I sincerely believe this will be one of the more valuable posts I ever write.
I’m about to get super transparent, a little vulnerable, and deep.
One important note though…
This post is about me. MY business model. Me me me. Not you. Me.
The whole “always think of ‘What’s In It For Them!” approach? That ain’t this post.
I’ll be sharing:
- The business model that did REALLY WELL
- Why I abandoned it
- The business models I tried instead (that didn’t work)
- What I learned.
- How I found focus (maybe hopefully)
- What I’m doing going forward, including my two-year plan.
Here’s the context.
Phase 1 – How I made money in the first six months of Do You Even Blog:
If you go back to my September 2017 income report, you’ll notice that I made roughly $2,500 from DYEB in the first 4 months.
Roughly $1,500 of that revenue in September came from the first iteration of “Blogger U.” (Though it was in a 30-day challenge format, and kinda failed completely).
- $1,500 product launch,
- in month 4 of a brand new platform,
- with about 400 email subscribers?
That’s huge, and should’ve been a loud, screaming sign of “HEY IDIOT SOMETHING IS WORKING HERE.”
But it wasn’t.
I haven’t done another similar format since 😉
Phase 2 – Blogger U (1.0)
The huge lesson learned from the 30-day challenge launch, which morphed into Blogger U, was this:
You can’t confuse people with your product. You need to inform them exactly what they’re getting and what they’ll be doing–BEFORE they purchase.
Two months after the challenge, I launched the first version of Blogger U. This was launched on Black Friday, 2017, and made $800.
I choose Teachable as the platform to host my online courses, and we organized the 5-7 new Blogger U students in Slack.
Important Takeaway #1
Always keep an eye out for what’s working, even if it’s only a small win.
This–as opposed to constantly searching for why things did NOT work, and making reasons NOT do try something again.
Do things. Look for small wins and opportunities. Do things again, but better.
To my credit, I actually realized this back in late 2017.
I saw the wins of the 30-day challenge and Blogger U launches–I knew that was pretty impressive given the size of my audience, and how small I was in the digital marketing space.
The mistakes came later 🙂
Phase 3 – Blogger U (2.0)
2018 was a great year financially–especially given the size of my audience.
In January 2018 (less than 2 months after the very first pre-launch), I re-launched Blogger U. Again.
- Roughly $900 in sales
- 3 customers
- No change in the product whatsoever
Looking back, I’m not positive what the offer was. There was only 50-150 more people on my email list since the last launch. 🤷♂️
Still. Launched = made money.
Four months later, I tried out a new model:
A crucial lesson I learned with the “Most Productive Month Ever.”
The idea was simple.
- You sign up
- You choose your own production goals
- You choose how often you want me to CALL YOUR CELLPHONE and nag you to get things done. (1x – 5x per week)
- I call you and nag you
- You get things done.
Seven people signed up, I made $750, and people got things done.
In fact, the program had a 100% success rate.
Woah wait hoooold the phone.
What?? A 100% success rate?
Correct. They didn’t make a million dollars. They didn’t grow their email list by 1,504%. But they DID buckle down, produce a lot of stuff, and got ahead in their content.
- Small price point
- Small hurdles to jump over
- Small but critical wins
100% success rate–but I didn’t do this model again.
Important Takeaway #2
There can be “lessons learned” from EVERY project–that you can apply to other, different projects.
I had three people in the MPME program ask to keep going–and I said no. I didn’t want to run that model again, as it was quite taxing on my time…
…but there was actually a MUCH bigger question that I failed to ask myself:
Why was this such a succuessful program?
- What were the contributing factors?
- How could I replicate this in Blogger U–or other models besides the “constantly call you and nag you” model?
The big takeaway I realize NOW is that learning is only one slice of the success pizza.
MPME should’ve been a big clue as to what the REST of the success pizza looks like.
There were some crucial motivation and accountability elements that I could’ve applied to the general Blogger U program.
Phase 4 – Blogger U (3.0)
It’s now summer 2018.
- Blogger U has since moved over to WordPress
- There are more (and better) courses and a better user dashboard
- More people are coming in, making the community aspect more valuable.
I launched Blogger U 3.0 to 1,000 email subscribers over the July 4th holiday week–and made $11,000 from 25-30 new students.
$11k from a 1k email list. Win, right?
I was absolutely miserable.
Launching is stressful–let alone over the holidays, where most people are thinking about beer, family, and fireworks–not spending $500 on a blogging product.
That, and I wanted it to be a $50k launch, and I was disappointed it wasn’t.
It didn’t matter that I got a healthy conversion rate over a holiday week in the summer–and that those people were excited to be there. It didn’t matter that THAT was the largest revenue month in DYEB.
