The Reality of Community Building for Your Business
with Starlight Mundy
Community has always been important but post-pandemic online communities have become an incredible tool and business strategy. Starlight Mundy, of Bottled Lightning, shares the key areas of focus before designing your community, and how when done right a community can create not only a lasting stream of income, but an impactful way to reach your audience.
Notes from the Show
Online communities are popping up everywhere, they’ve been around but as Starlight Mundy, Business Strategist and Community Building Expert of Bottled Lightning says the pandemic created a need for human connection and gathering… online communities are only on an upward trajectory from here.
Building a community can be a really smart idea if you’re a business owner with education, information, or transformation to offer your audience. Communities can often be associated with courses, books, or other consumed content in which customers would want to connect with like-minded people and get continued value. Communities are not just free Facebook Groups, there is a difference when it comes to intent, value, and promise.
4 Key Areas to Consider for Community Building
What are you trying to put out into the world?
Do you have a process or framework that creates lasting results?
Do you have a large enough audience that will generate members and revenue to sustain the effort?
What does being a part of your community look like?
The biggest mistake made in Community Building is getting started before you have the following to sustain a community. The size of the audience, the money needed for sustaining the community, the price point of membership, and the promise of value all need to be considered. Getting started with a small revenue/high-effort community can lead to burnout and resentment and cause a community to fail before it even has a chance.
To learn more about community building and find out if it’s right for your business, check out Starlight at BottledLightning.Co where she has a simple one-page community planner.
Are online communities a new concept?
How has the pandemic changed the need for communities?
How can a community benefit a business?
Creating a Facebook group vs. building a community?
The difference between paid membership and a community.
The Four Key Areas for Community Design.
The Human Journey of Transformation.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:36
Hi, everyone, welcome back to stop the noise. Today I am talking with Starlight Mundi of bottled lightning and Starlight is a business growth strategist who focuses on a lot of things, one of which is building communities. And that's what I'm looking forward to to talking about today. Welcome Starlight
Starlight Mundy 0:54
Thank you so much. I'm so delighted to be here.
Susan Tatum 0:57
I love your name. No one is ever going to forget your name are they?
Starlight Mundy 1:02
I'm guilty of getting away with having a really memorable name that's for sure my mom was a bit of a hippie.
Susan Tatum 1:07
So tell us just take a few minutes and tell us a little bit about you know, what you do and who you are how you got there?
Starlight Mundy 1:14
Sure. So you know, I started out in the technical and brand development and launch space in my corporate career before I left, I spend about 10 to 15 years in the from ideation to launch in the startup space and a lot of that expertise around marketing, taking an idea and developing it into a concept played into my strengths and my talents. But the truth is, is that I really wanted to create amazing things and put things in the world that I believed in, right. And so like many, I left the corporate space with the intent to work on the sort of projects that lit me up that I felt like I was amplifying and making bigger projects in the world. In the process of that one of the methodologies that was used quite heavily at that stage in the startup space was something called Lean Startup. And it's all about generating momentum very quickly. And one of the big factors around generating momentum very quickly, is gathering people around an idea and a value, which is really what the core of a community is the thing that binds people together in a community is some common vision, some common outcome, some common value. And I was quickly realized in the context of helping people launch their business and grow and scale that community is this sort of essential part of being able to really make a big impact in the world. Because individually, we can do as much as we can do. But if you really are the sort of person who has a vision and you want to change the world, you need a lot of people who believe in that vision to help make it happen and communities where it's at. So I started out when I first left the corporate space helping new businesses launch, but now I work with businesses who are trying to scale. They've hit their first six, six figure years, and they're looking to go to multiple, six figures. And they're looking to do that with programs that are transformative and impactful. And in many ways, that's a community or a licensable product. And so that's what I'm doing now these days.
Susan Tatum 3:08
So do I feel like I'm seeing a lot more communities popping up lately? Is that am I just being exposed to more is there more out there?
