Mia Fileman 0:05
Life’s too short for crap marketing.
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All right. What about membership? That is also the new kid on the block?
Everyone thinks that the solution is to create memberships and subscriptions.
Fiona Johnston 0:42
Yes, memberships are interesting because, in order to make membership work, you need to be marketing yourself all the time. Most memberships have intakes all the time. Or maybe they have a couple of intakes a year like a (0:57 unclear) program would.
You have got to be coming up with content every month. You have got to give people a reason to be there. By the time you have got them there, you have then got to give them a reason to stay. The infrastructure required to actually run a membership can actually be quite large.
It is very rare for somebody to actually be able to run a membership on their own. I have a client who has a really successful membership which she started on her own. She now has ten people supporting her – ten people working for her. Their role is to manage the content, communication, all the activities that happen amongst her membership platforms because that is what a membership demands.
This idea that you start a membership, and everybody comes for the membership, and somehow it feeds itself – it doesn’t. It takes a lot of work to keep people interested.
If your membership is once a month, we have a guest speaker that comes, every month you have got to find a guest speaker, negotiate with them what their specialty is, how it is going to work, and organise it. There is a lot of work.
Memberships need scale in order to be successful because having a membership where there is only 20 people would work nicely for a mastermind or a group program, but not in a membership. A membership really needs hundreds – if not thousands – in the membership to actually make it feel like you are part of a big community that you can dip in and out of.
I think both of us would agree that One Roof is a really great example of a membership done really well. There is a team of people running the membership. Cherie is clever enough to realise that there needs to be multiple people actually facilitating that user experience or member experience.
I completely agree, especially with that it has to work at scale.
You need hundreds – if not thousands – of customers which is a lot of work if you are starting a business because you need a huge audience in order to get 200 or a thousand people to convert to your membership. You need hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people in your audience so that you can then convert them to a membership.
We need to be honest about the fact that no one wants another membership.
Fiona Johnston 3:28
Mia Fileman 3:29
I feel like Netflix and Binge have ruined it for subscriptions because they are so cheap. It costs $17.00 to have Netflix and I get to watch whatever I want on any device. We have got the most expensive Netflix plan which is $18.00.
Everything comes back to “if Netflix is $18.00, and Spotify Premium which is the best thing ever is $14.00, how much am I really going to pay for a content membership or a coffee membership?” Everything comes back to that.
We forget that Netflix ran their business at a loss for the first five years in order to keep those prices so low so that they could avoid any new competitors entering the market. As a result, the amount that we are willing to pay on a subscription is very low.
Fiona Johnston 4:19
I think free Facebook groups also have set the expectation, too.
There are a lot of Facebook groups that are free that actually have amazing content in them or have in the past that is perhaps a little bit thinner now, but if you have been in a Facebook group that was free and you were getting a lot from that, why would you then want to go and pay to be in a membership? It really needs to up the ante in terms of what the value that you are receiving is.
Mia Fileman 4:46
Such a good point. It feels like we are Debbie Downers today.
The idea is for you to go into this eyes wide open.
Are we saying that memberships cannot be successful? Of course, they can be really successful, but these are the things that we want you to bear in mind when you go and build them so that you don’t turn around six months later and go, “You know what? It was a shit ton of work…”
Fiona Johnston 5:11
“And nobody told me!”
Mia Fileman 5:13
Yes, building that little mini course.
Fiona Johnston 5:15
I actually remember saying this into a group. It actually probably was a mastermind. I was talking about the transition from me being more of a consultant moving into the space of being an online course creator which I am now. The shift in terms of the work that I do is massive.
One on one, I know that we will touch on this, but it is a completely different way of delivering that value to your customers, and having any kind of scalable product – membership, mastermind, product, course, downloadable whatever – requires a lot more marketing, a really different approach to how you position yourself in the market.
I remember telling this mastermind group that I was in, “It has come to my attention – and I have noticed it with my clients that are course creators – that there is a huge amount more effort required with my marketing to convert people to my online program than to one-on-one.” They all said to me, “You just need to shift your mindset.” I said, “Hey! I’m not complaining!”
Mia Fileman 6:25
There is so much more marketing that needs to happen. I have never once spoken about the fact that I do offer one-on-one consulting and I cannot take another client.
Fiona Johnston 6:35
That’s right. One-on-one doesn’t require as much marketing as a group does.
Mia Fileman 6:40
It’s an easy sell.
