One of most powerful ways coaches and consultants can use to navigate their way out of the “dollars for hours” business model is to develop leveraged income streams. Let me explain what the difference is between passive, earned, and leveraged income.
I’m going to give a shout out to Tim Conley of Foolish Adventure Internet Business Radio for giving such a great overview of the different income models.
Passive income is money you receive without working for it. For example, if you have a rental property that generates income each month, that’s passive.
Earned income is the money you receive from engaging in labor or the management of labor. In other words, “dollars for hours”.
Now, most people talking about making passive income online are really referring to “leveraged income”, because if they stopped creating content or building links, their Adsense or affiliate marketing sites would tank and they’d stop making money.
Leveraged income involves using your organizational and managerial skills to leverage the labor of other people, machines & software to generate more income than you would normally earn through your own individual labor. A great example of leveraged income is the revenue generated from repeat sales of an online course with weekly or monthly QA calls. You create the course once. The more people who buy it, the more money you earn, WITHOUT you having to do more labor. The QA calls take the same amount of time whether 1 person or 100 people call in. It’s not passive income because you have to put effort into marketing the course, doing the monthly calls and dealing with customer support. But it’s leveraged and can be residual, recurring income.
So the best thing you can do for yourself is to understand that there is no such thing as a “passive business” – growing a business takes work. OK, ‘nuf said.
Today we are going to talk to Sean Ogle, of Location 180. Sean started as a blogger and eventually built an Internet business as a digital nomad in SE Asia. He now teaches others how to start location independent Internet based businesses through his membership site Location Rebel, which he launched – bless his brave soul, from the crappy, crappy Internet zone of Bali, Indonesia. In this interview, you’ll discover:
- Sean’s membership site sales funnel, laid bare.
- The fastest way, hands down, to create an information product.
- Sean’s product launch blue print, step by step.
- The nuts and bolts anatomy of a membership site.
- Different membership site pricing models, and whether it’s better to charge a recurring monthly fee versus a one time fee with lifetime access.
- Membership retention strategies that keep members highly engaged, and coming back for more.
- The biggest challenges and pitfalls that new membership site creators face.
Mentioned in this interview
- Chris Guillebeau – Art of Nonconformity
- Dan Andrews – Tropical MBA
- Visual Website Optimizer
- John Lee Dumas
Where to Find Sean
- Visit seanogle.com
- Follow Sean on Twitter
- Like Sean on Facebook
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Lorna: Sean Ogle, I’m so glad to have you on this show. I have been a follower of Location Rebel for quite some time, and I’d been on your e-mail list for years. So I’m really excited to have you. I would love for you to share with our audience who you are, what you do, and what inspired you to become an entrepreneur.
Sean: Awesome. Well, first off, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. So, where did it all start? I’ve always kind of been an entrepreneur at heart. I paved my way through college by a running a house paying business when I was in university. I got my real job as a financial analyst and on the side, I started to teach our business. So I always kind of knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I never quite figured it out what I was going to do that was going to support me for the rest of my life.
It was February of 2009, you know the stock market had completely crashed, a financial analyst was not necessarily that great because all of our clients see that we’re very unhappy with all the money that they’ve lost and things like that. So I took a trip down to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Carnival celebration, saved up all my vacation for a year to do it, and for two weeks, I had one of the most amazing trips you can ever imagined. We danced in the Carnival parade.
Lorna: I love Brazil.
Sean: We went hand gliding over the beach. We went to Iguazu Falls, and it was absolutely amazing. It was on the very last day, my buddy and I were sitting on Copacabana Beach holding a coconut, we’re looking around we’re like, “We should be able to do this whenever we want, and we’ll be lucky if we’re able to take a trip like this again anytime in the next two or three years.” So it was at that moment that it sparked me. It’s like, “Alright. Let’s go back to the States. We got to figure out a plan here so that we can leave our jobs, start our own business, and do something that allows us to travel.” So that was how it all began.
Lorna: So that was the spark that really initiated the drive to become an entrepreneur. Then, what happened? What did you do? How did you actually take the leap and get your business going?
Sean: So the day I got back, I got a 20% pay cut. It was an amazing trip. I already decided I want to make a change and then the pay cut. So it was actually probably two weeks after that, I first stumbled a product, Chris Guillebeau’s blog, the Art of Non-Conformity. At the time, I had no idea what a blog was. All I know is I was reading his post and I was like, “This guy gets it. This is the kind of life I want to live.” It turns out he just moved to Portland where I’m from, so I sent him an e-mail and said, “Any chance I could buy you a cup of coffee?” He said, “Yes.”