It didn’t matter than I had good courses that ended up helping people.
I was stressed, and actually thought I failed.
Important Takeaway #3
Launching products is simple, but hard (and sometimes stressful).
In fact, launching any worthwhile endeavor is likely hard (and sometimes stressful).
Just the fact of KNOWING that made subsequent launches way easier. I knew what to expect.
Still, that launch brought in enough revenues to allow me to keep going (and not get an accounting job). Phew.
Just one problem–I started noticing that people who paid me $500+ weren’t actually going through the courses that much.
Phase 5 – Blogger U (4.0)
It’s now late 2018, and I’m relaunching Blogger U for Black Friday.
A holiday. Again.
Important Takeaway #4
DON’T LAUNCH PRODUCTS OVER HOLIDAYS.
Engagement is at an all-time low, and people are spending money on travel and vacations.
DON’T LAUNCH PRODUCTS WHILE TRAVELING.
Lol. For both the July and November 2018 launches, I was traveling in Michigan with limited Wi-Fi.
It would STILL take me an additional launch in 2019 to eventually figure this out…
There are three huge things you should know about the November Blogger U launch.
1 – My list only had 350 new people on it
1,000 subscribers five months earlier. 1,400 people now.
That’s a nice conversion rate, and the revenue should’ve struck me as impressive.
2 – I added 1-on-1 onboarding calls
I met with ALL new Blogger U members to quickly dive into desires and goals–and come up with a short-term strategy to implement.
These calls went over really, really well.
They increased customer buy-in, added immense value to people (mainly through translating goals and setting a strategy), and decreased refund requests and churn.
3 – I automated the actual launch
This launch was much less stressful than the previous launch. This was partially because I planned AHEAD with marketing/sales content–and largely scheduled everything in advance.
4 – I was still disappointed with the results.
I know what you’re thinking.
WTF PETE. You have 1,400 subscribers and made over $25,000 in 2018–JUST from Blogger U launches. You’re a butthead. Lots of people would be quite happy with that.
But I was looking for why this product WASN’T going to work, and completely missed signs of opportunity. I should’ve realized that the product was slowly but surely getting better, and so was my offer.
That’s a crucial flaw 👆👆
Looking back, I think part of my problem was this: I couldn’t stop comparing myself to others.
I saw friends of mine starting to grow exponentially (Bobby finally launching things and making $150k in a month. Jeff and Ben launching Dollarsprout into a seven-figure business, other friends routinely earning $1M+ a year, etc).
Let’s sum up the progress so far:
- DYEB is 18 months old in a tough niche.
- DYEB is growing–slowly but surely
- Blogger U (the main product consisting of online courses and a small membership component) has launched 4-5 times and grossed around $30k total
- Blogger U is starting to become a better product.
So naturally, I abandoned it completely 😉
I have not launched Blogger U at all in 2019.
I didn’t know it then–but that was the end of Blogger U.
I thought I was making things better…
I believed I was serving YOU more–and building a way better business model for myself.
Here’s what I did:
- Split all the courses up to be available a la carte, and available 365.
- Started running automated funnels to SELL those courses.
- Stopped focusing on the insider community.
To be fair, I STILL think the a la carte and 365/24/7 availability is optimal–it allows my followers to only purchase courses they need, whenever they need it.
I STILL love hyper-personalized and automated email funnels, full of personalized value and customized offers/pitches. I think those are wins for me AND students.
Important takeaway #5:
Passive income requires a critical mass.
If I had 350,000 pages views a month–this model would’ve been fantastic. That’s enough of a critical mass to implement a passive funnel.
Important takeaway #6:
If you’re always selling, you’re never selling.
Urgency is powerful in sales, and it dies when your offers are available 24/7. You could run periodic discounts and promotions, but it’s NOT the same–especially in crowded niches.
Important takeaway #7-10:
Do not confuse your audience.
We only have limited brain cells to make it through our day. The more confusing our offers and products are–the less our audience listens.
By changing business models drastically, I am starting to confuse my audience (and switching platforms again btw. I switched WordPress plugins and had all current students re-create log-in credentials ☹️)
I also stopped doing CRUCIAL things for students.
Learning is only one slice of the “success pizza.”
The MPME program yielded incredible success for students because I was starting to support them in other ways.
The Blogger U onboarding “strategy-setting” calls were another piece of that puzzle I was building.
- I stopped doing onboarding
- I stopped organizing events/activities in the community
- I had no systems in place to ensure success for my students.
“Here are my (admittedly really great) courses. Go learn something. Good luck!”
The worst part?
