How to Boost your Coaching Business with a Laid-back Membership Community
If you’re starting a community business from scratch, or adding a community offer to an existing business, the learning curve can be steep! I often see community founders delay launches because of the overwhelm that happens in wrangling all the moving pieces.
If you’ve done that, it can feel like you’re the only one who’s not able to figure it out, but I promise, you are not alone! This is why examples, inspiration, and learning together are huge benefits of community. In that spirit, I’m excited to share a successful zero to launch story with you from a member of our community. It’s the story of how Lis Best built and launched a community in under 6 months.
Lis is an executive coach and the founder of Girls Club Collective , a brand new professional development community for women in the social impact field. Lis joined BACB a few months ago and through our community, I’ve gotten to know her and the membership she’s launching.
I love how Lis has approached the launch in a calm, intentional way. The Girls Club Collective is now welcoming its first members in a couple of weeks. And instead of feeling overwhelmed and tired, Lis seems grounded and excited for members to join. The ideal launch state!
If you’re starting a community business from scratch, or adding a community offer to an existing business like Lis did, below is some of what you can learn from her on how to put together a new community launch in just a few months.
Finding your first community members.
When you’re building a business that at its core is about connecting people to each other, it helps to ground your strategy on who you’re building for. It’s so important to really understand your first members.
Because Lis is an executive coach, she had a great understanding of her clients and potential community members. She knew her members were women change makers and impact leaders. She also knew their levels of experience, the time commitment they’d be willing to make, and many more tiny preferences that helped her design a space just for the exact right member.
Finding a way to help your future community members (or others like them) accomplish their goals individually first is a great place to start. Whether via coaching, consulting or casual networking calls, going deep with your people 1:1, will help refine who your community is for and who it’s not for.
How can you start reaching out to and connecting with people who might become your first members? Where do they hang out? What problems are they trying to solve?
Why Start a Community? Getting Clear on Your Intention.
It’s possible to sell a course, a group coaching program and even membership, without building a community business. The distinction is your intention to center connection. It’s a decision to let community inform all of the other pieces, instead of the other way around.
For the Girls Club Collective, the idea to build a community came from connections that were already being made between clients and within the Mastermind Lis hosts. She saw how valuable peers were to women in impact, who often feel alone in their work, and are constantly looking for partners and co-conspirators on their journeys.
I think it is super impressive how grounded Lis is in the change she wants to see and her ability to gather the right people to move towards that change. In her case, it’s a world with a clean energy future, social and racial justice and universal human rights. Members who are drawn to the community, have similar visions for the world they can build together.
Lis was clear on her vision of the world she wants to create, so it’s really clear to see how community fits as part of that. She says, “to me, a community business is one that puts connection at its heart. Connection and growth have been two core values of my business from the very beginning - it can be so lonely to work as a change agent. A huge part of why I started working as a coach was because I wanted to support other leaders who want to create a future that works for everyone in a way that is collaborative and fun. The visual that comes to mind is one of ants or roots in a forest - coming together in service of the collective.”
Even if your community is not about social impact, having a vision for the world you want to co-create with your members is important. At their best, community businesses are a microcosm of the world we want to live in. The more you lean into the why of your community, the easier everything else becomes.
From a business perspective, adding a community offer allows Lis to support clients beyond their initial coaching engagement. It also allows the team to grow the business without growing their number of hours worked, because they’re moving towards helping members support each other. Lis says, “it allows this constellation of change agents to evolve in a way that's bigger than me.”
Community businesses are as much about the structure of a business model as they are about the intention of the community founder. Centering community long-term naturally builds longevity and scalability into the business.
Crafting your offer. What should a community include?
Once you have a clear idea of who your members are and what your intentions are, the next step is to think through what exactly you’ll be offering them. Below are 2 key principles Lis had in place.
What to NOT include
It’s often our instincts to add more when designing a community offer. Very often, your members will want less. They don’t want to join a community where they won’t have enough time to participate and will miss a lot of what’s happening. It’s really important to meet members where they are, and recognize that sometimes that means offering LESS.
This is how Lis differentiates between the community and the mastermind she’s been hosting: “The mastermind will continue, but the community offers a great lower-touch option for people to stay in the space year-round with less of an intensive time commitment than the mastermind. The women in my world have a lot on their plates! I've observed that the mastermind can feel like a bigger time commitment that doesn't always make sense with life, work, etc. My hope is that the community will give people a place to connect and drop in for the events that serve them over the course of the year, even if they're not in a place where they want intensive 1:1 or mastermind support.”
What she’s landed on for her initial community offer is:
- Curated monthly coffee date matches to match members 1:1.
- Monthly power hour which is like a networking event for the community to better get to know each other.
- Monthly advisory office hours to help members problem-solve their current challenges,
- Plus periodic workshops and other programming online and IRL.
That’s it! Four-ish programs that address key member needs and don’t overwhelm them.
When you’re building your community offer, think about your members and what they’ll have capacity for. Sometimes less events and activities, especially at first, will help catalyze your initial group.
A lot of our instincts when it comes to pricing an offer is to start free or very cheap and increase the price as we go. I tend to advise against this. When your community is a small group, it can actually be more valuable than when there are hundreds of people. And starting with a high-value offer that compensates you for your time and effort from the beginning allows you to put real time into being there for your first members. Plus, even if that means you’ll start with less members, you know those are the right members who are committed to your common vision.
Lis priced Girls Club Collective at $2000/year, or $500/quarter. Though this is less than the price for the Mastermind or the 1:1 coaching Lis offers, it’s not what most of us would think of as a price for a membership. Many memberships are priced around $20-40/month.
Still, the initial launch is happening now and she’s already gotten 11 members who’ve joined. If the community was priced lower ($20-40/month), this wouldn’t be nearly enough to compensate for her time. Since it’s a premium community, even if no more than 11 people join this launch, the community is already paying for itself and off to a great start.
This is what allows Lis to approach her initial group with care and abundance, rather than from a place of anxious growth. And it gives her the option to stay small and still make sure everyone is well supported.
Making your first community launch a marketing success.
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming to invite your first members into your community. You don’t have to think of a launch as a stressful period where everything is uncomfortable. Here are some takeaways from Lis’ approach with The Collective.
- Finding your first members.
- Making it easy for members to have their companies pay for their participation.
- Crafting a detailed application.
If you’re looking to add a community into your business strategy like Lis has done, having community yourself can be an important part of keeping the momentum going and staying focused. If you’re looking for a clear roadmap, ongoing support, and a fun community to tap into as you launch, BACB, our course and community, might be for you!
Here’s how Lis describes her experience:
I learned so much in BACB, including and especially about what a community business model is and how to orient my business around one. I also got such great tools to help me structure my community, get clear on my landing page and email content, and plan my launch.
I’ve seriously gotten SO much out of it - it’s been amazing! Truly helped me go from zero to a community with total dream members in less than six months, and it has been so cool to meet so many other amazing community leaders.
You can learn more about BACB here , or start with our upcoming masterclass .
It’s been so cool to see Lis build out a community she is proud of in such a short time. I hope it’s helpful to see an example of what launching a community for the first time can look like.
In summary, start with who your members are, have a clear vision for the world you want to create, go slow, charge from the beginning, and get support when you can.