Nigel Moore went from running an MSP (Managed Service Provider) to owning a membership that helps other people run their MSPs.
Nigel's paid community, Tech Tribe, has since thrived. And it has in a very organic way, without a lot of calculated marketing. What are the keys to its unforeseen success?
Tune in as Nigel and James look at his continuing journey.
In the episode:
01:49 – Squid hats and orangutans
04:30 – Parent, surfer, geek and entrepreneur
06:34 – From service provider to running a membership site
09:33 – A lifeline in time of pandemic
12:35 – Critical elements of evolving to success
15:47 – Pricing and subscription website access models
17:48 – How multiple membership levels fare
19:35 – The pitfall of perfectionism
21:27 – Identifying the challenges you’ll solve
23:23 – When the teacher learns just as much
24:33 – The kind of person it takes to run a membership website
26:09 – Managing members, and creating tribe culture
29:43 – One-on-one versus group learning
31:07 – The things that surprised the most
32:29 – How many people stick around?
35:39 – Tips for the would-be subscription based website owner
Nigel Moore built and owns The Tech Tribe, a successful paid community of entrepreneurs in the world of tech. His members run IT service providers, technology businesses and MSPs (Managed Service Providers).
Nigel’s business has gotten to where it is without the complex marketing that many companies rely on. And how he’d done it is the topic of this SuperFastBusiness episode.
From service provider to running a membership site
Nigel ran an MSP himself for a long time before a friend introduced him to SuperFastBusiness, then FastWebFormula. Before that he was working 80 to 100-odd hours a week for 30, 40 grand annually.
He eventually hit the 6-figure mark and got his work hours down to 10-15 hours weekly. That was when he started teaching friends with similar businesses what he was doing. And he realized he had both a gift for and an interest in coaching and mentoring.
James’s world opened up possibilities for Nigel. He realized he could do something he enjoyed to help people, while making a healthy income in a very leveraged way. He sold his MSP and built a membership site. Fast forward to the present – Tech Tribe is a 7-figure subscription website catering to an enthusiastic community of 1400 tech entrepreneurs.
A lifeline in time of pandemic
While the IT MSP space was not as heavily impacted last year as some areas of business, Tech Tribe was still a pillar of support for many of its members. Aside from the highly useful intel, the community and the hand-holding aspect of it were important to those of the tribe who did struggle.
Critical elements of evolving to success
Get outside your echo chamber – Nigel describes his time up to encountering SuperFastBusiness as having been inside his own echo chamber, and the echo chamber of his industry. He went from a very myopic view of business to a vast new outlook, thanks to James – a world of opportunities and new ways to do things.
“If you’re not embarrassed when you launch your first version of your product, then you launched too late.”
Don’t be afraid to break things – Getting to some sort of traction, says Nigel, was a tough but fun journey. He is, he says, a tweaker and an implementer. He loves executing and momentum and breaking things, because that’s where he learns his best lessons. This is where he differs from many business owners, who needs their ducks in a row before implementing anything.
Focus on making amazing stuff – The sale of his business gave Nigel some financial leeway with which to set up his membership. And that, he said, gave him time to focus on making it amazing for their tribe and community. For the first couple of years, and even now, the big focus was not on marketing. It was on creating the most amazing experience and resources for MSPs.
Love on your members – In the last eight months to a year, Tech Tribe has added on another 800 or 900 members, all from word of mouth. They do very, very little paid marketing, aside from an old retargeting ad they have running. And this, says Nigel, is all from just loving on their members – listening to what they say in the membership website about their pain points and creating solutions to those problems.
“Make something so damned powerful that your people can’t help but talk about you.”
Don’t build first – Related to the above, avoid assuming you know your prospects’ pain points. Get them into your world. find out what their common problems are, and then build the solutions.
Pricing and subscription website access models
Tech Tribe started out with an open/closed model, which brought in their first 200, 300 members in the first half a year. Eventually, though, the model stopped making sense. They wanted people needing their help to be able to get to them.
So they simply opened up. Now they get on average five to 10 users a day, just from podcasts and word-of-mouth referrals in Facebook and reddit groups and from vendors and other settings.
They currently charge an annual fee of $49 monthly, with a few people legacied on annual.
How multiple membership levels fare
Back in April 2018, Tech Tribe launched a program called Tribal Masters, a higher-level accountability group coaching program which offers weekly group coaching calls. Three quarters of the members are currently in it. However, they’ve stopped taking in new people due to lack of scalability. That may need tweaking in 2021, as they have an extensive waitlist for the program.
When the teacher learns just as much
Nigel has learned 10 times more about his industry in the last three years of running Tech Tribe than he has in the 15 to 20 years before. He learns every single day, new tricks and tactics and strategies. And they have veterans of the industry (tribal elders, they call them) sharing what they know to help other members.
The kind of person it takes to run a membership website
It takes a certain set of values and a certain set of skills to be able to run and grow a community. But Nigel believes that most people can build those skills and create those values in themselves, if they don’t have them yet. Not everyone can, but a lot can.
“You only know something if you could actually teach someone else that thing.”
If you want to serve people and have some sort of intricate knowledge in something, then absolutely you can cultivate skills to be a leader in that space.
He himself overcame self-esteem challenges to fit into the leadership role he has now.
Managing members, and creating tribe culture
Tech Tribe are very intentional about the culture they build in the membership. They want it to be a deeply transparent place. To do that, they’ve got their “tribal laws”, essentially community guidelines, which guide what can and can’t happen in their space.
Beneath that, they have a culture layer, which is intentionally driven by Nigel to be a very open, transparent, vulnerable culture. He has opened up there about challenges with things like mental health and business career and trajectory and growth and setbacks, etc.
“You can’t enforce your own culture, really, like, it’s going to take a life of its own.”
The more he opens up, he says, the more it creates a safe place for the rest of their members to open up about similar things. People know they can get help there. They call it a give-and-receive community, where members give help to their peers and are open to receiving help as well.
The things that surprised the most
The biggest discovery for Nigel in his business journey was that he didn’t need a huge paid marketing engine to build his business. When they got to a certain point, around 500 members, their own customers did the referral work for them.
The huge insight there was that if you can build a product your members love, they will do the marketing. All you need to do is love on them as much as you possibly can.
Tips for the would-be subscription based website owner
What Nigel would advise the aspiring membership owner is, do not be afraid of going very, very deep into a problem or a vertical out there and going far deeper than what you possibly think that you could.
His initial problem when he started was going too broad. His target market then was anyone who owned a technology business, whether an MSP or a software startup or whatever. Now they focus on what’s called nimble MSPs, IT support companies that have from 25 to 30 staff, and to date they haven’t even scratched the surface of opportunity in that niche.
If you want to know more about Nigel, you can find him at nigel.me.
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