We met up. We started talking and he suggested the idea of starting my own blog and starting to write about the transition I was going through. So I took him up on it and that’s basically when Location 180 became a reality. I had never intended for it to be a business. It was a way to hold myself accountable for all of the stuff that I was hoping to do on my own life. That’s when I created my bucket list with all the cool things I wanted to do. Over the course of the next 12 months, I started to build up my brand and my reputation. Slowly, business opportunities started to come out of it. So it’s kind of a natural evolution.
It wasn’t like I just said, “I’m going to start an online business and start making a bunch of money.” No. It was a very natural progression. After about nine months of having the blog, I ended up moving to Thailand where I spent seven months, and that’s where I really focused on learning the relevant skills set and continuing to grow my presence online.
Lorna: So blog really isn’t a business and lots of people start blogs. How did your blog actually end up turning into a business, and what’s your business model now?
Sean: I do a lot of the different things. It started out, for the first year or so, just affiliate marketing. So I would put up affiliate links up for various products that I used or recommended, and I made a little bit of income that way. In September of 2010, so about a year and half after I started the blog, I created my first info product Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty. It’s the idea of how do you actually get over your own insecurities, your own uncertainties, your own fears in order to get to the point where you’re ready to make a major life change whether it’s start a business or leave your job or whatever it is.
So from there, things started to evolve. So those were the two main ways I started to turn that into a business. On the side, I did freelance SEO. So when I was in Thailand, I was working with a guy named Dan Andrews who has a site called The Tropical MBA.
Lorna: I was like an avid listener of his podcast. I would listen to his podcast which was called dance podcast at that time. I would just like dream about a better life from my corporate cube.
Sean: That’s awesome.
Lorna: I kind of wonder what the beginning days were because right now, he’s got a huge following with his Tropical MBA podcast. I’m growing my podcast, too, and I’m just trying to picture how it was back then. Did he just have no listeners for a while or did it just hockey stick one day?
Sean: Well, it’s interesting. To tell a little bit about the backstory – I wrote a post about leaving my job on October of 2009. A week later, I got an e-mail from Dan who, as you said, he had done maybe half a dozen podcast at that point. He didn’t really have any brand online and he said, “I think what you’re doing is awesome. I’m looking to bring a young American guy out here to help me with my business and to teach him online marketing.” So we went back and forth a little bit and finally I said, “Alright. Let’s do this.”
So I went out to Thailand. He paid me $800 a month, and I work part time helping him grow what he was doing. It worked out pretty well because he was looking to grow the podcast as well but didn’t really have an audience, and I have a little bit of an audience at Location 180. So I helped him grow his brand in the early days and he helped me grow my marketing skills. So it worked out really well in that regard.
Lorna: So you were the first Tropical MBA intern?
Sean: Yes, I was the test case.
Lorna: I remember he would do periodic announcements for a new “intern”. I actually applied when I was so desperate to get out of my job and he was like, “You need to focus on your business.”
Sean: It’s been crazy to see how it’s evolved, gone now from west internships to more job opportunities as their business is growing. I think everything that they’re doing out there is awesome and that the team they put together is really cool.
Lorna: So what are the different revenue generating businesses that you have associated with Location 180?
Sean: Like I mentioned, you’ve got affiliate links on the website. I now have four different membership website or information products. So I’ve got overcome the fear of uncertainty still. I’ve got Location Rebel which is my flagship product. That’s a course and community that teaches you how to build a business you can run from anywhere. It teaches you the relevant skills you need, make a living online. It teaches you how to turn those into a business, and then how to have the confidence and the accountability to be able to follow that through. Hacking the High Life is basically how to live the luxury lifestyle for West. It’s travel hacking, PR hacking, how to have really cool experiences and create win-win situations for both you and the company or the people that are giving them to you.
My most recent one, I just launched a couple of weeks ago, it’s called Enter China. It’s all about how to do business in China for people that are looking to import-export, people that are looking to manufacture products over there, maybe you’ve got to kick start your product, and now you got to go and actually create it. So I partner with a couple of guys over there that have a ton of experience and all of that. So along with affiliate marketing and those sites, I do some consulting. I’ve got a couple of different niche sites. I work with Chris Guillebeau as his affiliate manager still. I’ve got all sorts of random things going on.
Lorna: Wow. Cool. Do you feel like you are stretched really thin with all these different things or do you feel like your business gives you actually enough time to lead a pretty good lifestyle?
Sean: I definitely lead a pretty good lifestyle. There’s certainly times where you feel a little stretched in. That’s one of the hard parts about where I’m at now as now, you’ve got the things that bring in consistent money every month and see you don’t have to worry about paying the bills and making the rent and that kind of stuff. Because of that, if somebody comes up with you with a cool idea and say, “Hey, you want to do this?” “That sounds fun, let’s do that.” Before you know it, you’ve got 10 different projects, and you can’t really focus on making sure that you’re growing the stuff you’ve already got.