Starlight Mundy 3:18
I think that with the emergence of the pandemic and the way that people really needed to find a home online, they became deeply more prevalent, right, and especially for online businesses that are looking for ways to scale, creating an online membership. And an online community is definitely a modern trend that that has a trajectory that's going upwards. Another reason that you're seeing communities become so popular in the online space is that the result of the pandemic isn't just that everybody went online or tried to find ways to bring their business online, but we've stayed online, and we've continued connecting that space. There's been communities around brands or support programs, or even monetized communities before, with the emergence of creating online programs, trying to create recurring income for online businesses, and just trying to reach broader markets, a community really is a really important puzzle piece that can fit into trying to scale your idea. You're right, it is becoming something that even more people are taking seriously. And when we look at statistically how course completion rates while course creation has gone way up in the context of how many people are creating courses, how many courses are out there, the completion rates are still pretty low. And one of the biggest solutions to actually getting people to complete a course experienced the transformation and take that information and apply it to their life is the support that comes with a community or a hybrid experience. And so many people are also realizing that if they want to truly have an impactful business, where they're transforming the people that they help in some form or fashion and help them get across the finish line. Having a supportive community is pretty much an essential Don't make that happen.
Susan Tatum 5:01
So I've experienced myself, which you're talking about where lets take pre COVID. And you take a course. And it was you just take a course and you go, they just had a bunch of stuff up there, and you'd go access it when you wanted to. And then, since COVID, I have been involved in some that have the community. And it does make a huge difference. It does get you through and I feel like the communities and souls are getting better. Maybe that's because we've become more experienced, we've got people like you who can help us do it right. And it's it makes a lot of sense.
Starlight Mundy 5:31
I really, honestly, I mean, I love it. I've been in community building for over seven years. And it's been a part of the clients that I've helped for a long time. And so even pre pandemic, this was something that I was really passionate about and working in. But with the end, you know, like I don't want to orient the whole conversation around the pandemic, but it really was a milestone changing point for humanity as a whole lot of that was helping people remember how important human connection was. Because no matter where you were in the world, you had to either maintain distance, maintain space, or stay at home, right. And the natural need for humanity, our ability to survive since caveman days was because we could gather together in small groups where we had mutual interest in making sure that everybody was taken care of. that's where community started. It's been essential to humanity's evolution. It's why we're still alive on the planet today. And it's a core need as human beings, we need to have connections to other people. And the pandemic really made it clear that we needed to find ways to connect with people, even if that space had to be online. That's where we saw the emergence clubhouse, in its heyday was incredibly popular, because people just needed to be in contact with other people outside of their immediate circle or in their house as a remote worker. For me, online communities are a lifesaver. I live in a very, very small community in the Caribbean island and a completely different culture, and yet my business needs to thrive, I need to thrive, I need to feel like I have a place no matter where I am in the world. And online communities have made that possible for me. But in the mindset around how people connect, there has been a shift in understanding that like just creating a Facebook group isn't the same thing as building community. And what does that really mean? And how do you get people to connect and become indispensable to each other in an online space, the same way that we did back in the caveman days when we were sitting around a fire watching each other's backs through through the night
Susan Tatum 7:31
So what is the how would How would you describe the difference between a community and a Facebook group?
Starlight Mundy 7:35
Well, let's start by intention, right? The often, we're told that creating a Facebook group is valuable, especially if you have an online business, because it's another way of getting leads for your business. Often, that's the primary motivator for someone to take on all the effort to create a free Facebook group, you can tell that's what it's for, because no promotion, they want you to stay focused on the particular content creator who's created the community like they're the focus of the group, right? Then their programs, their work, a community is gathering around a specific value, outcome or transformation. It's something that everybody in that group holds in common. And while a free Facebook group might be everybody has a similar quality in common like we might all be coaches, or we might all be consultants, or we might all have businesses, that's not the same thing as a value as a vision as an outcome that we're all working towards. Right. And when you have a community, a community is also not something that's oriented around a single person, community that's really oriented around a single person has the danger of becoming a cult, right, we have to be like, that's the whole idea is that a community is about all of the members of that community, not just one or a few individuals. And so what I see a lot in Facebook groups is this desire to connect and grow their business. But what I see inside of communities often that are off of Facebook, there are a few that are on Facebook, it's really kind of a tool in making that an easy attainable thing for some businesses. But in these other groups where the focus is on a transformation or motivation behind a sim, a common vision or outcome, people are engaged and participating in a completely new way, they're getting results at a whole another level. And everybody's pulling the ship in the same direction, which is a markedly different experience where a free Facebook group is kind of like everybody in it for themselves, right to be a real binary with those two examples. But but those are often the easiest ones to think of.
