For nine years Jake ran a lively, lucrative downtown wine bar. From movie-themed “Nights of Flights” wine tastings to cash flow-by-month analysis he knew his business inside out. But he got tired of managing people. He wanted a change. One that would leverage all that he’d learned. Sound familiar? So he did a very smart thing.
He launched a business teaching people how to start a successful wine bar.
In this shaky economy, you, like Jake and Susan Page, may be thinking of fresh ways to make money from what you know.
If so, you may find Jake’s approach helpful.
To keep overhead low and to appeal to prospective customers who may be working full-time, he designed a program where they could learn by signing up for a six month service of evening and weekend tele-classes and access to a members-only blog.
He hired various clients from his wine bar (you learn a lot about people in convivial, casual settings) to:
• Create his members-only blog and taught him how to use it.
• Interviewed him to turn his expertise into a very specific step-by-step program, complete with examples, templates, checklists, real life success stories, points to be covered in each tele-class and inclusion of experts (from accounting to marketing) in blog posts and “in conversation” interviews that were turned into podcasts that his clients could listen to any time.
• Create his by-invitation-only online social network for all graduates of his program. There they could ask each other for advice, share the cost of promotional designs that were then customized for each wine bar, collective approach vintners for special service or prices or ability to buy rare wines.
After the first year, Jake hosted quarterly contests for best tips, with prizes provided by vendors who wanted access to his “market’ of wine bar owners. Members could contribute and vote on five best tips each quarter.
These methods build closeness, value, trust and loyalty among the members of his Wine Bar Network. Bolstering his expertise, their content built equity in his business.
As Jake made the above preparations he offered his longtime manager the opportunity to become a minority owner if she met certain sales and other goals over the next two years. That offer became an element of his teaching program. It also enabled him to devote time to starting his new business while working with his partner to grow into the new role.
Jake maintained partial ownership of the bar for four reasons. Co-ownership:
• Kept him credible as a wine bar expert.
• Provided a lab for trying out new ideas.
• Kept his name on the bar, as a place for prospective clients to experience the business.
• He loved keeping his hand in the business.
As you migrate from running your successful business to teaching others how to grow one like yours, go slow to go fast as Jake did.
Take the time to create your “how to” program, get experts to help you edit and design it, create the online lessons, tele-classes and other tools you’ll need when you start. Find allies with related experience (from accountants to marketers) who can augment your teaching in ways that highlight theirs and help them grow their business.
Recruit and lead your first group, leave time to hone your methods and tools before you teach the second group. Then you can savor your start-up, make fewer mistakes and keep your overhead low. By the way, after six wildly-successful years running his new business Jake took a bigger leap into an entirely new kind of business – and he loves it. Next month I’ll tell you about it.
Now, how do you recruit your classes of clients? Read persuasive promotional copy written by the Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams that primes people to buy. Then read the steps he took in that email to turn readers into customers:
1. Open with a story that pulls in the reader.
2. Evoke both mystery (crystal table) and a “this applies to you” feeling.
3. Build interest in the service before attempting to sell it.
4. Positively label the people who buy your service (“stars”) – and the company they will keep (at “the table”) in the group.
5. Vividly describe the multiplying power of a group, in this case in dollar value.
6. In concrete terms infer that the value of the service is huge.
7. Allude to a high cost for the service, then take them through steps that make them feel that the actual, rather substantial cost is more than worth it.
9. Keep overhead costs extremely low by providing the service virtually, either by phone and/or online.
10. To cement group loyalty and warm up the group to offer fervent, credible referrals for building future groups, host an in-person gathering of them. You provide the “content” or program plus the design of the get-together.
They pay for the costs of attending. You garner fresh prospects from them while they are on a high together. As one person in a gathering suggests a referral it evokes a “me too” instinct among others to also make referrals.
A final note. Be generous. Offer more value than people expect. Build a community amongst your clients. Provide simple, explicit ways they can improve your service and help each other succeed. Reward them for that participation. That’s truly a way to make money and to savor your work.