Church Fuel Low Lights

Everybody loves to talk about highlights and accomplishments.

We’ve been doing Church Fuel for a year-and-a-half now, and while things are going really well, not everything we’ve done has worked.

We’ve had some highlights for sure.  But we’ve also had some lowlights.

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I want to pull back the curtain a little bit and talk about some of the things we’ve done that haven’t worked all that well.

Here you go.

#1 – We had some products that didn’t work well.

Today, we have three main products.  All of them are really helpful and all of them are selling on par with the plans.

But in 2015, we launched some products that didn’t work that well.

We had some coaching modules called Action Guides.  I thought they would sell, but they just didn’t.  We pulled them from the store.

We launched a really good course called Content Marketing for Churches.  It was really well-produced and the content was really helpful.  But it didn’t connect with the audience or sell really well.  We still have this product and it’s really good, but it’s not a core part of our strategy.

The Action Guides – they weren’t clear.  I think they were good products, but the benefits to the customer weren’t clear.  What you actually got and what you could expect were a little confusing.

The Content Course – it was a bad name.  Churches may not even know what content marketing really is.  There was no appeal in the course.  There was no baked in benefit.

Both of those resources fell far below expectations.  They didn’t work.

#2 – We wasted some money on marketing that didn’t work.

We’re finding a lot of success advertising our free resources on Facebook.  Our list is growing and we’re helping a lot of people.

But last year, we tried an email ad buy with a major advertiser, and it was a flop.  We spent a good bit of money on design and sending, and it just didn’t convert at all.

No rhyme or reason – it just didn’t work.

Our own efforts outperformed this expensive option by a factor of 10.

It makes me sick thinking about the wasted money and it was definitely one expensive flop.

#3 – I didn’t define roles and responsibilities at the partner level.  

Church Fuel is a partnership, and I absolutely love partnerships.  Done right, you bring different skill sets to the table and you can go further, faster.

Nearly every business I’m a part of is a partnership.

But early on in Church Fuel, I didn’t define the roles, responsibilities and expectations clear enough.  This hasn’t hurt us in the long run, but I think it slowed the momentum and created a little confusion.

I’m learning that every role needs specific responsibilities and measurements.  Not generalists, but specialists.

The other day, I attended a board meeting for an Atlanta-area non-profit. There were some high-level leaders on the board and they were talking about who they should add for the next term.

Instead of just listing great people, they focused on the skill sets they wanted to add to the room.  As they talked about potential board members, they talked about what they would add to the group.

It wasn’t about filling a seat with a generalist who cared about the mission of the organization.  It was about bringing in a specific person who could make a specific contribution.

#4 – Our company meeting rhythm was weak.

Early on, it was just two of us.

Then we added some virtual employees and freelancers.

As we grew, we got sucked into the daily operation of the company and we didn’t have a good meeting structure in place.

In my last business, this was a strong point.  And we’re righting the ship right now.

As the leader, I didn’t force the right kind of meetings and insist on clear communication.  I’m convinced no matter how small the team, a meeting structure is absolutely necessary.  You don’t need to have a lot of meetings, but you need to have the right meetings.

#5 – We tried an in-person event and it was a total flop.

I have this infatuation with getting people together in person. Maybe one day we’ll be able to pull it off. But that’s not even close to what happened the first time we tried.

We created this 2-day event called The Systems Workshop.  Bring 12 people together to create systems and build them right in the room.

We built a sales page.  We sent emails.  We promoted it pretty hard.

And exactly one person signed up.

Miserable!

Even through all of these tough lessons and lowlights, it wasn’t all bad.

We’re learning.

We’re growing.

And we’re getting better.

Messing around with products that didn’t work solidified our plan to start an online membership program for pastors.

It’s worked really well and it’s growing at a steady pace.  We just signed a deal with a major partner to expand it exponentially.

The roles and responsibilities thing led me to create crystal clear job descriptions and focus people on specific areas of the company.  No more generalists!

The sketchy meeting rhythm is turning into clarity and our team is going to be better because of it.

The in-person event?  It just reminded me that we can be the best in the world at delivering online training with a personal touch.

In short, messing things up and getting things wrong is a part of business.

As I write this, I’m thinking about your business.  What can you learn from my lowlights?

Here are some takeaways.