Susan Tatum 9:39
The other problem with the Facebook group is that you have to go to Facebook to go to this group but I agree with you. They're all very different thing. They're two very different things. So when is the right time to start a community in knitting you talked about you work a lot with consultants and coaches and folks like that, right? So that's hardly how how would you know When you could start thinking about a community.
Starlight Mundy 10:03
So there's there's a lot of different sort of let people often confuse memberships with community. And so I also want to make that additional distinction that you can have a paid membership or an information subscription, you could be Netflix is kind of this, this idea of like a paid recurring revenue membership. But a community itself is really about helping people, a specific group of people go from stage A to stage B. Now, if you're an experienced service provider, you know what that journey looks like for your customers. If you're to the point in your business, where you've helped several clients to the point at which you're starting to develop a signature framework, then it would make sense that reaching more people and impacting more people with that signature framework in a group context would make it easier for you to grow your business reach more people, and you inevitably have a program that translates really nicely into a community experience where again, you're getting your people to go from stage A to stage B transformation. Right? So when I'm speaking to my clients who are considering communities, first question is making a distinction whether or not it's a recurring membership with information? Or is there is a transformational outcome that's being delivered, if there is a common message or vision that is desired to be put out into the world? And then it's really about how much reach and what is your audience size look like? And does that number of conversions on your email list in your audience? If you were to create a community, especially when you're just getting started? Is there enough size in that audience, that using regular industry conversion standards, you have a group that can sustain itself financially enough for you to feel like it's worth it, right, because that's part of some people get a community started? Well, before they're ready to drive that community forward. And it takes so much time and energy to build one, but they're not getting the revenue that they thought they would right out of the gate. That's just a recipe for burnout and resentment. So it's really about looking at like, what is it you're trying to put into the world? Do you have a process that you can validate gets results? Do you have a large enough audience that the conversion will mean that you have an audience that can pay you to sustain this community through its early growth stages? And then what does it look like to be a part of your community and the transformation that looks like and if you can hit those four key areas, then in my opinion, we're ready to start tackling your community design plan.
Susan Tatum 12:24
So in your experience, so I'm thinking about frameworks will so the lay the framework that I have has a starting point, and not necessarily an ending point, but your you get to point B, wherever you're headed, if you have a so does a community they run as a cohort? Or do they need to pick people are just coming in there at the same time? And somehow it all works out? I mean, a different time. Sorry
Starlight Mundy 12:45
yeah, no, I think it depends really on on the intent of the community in the transformation, there are things called like, back end memberships, where once you get through a course, you have access to a community where you have continued ongoing access to that leader and the other people in that group, what I like to look at is rather than the specifics of like, because that kind of very, your purpose for your community will be slightly different than other people's depending on whether you want to do education or cohort, or just create a movement as being an author behind a book, right? There's a lot of different types of communities. But what I can tell you is that in the human journey of transformation, there are common stages of transformation that occur. There's the investigation stage where I go, wow, I'll use a healthy example. I'm not feeling so great. I don't really know why this is I know that if I continue going like this, I'm going to be unhappy, let me start investigating, then they usually find some teacher leader mentor book, to help them make the choice to take action on that, that mentor, teacher leader book, whatever it may be, takes the first step with them in this cut in this human transformation journey to teach them the skills that they need. Once they begin learning those skills, the next step is to put those skills into action. And the human nature is that once I begin putting these new skills into action, I want to surround myself with like minded people who are doing the same thing. And that's where community comes in. So just in the context of like, the human journey of transformation, or the hero's journey, or whatever it may be these common stages of need emerged. And then we often see that once somebody begins to surround themselves with community, those changes that they're beginning to implement those skills that they've learned and are putting into practice, become no longer things that they're trying to do, but they become a part of themselves and they transform and they can't go back to who they were before without those skills. And then even the step after that is some people take it so far in that they want to be the messenger that brings back those skills and expertise to their people in their community in the world. Right. So that's where certifications and initiation and licensing your program and things like that come into place where somebody goes from and learning from you. I love what you're teaching me, I'm putting it into practice, it's become non negotiable and surrounding myself with like minded people. And now it's so deeply ingrained in me that I want to bring this same message back to my people, community has a really essential part in just the ability for someone to have a life changing transformation, which again, is really all about why I left the corporate space to begin with.
