What’s the best way to scale a consultancy, training or coaching business?

Lots of consultants, trainers and coaches scale their businesses by running workshops, training courses and other group activities.

Another way to do this is to use the membership model.

Helen Lindop has been experimenting with various models for a few years and this is why she settled on creating her membership site Speedy Digital:

In 1997 Helen was working for a small software company supplying educational software to schools.

Laptops cost about £2k and her company couldn’t afford one.

The courses weren’t online, Helen had to drive around the country visiting schools where the training material was stored on the individual school servers.

This was pre YouTube, and pre broadband.

A bit of a tech geek, Helen started experimenting with the many different platforms that emerged over the next 20 years. There was so much choice it was hard to work out what was best to achieve her goals of helping small businesses make the most of the tech available to them.

Big learning point 1.

With so much choice available, small businesses were literally swamped with information and often bogged down trying to choose what they needed.

Helen realised that many of them were doing the opposite of what works because they wanted a quick fix and were attracted to the latest shiny idea or silver bullet and empty promises. Figuring out what would really work and setting it up always seemed like hard work in comparison.

Big learning point 2

Over the years of examining social media marketing, inbound marketing, blogging and more, Helen noticed that the most accessible, effective and reliable form of permission based marketing for small businesses was email marketing.

She experimented with on-line training, teaching people how to set up CRMs and email marketing newsletters and campaigns but found that often people preferred to pay her to hold their hand and guide them through the process. She also noticed that very few people who sign up to on-line training courses finish them.

The Membership Model

Unlike an on-line course, a membership model allows for new content to be added over a long period, allowing for and responding to changes in technology as well as the needs of members.

Producing the content live gives instant feedback and interaction and cuts down time “perfecting” pre-recorded video content.

Lots of people who produce on-line learning material feel cut off from their audience and find little satisfaction in selling bundles of digital data to people they never see so the live sessions with her members suits Helen’s style as she likes to talk to people and get to know them over a long period.

Would a membership model suit your content?

Membership can produce a regular income but that can’t be the main reason for doing it. Your content and objectives and members’ needs have to suit the membership model.

Have to set aside time each month, can’t just squeeze it in around other things.

You also have to consider other factors than pure sales numbers and profit e.g. churn rate, lifetime customer value. Might be better to charge less each month and retain people longer than to charge more each month.

The Automatic Customer – John Warrilow – very good book for all subscription models e.g. products and services, not just membership sites.

You don’t have the same urgency as with selling a one-off product either, you have to think harder about selling it.

Can do a single launch a year but then you’re losing all those people who need you between launches. Feels artificial to me because it’s a digital product, there’s no real reason why people can’t join any time. But some people do this well,.

Evergreen vs launch model – several big launches a year vs letting people join at any time.



There are others! Here are some other things to think about:

Work out your strategy first – get a list of what you need it to do.

May also need things like an email marketing platform and Zoom on top of this

Price varies depending on features – what can you do without now? What will you need as you grow?

WordPress is one of the most widely used platforms for all sorts of content. It is infinitely flexible and for that reason you need to be pretty confident with WordPress and don’t mind fiddling around with plugins and integrations or you need to be happy to pay someone to do that for you, which is likely to cost more than the platforms above when you start out.

A final word from Helen: Check out the Speedy Email Marketing Club  and if you need any help contact Helen at HelenLindop.com