  1. Don’t be afraid to try things.  So many people wait around for the great idea.  But here’s the thing…it doesn’t matter if it’s a good idea.  In fact, stop trying to figure out if it’s a good idea and just test it.  A mediocre idea executed properly will beat a great idea executed poorly.
  2. Think of money you lose as TUITION.  I don’t know where I first read that, but it’s helped me greatly.  Nobody is truly angry about tuition costs.  Because tuition is more like an investment.  You pay tuition because you know there’s something worth it at the end of the line.  So that wasted ad buy…that’s tuition.  It’s going to teach you what not to do, and that’s a valuable lesson that will pay off down the line.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t work.  Lots of things you try aren’t going to work. They key is to learn and move on.  It’s okay to pull an underperforming product from the shelves.  It’s okay to shift gears.
  4. Look for specialists.  If you’re trying to grow something, you don’t need a bunch of generalists who care about the big picture.  You actually need specialists to unfairly focus on one aspect of the organization.  You want people who think like a broken record.  You need people who think the solution to everything is the same thing.  This is why a team of point guards doesn’t win games.  Who is the next specialist you need to add to the team?

In the next post, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in running this company for the last 18 months.

Stay tuned…

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Six Books That Have Shaped Church Fuel

Here are six books that have really shaped the launch and operation of Church Fuel.

You’ll find them here…

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Book Notes: The Automatic Customer by John Warrillow

515f+NYUYXL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Automatic Customer, by John Warrillow is one of the five culture-shaping books at Church Fuel.  Though we were already heading in that direction, it solidified the direction for our membership program – Church Fuel One.

The book gives lots of examples of subscription businesses and some best practices for starting or running one.

Here are my notes…

“Recurring revenue makes your business a lot more valuable, and it also makes your company less stressful to run.”

Examples of Subscription Businesses

  • Content: European Map Makers in the 1500s, Newspapers and Magazines
  • Entertainment: Netflix
  • Software: Adobe Creative Suite, Quickbooks
  • eCommerce: Amazon Prime
  • Services: Car Wash, Mosquito Squad, H.bloom.

Seven reasons a subscriber is better than a customer.

  1. Subscribers drive up the value of your company.
  2. Subscriptions increase customer lifetime value. The average Prime member spends $1,224 on Amazon purchases each year, compared with $505 for non-Prime customers.
  3. Subscriptions smooth out demand. bloom provides weekly flower delivery to hotels.
  4. Subscriptions provide market research.
  5. Subscriptions are automatic payments
  6. Subscribers are sticky customers.
  7. Subscribers buy more.

The foundation of a subscription business is built on four numbers:

  • monthly recurring revenue (MRR)
  • customer lifetime value (LTV)
  • customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • churn (MMR at the beginning of month divided by MMR at the end of the month)

Two Challenges

How can we be essential? “The most profitable membership websites are usually business-to-business companies that solve a real problem, offering ‘must have’ information and maintaining constantly evolving forums that require that a subscriber stay loyal over the long term.”

What quick wins can we give people? “Like surfing, part of getting people to adopt your subscription product or service in the first 90 days is to give them a quick win that provides the motivation for them to learn more.” 

Three Best Practices

  1. Free Trial: A free trial should not get someone to buy the product, it should get them to use the product.
  2. Ultimatum: Make certain things only available to subscribers. You can’t buy a single movie from Netflix.
  3. Delight: Drop happiness bombs to surprise your subscribers.

Every type of business can benefit from the subscription model.  Pick up a copy of the book…you won’t regret it.

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Read and Save Simplified Articles with Evernote

One of the reasons I love Evernote is the free tool makes it easy to read and save simplified articles.  In just a couple of clicks, I can strip out popups, ads, and sidebars and save the real content to my computer for later.  Here’s

Here’s a 80-second screencast on how it works.

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The Simple Key To Getting More Done Is…

It seems like my blog feed, Twitter feed and even Facebook feed is filled with advice on how to get more done.

The promise of productivity.

Hacks for busy people.

10 Apps to save you time and money.

I’m waiting for an article on the most productive way to read productivity books.

Productive

I’m no efficiency expert, but I’ve learned one simple thing about getting stuff done. It’s not complicated.  It’s not expensive.  And you don’t need a new app.

The key to getting more done is removing the tasks that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

It’s ruthlessly evaluating your task list and deciding what to delete and where to wait.

See, when I look at 10 things I need to do, only 2 or 3 of them are truly important.  I don’t need to get more done…I need to get the right things done.

Here are three questions to help you evaluate your tasks.

  • Why am I doing this?
  • What would really happen if I didn’t do it?
  • Who asked me to do this?

Don’t worry about doing all twenty things today.

Do the few things that really matter.

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