Of course, I want to work with people one-on-one. I don’t need to sit there and listen to other people’s problems. I can go straight to the cause. It’s efficient. That time is carved out just for me. I am paying what I am paying to get that one-on-one support.
Of course, it’s going to require more marketing. Plus, in one-on-one, you need fewer clients, so you don’t need to market it as much whereas, in a membership model – like we talked about – you need hundreds.
A subscription model has come to mind that is brilliant.
Fiona Johnston 7:10
Mia Fileman 7:11
It’s an overseas brand in the US called Nuuly. It is a clothing subscription.
What they do is you log on and you pick which clothes from their collection you would to wear that month, and they will post them to you in your sizes. You will wear them as much as you like for that month. If you like those clothes, you can choose to buy them, or you can choose to send them back as they are. They will professionally clean them. Then, you order your next set of clothing.
If you are a little bit like me, and you are a bit of a fashionista, and you love wearing new clothing, but you don’t want to trash the planet, this is brilliant – absolutely brilliant. I would pay a good subscription for this because it is absolutely going to save me money in terms of buying new clothes all the time. It means that I get to wear the latest fashion and not have to feel guilty about it.
Fiona Johnston 8:11
I love that.
I think similar businesses do exist in Australia because I have had friends use them and their experience was fantastic. They said it was the sort of things that they would rent – like blazers, fancy dresses, things that they probably wouldn’t buy themselves. It wasn’t the kind of T-shirt and jeans. That’s the stuff that you would invest in for yourself.
They loved it because every month they had a new wardrobe. They always felt like they were wearing something new and feeling quite fancy when they were going fancy places.
Mia Fileman 8:45
Totally. Good one.
Honourable mention for inspiring business models are Zero Co which we have also spoken about.
For those who are not aware, they have these great bottles that you start with a starter pack. You get the bottles. They look really good. They are in a pastel colour. You have refillable pouches for these bottles.
But what you do with Zero Co, once you have 14 empty pouches, they give you a return envelope and you post the pouches back to them. They wash them, sterilise them, and then they reuse them. It is a completely circular economy.
Fiona Johnston 9:28
I love it.
I love that they also have the research to back their claims. They have actually worked it out – yes, it is worth posting all of these items back, and we can show you how.
Mia Fileman 9:40
They even did the research on the water usage and detergent usage for washing out the pouches versus throwing them away. They said, “Because we use recycled water, and because we are washing cleaning pouches, we have got enough soap in there already.” They literally studied it right now to the molecule level to make sure that this was actually better for the environment than throwing the pouches out.
Fiona Johnston 10:06
I love it.
Mia Fileman 10:08
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All right. Now, I want to talk about some dodgy AF models because there is a few that have come to mind that I want to call out.
Now, this is probably going to get me cancelled. I’m okay with that. There is a lot of people who love the AusMumpreneur Awards. They think that they are the bees’ knees and that I should probably not burn any bridges, but fuck it because I don’t know if people are aware of this, but if you were nominated for an AusMumpreneur Award, you need to pay to accept that nomination.
There are a bazillion categories. There is regional, national, early stage, experienced, blah blah blah. If you want to nominate for several categories so that you can give yourself the best chance of success – ding, ding, ding! – you need to pay per category. It’s not ridiculous. It’s $150 per category.
But we are talking about awards. In 2023, when inclusivity is a massive topic for conversation, then I feel like this is very exclusive in terms of there are going to be some business owners who are running incredible businesses who cannot justify spending $500 or $600 to nominate themselves for an AusMumpreneur Award, essentially rending them ineligible to win. I have a problem with that.
Fiona Johnston 12:25
Mia Fileman 12:26
The other thing with this particular organisation was they came out last year and they said, “We are looking for industry experts. Are you interested in being an AusMumpreneur industry expert?” That was the email that they sent out.
I was like, “Great! I would love to be an AusMumpreneur expert. I’ve got 21 years’ experience.” It turns out that to be an industry expert comes with a sponsorship package, and the sponsorship packages start at $10,000. I thought – maybe I’m wrong – that, to be considered an expert, this was a title that should be earned – not bought and paid for.
Again, people are being called experts because they have paid for the privilege of doing that, leaving people out in the cold who cannot afford to spend $10,000 on a sponsorship package even though they are legitimate experts.