So I helped put on two conferences in Portland every year which I don’t necessarily make a ton of money from. I helped out lots of different friends on various projects here. So that’s one of the things I’m actually working on right now. It’s getting back to the basics and focusing just on the three or four things that I’m really excited about that I want to be working on.
Lorna: So tell me how do you drive membership to your membership sites? I’m really curious about the different membership sites that you’ve created and specifically how you market them. So let’s take your first one, for example. How did you know that this was a product that your audience was going to, first of all, buy? Secondly, how do you keep marketing that particular info product so that – do you see a surge in traffic and it dies down every time you launch or promote the product or do you have a steady stream of people that actually find your product and purchase it and generate pretty good residual income from that?
Sean: Okay. There’s a lot of questions there, so I’ll see if I can cover that. The very first product I created I was clueless. One of the things I’ve found with all of the products I created is it’s followed my natural progression. So at the time, I just overcome my own fears. I had moved to Thailand. I’d come back. I had a business that was starting to go pretty well. So that’s why I created that product because I could directly relate to it. About six, eight months after that is when I created Location Rebel and it was because I had this successful business. I’ve figured it out how to make money on my own so that I can travel wherever I wanted.
A year after that I created Hacking the High Life because I was doing all this travel but I didn’t necessarily want to pay for five-star hotel rooms but I still love hanging out in five-star resorts. So the whole thing evolved a natural progression. When I first started, I didn’t know if people were going to buy it or not. It was one of those, “I made the rookie mistake of I’m just going to create it and I spend a ton of time on it and I’m going to throw it out there and see what happens.” People actually bought it. It was a $47 product. I think in the first month, they probably made, I don’t know, $2,000 something like that. So not a ton of money but for me at the time it was like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing.”
What’s ended up happening is as I’ve created new products and as I’ve had new launches, I figured out what really works. I figured out how to launch. I figured out how to create sales on an ongoing basis. One of the things I ended up doing was I had my three main products that I told you about. Location Rebel, far and away, was the most successful. That was the one people really wanted because that was the one that solved the biggest problem that people knew they had. So what I ended up doing last summer was after the two year anniversary of that site, I ended up doing a big sale, and then I raised the price. I took the two other programs, and I merged them into Location Rebel.
So now, from one price, you get all three products that walk you through the full natural progression – overcome your fears, build a business, live the lifestyle. So that’s been one of the most successful things that I’ve done. You can still buy the other two on their own, but most people just buy the whole package.
Lorna: Okay. So when you launched the first site, how big was your audience? How big was your list? Have you ever remember how many monthly uniques were getting to your site?
Sean: No, it wasn’t a ton of traffic. I would say maybe 10,000 uniques a month and maybe 800 to 1,000 person in e-mail list. So it wasn’t huge numbers but it was definitely enough that I had some loyal followers. I think that half of the people that bought it probably didn’t need it but they wanted to support me. That’s one of the things that as you build a relationship with your readers, they just want see you succeed and they just want to help. I think that was one of the unexpected things.
I actually even had a couple of people e-mail me. It’s like, “Hey, I’m way past this. I don’t necessarily need your product, but I think what you’re doing is awesome, wanted to buy it and just say ‘Keep it up’.” Then, you had the other people that were like, “This changed my life and I’ve been struggling with this for years, and now I’m actually able to take the steps forward that I wasn’t expecting to be able to take.”
Lorna: So how long did it take you to create your first product, and how long did it take you to create your second product?
Sean: So my first product was originally going to be a free manifesto. I started writing it in November of 2009 so a month after I left my job. I didn’t release it until the following September. So that one took the better part of nine months to go through the whole thing, to write it. It just kept evolving. I kept the classic entrepreneurial feature [inaudible 0:12:53]. “I know a lot of this. I know a lot of this and a lot of this.” At the time, because of that, I had a course that wasn’t necessarily the most cohesive, and there’s a lot of extra things that didn’t necessarily relate to the core message. It was one of the big things I learned.
So that was nine months. When I first launched Location Rebel, I started it in April of 2010 or 2011 and I launched it in July, so that was like three or four months. Definitely a lot quicker, and I had a lot more contacts so I got better at creating it, outlining it, and going through the process.
Lorna: Do you have any recommendations on how to create these courses fast? I found that trying to write out my course has been taking quite a bit of time actually. Writing is pretty slow. So I’m looking at ways to hack the content creation. So what would you recommend to people that are interested in creating a membership site on how to do it fast?
Sean: There’s a few different ways you can do it. You can do just video, so you can hop in front of a webcam. If you can do a bunch of concise videos where you focus on one specific point in each video – so it’s not like you have a bunch of 45-minute videos that people get bored by or fatigued by. You could do a 105-minute videos or something, for instance, and probably get content out there a lot quicker than if you’re going to write it all by hand. You can do audio. Obviously, you got a podcast so you know how to produce and edit audio. So you could just make an entire audio-related course.
