Here’s how to kick off a new Web offering with a bang: invite a group of people to the House of Blues and hold a big bash.
Colleague and small business consultant Andy Birol did exactly that last Friday night to kick off a new online community. At the House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio, over 100 guests enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres and a concert. It was all sponsored by the House of Blues, which hosted the premiere event of Andy’s online community.
The community is called Andy Birol’s Arena. It is a private online community that you pay a yearly subscription to participate in. Subscribers get access to special, limited distribution business coaching content. They also get access to Andy. They can attend private roundtable discussions, Web chats and teleconferences hosted by Andy.
Consultants and coaches have gone this route before — some quite successfully. It’s not a business model just anyone can pull off. It’s a play meant for a consultant with an established customer base and recognized name. A new consultant still trying to make his or her reputation might find it tough going to build a subscriber base.
But for well-established service providers, such as business consultants, who are starting to max out the time they have available to spend with clients, these private subscriber communities are a way to “productize” their services. Consultants can create a business bigger than just themselves personally. They create recurring revenue streams. They expand the reach of their offering to more clients than those they can serve one-on-one.
So what is in it for the clients, who are themselves small business owners? Affordability is one advantage.
I asked Andy if participating in the online community was cheaper than paying an hourly rate for an equivalent amount of Andy’s time. Andy told me, “It is far less expensive and intentionally so. My coaching clients pay three times the Andy Birol Arena (ABA) fee for three months of my private email and phone coaching versus the 12 months of ABA, but the real difference is in that phone and email coaching is wholly private and one on one while ABA is a premium business owners community where it involves me giving value in multiple live and online ways , including courses, forums, referral networks to a few business owners. If I was an airline, my private coaching is ‘first class’ and ABA is ‘business class’.”
A common myth is that information is free on the Internet. But of course we know that is not true, especially for business content. Yes, you can get information for free, and even some services — but often not the most desirable stuff. How many times have you wanted access to something and come smack up against a password protected page because you were not a paying subscriber? It happens to me regularly.
OK, back to the big bash that I started this piece with. Several business bloggers from Northeast Ohio were at the House of Blues, including Mitch Slater who authors Visibly Innovative, Ron Finklestein of Your Business Coach, and Rob Felber of Teaching to Fish. I heard Barbara Payne’s name (of Blog for Business), too, although I did not see her there.
(Editor’s Note January 30, 2006: the earlier version of this post failed to note that the House of Blues sponsored the event.)