Fiona Johnston 13:30
This is why you can never believe somebody’s outwardly facing story about themselves as a business owner because privilege, money, capital, and connections can actually progress somebody so far in their business, and if you are trying to compare yourself to another “expert,” it’s not even possible to compare in a fair way. I am so gobsmacked by that.
I have no issue with a nominal fee for nominating yourself. A small fee for nominating yourself for an award seems totally reasonable, but maybe an administrative fee like $50.00 or something in that realm. I don’t know, but I wonder if AusMumpreneur has a sponsorship section where people are actually able to nominate people who might not have the funds. I wonder what AusMumpreneur is doing about being inclusive and creating belonging and all of these sorts of things.
The title is “AusMumpreneur” so hopefully they are promoting mums in small business. You would have thought that, as a community, what they would be wanting to do is actually support mums to be their best selves. Why are they asking them to pay to play?
Mia Fileman 14:47
It is their revenue model. That’s how they make the money. It’s from the nominations. That’s the primary way that they make the money – sponsorships of the awards, of the awards night and the ceremony, sponsorship experts, sponsorship packages. It’s sponsorships and the award entries because hundreds of thousands of mumpreneurs are nominated each year. That is the revenue model.
I feel like, if you are going to be an awards organisation, there were maybe other business models to consider. Like, corporate sponsorships? Great! No problem. But assigning the word “expert” to people who have paid for that? It feels misleading to me.
Fiona Johnston 15:32
Yes, they could have called you a sponsor of the event. Perhaps it might have intrigued you a little more than paying to become an expert.
Mia Fileman 15:40
A partner. A collaborator. But an expert? That is a loaded term.
Fiona Johnston 15:46
Mia Fileman 15:47
Another one – the last one – Entrepreneur is an online publication that writes about business news. I like to write business news. I write for publications like Smart Company and Mumbrella, so I looked into what it would be like for me to write for Entrepreneur.
To write for Entrepreneur, you need to join their network. They will only accept contributors from within their Entrepreneur network. It costs US$3,000 to join this network.
Again, we are talking about journalism. If I’m reading Entrepreneur, I’m like, “Great! So and so is such a thought leader in the space.” Again, they have paid for the privilege. This is not PR because it’s not earned. It’s paid for – again!
Fiona Johnston 16:38
Yes, I think paying for the right to write, and paying to be nominated for an award, they are part of the same problem which is that we are not a democracy. Small business or the business landscape is actually not a democracy. It is not fair.
Any idea that we have about it being a level playing field is completely untrue. This idea that we have always had of this sleazy business guy who is using his connections and greasing the palms is still happening – even in the female business landscape.
Mia Fileman 17:16
Let’s talk about what I like to refer to as “throwing on the pile” business models. These are industries and markets that are highly saturated with very high barriers to entry. I don’t want to nerd out too much on this, but a few things were of value in my marketing degree.
One of them is a model called Porter’s Five Forces. What it looks at is the competitiveness of a particular market which a lot of business owners never consider. They think, “There is enough for everyone! We can never have too much of this!” That’s not true. There are some markets that are closed out to new entrants.
If we think about streaming services, unless you can run your business at a loss for years, how are you going to compete with Disney’s $9.00-a-month subscription service and then pay licensing fees to Star Wars to have their movies on your platform? You can’t which is why the streaming platforms are paramount to make films, Disney who make films, Netflix who now make films, and so on and so forth. We absolutely need to consider this.
In my opinion, throwing on the pile models are markets and industries that people should now be looking to avoid unless they can differentiate in a very distinctive way. I have a couple of examples. I know I’m throwing you under the bus here, Fi. I’ve got a few, but I’d love to hear if you’ve got any more.
Number one – another stock image library. I can’t remember the last time I used a stock image for anything. They don’t work on social media anymore. None of the big Instagram coaches or social media managers are using stock photography ever. They are making their own templates in Canva. They are using their own photography. The need for stock photos has dried up. But the quantity of stock image libraries has proliferated. There is absolutely no need for any more stock image libraries.
Fiona Johnston 19:30
Mia Fileman 19:32
Gift hamper companies – I’ve spoken about this on my ten podcasts.
Fiona Johnston 19:37
Mia Fileman 19:38
Do not come at me with another gift hamper, okay? There is no other gift hamper that needs to be made.
Fiona Johnston 19:45
And can we stop giving or buying people gifts that they don’t want or need or use also?
Mia Fileman 19:51
What is in a gift hamper? Candles. No one needs another candle.