Oh yeah, people weren’t BUYING the courses a la carte.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Marketing funnels, especially ones with automated & personalized offers, take a LOT of time, energy, and money to optimize! You need data & patience. I had neither of those.
- I was confusing people (including myself)
- The individual offers were less compelling.
Let’s chat about that last one for a second…
If you need to understand the SUPER techy ins and outs of advanced email funnels, you’re better off shelling out $3k for Brennan Dunn’s Mastering Drip/ConvertKit course.
There are TONS of other courses on…
- affiliate marketing
- Pinterest traffic
- launching products
- setting up WordPress & defining an avatar
Helping YOU cross the knowledge gap on those topics isn’t exactly where I add the most value.
I’m one of the few people who can build a product that attempts to deliver you the whole “success pizza” for digital marketing. Learning. Strategy. Accountability. Support. Connection. When I broke up Blogger U, I ditched my main value proposition.
Then I created Blog School & The Affiliate Workshop–and confused people even more
But really, I just wanted to rename “Blogger U” to “Blog School.”
I just like the way it sounded. Better than Blogger U at least.
Just one problem with that…
Important takeaway #7-10
Don’t confuse your audience.
Blogger U. Blog School. The Affiliate Workshop. MPME.
Teachable. Learndash. LifterLMS. Now on Thinkific.
Membership community, then course library (what does that actually mean?), then a la carte courses, then workshops.
SEO. Monetization. Productivity. Newbie technical setups. Podcasting. Copywriting.
What am I selling, exactly?
Confusing, yes? So many dead brain cells >_<
The Turning Point.
It happened last month when I launched The Affiliate Workshop.
I made two small slipups during the actual launch, including not doing a good job communicating “who is this for?” as well as not putting the price on the sales page or emails 🙂
But that’s not why I had a terrible week.
It wasn’t the results from the launch or the format of the program.
I knew the workshop was something new and different. I knew it was a tough sell due to the format and timing.
The Affiliate Workshop students have been doing REALLY well, and I’m truthfully sold on this model 1,000%. I’m going to be running more of these in the future.
But asking people to commit ten hours a week for four weeks, with mandatory assignments, two calls a week, etc? That’s a big ask, and I KNEW the conversion rate was going to be low.
No. It was amidst the usual chaos of launch week that I begin to doubt my ability to survive (or thrive) as a full-time entrepreneur in digital marketing. All of my past mistakes and errors of judgment came to light all in one week.
- I knew conversion rates were going to be low–why’d I price it so low? ($100)
- Why did I choose affiliate marketing for the first one? I care SO much more about running a Digital Product Workshop.
- Why haven’t I made much money in 2019?
- Am I terrible at this?
I can be fairly hard on myself sometimes, it’s true.
But even an objective look at the various business models behind DYEB, and what I transitioned to in 2019–should prompt similar questions.
Why’d I stop launching Blogger U? It was working.
Slowly, but working.
Why did it take me so long to objectively realize where I went wrong?
Here’s how I made it through that week without quitting DYEB.
First, I stepped away from the laptop and got ice cream with some awesome people.
Two other things that helped:
- I reached out to 10+ friends in the blogging/online business world and asked for help.
- I had a two-hour phone call w/ Raina.
1 – Asking for help.
In times of need, if you ask for help and DON’T feel a bit scared and vulnerable, you’re unlikely to get the help you actually need.
I knew that going in, so I sent texts, voicemails, and Voxer messages to friends I’ve made over the past two years.
- People who know how hard I am on myself
- People I trust
- People who will tell me the truth.
I really just needed people to tell me I wasn’t actually dying.
It wasn’t easy, but it made all the difference.
2 – I had a “focus consulting” call with Raina.
Raina is the newest member of Team DYEB!
She was a member of Blogger U, and when we met at FinCon last year, I knew she’d be great in an “entrepreneurial support” role (I.e. helping me figure out what the heck I’m doing from a product perspective, and helping clarify the direction the business should be headed in).
She’s also full of interesting ideas, has a passion for building communities, and is incredibly thoughtful and optimistic.
She was also willing to let me blab on the phone for 2.5 hours about the situation I found myself in–and what we needed to do.
The one question that changed the direction of DYEB forever.
I don’t think that’s an exaggeration, either.
This question came up on the phone call–and I realized I had NEVER answered it before. Not in my head, not to my wife, not to anybody.
Here’s the question:
If you owned the Thanos Infinity Stone Gauntlet and could simply “snap your fingers” and instantly have your business be EXACTLY what you want–what would your business look like?
If you haven’t seen the movie–I really just mean “If you could snap your fingers and magically have your way–what would your business look like?”
