Have you ever wondered what it takes to successfully launch a paid online community?
Today I’m excited to share a fantastic case-study, featuring Learn.Community member Jennifer Long, and her awesome community Modern Rag Doll Membership. Jennifer’s community is for lovers of doll-making using fabric.
Jennifer is a mum, business owner and runs multiple ongoing projects. Yet despite her demanding schedule, she was able to launch a niche community that made $2000 in its first week!
I wanted to share some of the biggest lessons from Jennifer’s successful community launch.
Often community launch success is decided months or even years ahead of the launch itself.
In Jennifer’s case, she has spent a couple of years building a highly relevant audience of doll-makers.
Her key strategies for doing this were:
- She started the ‘Inspired Doll Making’ Facebook group. Despite not actively promoting it, the group has grown to 5.2k members. This shows the power of inbound traffic. By having the keyword ‘Doll Making’ in her group’s title, people searching for this interest on Facebook naturally find her group. It’s like an automatic funnel of relevant potential members.
- She also used her industry connections to land some ongoing guest blogging spots for major fabric companies. By writing quality content on other, larger platforms, she’s leveraging distribution to continually bring awareness and traffic back to her own website platform.
- Jennifer was savvy and built an email list, alongside her Facebook group and blog. Over a the past couple of years, this has grown to 5000 subscribers, with an impressive open rate (often engagement is higher for audiences with a specific, niche interest).
For more strategies to find members for your community (including if you don’t have an audience currently), check out my article How to find members for your online community.
Validate and Build an Interest List
Jennifer leveraged her audiences to point people to a ‘notification list’.
She let them know about the community she was planning, and encouraged people to go and sign up for a newsletter that promised to notify them when she launched the Modern Rag Doll Membership.
Jennifer got nearly 500 people signed up for this list.
Not only did this create an extremely warm list, with a specific, expressed interest to sign up for her membership community, but it was also excellent validation. If her early shares resulted in poor levels of interest, she could then go and pivot/re-frame her community. Thankfully, interest was high, and she was able to build a solid interest list, which ended up converting at nearly 10% (meaning nearly 50 members at initial launch).
Overcome Mindset Hurdles
Despite having built her membership platform, validated the concept and built an interest list, Jennifer didn’t launch at first!
In fact, she sat on her community for almost a year, totally stuck, due to mindset.
Jennifer shared on our group call, that she ‘wanted it to be perfect’.
I explained to Jennifer that community will never be perfect.
She committed to launch with the basic structure for her members and then ‘build with them’. By taking this more minimal approach Jennifer was able to alleviate much of the pressure preventing her from launching.
It’s not about finding that moment of perfect confidence, clarity and conviction. It’s about being willing to launch when things aren’t perfect.
Jennifer still didn’t know all her numbers or projections. She still didn’t have full confidence. She didn’t have an ongoing marketing plan for this community.
But she would have become totally frozen in over-planning if she waited to figure all of that out.
Instead, she launched, and she will figure out those things as her community grows.
Plus we’re often further ahead than we realise! Jennifer’s community is absolutely packed with value for her members, despite the fact she has such big plans to expand it over time.
The beauty of building with her members is that she’s now bringing in revenue to help support and justify the time and effort she needs to invest into building this community. That’s much more sustainable than endlessly planning and tinkering on it, for zero revenue.
Announce a Community Launch Date Publicly
Once Jennifer had decided to launch, she publicly announced a launch date.
She did not have all the pieces of her launch ready, but the fact she had publicly shared it meant that she was now mentally committed. The accountability of publicly sharing your launch is a powerful force, and creates an immovable deadline that inspires action.
Don’t be Afraid to Shout Your Community Launch From the Rooftops
Despite Jennifer protesting that she was afraid to mention her community too much, she did a great job posting a series of 5 emails during her launch. Each email focused on a different aspect of the membership, meaning that she could capture people interested in different elements of doll-making.
If you’re approaching a community launch, realise that multiple emails will always out-perform a single email.
Don’t be afraid to shout it from the rooftops. This is something you’ve worked incredibly hard to build, that should bring members a ton of value. Announce it proudly, announce it loudly!
Jennifer was smart and mirrored her 5 emails across her Facebook groups and social channels. She also leveraged urgency ‘doors closing on Monday!’.
Want to Experience More Community Deep-Dives Like This?
The tips in this guide are taken from a 2 hour deep-dive call inside Learn.Community. Learn.Community is a closed community specifically for community builders. In additional to an extensive knowledge base, thriving forum and regular community challenges, we host weekly live workshops. Often, we will share member’s communities, analysing what they are doing successfully, to allow us all to learn from them.