To that end, scented candles is another one that I feel like there are enough scented candle brands – soy wax, you name it. I think the market for scented candles is well covered.
Fiona Johnston 20:12
Mia Fileman 20:12
The other one is Canva templates. Everyone is launching subscriptions for Canva templates, memberships for Canva templates. I feel like there are enough Canva templates that exist.
Can you think of any other?
Fiona Johnston 20:30
I can think of something that’s coming from a completely different angle but it’s the same story. It’s cafés.
Mia Fileman 20:36
Fiona Johnston 20:37
I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I have worked in the coffee industry before. It’s a known fact that, in Melbourne, there are too many cafés per head of population. I think it’s the same for restaurants, but it’s more in the café space.
What that means is there’s a cannibalisation of business. In the same way that there are only so many candles that the entire population of Australia can use in their lifetime, there are only so many coffees and lunches and breakfasts that we can have.
If you have a suburb with a population of 5,000 people, and you have 200 cafés – I don’t even know the numbers; they are probably wrong, but – what that means is that we have got all of those café owners that have been sold this dream. “Imagine the dream of the café. It’ll be amazing. I’ll work seven das a week for no pay.”
That’s essentially what’s happening – this dream of having this amazing neighbourhood café. Unless you open a café in an area that is devoid of great cafés, what will happen is the small amount of business that you bring in will detract from the café down the road. Eventually, one of you will end up losing your business. It’s the same thing.
It’s really interesting you bring up the point that there’s a lot of people out there saying, “There’s enough business for everyone.” There is in certain industries enough business for everyone.
In the digital marketing landscape, there is enough work for everyone because it is a growing industry. It’s only 10 or 12 years old. Of course, it’s still growing, but there are many other industries where there is actually only a limited number of customers with that particular problem that you solve.
I think it’s really unhealthy and dangerous for people to be pretending like there’s enough business for everyone if you want to start your own café in Melbourne, for example.
Mia Fileman 22:43
You need to do your research. Before launching a brand, please go and do a market and competitor analysis. Have a look at how many other people are doing what you want to do.
Have a look at the big players because they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising Facebook ads every single month. How are you going to take market share from them? How are you going to be able to be competitive in the face of big players?
Fiona Johnston 23:13
Yes, and I think starting with a prototype is always the right approach.
A prototype for an online course is a sales page. A prototype for a café is probably a coffee cart – not really the right thing, but trying to run a café for a day at the school or something like that. How can you start with something that’s inexpensive that’s going to give you an idea of what the market size is likely to be?
Mia Fileman 23:42
Drive around a particular suburb and count how many cafés there are and count how many people are walking in there. There is Australian Bureau Statistics data around this to help you really quantify your audience.
One thing I want to end on – because we have had such a juicy and meaty discussion, and we have spoken a lot about different business models and about packaging your services – one thing that we both agree on is this idea that working one on one with clients and getting a decent hourly rate, there is nothing wrong with that.
I really want to leave people with this idea of being mindful of false economies when gurus are telling you, “Stop trading your time for money!” and “Scale your business!” We have spoken at length today about how much upfront sunk costs go into building courses, memberships, digital products versus the fact that I can get $550 an hour without breaking a sweat. I’m sure you can get the same amount.
There is nothing wrong with trading time for decent money.
Fiona Johnston 24:57
Also, the level of “transformation” that someone can experience from a one-on-one conversation can catapult their business into a whole other direction or dimension. That might take six online courses in order to get the same results.
Trading your time for money is what most of human civilization has been in terms of making a living. We are so lucky that there are other business models available to us that we can slot in as appropriate.
Mia Fileman 25:31
How can people get in touch with you, Fi? How can they work with you?
Fiona Johnston 25:38
They can work with me in a group program which I launch twice a year called Get Financially Fit. That is for small and solo business owners. They can work with me one on one – whether that’s for the short term or a slightly longer term.
I could be their virtual CFO, or we can work on a really concentrated six- or nine-month program. At the time, they walk away with a financial plan, a business plan, a really well-defined purpose, vision, people plan, and they really know what they need to do to hit their goals.
You can find me on Instagram at peach.business or on my website which is peach.business as well, actually.
Mia Fileman 26:20
Thank you. It has been such a pleasure. Always love chatting with you.
I feel like this has been such a valuable discussion.
Fiona Johnston 26:26
Thanks, Mia. Me, too!
Mia Fileman 26:29
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