I spent a good 30-40 minutes answering that question in great detail on my call with Raina.
- What I’d be doing in the day-to-day business
- What monetization model
- Who’d be our customers
- How many employees we’d have, and in what roles
Important Takeaway #11
Super important note!
I had previously dreamed about what Do You Even Blog and Blogger U would look like as a business–but those visions were always rooted in reality.
It’s important to be rooted in reality–sometimes.
This was the first time I actually detailed exactly what my business would look like in an IDEAL world. Reality aside.
So I thought this question through for the first time ever.
And my results? The business I REALLY want to build?
Turns out the business I REALLY wanted was not only POSSIBLE–but I’d already started building it.
I’d already started building the foundation of it–in the original Blogger U model.
A membership community–sorta.
Slightly more intense and exclusive. More primal. More commitment and higher success rates. High touch.
Less forced engagement, more enrollment.
It’s the original Blogger U I was already working towards–but with the whole success pizza.
That’s the dream business I described in great detail.
*lightbulb turns on above my head
This was a moment of incredible clarity. This 1,000% optimal “precisely what I’d want” business was actually–doable.
Who knew? (not me, apparently).
Next crucial question: “Is there any reason I shouldn’t be working towards this right now?”
So we “discovered” a business model that…
- was what I wanted.
- had game-changing revenue potential
- is easily what I consider to be the most valuable thing I can offer my tribe
- is something I could focus on for the next several years
Is there any reason I shouldn’t be devoting everything to building THAT business–starting right this second?
Raina and I couldn’t think of a single reason why not.
This is a business model I can launch over and over again–gradually iterating and improving, and making better–and not get 100% bored.
Important Takeaway #11
Stick with one product you can gradually roll downhill–rather than pushing multiple products uphill with the HOPE that they’ll magically be the ones that roll downhill super fast.
No product is great at first.
It’s in the constant improving that pushes the ball downhill.
Two more things I want to cover here.
- Introduce my “forever” business model.
- Share my two-year plan with you (The “Road to $83k)
Introducing Online Impact
- Not just online courses.
- Not just 1-on-1 strategy coaching & support.
- Not just a crew of awesome podcasters, YouTubers, and bloggers who share your beliefs, desires, and frustrations.
- Not just unlimited access to premium tools to grow your business.
All of the above.
Online Impact is coming October 2019, woot woot!
Online Impact Feature Breakdown (I.e. my “dream business”)
1 – Curated and organized online courses.
- Launching products.
Continously updated and curated.
2 – Quarterly 1-on-1’s for strategy and focus.
Sometimes you do need to get better at everything–and it’s overwhelming.
- We’ll lay out where you want to go in life (using your online biz)
- Break down the steps to get there
- Plan what courses to take and when
- Connect you to the right people to help you on your journey
3 – Unlimited access to premium tools for free.
- All StudioPress WordPress themes ($499 value)
- WP-rocket ($49/yr value)
- Unlimited ShortPixel credits
- Elementor Pro ($49/yr value)
All included in your membership.
4 – Monthly Themed “GSD” Calls
These calls are NOT for learning. They’re for work. Taking action.
(Get Stuff Done = GSD)
You’ll show up on the group call, work in complete silence, and raise your hand if you need help.
Implement with instant feedback and support.
5 – For ALL content creators.
Podcasters, bloggers, YouTubers, and snail-mail enthusaists.
If you create content and want to build a income-generating business–Online Impact is for you.
6 – Goal Groups
You might really need to get your opt-ins functioning and figure out how the heck to get email subscribers.
Or you might be finally working on your first product launch.
Either way, we’ll connect you (and organize you) with others in the crew who have similar goals.
7 – Quarterly pizza party workshop 🍕
Every few months, we’ll meet online for a longer learning and work session, and I’ll order a pizza and have it delivered to your house during the session.
8 – Live Event
I AM SO EXCITED TO FOCUS ON THIS.
This is the business I want to be working in, and working on.
There is enough room to experiment (especially on front-end marketing, i.e. my blog & podcast, as well as long-term things like retreats and events.), to help me focus on launching this.
Then launching again. And again, and again.
Making it better and more streamlined, and less confusing, the entire time.
So if you’re a blog tribe member (i.e. a follower of Do You Even Blog), this is the only backend product, program, or offering you’re going to see for a while.
My two-year “Road to $83k” plan and strategy
$1,000,000 per year, divided by 12 months = $83,333/month
In an effort to be transparent while also adding value to you–I’m breaking down my plan to build a million-dollar business in Online Impact.
Others have done it quicker, and probably better–but here’s what I’m doing.
