, not professing to be a guru. Our goal is to make 100,000 business owners. We’ve helped create 10 thus far. That's rad.

We do no advertising and we are experimenting on purpose. I’ll update you all as we add fuel to the fire but figured it’s more useful to show the progress than the end state.

Unconventional Acquisitions:
Cost is $1997 a year x (56 members) = $112k in revenue (launched in August 2020) - that's just one rev line of the business

Now as mentioned there are discounts, there are some freebies and we only started this bad boy in August so it’s been 3 months. BUT the cool part is the trend line. Here's what I've learned so far.

Lesson #1: Price it Higher than You Think
Don’t do an online community unless you think it’s worth at least $5-10k IMHO. Then you can have a high customer acquisition cost with no problem, and you add a barrier that keeps those who decide to buy super engaged. They have skin in the game. It also keeps chargebacks down. We haven’t had any chargebacks yet BUT everyone tells me you will as you scale so I like to remember this:

Sell your product at $10, some will say too high.
Sell your product at $100, some will say too high.
Sell your product for $10,000 --> less complaints, less returns.
Most bizarre yet true phenomenon to remember..

Lesson #2: Don’t Do A Separate Platform, Use Facebook/Slack/Existing Channel
I talked to YEC, Gobundance, Mike Dillard’s team, and slew of others who all said they tried a new platform, it was $5-10k to build out and then… crickets. All of them moved back. People are already on Facebook so when you start do it on FB. Only one I’m a part of that has separate platform is Ecommerce-fuel, and it’s because it’s custom coded with massive value add. That’s not needed to start.

Lesson #3: Don’t Advertise to Start
Be organic. Start with your own network. Try to get on as many podcasts and webinars as possible to speak. Free work turns quickly into paid. For a bigger ticket item ($1k+) you need about an hour of people’s time for them to feel comfortable making the purchase in my experience. There’s a whole universe of how-to’s on that out there so I’ll leave the how-to to google.

Lesson #4: Build An Email Funnel
It takes humans quite a while to decide to buy into something that requires their time not just their money. You need 7-10 touch points with them. We use long form (90% value, 10% sales) newsletter style emails on our blog to convert. Forget about giving too much away, give lots of free value away so they can trust you. This is… the way.

Lesson #5: Affiliates Suck 90% of the Time & 10% of the Time Are AWESOME
I suppose it’s just the 80/20 rule but if you are going to do an affiliate program (which I recommend), make sure it’s somehow automated (we use Thinkific paired with Paypal payouts). And spend as little time as possible with people who don’t usually do affiliates and lots with those who do. Those who know how to affiliate will crush it for you, newbies will waste your time.

Lesson #6: What will they get from this explicitly?
The advice I received is you need to have your members take one action quarterly in order for them to feel they have been given enough value to continue engaging. So ask yourself how can you build in items for them to get quarterly value?

Lesson #7: You Have to Be Involved
In the beginning, there is you. A friend said it best, “You can’t pay someone to be the entrepreneur for you.” When you first start these you need to be the community manager, you need to be active, you need to be connecting people, you need to be hyper involved. As you grow you help people self-provision but it’s not a get rich quick with no work scheme. It’s a lovingly nurture a group of humans you get to hand pick. I chuckle calling it my online cult. Oops, probably not PC. You create a world, make people better for being in it, they pay for your world creation and you get to live there too.

Pretty damn beautiful.

*Now I don’t profess to have this all figured out, we haven’t even hit 7 figures yet. But we are having fun and if we can scale one to six digits why can’t you?

Full breakdown here --> https://contrarianthinking.substack.com/p/how-to-make-millions-by-having-buds

Obvi - happy to answer any q's.

  1. 2

    Hmmm it's not a community, it's an online course...

    1. 2

      All this revenue is just from the mastermind not the online course... So the mastermind is the community. The other revenue streams are courses, affiliate links, and we are going to buy some service providers who will help community members execute deals and we rev share;.

  2. 2

    Congratulations, but it’s not clear how you’ve acquired your customers. Did you already have an audience? Finding people willing to pay 2k/year on the web isn’t easy.

    1. 2

      Hey there - so this one breaks down how we first grew our email list. https://contrarianthinking.substack.com/p/how-i-got-my-first-10000-newsletter. Now I have an unfair advantage in that my community teaches people how to do private equity, M&A, and micro-pe acquisitions of profitable biz's and that's my speciality. So people will pay more because we help them turn $2k into $100's +. Obviously they have to do the work. And I run a VC fund so I have some notoriety. You'd want to up your sub base before you try to sell a premium group and you need an unfair advantage of why people would want to join.

      1. 1

        Got it, so you basically have a lot of connections and leveraged them to grow your list. Good job - although not replicable by the average Joe.

        1. 1

          Everyone definitely has to find their niche to not be the average Joe. That said - I'm part of a group that's $2k a year run by someone who's great at ecommerce. So you find your strength and jump on it. Did you read the post? I think all in there is very replicable as far as sub growth. Love your thoughts if you think not.

          1. 1

            This doesn't want to be a critic, it's clear that you're really good at what you do. What I'm saying is that a normal person can't replicate things like: "I make a list of friends who have podcasts, I get myself on a couple of them. Ask if I can email a few of the businesses I invest in’s lists (15k+ subscribers). Used YEC’s (a mastermind I’m in) ability to guest blog post on Forbes."

            1. 1

              don't you worry. My newsletter is called contrarian thinking I welcome constructive feedback and questioning. All good. Here's my pushback. Join other masterminds --> Trends for $300 and no barrier to entry, or if you have a startup YEC which does monthly payment of $200. And there are 2M+ podcasts I bet my bottom dollar if you search your linkedin contacts for the word podcast you'll be amazed how many people you know who have one. I only push bc I promise... not special. Just a pushy human who always asks for what I want. If we're all 4 degrees from Kevin bacon :) I bet you're 1 degree from at least 5 podcasts. Then just give em a pitch with value. Hate seeing anyone sell themselves short. But keep pushing me!

  3. 1

    "You create a world, make people better for being in it, they pay for your world creation and you get to live there too." Nice one...

  4. 1

    I had trouble reading after $2k per year.

    Lesson #3: Don’t Advertise to Start
    Be organic. Start with your own network.

    I'd say being in the right environment matters. I don't even know who'd possibly pay to be in a private community. And I also don't understand how they grow. People came with curiosity and stays for the content 🤷‍♂️ all of 'em.

    Anyway, gratz.

    1. 1

      Totally get it. Honestly I spend A LOT on communities a year and think I get my money back 2-10x depending on the year. It really depends on what you want. Tiger 21 is $30k per year, and YPO EO are $5-10k. So if you think you can raise funds from the group, if what you learn nets you more than that then you keep engaging and if not you drop out.

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