What I Learned Shutting Down a $240,000 Membership to Scale

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What I Learned Shutting Down a $240,000 Membership to Scale

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Written by Houston Golden
April 28, 2019
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Four months ago, I launched a membership.

I sold twenty slots at $1,500/month in the first several weeks.

Then I built a system to automate the lead generation process for it.

I even wrote an entire guide on how I did it. This community was everything for me.

It allowed me to move to Los Angeles. 

And to pay rent and overhead as we built our agency.

We were on track to scale it to 1 million ARR.

Then I closed it down.

Here's what I learned in the process:

1. Build an Audience First

For a year and a half, I focused on writing content about marketing and entrepreneurship every day.

I wrote 500 answers on Quora and detailed my tactical approach here to getting views and engagement.

To date, I have over 10 million views and I'm a Top Quora Writer of 2017.

I also focused on building an active Facebook Group.

For a year and a half, I wrote posts almost every day.

Not just any posts, tactical and engaging posts.

To give you an idea, we average over 100 engagement per piece of content posted.

The result?

15,000 members in a group with 80% participation rate.

To be honest, this took up my social life and every weekend for almost a year.

But if you want to become an entrepreneur, there are certain sacrifices you need to make.

Because I had an audience who knew, liked, and trusted me, I could sell to them.

And after thousands of posts, I knew what they'd buy.

The first part is the hardest.

For example, it took me five months to get three thousand people in the group.

Then another five months for an additional eight thousand.

It was the same with my Messenger list.

Also, it took me several months to grow my Messenger list to a thousand people.

Then it took me two months to turn this one thousand person list into eleven thousand.

If you're at the beginning, be persistent.

It gets easier.

I promise.

2. Sell Before You Build

I've never worked in sales.

And when I left my job as the growth evangelist for Autopilot, I wanted to become an entrepreneur.

This meant no more cushy salary. The problem: I was scared to ask for money.

I thought my community would turn on me.

During my week break, I visited Los Angeles where I met Brian Smith, founder of the Founders Organization.

He met with me to get the latest updates on growth hacking.

Instead, it turned into a pep talk about how I needed to launch a company.

"Sell anything. Then figure it out."

That's what I did.

I ripped off an agency proposal I found online and made it sound like a membership.

Next, I launched it with several Facebook posts.

I sent this proposal to several hundred people.

Also, I used a Rebrand.ly link that would allow me to make edits to the proposal I sent in real time.

As I got feedback, I changed it.

At the end of two weeks, I'd made over fifty edits.

Without any choice, I was building out what I was selling while adjusting it to new iterations in the proposal. To add on to it all, I have countless sales calls pitching this constantly changing proposal.

As you can imagine, I had many sleepless nights.

It was well worth it.

After three weeks, I sold it out.

A lot of what I was selling had to do with the tool, Mass Planner (note: this tool has been banned), one of the most famous growth hacking software. I was running the members' social accounts on it, but it was killing my computer. Even worst, it required all my attention to set up and ensure it ran continuously.

I lost my excitement.

Money is nice, but it's not worth being miserable over.

So rather than complain, I outsourced automation tools using UpWork that replicated Mass Planner's features. I then gave them out to the members.

This saved me a ton of time, but caused a big problem. I spent so much on outsourcing that I broke even.

I didn't make any money off the membership.

3. Over-invest

Rather than back down, I kept outsourcing to automate all my membership work.

The second month, I had a net positive.

I was excited, but it also happened to be the first month I paid rent for our agency's office.

Yikes.

All the money kept disappearing :/

But I knew two things:

  1. The members were happier
  2. I had built a sales funnel that was getting leads for the membership every week.

Most of these leads came from LinkedIn, so I decided to double-down on it.

4. Double-Down on What Works

As we got more leads from LinkedIn, I began to post every day.

Using my background in copywriting, I wrote over fifty viral posts.

This led to almost one thousand leads.

And a crossroads.

Most of these leads were interested in the agency, not the membership.

This was a good problem, but required immediate attention. By posting viral content on LinkedIn, we added ten more agency clients to our roster in two months. Our average deal size is over 10K/month which meant we were headed in an upwards direction fast.

I was scared.

How well can we execute for them?

All the worries passed as I realized "it's us."

We've all had senior growth roles for multiple companies.

And our head of e-commerce, Bryan, and I were also the directors of growth for a hundred-person agency, so they kicked into gear and executed brilliantly. In the last four months, none of our clients churned or complained.

A month in, I woke up and compared figures. Our agency was on track to do 5 - 10 mil in its first year.

The membership? 1 million.

The problem was thirty percent of my time was still focused on the membership.

Ouch.

 

5. Invest in People

Business opportunities are everywhere.

The people you enjoy working with? They're hard to find (to say the least). 

The membership has a small value compared to working next to my co-founder.

By investing more time in the agency, I'd be investing more time in hanging out with friends.

And that's priceless.

6. Focus

For an early-stage company, you need to focus on one KPI.

Everyone on your team needs to be aligned with it.

I was scattered.

I was selling the membership, the agency, hiring, and writing.

Today, our most important KPI is new agency clients.

It's no surprise that when we winded down the membership, we added several more clients.

Raise the Flag

Now that we're not promoting what felt like two different companies, we can hold our flag higher.

We're a team of twelve in only four months!

We're hoping to expand to twenty in the next two months.

The membership may exist again, but only in a capacity where I'm not full-time on the agency.

I'm excited to see what happens.

And thank you for following the BAMF journey with our mission to empower 1 million founders.

 

About the Author

The name’s Houston Golden. I’m the Founder & CEO of BAMF ― a company I’ve grown from $0 (yes, really) to well over $4M in revenue over a span of 3 years.
How did I do it? Well, it’s quite simple, really. I’ve helped hundreds of business owners and executives get major traction (because when they win, we win). I tell you how on this blog.
Growth hacking is a state of mind. Follow along as I explore and expose the unknown growth strategies and tactics that will change the way you think about marketing.

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