Step 1 – What’s the goal?
$83k in monthly recurring revenue (averaged, since we’ll be accepting annual payments as well).
This is more than enough to cover costs, pay me a salary, and put a small team in place.
- A #2 Integrator for the business
- A rocket-scientist-level technical support guru for students.
- Possibly a facilitator (someone who organizes and plans groups, events, and activities)
- Possibly a full-time coach for students.
Step 2 – How do the numbers work?
Online Impact will be $50/month or $500/year (2 months free).
(FYI – the first October launch will offer a lifetime charter member rate of $35/month or $350/year)
So given the price point I want to offer, there are a few ways the numbers work:
- With an average monthly charge per member around $45 ($50/mo or $500/yr), we’d need over 1,800 members. (holy cow)
- Raise prices
- Supplement offer with workshops.
One thing that I’m pretty sure will happen in late 2020 or 2021–is a higher-tier price point that offers REALLY frequent touchpoints, and possibly a dedicated coach/mentor.
This’ll likely be less than 10-15 people, with a price point anywhere from $350-1,000 a month.
I have NO idea what that looks like yet.
Step 3 – The launch strategy
Every October and April.
Twice a year, WITH NO EXCEPTIONS EVER.
I can’t STAND it when I see marketing geared towards “act now, as this deal won’t be available until this time next year!”
Only to see new students join from evergreen Facebook ad funnels–or flash sales.
You have two chances to join each year, and they’re likely going to be three day launches.
You’re in or you’re out. Right now.
Step 4 – The content strategy
A few weeks back, I mapped out, in excruciating detail, who our target avatar is.
Turns out, there are four general phases creators go through to creating a full-time business they love–and our members are in phases two and three.
This was useful.
The process of mapping this journey out, and where our students will be (and where they want to go), helped me lay out a content plan for Do You Even Blog.
- Podcast interviews
- New freebies and funnels
- Blog content
- All messaging
I’ve been mapping out specific topics and subtopics that I want to focus on–all of which serve to support Online Impact and talk about what I want to talk about.
Important Takeaway #12
Every single action you take on your platform should be intentional.
It took me a while to learn this–as I’m REALLY good at having an idea for a post, episode, or product–and then having it live the next day.
Going forward, every Instagram Story, blog post, and podcast interview will be intentional, working towards a greater purpose (which is to tee up Online Impact).
Be intentional with every piece of content you product. That requires a strategy.
This was the first and simplest step on my Road to $83k: setting a content strategy that attracts the right kind of person who can eventually benefit from Online Impact.
Step 5 – The Churn strategy
Churn = not everybody who joins Online Impact will stick around, for a variety of reasons.
However, Raina and I are slightly obsessed with creating a. place where people want to be.
People will inevitably leave, but we’re going above and beyond to make being a part of this community a no-brainer.
It’ll likely take 12-18 months to really execute, but I’m estimating our churn will be fairly low by that point.
We’ll also be using Baremetrics. (I’m excited. Data nerd alert!)
Step 6 – “The actions that matter.”
So aside from…
- The actual launch execution
- Producing content intentionally
- Reducing churn through product
What else is there?
Oh yeah, growing DYEB.
This is likely going to be a whole separate blog post, but let’s just say these are my bread and butter:
- Paid Reach
I’d love to say “partnerships” is already in that mix–but I’ve found them difficult in the digital marketing space.
I really do want to nail a partnership strategy, it just hasn’t happened yet. I’ll report back on this in the future.
However, I feel really comfortable with paid ads right now–making the funnels support the numbers. I know this will be a part of my growth strategy.
My initial goal is to double the email list every six to nine months.
This is a conservative amount based on historical data (which will likely slow down at some point. Maybe around 25k-35k?)
A summary of the key takeaways
1 – Look to build a “forever” business model.
With every project and launch you do–keep an eye out for what IS working, what COULD be a massive opportunity when you perfect the offer and product.
You add value through iteration and improvement.
2 – You can pick & choose successful “elements” between different programs.
I have no intention of running the MPME program again due to time restraints–but there were crucial elements that led to a 100% success rate with those students.
I can use those elements elsewhere in Online Impact.
3 – Don’t confuse your audience.
It consumes brain cells to engage with content (sales or otherwise).
Keep things simple and communicate clearly. And don’t switch business models every four months 😉
4 – It can be valuable to daydream what your business would look like–if you could magically have it be anything.
Dream big and cover every detail. You might be surprised by what you really want.
5 – Every piece of content should serve a purpose.
To change people, to lead into products, or both. Be intentional about the topics you cover.
Thanks for reading.
Drop me a comment below if you’d like to know anything more!