How marketing maven Trish Martin tripled her community in five months
Featured in this Story of Awesome: Chromatical Club
Launched January 2020
The Chromatical Club is a paid membership site that helps creative small business owners boost their marketing skills and build stand-out brands.
The Spark: After suffering burnout, Trish Martin started thinking about how she could reach more people without sacrificing her health.
Trish’s Mighty Moment: “You can mull over how to build a perfect community, but it’s a work in progress. You have to be willing to learn, to tinker with things, and to adjust.”
Trish Martin was getting burned out.
With her business Chromatical, the Melbourne, Australia-based marketing expert had been offering one-on-one coaching to creative small business owners. But it was starting to wear her out. She was struggling with chronic fatigue. And it was getting to the point where she could only see one client per day:
“It was getting really bad for my health. I was ruining myself every day. It wasn’t scalable, and I knew that something needed to change.”
Working alongside her business coach, Trish went through a number of different ideas for how she could reach more people without sacrificing her health. She mentioned to her business coach that she had always thought about creating a membership, and the two started working together to explore the idea.
After spending months researching memberships and best practices, Trish decided that she wanted her new venture to be community-based:
“I wanted people to have a place where they could come in and access help, support, and an amazing community of people any time they needed. And I wanted to make sure that by coming in, my people could get support not just from me, but from so many other different people from different walks of life.”
She tried out a couple of platforms, but before long she found exactly what she was looking for: Mighty Networks. With a Mighty Network, Trish could build a community that prioritized conversations and connections. And she could do it without investing a bunch of her money in upfront:
“The beauty of Mighty Networks is you can just log in, set it up, and offer it to people. It’s amazing. I thought, 'What can I lose?' And I just went for it.”
With that, Trish took a leap of faith. And the Chromatical Club was born.
Starting small… and experimenting all the while
Since Trish had been offering coaching under Chromatical, she already had a good idea about the kinds of members she wanted to bring into the Chromatical Club: creative business owners who were as colorful as Trish:
“‘Creative small businesses’ doesn’t necessarily mean just artists. I also wanted copywriters, photographers, coaches, marketers, even accountants. People who do things differently, who all have some kind of creative energy within them.”
She started planning a beta launch for an initial set of members, inviting a broad range of creatives: people she already knew, people with similar values, and people who cared about others’ growth and success the way she did. She decided to promise those beta members a lifetime free membership. That way, she could learn from them, get their feedback, and use their observations to improve the Chromatical Club community.
She encouraged her beta members to engage with each other and reach out to her with any suggestions or observations. At the same time, Trish created a waitlist and prepped a limited launch for a second group—her “founding members”—and offered them access to her membership at a discounted rate:
“It was my way of scaling towards launching to a larger audience. I tried things out with my beta members, then I invited the founding members in. And I still marketed it with the objective that if you join at this rate, I really need you to help me make this membership amazing, and be a part of its foundations, and make it your home.”
From there, she experimented with what worked best for her growing community. She created a detailed survey and used the results to add new features and take others away. As she tweaked her offerings and prepared to launch to a larger audience, Trish wrote all of her early members a letter. In it, she laid out what they could expect from the Chromatical Club in the future, and what she wanted to achieve:
“I wanted to set up some expectations before launching. So I wrote a big document, and I sent it out to my beta and founding members, letting them know that my goal was for people to come in here and feel safe, feel like they can ask vulnerable questions and not be judged. It was important for me to lay that foundation.”
Then, it was time for her main launch.
Launching in full color
Trish’s next step was to launch to a bigger audience, which she did in January. She relied heavily on her Instagram, where she had a built-in following who already trusted her approach and insight:
“There were some people who joined because they followed me. So they already knew that I really want to help them, I really want them to succeed. And I have this really strong, happy, positive energy that is very genuine and real. I’m not your typical marketer, and people really respond to that.”
But once she launched to a larger audience, things were slow to start:
“People joined and it was awesome. But once I got up to 70 people, it just stopped growing. And it sat there for about two months. I thought, ‘Oh, I’m a marketer. And I’ve tried everything.’ But I was still stumped.”
