A few months into 2016, I was brainstorming potential new revenue streams and I knew I wanted to create some sort of membership (because recurring revenue sounded like a good thing). So in June (after 3 exhausting back-to-back course launches), I was ready for something else and wanted to test a low-priced offering because up until then everything I’d offered had been $100+ – little did I know that this particular idea would lead to my highest converting sales funnel of the year!
MY INITIAL IDEA
The Styled Stock Society happened kind of accidentally. I didn’t have a specific membership idea in mind, so I took a look at my email list to see if there were any particular opt-ins that were more popular than others. I was actually surprised to see that around 1,000 people had downloaded my free stock photos during April + May, so I thought ok, maybe I could offer regular stock photos for a monthly fee.
I decided on a simple photo subscription. I wanted it to be affordable but I also needed it to be worth my time. I don’t plan for the Styled Stock Society to be my primary income stream, so my original goal was earning around $500 / month for about 8 hours of work (2 hours on planning + prep, 2 hours shooting photos, 2 hours editing, 2 hours on admin). Not so bad, right?
Initially, the thought of “selling” my photos made me uncomfortable (because I don’t really think of myself as a photographer). I thought I had to go buy a bunch of new props to take all these photos. And I was worried that if I didn’t make everything “perfect” that no one would sign up and it would be a huge failure blah blah blah.
I was telling my husband all of this and he basically told me to just STOP overthinking and just create an minimum viable product (MVP).
Stop overthinking and just create a minimum viable product.
To create an MVP, I basically just needed photos + a way for people to pay for them + a way to give them access to download the photos after they paid. I was hesitant to invest a lot of time or money without knowing what was going to happen, so the only props I bought were pink peonies ($16 at my local deli) and I used other notebooks / pens / etc. that I already had. All of the June photos were pink / gold / black / white because those are my brand colors, and I figured worst case scenario, if no one bought the photos, I could still use them for myself!
DURING THE “LAUNCH”
So without creating a fancy sales page, and without setting up a new membership site, I pre-sold the idea by sending 2 emails to the people who had previously downloaded my free stock photos. The first email announced the membership details with a special pre-launch offer ($25/year – which is crazy low, but I wasn’t confident that anyone would buy at all) and the second email reminded people that the pre-launch offer was ending.
I sent 2 emails and ended up with 72 members in that first week…
So I doubled the price.
For the next couple of weeks, the payment options were $25 for 6 months or $50 for 12 months. I essentially sent the same 2 emails to the rest of my email list with one announcing the new payment options and one reminding people that the offer was expiring and ended up with an additional 78 new members before the end of June.
In total, during the launch period in June, I launched to approximately 3,000 people and 150 people joined the Styled Stock Society during the launch period. That’s a 7.5% conversion – which was really surprising since most of my courses have previously converted around 2-3% – but I also took it as a sign to raise the prices again!
TESTING PRICING OPTIONS
Over the next couple of months I tested a few different pricing options – I gradually raised the prices and offered a combination of monthly / quarterly / 6 month / 12 month memberships. Knowing that I was spending 2 days per month on Styled Stock Society related activities, I doubled my income goal to $1,000 recurring revenue per month and tried to find the best combination of pricing options that would maximize my conversions AND my revenue. Currently there are 2 pricing tiers ($45 for 6 months and $75 for 12 months) – the most popular plan is the 6 month option which isn’t really surprising – even though the 12 month membership is a better value, having a sub-$50 price point for the shorter term options is more attractive to my particular audience and I’ve been pleased with the results and revenue so far.
SETTING UP THE SALES FUNNEL
After the initial launch period, I knew that if I wanted to continue to attract new members on a consistent basis I needed to have a process in place to attract and convert potential customers into paying Styled Stock Society members. I set up a really basic funnel that consists of:
A) An attractive free offer – 10 free feminine styled stock photos
B) A landing page – I also have a simple landing page to share the free offer.
C) A promotion strategy – I link directly to that landing page linked in all of my social media bios. I mention the free photos on Instagram once every 10 days and I have regularly scheduled posts on Twitter / Facebook that link to that landing page. I also have 2 different pins on Pinterest that lead to the landing page and those are re-pinned to my own board and group boards on a regular basis. I share the free photos in Facebook groups for bloggers / online business owners (though to be honest, I’m not at all consistent with that). 90% of my promotion is promoting the free photos and not the membership itself because I want people to download the free photos and end up on my email list where I can share more information with them over time! I also have affiliates for the Styled Stock Society who earn a commission for referring new members, and occasionally I offer other incentives for current members to share how much they love their stock photos on social media.
D) An automated email sequence using ConvertKit – The day after new subscribers download my free stock photos, they receive an email introducing them to the Styled Stock Society membership. I give a brief overview of the membership sharing the key features + benefits as well as share a preview of the photos that are currently available to members. A couple of days later I send a second email with answers to membership FAQs, examples of how you can use styled stock photos for your business or your blog, and brief testimonials from current Styled Stock Society members. This is an incredibly simple email sequence (though at some point I will probably add a third email), but for now, this simple automation is converting around 8-9% (meaning 8-9% of people who receive these emails end up becoming Styled Stock Society members). Sometimes simplest things are the best.
Sometimes the simplest things are the best.
E) A time-sensitive offer – As an incentive to join the Styled Stock Society, I have a time sensitive offer “pitch” included in my email sequence.
While this particular income stream is fairly passive – I’ve also tested a few marketing tactics to see see if I could make small “time” investments that yield not-so-small results.
- Flash sales – I’ve done a couple of sales on 6/12 month memberships (but never the lowest tier) that have been successful at growing the Styled Stock Society membership. I don’t like to offer “sales” too often, but once in awhile they are can be very effective – for my birthday, I held a 24 hour flash sale on 12 month memberships and increased my (average) monthly revenue by 40% in less than a day!
- Bonus offers – If you don’t want to run a sale, offering a bonus can also be an effective sales tool to convert potential customers who are on the fence. Around Labor Day I ran a special promotion that basically meant any new members received double the amount of stock photos than normal because they were given access to a previous month’s collection. It was an easy bonus to offer since it required no extra work on my part, but increased my membership by over 30% that month. In November, I created an bonus collection of holiday-themed photos that was “gifted” to anyone who joined before Thanksgiving and that was so successful that I’m now planning to offer quarterly seasonal collections throughout the year.
TWEAK + REPEAT
I’m regularly tweaking my automated sales sequence as well as thinking about ways that I can add more value to the Styled Stock Society while keeping it affordable (and well worth my time)! Since Styled Stock Society launched (just over 6 months ago from the time this post was published), I went from having no sales page whatsoever to having a separate website with information on the Styled Stock Society membership as well as a SHOP and separate services page for custom photography.
Now with hundreds of members (consistently growing each month!), this funnel has been converting higher than any other system that I have in place, and I’ve doubled my membership goals again and again (and again) over the past 6 months. If you’re interested in learning more about the Styled Stock Society, you can learn more about membership options right the way!