The last few months have a been a whirlwind, first finishing and now launching the book The Membership Economy: Find Your Superusers, Master the Forever Transaction and Build Recurring Revenue. I have a lto to share about that journey, and I promise I will post soon! In the meantime though, I wanted to share the remarkable story of Michele Fulkerson, an entrepreneur with a vision of changing the way people train PIlates instructors, run studios and manage their businesses. She is bringing the Membership Economy to Pilates, and I'm so excited. I'll let her share her story in her own words. Please see below!
I read your book, The Membership Economy , in an embarrassingly record time frame, even by my own fast reading standards! It is now sitting on my desk with dogeared pages, highlighted portions and already looks like it has been living in my pile of business resources for years!
Thank you so much for putting all of this great information between two covers! I have to say that I have felt very lonely in the past 6 months as I have been moving one of my businesses toward the membership model. Since you have provided your email I feel compelled to share my story and you will see how reading your book came at the perfect time! It feels so nice to share this with someone who understands, so it's a long one!
First of all, I have been an entrepreneur for almost 20 years. My previous businesses revolved around coffee and specialty food. In an area where the nearest Starbucks was 4 hours away, I was lucky enough to implement the loyalty programs that were suggested in trade magazines (this was pre-internet times!) and even created a subscription based mail order specialty roasted coffee of the month club to reach my seasonal customers during the non peak months, hand punching credit card numbers and receiving checks for our fresh roasted coffee beans delivered from a small mid-western town to all over the country!
I am now the proud owner of a successful Pilates studio in southern California and use a much more convenient membership program to help this business along, with the ease of integrated customized scheduling software handling all of the little details. This however, is not the exciting part, or even how the book came into my life.
My entrepreneurial spirit and it's driving desire to create, share and grow led me to create a Pilates teacher training program that can be "sold" to studios so that they can easily implement their own customized and accredited training program. I took my needs as a studio owner (needing great staff and more revenue opportunities) as well as the needs of other studios for whom I had worked for as a consultant and designed all of the teacher training materials, made sure they met all of the accrediting agencies in our industry's requirements and then packaged the concept as a "PILATES TEACHER TRAINING BUSINESS KIT".
Before launching this at one of the Pilates Industry trade shows last fall, I knew that studios would need more than just the kit to get the program off the ground, so I created an "affiliate membership" program. After purchasing the program for around $3500, they sign up and pay $29.95 per month to receive support from our team (all 2-3 of us at the moment!).
This is where your book came to the rescue at just the right time! I kept talking to my team (small as they may be) about needing to create a life-long relationship with these studios and I saw (and heard from) members-to-be, who wanted to belong to the business end of the company, receiving the benefits that I was providing to affiliates, like marketing tips, downloads that contain valuable Pilates business tools, etc. Really, all things that I had previously created as a consultant working one on one with studios.
I was so stuck and no one thought the idea would work. I really wanted to build membership tiers. $19.95 per month for a Business Membership, $29.95 for Affiliate Memberships, and then eventually adding a higher end option for studios who were having a hard time coming up with $3500 up front to "buy" the program. (We have tested a $299 per month option for 12 months, then recurring $29.95 per month with some success!).
Then your book gave me the insight and courage to move forward. Today is international Pilates Day and I launched my NEW Pilates Business Membership website, promoted the program to my email list and between my affiliate members (who are automatically granted access to the materials for their monthly fee) and the new sign ups, I have a nice, intimate group to start with.
I have to say, that I have been inspired by a few online groups who are doing a similar thing with a larger audience and after participating in a private Facebook forum and paying a small monthly membership for access to business resources, I was sold on the idea that it could work for me. However, I was stuck…. and really needed a book like yours to generate the courage and energy to move ahead. AGAIN, THANK YOU!
So, I would love to share your book and where to buy it, with the group that has inspired me http://femaleentrepreneurassociation.com/ (they may already know of it, but I will sing it's praises in the private forum)
The best thing so far about this membership shift, is that people are really happy to be connected and supported. That certainly makes my work fun and it inspires me to continue to create great content to aid their journey to success.
I am sure that my model will change and grow with the needs of my members, I will be tracking their involvement, monitoring their connections in the forum and growing my group. My goal is 1000 members in 12 months. Putting it down here holds me to my goal, and your book will be a constant resource as I review what other companies have done as well as re-read your wise words.
TEACH ~ GROW ~ SUCCEED
Michele Fulkerson, PMA®-CPT
Pilates Education Institute, Director