You could say everything you want to do and then you can give it to a transcript person on Fiverr or Elance or something. So that might cost you a little bit more money and you probably still have some editing to do with the text afterwards, but it can definitely be a quick way to hack it. For me, the most important thing I do is I just outline everything. So what’s this chapter title? What are the headings? What are the bullet points? I found once I’ve done that, I can usually write things pretty quick because I don’t have to think what I’m going to say. I know exactly the points I need to make, I just need to do it.
Lorna: So how many modules you have in Location Rebel?
Sean: Man, there’s so much content now. When I first launched, I had my 10-chapter Location Rebel course. The mind-set behind it how to get started, some of the philosophy for the whole program. Then, I had eight entrepreneur blueprints. So eight specific blueprints that each were dedicated to teaching you a specific skill like copywriting or SEO, SEO writing, design. That’s evolved into 14 different blueprints now that are much more robust than some of the first ones.
So we’ve got like our Product Creation 1, Affiliate Marketing 1, and a Business Structure 1 on how to make sure that you’re setting your business up with taxes and accounting and all that stuff correctly. Then, we’ve got all sorts of bonus content from various calls, interviews, and templates. When you actively run a site and a product like that for three years, you tend to develop a lot of content.
Lorna: Okay. So started with 10 original modules, how often do you keep adding new content? Do you make a commitment to your members to add a new module each month or a new QA call or webinar each month? How do you organize that?
Sean: I don’t had anything that’s set and stone. I don’t promise members new content. They get lifetime access to any new content I do create. Right now it’s been usually once every six months, I’ll have a whole new module. So the last one we had whole social media blueprint I launched in the beginning of the year. At this point, every quarter, I will review all the blueprints and update them as necessary.
But for the foreseeable future, I probably won’t add that many new blueprints specifically because one, it’s too much content. There’s so much stuff in there. People can get overwhelmed. Two, I know the stuff that’s in there is good, so people are getting far more value than what they’re paying for. Now, I’m probably going to start creating more advance stuff than selling those as separate products.
Lorna: So right now how many blueprints do you have?
Sean: There’s 14 specific skill-related blueprints.
Lorna: Okay. What do you do to keep your members motivated to keep their membership to your site, to Location Rebel, and not, let’s say, drop out after two months after they’ve downloaded all the content?
Sean: Well, this is the most successful thing I’ve done and I cannot believe that more people aren’t doing it. You seal these membership sites and people are charged $49 a month, $97 a month, $200 a quarter whatever it is. Well, what’s going to happen? Eventually, whether it’s next month whether it’s in six months whether it’s in three years, those people are going to say, “You know what, I don’t really need to be paying this anymore.” I can think about a couple of communities where this might not be the case, but overall with any membership site, in any community, eventually, people are going to drop out.
So you’ve got these people that you’ve helped build the business. They’re experts at what they do. They can really help other people in the community, and then they leave. So that seems like a terrible idea to me. So with all my stuff, instead of having a monthly fee, I just have a higher price one-time fee. So once you’re in, you’re in. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re not using it. A lot of people be really active, get busy, come back six months later.
Usually what happens is over the course of a year or so, people start as relative beginners. They work their way up. They have successful businesses, and then they feel like they owe a lot to the community because they got so much out of it that they come back and they help all the new people. So there’s all these really smart business owners that are traveling the world or working from home or doing whatever they’re doing that are still in the community because they pay for it once, and I never kicked them out because there wasn’t this ongoing monthly membership fee.
I would like to see more people do that and I think that’s the reason most private forums and private communities fail because they don’t do a good enough job of developing the community. Then once they do, people will stop paying. So that’s just one thing that’s worked particularly well in this case.
Lorna: So how do you decide how much to charge as a one-time fee? Do you mind sharing how much Location Rebel costs right now? Then, tell us how you went to that process of determining that was a good price to launch that.
Sean: When I first created the product, I said I wanted to create a $1,000 product. I wanted it to be something that when somebody paid $1,000 for it, they were going to be so happy with the value that they got out of it that it’s going to be totally worth it. Then, I wanted to charge $297. I don’t know where I came up with that number. It’s kind one of those that it seemed high enough that I was going to be excited about every single sale but low enough that it will still be going to be relatively accessible. It’s $297 for two years. Last summer, I raised it to $497 and an interesting thing happened.
The sales actually went up when I raised the price which is interesting. I felt that that number was still in that same range. I think that a lot of members come in and they make that back within the first month and then some. So I feel like that’s a pretty good price. It’s high but it’s not so unattainable that people can’t access it. Most importantly, by having a relatively high-priced product, you get higher quality people. If it was a $47 product, you get all these people in there that may or may not be serious about starting a business. But now, pretty much everybody that’s in the community, everybody that’s talking in the forums, they’re all ready to be dedicated to this lifestyle. You don’t get that with a lower-priced product.