Susan Tatum 15:30
And then it becomes a wave, because of the people that have had this transformation are going to go out and help other people to at least be enlightened enough to want to find the transformation.
Starlight Mundy 15:38
Susan Tatum 15:39
Whatever it is
Starlight Mundy 15:39
it's a flywheel.
Susan Tatum 15:40
So you mentioned one mistake that people make when they when they go to start a community, and that is that they don't have a critical mass, a network or followers or whatever it is, in order to get enough people in the community. Is there a is there a number that you need to have? That's enough people to be interacting to be part of it?
Starlight Mundy 16:03
Well, let's reverse engineer that question. So that the answer to the question of how many people do I need to have in my community to make it worth it as a few factors that we all want to figure out? One, how much money do you need to make in order for this to be worth your time and effort, that's a really core baseline, that gives us an idea of what sort of price point we want our community to be at. Another problem that people often jump into when they're creating a community is that they really want to like, they really want to demonstrate that the value is worth it, because they've done the recurring revenue math, and they're like, oh, man, this could be amazing. But I really want to make sure people are getting value. So they go too hard with what they deliver in promise and content. And they start the price too low, because they really want people to feel like they're getting their money's worth. And so then they have a community that has small, small revenue and high effort. And they didn't really realize how many people it would take for them to hit the revenue that would make them feel like it's worth it. Those are the sorts of factors that can play into what are you pricing it at? And how many people do you want. The other thing that we can pile on top of that is some statistics, I know that less than 1% of my social following will convert to a sale, that's really irrelevant when it comes to not having an email list or thinking, Oh, I've got a giant audience, I'll just sell them on my community. Well, that's a whole other marketing barrel of fish to convert someone from a following into a community versus a 3% industry conversion in your email list. If you've got an email list, now you have a captive audience, they're three times more likely to convert. So now you can look at your email list and go Well, if I only have 100 people, and I only do mediocre in my community launch, then I'm only getting three people is three people at this price point enough for me to make this community worth it probably not, is 300 inside of a 3000 person list, looking at 10% or even 30. Like now we're starting to get momentum going. Right? Yeah, the thing is, is a lot of people might mistake a free Facebook group as the same thing as a highly engaged email list. And it just isn't statistically these people are freebie seekers. And it's real easy for somebody to join a facebook group and have zero contribution to it. And unity requires contribution from the people involved. So there's there's a lot of little factors that kind of play into success. But my first metric is to go, How much money do you have to make for this to be worth your time and energy? Because it's hard work to start a community? Second, can your email list support that number? And is the price point and promise that you're delivering inside of your community? Able to get you to that number in combination with how many people you would make it feel like it's worth it to do?
Susan Tatum 18:50
So I know that the answer to my question is going to going to be it depends. But I'm gonna ask it any way. What kind of commitment does somebody do does does a consultant or a coach need to be willing to make in terms of money and in terms of time to make a community work? Because it seems to me like there's an awful lot of work that goes into that.
