Church Fuel has been around for about 18 months now and we’ve had the opportunity to serve thousands of pastors and church leaders. Our business functions a lot like a non-profit, because we’re on mission to help churches.
But in reality, we’re a for-profit LLC. That means we are a typical small business, similar to lots of other small businesses and the backbone of the American economy.
I’ve written about our brand, our business strategy and our core values. But today, I want to talk about revenue.
Without revenue, our company can’t exist. Without sales, we can’t pay our team members or create our products. For us, revenue is a good thing. It means we get to keep doing what we all feel called to do.
Here’s a look at our top-line revenue by month:
As you can see, August of 2016 was our biggest month ever in our history and I wanted to unpack some of those numbers for you.
Here’s why August was the best month ever and why we hope it’s just the beginning.
#1 – We launched a course.
Our core product is a membership program for pastors. But a couple of times a year, we open up registration for another product, an online course to help pastors lead their church to break the 200 barrier.
The course is creatively called Breaking 200. I know, I know…It’s not a terribly creative name. But it’s clear.
Breaking 200 is really practical and addresses some of the most common issues pastors and teams face as they try to lead their church through this growth barrier. I really believe every church that’s under 200 should have this course.
The course comes with 23 videos, 30 resources, an invite to our private Facebook group and some live coaching calls. We help pastors work through seven big obstacles and create a scalable system for growth. It’s gotten rave reviews.
The price was $99 a month for 7 months or $499 one time. We were surprised when 85% of the people chose the one-time price.
During the launch, we included some bonuses (including five physical copies of my book and a live coaching call). That provided an extra incentive for people to enroll now. Plus, there really was a deadline to enroll and get started.
We ran the launch for about four weeks, with the first three weeks being pre-launch content and then having an “open cart” for about 9 days. When registration closed down, the product went away. It will stay gone for about 6 months and then we’ll update it based on feedback and open registration again.
The course was a major focus for our team during the month of August and it contributed to top line revenue.
#2 – Membership is growing.
The second reason revenue is growing is that our membership program continues to do well. Every month, new people are signing up for Church Fuel One.
That particular program delivers monthly content, access to a resource library and an invitation to our private community. Our members really make up our tribe and this is our core product.
My goal is to make Church Fuel One THE resource every pastor must have. At $35 a month, it’s really affordable. And because we pack in a ton of value, people are staying for a while.
The membership program comes with three main benefits.
- Monthly Master Classes. Each month, we release new content exclusive to members that answers one of the HOW questions of ministry. This content has consistently ranked high in our customer surveys. In 2017, we’re changing them up a little bit and releasing four mini-courses around focused topics.
- A Resource Library. We have about 80 documents, templates, spreadsheets and examples right now. All of these are available for download to our members and we add more each quarter. In fact, if members need something that’s not there, we’ll make it for them and add it.
- Community. Each month, we offer “office hours” where people can get one on one help. We also do ministry round tables where 25 pastors gather via Zoom video to share ideas on a specific topic. And there’s a private Facebook group. We have a staff member whose sole job is to manage the community.
People think creating and running a membership program is easy. Well, it’s not.
It takes a lot of investment and a tremendous amount of focus. For every Platform University, I can point you to a dozen membership programs that are on life-support with very little traction and very few members.
But it’s a key part of our strategy and we’re making it even better in 2017. My goal is to have 5,000 members in this program, sharing ideas and getting practical help. Membership is a big deal to us for two reasons.
- Membership is best for the church. Churches don’t need more information – they need content, community and coaching all mixed together. When a church is a member, it gives us the opportunity to partner with each other for a longer period of time. We can deliver more help through a membership program than we can with an instant download.
- Subscriptions are best for our company. I can run a revenue projection for the rest of the year and know that there is money on the books. That gives me the confidence to hire great people and create great resources. I’d rather have a subscriber than a customer. So when I look at our revenue growth, one key question is “how much of that is recurring revenue?” I’m happy that most of the revenue on our books comes in from recurring sources, not one time products.
I do think creating a membership site is a good thing for a lot of businesses, but it requires more than a great idea and some technical knowledge. If you want to learn more about the subscription model, read The Automatic Customer. I posted some notes and thoughts from that book here.
#3 – We licensed our content.
The third reason August was a great month for us revenue wise was because of a licensing deal I signed a few months ago. It’s starting to see results, and the sky is the limit.
We partnered with T.D. Jakes to launch Envision Church Solutions. Envision is built on Church Fuel One – we licensed all our content and strategy, but with videos from Bishop Jakes and The Potter’s House team. It’s a great partnership because we have a great product and system to deliver it and they have a great audience and platform. Working together has proven to be a win/win.
Envision has just as many members at Church Fuel One, and that happened in a shorter amount of time. It’s a quality product with a great growth trajectory.
We’re really excited about this, and we think this licensing model is reproducible elsewhere. There are a lot of companies that should offer a bundled version of Church Fuel One to their customer base. It’s an easy add-on for people who are already receiving regular products and services.
August was a great month and we truly believe the best is yet to come. In reality, September revenue will be lower than August, because we’re not launching a course. But we’ll still be profitable and our subscriber base will grow.
We’re working to improve our membership program, launching a brand new course in early 2017, and starting to build our first software product. In other words, we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible and we’re excited about what’s to come.
We’re investing in growth and hoping to serve pastors and church leaders for the next 20 years.