Lorna: So you decided that you want to create a product that had about a thousand dollars in value but then you launch it at $297?
Lorna: Okay. When you went ahead and did that, did you have a specific launch plan in place?
Sean: I didn’t have any launch plan for my first product and that was a big mistake. For this one, I tried to think it through a little bit more. So in April of 2011, I created a free PDF called Location Rebel Arsenal, and it was all of the tools you need to work from anywhere in the world. So I created this book. It had pretty photos from my travels. Basically, it’s everything from apps I use to software to hardware to travel gear to whatever it was that I included everything in there. So I gave that away for free and shot a series of four videos from all over the place. One was from the top of a mountain, one was from Central Park, and one was from a cabin out in a forest.
In each video, I talked about a specific aspect of the Location Rebel lifestyle. I launched that in April, started building up the e-mail list. I release one of those videos every three weeks to generate more traffic and get people coming back. In July, I did a 20-person beta watch. So I was like, “Okay, I’ve created all of this. I have no idea whether or not this is going to work. I’ve got a decent-sized e-mail list. So I’m going to put it out there for 20 people and get them to help me build up content, the forums, and just make sure that everything is working.” I was going to be happy if I sold those 20 spots over the course of three of four days. I ended up selling all 20 spots in 48 minutes.
I still remember I was sitting at Starbucks in Portland and I was watching the sales come in. I was just like, “Oh my gosh. This is the most unbelievable thing.” That was the first time in my online career – I think I made $6,000 or $7,000. I was like, “Wow. Okay. Now, we’re on to something.” Now, it’s up to me to make sure I deliver value for all these guys. So I did that and then about six weeks after that, I did a more wide scale launch. I went to Bali for two months. Actually, Dan Andrews had a big house there. He said, “Sean, come on out. I’ve got a place for you to stay.” So I wanted to prove that you can really run a business from anywhere. So I locked the official launch of Location Rebel from Bali and that’s how that whole launch structure went.
Lorna: You weren’t worried that the internet was going to crap out on you in Bali?
Sean: I was terrified. It definitely did crap out quite a few times. Luckily, during the launch itself, it was okay.
Lorna: It’s like hope and pray, right?
Sean: I had four to five different cafés or coffee shops or places I can go. So if the internet wasn’t working at the house, I can move to Place No. 2. If it wasn’t working there, on to Place No. 3. So usually, I could always find some place that I can get semi reliable internet.
Lorna: Wow. I love Bali and I specifically love Ubud. It’s just such an awesome place but the only reason that’s keeping me from being based in Bali is the crappy internet. I’m amazed you did that.
Sean: For a while, you’re up in Chiang Mai and there’s a ton of internet marketers and a real entrepreneurial community. When I was there in 2011, Bali was kind of that place. We had people coming out to the house all the time. There was a lot of people that were living there, so it was really kind of a fun time. I don’t know how everybody else was able to get around the slow internet. It really wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be as long as you weren’t trying to do Skype video calls or watch YouTube videos or anything like that. For a call like this, it would’ve been fine.
Lorna: Yes. I’m just worried that if I’m doing some kind of live event and it craps out and I don’t know how long it’s going to be down for, then it’s…
Sean: Yes, that’s the risk there.
Lorna: Yes because you’ve spent so much time putting to get this event and people have opted in and all of a sudden, it craps out. Those people are not going to sign up again especially if it’s like a joint venture presentation.
Sean: Totally. I did one webinar from there right after I launched Location Rebel. I was using GoToWebinar, I think. It was definitely a little dicey. We couldn’t do the screen share. We had to turn that off. I think I might have completely cut out once. It’s a little sketchy but a beautiful place and a lot of fun.
Lorna: Yes, totally. So I want to backtrack a little to your launch phase. So when you did your prelaunch, you had our giveaway, you had the series of four launch videos. Were you launching to your house list or were you able to do JV presentations and access new audiences through joint venture partners?
Sean: Everything was pretty much just me. Even now, I haven’t done a whole lot with joint ventures on it. I had an affiliate program, so it’s mostly just for members that want to refer new people. But I really haven’t done a whole lot in terms of going out and trying to market to other people’s list mostly just because I haven’t necessarily needed to. I’ve had a steady flow of sales. The launches I’ve done have gone really, really well. One of my goals for this year is to develop a webinar and to actually start doing that a little bit more mostly just because I want to get better at my webinar skills and my sales skills that way. With everything I’ve done, it’s really pretty much all been in the house.
Lorna: So how big was your list at that time, and was your list at that time a highly engaged list?