Starlight Mundy 19:14
There's there's an awful lot of work upfront, I would say in a timeline of a community that has a never ending time in the future, where if we can just say, I love people, I want to be surrounded by my clients. I want to be surrounded by people that fulfill me I want to be surrounded by people who carry the same torch that I carry, then we can say conceivably your community could go on for a long time. Right? But in the context of getting it started. It's like throwing a house party. I use this metaphor quite a lot. A house party in the moment when it's happening is absolutely delightful. People are connecting. There's great music there drinking and we're driving. It's great and we love it. But if you're the hostess of a party, you know how much work you had to do to get the party to that stage, you had to clean the house, you had to prep the appetizers, you had to pick a playlist, you had to invest in some alcohol so that you got everybody jaming and you got to pay the band, you'd have to do all these things. And that initial stage can be made softer and easier. When, as a consultant or, or a coach, I don't try and just throw my party to everybody in my network. But I start the party in a smaller fashion. A lot of people will call this a founding launch a founding membership launched. But that founding launch isn't like, Oh, let me just find 20 people to sign up on my list, or to sign up to my new community. It's about who are the 20 people that I could invite to the party early, who will help me get it built. And so that when the strangers who I don't really know start to show up to the party, because they were on the Facebook invite or whatever, continuing with this metaphor, that when they open the door, the parties pop in, and it's a great place to be. And I as the hostess don't have to do all the connecting work, all of the high welcome and entertain every single person individually. And so the strategy to making it easy is actually collaborating with your inner circle of VIPs, or customers who already love you, who already will buy anything that you put out into the world. And if you can get them on board, then you can get really valuable feedback. You can be flexible with how your community first get started, because you're getting feedback from your VIPs. By the time you open the door to quote unquote, the public, your party is poppin. And everybody wants to be there and they pop in and go, Wow, this feels so easy. I know right? Where to put my coat, I know where my drink is. I've made friends with Jessica and Jeff already. And I'm out by the pool, having a marvelous time. But that experience requires preparation and work in a way that only only real great hostesses know what it means to do.
Susan Tatum 21:50
I'm exhausted listening to you talk.
Starlight Mundy 21:55
Oh, well, you know, that's why they pay me the big bucks baby.
Susan Tatum 22:00
Well, so you use the number 20? Is that a is there? I mean, because psychologically, I guess or whatever the right word is, I'm sure there's some science behind how many people get together to make it flow well.
Starlight Mundy 22:13
yeah, I can't tell you what that is right off the top of my head in the context of like, what number makes makes momentum easy. But when I'm speaking with my clients, and helping them through the process of launching their first community, I often have them shoot for the goal of getting 20 members for their founding launch, that opens well before four to six weeks, before they throw the doors open to everyone that gives them time to get everything started. But the other thing is, is if you can't sell your idea and your big vision to an inner circle of customers who already love and buy everything that you have, then you validated that your community hasn't quite landed on the thing that's really going to catch fire, and bring everybody together in that environment. And so a founding membership also keeps you from going full hog on getting too over invested in creating a bunch of content and a course program and monthly, oh my God, and I gotta hire a manager and like all the things that can really quickly inundate a community. Whereas if you can get 20 people to sign on, and I also suggest this, although some, I think some people may disagree. But I think that founding members sign on and commit for a year, they paid for a year upfront, because that a low ticket membership that's like 200, to 250 300 $400, right. And if they're your inner circle of VIPs, that's kind of a slam dunk sale for them to have access to for a year in some form or fashion. Like that's an easy sell. So if you can sell 20 $300 one year commitment to this vision that you've built, now you have enough money to actually pay for the platform, help somebody help you launch it, get some of this momentum happening and fund the party in a much easier fashion, it actually creates a significant amount of momentum in the community building part, financially, energetically connection, vision, all of that gets swept up in those first 20 people.