Sean: It was highly engaged list but I don’t know that it was all that big. I mean, it was maybe 2,500 or 2,000 people somewhere there. I do a weekly newsletter. It’s one of those love or hate it type things. It’s very personal for me. I talk about business, what’s going on in my life this week, and here’s what’s going on at Location 180, and here are my cool stuff section which are just cool links that I found over the last week. So it’s three or four links that’s business or cool videos or whatever it is. Some people look at this and like, “This is great. I feel more connected to you. I like the content.” I have one person unsubscribed and say, “It wasn’t professional enough.” I actually just wrote a whole post about it a couple of weeks ago.
Lorna: I thought that it was actually.
Sean: I said, “Well, if you want professional, you’re coming to the wrong place.” This whole business is just so I can live the lifestyle I want and help other people do that same thing.
Lorna: They’re on the wrong list.
Sean: Yes. I’m not trying to be some corporate guy. My stuff isn’t super highly polished. I haven’t spent $20,000 on web design and all of that stuff. I try and just be down to earth and a real guy and hopefully that sees through. I think that for the people that have stayed on the list and people that still read the site, I think they totally get that.
Lorna: So did you actually have your entire program already created by the time you launched it or did you launch it with an outline in place and then start creating it once people bought into it?
Sean: So when I first launched the free book, basically, all I had was a squeeze page and the book done. Then as that was building over the next three to four months, I built out the content. By the time I did the beta launch, most of the content was pretty good at least from what I wanted to launch. So I would never say it’s finished even now. You look at where it was two and half years ago when I first created it versus where it is now. There’s probably four times as much content and videos and updates and all that kind of stuff.
I think I just wanted it to be pseudo MVP (Minimum Viable Product), get something out there that I think is going to help change lives. People are going to get value out of it. Then that was part of the goal of having the beta group is to get them to give me feedback. What do you like to see? What is not explained well enough? What would you like me to cover? So I took that initial feedback and then use that to help create content for the rest of the site after that.
Lorna: So in the sales funnel that basically includes your membership site, did you also have an up-sell and a downsell as part of the whole system or is it just straight up membership site and that’s it?
Sean: At this point and for the last years, it’s pretty much been straight up membership site. It’s a terrible reason. I’m embarrassed to even admit this. One of the reasons I haven’t done more upsell and downsell stuff is because I use just PayPal for my shopping cart system, and there isn’t an easy way to do the upsell and downsell without a better system in place. It worked well up to this point so again, I haven’t really felt the need to it.
Also, on multiple occasions, I’ve had people that have bought and that’s one of the things they say they really like is that, “You know, I knew exactly what I was going to pay. It was a one-time fee, I could do it and then I didn’t have to worry about being upsold or downsold or paying monthly fees. I could do it and then forget about all of that and start building my business.” Those comments resonated with me a little bit because I feel the same way. I could probably make more money if I did all the upsells and the downsells and at some point, I’ll probably add a component of that it. But at this point, it sells well. People have had incredible results, so I don’t necessarily feel the need to throw in a bunch of that extra stuff.
Lorna: So let’s talk about the components of a membership site. Do you mystify all the different moving pieces that a person who wants to create a membership site needs to think about? Before you answer that, if you could clarify if there’s a difference between an online program or a course and membership site as well to help us understand if there’s different pieces that we’ll need to take into account.
Sean: There’s so many different words that people throw out that are all, in so many ways, relatively interchangeable. You’ve got membership sites. You got info product. You got online course. You got online community. You got digital product. You’ve got all of these things that could essentially all mean the same thing. I say membership site but that could be a bad term because that implies there’s a monthly membership fee.
Lorna: Yes, that’s what I associate with membership site that there’s a recurring monthly membership fee.
Sean: Yes, so as I say membership site it’s like you paid to be a member but it was a one-time fee, so it’s all interchangeable at least in my mind. The reason I’ve chosen to do a site as opposed to a digital product such as an e-book or something like that or you just get PDF or a package with all the information is if you’re doing that, then one, it’s really hard to update the content. Two, I think there’s a perceived value in being part of the community where you got to log in and there’s more going on. You feel like it is easier to get updates like there might be better chance off you’re getting some.
It’s much easier to have an interactive community or forum when you’re doing it on a site. That was one of the reasons that I decided to go this way. In terms of components, one of the biggest things is obviously you need WordPress team. So there’s all sorts of different platforms you could use but 98% of the people I know use WordPress. So you need a WordPress team and there’s certain teams that are better for membership sites or online courses. There’s a team called Optimized Press out there, which is what I use for Location Rebel. It helps you create a whole sales funnel and the backend membership stuff. So it’s got templates for all of those things.
You’ll need a membership plugin so you’ll need a way to protect the pages and to manage your users and have that integrate with your shopping cart system. So I use Wishlist Member which is like $100. If you want some sort of interactive community or social media functions or forums, you’ll need something for that. So I use Manila Forums for Location Rebel. In our new product, Enter China, we use PediaPress and BuddyPress, so it’s a little bit more of a social media type feel so people can add their profile pages and things like that. Other than that, there’s random plugins and things you need to make the site work, but I think those are the key components for what you need to get going.
Lorna: If you actually wanted to do the JV marketing side of things, too, then you would probably also need some kind of affiliate marketing system that would allow each of your JV partners get their own link. Is that correct?
Lorna: Did you do anything like that? Did you provide affiliate links to…?
Sean: Yes, I did affiliate for that. So it’s all self-hosted. It’s really good for affiliates because they can get a ton of information. It’s very easy for them to create links to any page they wanted on the site.
Lorna: What is it called again?
Sean: So it’s got its own issues because it’s self-hosted. Actually, mine is down right now. We ran into a snug when we were updating it, so I’ve got my developer on that right now. To be totally honest, obviously there’s one part of the internet marketing crowd that’s all about the JV – go market other people’s list and all that stuff. I think that there’s a time and a place for that. But I think for most people that are just getting going, if you do that too soon, there’s a good chance that you’re not going to see success with it.
If you’re relatively new to this, I think you need a fair amount of time to make sure your stuff converts well. If your offer doesn’t convert, then you can go and have the biggest list in the world but nobody is going to buy it if you haven’t tested it and know the funnel. I’ve seen that a lot of people get away, and they think they’re going to need all these JVs and then nobody buys it. I’ve done webinars for people. We’re all marketed to my list with their product. When they get on and I look at the sales funnel, it’s just not very good and they’re not very good at selling.
So you don’t want to overpromise and not be able to deliver with side ups, I guess, is what I’m trying to say. I feel like with Location Rebel I’ve got to a point where it converts pretty well and that’s when I want to start moving into JVs, but it’s been almost three years and I’m just now doing that. So different schools of thought but that’s just the path that I’ve chosen to take.
Lorna: So what do you mean by convert really well? What’s a good conversion rate?
Sean: God. When it comes to actual rates and everything, I’m terrible about that but I would say – I’m not even going to venture at yes because I’m not good in all the actual members. Say I’ve got 5,000 people a month, they come to my sales page. I get roughly one to two sales a day, so I know that it converts at least relatively well. It’s very unscientific but I’m at the point where it used to be two or three sales a week. I made a few tweaks, moved up to four or five sales a week, made a few tweaks, and now it’s a [inaudible 0:36:04]. So there’s a lot that you can do to be much better at that.
I would use visual website optimizer. Try split testing multiple versions of the same landing page, of the same sales page. I think that’s the easiest way I’ve found to really be able to test and see how well things will work.
Lorna: Do you think a person could launch an online course without a list or a significant blog audience and actually be able to sell it?
Lorna: So how did you do that?
Sean: My friend, Clay Rogers – he has a program called the Hollywood Physique. It’s basically a fitness program. He has no blog. He has no audience, and he’ll probably make six figures off that product. So he puts it on the ClickBank marketplace, and he’s got maybe two or three really big affiliates that promote it, but he has no audience of his own and he’s really successful with it.
Lorna: So he just created this product and put it on ClickBank and it took off by itself?
Sean: Pretty much. I think he had a couple of people early on that found him somehow. I don’t know if it was through ClickBank or found him someplace else. They said, “Hey, would you be interested in letting us promote this?” I don’t even think he was originally part of the ClickBank marketplace. I think it was he used them as the shopping cart service, but I think he had two guys he knew that had fitness sites. He was like, “Hey, check this out if you’re interested maybe we can promote it,” and it ended up taking off that way.
He’s a weird case to give your listeners more practical advice. What I would do is say you want to create a product, you got a unique knowledge but you have no audience. What I would do is create the offer – so create a squeeze page and give people something away for free. It goes hand in hand with what your product’s all about. Then I would go out and I would do as many guest post as I could. So say, you come to write a guest post for me all on that topic. Instead of linking back to YourBlog.com, link that to a specific squeeze page just for my readers.
So something that says, “Hey, welcome Location 180 readers. I put together a special package of free stuff just for you. Sign up here.” I’ve seen a couple of people like my buddy Dan, who wrote a guest post for me, has no blog audience nothing like that. He created a product all about Reddit – how to get traffic and make great sales from Reddit. He did a guest post that went up really well and then basically brought people back to his list and just use his auto responder series to sell it from there.
Lorna: Okay, that’s brilliant. That’s really reassuring because I think one of the things that many people who are interested in starting online businesses that are oriented around courses and coaching and training is the relative amount of time it takes to build up a blog audience online. I’ve spoken to a lot of people that have thriving blogs right now, but it took them 8, 12, 16 months to really get to that place.