Susan Tatum 24:12
So the once you have your 20 members and you've got it started, then it is it sort of you're marketing the community to other people, you're gonna have to
Starlight Mundy 24:21
that's a great question. So, early community builders have this problem where their community needs to continue to grow. Because there's a community attrition rates, like people will quit their subscription or you know, their life will change and they don't want to continue. And so there is this momentum that needs to be continually moving the ball forward and continuing to get new members. When you're first starting a community. It's so much work to get the energy of the community going when it first starts, that splitting your attention between constantly trying to market and generate a false sense of urgency to get people into your community, while also serving those People in a deep and profound way that creates a momentum that actually moves that community into its own growing organism in the future. There's too much work for most solopreneurs and online business folks. And I've also found and I had to learn this the hard way that trying to market your membership every month is slow going. But I had a client who had, I think she had had a series of people join and in the first year, eventually racked up about 100 150 members. And it was 150 155 130 150 130 by 150. And every month, we're trying to get like three four new members and doing all this marketing effort. And people are jumping in and out of the community like a trampoline. And when we closed, and this isn't applicable for all communities, for example, if you serve women who are pregnant, you kind of need to be available on their schedule. But if your community is under 500 people, I highly suggest closing the doors to your membership, and running cohort launches, where there's a waitlist while the doors are closed, you don't have to focus on growing your community, you get to focus on serving your community. And now two, three times a year, you shift that focus into marketing hardcore for a month, converting those people into new members driving the new folks who are on your waitlist into that community. And the minute that I've seen my clients do that, this particular example, she had 150 150 150, I convinced her it took me six months to convince her to close the doors, right? Because I wanted to be available for everybody all the time I get it. But I convinced her to close the doors and add her next launch. We brought in 150 members three months later, the math just, it doesn't lie. Now it's tougher to do. But just in knowing if you want to keep your doors open all the time, you know that you have to have a marketing engine in place, which is a time money or skill investment that needs to be running simultaneously to your investment into your community. But as a solopreneur it's easier to do one thing at a time.
Susan Tatum 27:11
Yeah, the running continuously like that sounds like an almost a separate business. You're running it's community.
Starlight Mundy 27:16
Yeah, absolutely. In a lot of ways it is once you get your community. The cool thing about a community that was once you get to a certain point, the community mo momentum takes on a life of itself. You've kind of got your established process yourself content, you've people are in the vibe, you have automated your onboarding system, you've automated people's jumping in and getting connected really quickly. And you made the process of joining and stay in the community as automated and hands off as possible. Now you're at the stage at which running ads creating an evergreen access to your community is a lot easier because you don't have to velvet glove everybody into your community. As the hostess of the party, right, the hostess of the party needs to meet people at the door and welcome them in. But once you get to the stage of being a rave, a rave has the security and the bouncers and the wristbands and people just pipe in and you know, the party is poppin. Right? So there's that same metaphor.
Susan Tatum 28:16
Well, this all is really interesting and extremely enlightning and I could keep you here for three hours.
Starlight Mundy 28:24
And I could talk about this all day. I love it. I love it. I love it.
Susan Tatum 28:26
Well, I know there gonna be people that will want to follow up with you. What is the best way for them to do that?
Starlight Mundy 28:33
Absolutely. So my company's name is Bottled Lightning, you can go to bottledlightning.co. I am bottled lightning I'm just about every social media platform. And I don't know if this if this is something that is interesting to you, and you want to start thinking about planning your community. I have like a crazy simple one page community planner that really answers all the core questions that make your community a cohesive idea. And you can nab that on my website at bottledlightning.co.
Susan Tatum 29:02
Okay, we'll put the put that in the show notes for folks.
Starlight Mundy 29:06
Susan Tatum 29:07
Well, thank you so much for being here. It's I knew communities were going to be extremely complex things to do. And you've confirmed that but you've also put some sense to it. So thank you.
Starlight Mundy 29:20
I think it's complex, but it's complex because we're human beings. And it requires us to be deeply in touch with the parts of us that make us human that seek connection, that are vulnerable, emotionally connected. And that's not something that we're particularly accustomed to as the like leaders or coaches of an online business where people are sort of coming to us for guidance. It's definitely a shift in the dynamic, but the more that you can lean into your humanity, the more that you can lean into that desire for human connection and facilitating and making that easier for the people that you love and care about the most. The rest is just bells and whistles and technology and sales funnels. isn't all the regular stuff that goes in marketing any any old thing we're doing right and and at these days,
Susan Tatum 30:04
but the more and more digital we get, I think the more the human aspect of it, the more important that becomes.
Starlight Mundy 30:12
Susan Tatum 30:13
and I would certainly expect to see these communities growing in in popularity and size and participation. So well thank you again and enjoy your day in the Caribbean.
Starlight Mundy 30:24
Thank you so much, Susan. It was a delight to be here.
Susan Tatum 30:26
We'll talk again soon.
Starlight Mundy 30:27