Sean: Yes. My blog next month will be five years old. I still don’t necessarily feel like I’ve made it. I got a larger blog audience than probably most people but compared to a lot of people, it might have some timing. So I think it depends on the motivation of the person doing it. It depends on the strategies they’re using. There’s people I’ve seen that have been doing it for as long as I have and still don’t really have an audience. There’s people that have been doing it for six months and have an audience 10 times as large as mine.
Lorna: Yes, I know. That’s amazing.
Sean: A great example of that is John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire. He’s been around for like a year-ish a little over, and he’s doing six figures a month. He has worked his ass off to get there. I can’t imagine doing this podcast every single day and editing them and whatever. It’s just proof that it can work.
Lorna: He totally came out of left field. I’m just completely blown away by his success.
Sean: So it’s point and case that it can be done if you’re going to work hard.
Lorna: Okay. So we are coming to the end of our call. I do want to leave you with some last questions before we sign off. Can you help us understand what some of the biggest challenges or pitfalls that new membership site creators should watch out for when they’re just getting started?
Sean: I think beat your creep is one. I think that’s a really big one because so often – I’ve talked to so many people that have been working on a membership site for a year plus. They don’t launch it because it’s like, “This is not quite ready” or “I haven’t quite gotten there. I want to add these features.” Realistically, put it out there. Do it the minimum viable product, like I said. You can create a membership site in a long weekend if you really sit down and do it from content to sales page to backend. It can totally be done and I’ve seen it done.
So start with that. Don’t invest months and years of your time or whatever it is trying to get everything just right. I would say get it out there and if people are interested, then invest further in the idea. Also, I think that consistency is a big one, and this isn’t necessarily just for membership sites. If you got a blog and you’re planning on using that to market the site, I think that’s the hardest thing is just being consistent, putting out consistent content over time.
So many people I see just get frustrated or just get bored or move on to other things, and so they left their blog die. Maybe there hasn’t been a post in six months and that doesn’t vote well for your membership sites because people will like say, “This hasn’t been updated in six months. Then, who knows when the last time they updated the community was,” and it doesn’t reflect well upon you. So if you are going to use a blog to do that, make sure you stay consistent and stay up to date with it.
Lorna: Can you summarize the steps that go into creating a membership sites sales funnel that creates residual income?
Sean: One, create a killer free offer. Whatever it is, give something away that you could charge money for that people are going to like and give it away for free. Setup a squeeze page, e-mail address, here you go. From there, I would say, overview the content. I like to use a longer sales period, so I like to do a two month period between when you create that free offer to when you actually are putting the product up for sale because then you got two months to send them the content, continue communicating with them. If you’ve worked with people one on one or in a different program or even if you’re re-launching a similar program, doing video case studies, and sending e-mails out of those is really, really effective.
So from my last launch, the Location Rebel, I had two video case studies of people that are really successful within the course. To hear them say it from their own mouth, their experience with it has proven really effective. Then, I would build up that list as best as you can. So over one and half month period before you launch, I would do as many guest posts as possible. Going back to that point of making sure that you create a specific offer for each blog you’re guest posting on within the funnel or the auto responder series that you set people up with when they sign up for that list. I would interact with those people as much as I can.
So when you sign up from my e-mail list, I ask you two questions right off the bat. I say, “One, tell me what you’re struggling with, and two, tell me what your perfect day looks like?” So what that effectively does is people are telling me what their problem is, and they’re telling me what their solution looks like. So I’m able to use that information in my marketing and in creating the product while also giving them a thoughtful response and building the relationship.
So free offer, guest post, communicate with people on the list, and then have a very targeted launch. I usually do four e-mails. One e-mail telling people about the case study, second e-mail about another case study, third e-mail telling people exactly what they’re going to get and hinting that there’s going to be a few surprises on launch day. Then four, “Hey, the offer is open” and I put my time on it. I usually do 48-hour sales. Also with the sales, usually I’ll tear what you get.
So the first 10 people get all of the stuff. The first 25 people get a little bit less. The first 50 people get a little bit less. So that gives people a really real timeline and encourages them to act. So following that general timeline, I think the launches where I follow [inaudible 0:44:21], they’ve all been extremely successful. So hopefully, that will make sense.
Lorna: Totally. I’m going to have to go through it again there to really let it sink in. But to clarify, this whole list, the Location Rebel list, is a different list from Location 180 then?
Sean: Yes. So I got two separate list. When I do a launch, I’ll market it to both of them because generally, it’s the same audience. Yes, I have a separate list for people that signed up for on Location Rebel and that squeeze page versus people that signed up from my regular Location 180 mailing list.
Lorna: Great. So Sean, how can we best stay in touch with you?
Sean: I’m pretty easy to find. You can find me at SeanOgle.com, Twitter @seanogle, Facebook.com/Location180, and then LocationRebel.com as this course and community that we’ve been talking about on the call.
Lorna: Okay. Thank you so much and you have a beautiful day.
Sean: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
[END OF RECORDING]
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