A few months in, Trish also started thinking about how to make her community more self-sustaining. She was rapidly approaching her third trimester of pregnancy with her first child, and trying to make plans for the future:
“I couldn’t keep doing constant marketing, trying to get people into my club 24/7. I had to strip back and work that out.”
She came up with a brilliant idea that would solve both of her problems: She would close the doors to the Chromatical Club. That way, she could focus on the people inside of the club, instead of trying to recruit new people. Plus, by making the club a little more inaccessible, people that were previously on the fence would have more incentive to join up.
At the beginning of May, she announced that the doors would close on May 31. Immediately, her member number started growing:
“Everyone was posting, ‘I’ve been meaning to do this for ages! I’ve been wanting to do this for so long!’ It was kind of a kick in the bum for those people. And it was mostly followers who just hadn’t been pushed hard enough, or just didn’t have a 'why.' Once I gave people the 'why,' they came and they committed.”
“I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier”
Today, the Chromatical Club has over 220 members. And each of them is supremely grateful for what Trish is offering:
“Everyone is so glad they got the nudge. They didn’t expect the amount of help or resources that they’re getting, and they’re like, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier!’ It’s the best feeling.”
Trish has an impressively streamlined onboarding process. When new members join, she automatically sends them an email through MailChimp to help them navigate the club. She also sends them a personal email, follows them on Instagram, and connects them with other people in the club that they may have common interests with:
“When I first started, I’d reach out to new members, and they would say, ‘I don’t know where to start.’ So I created a clear guide that answered those basic questions: ‘How do I use this? Where do I go?’ And it puts people at ease when it comes to putting themselves out there. Especially when they feel lost or don’t know where to go.”
Trish also gives guides to people looking for a way to introduce themselves to the rest of the community:
“Rather than say, ‘Hey, you could ask a question,’ I’ve written examples of specific questions that people can ask. I tell them they can get personal. They can ask business questions.”
Once those members are in, they get to take advantage of the Chromatical Club’s single-tiered membership, priced at $19.99 per month (approximately $30 Australian Dollars). With that, they get exclusive access to:
- Biweekly Challenges. Trish gives her members action-oriented tasks fortnightly. In a recent challenge, she gave members tips on improving their bios, and invited them to post those bios—before they made the changes, and after they took Trish’s suggestions.
- Biweekly Question of the Weeks. Trish kickstarts conversations with her Question of the Week feature, where people come in and share their opinions or thoughts on marketing-related topics.
- Resources. Here, Trish shares exclusive blogs and videos to help her members understand new (and old) marketing trends.
- Live Q&As and interviews. Every couple of weeks, Trish will post a video with a deep dive into a core marketing concept—like Instagram’s algorithm—or she’ll host a live interview with an expert in the field.
In addition to the above, Trish also relies heavily on Topics to start conversations. The “Happy Wins” Topic lets people share their successes. The “What’s Happening in Your World” Topic lets members promote their businesses, share what they’re working on, or just post pictures of what their pets are up to:
“I got feedback that people wanted to talk about what they were doing and that they wanted to connect to each other over real things. They wanted a place where they could promote themselves without just filling up the main feed with spam about their own businesses. And everyone has really been responding to it.”
So far, so good: Trish’s members are so passionate about their community that they’ve named themselves The Chromies:
“They made it up by themselves! They feel a real sense of belonging. And they tell everyone about it because they’re a part of something that’s big, valuable, and fun. They just love it so much.”
A work in progress
What’s next for Trish? Her community is so valuable it nearly runs itself (which will definitely come in handy once she welcomes her little one). In the future, she’s hoping to open her membership once or twice a year to maintain its exclusivity. She’s also experimenting with the Group feature to create Teams for people who are interested in learning more about each others’ skills, away from the main feed:
“One Team—Jewelry and Accessory Makers—has 53 members, and it’s a combination of jewelry makers, and people who might want to work with jewelry makers, or learn more about what they do. They can privately talk about their processes, about what they do, and form stronger bonds with each other on their own. And I make it quite clear that this is their own space, that I’m not going to come in here and comment on people’s things. It’s much more independent.”
In the meantime, Trish is still prioritizing her members: their feedback, their ideas, and tooling the community so that it works for them:
“You can mull over how to build a perfect community, but it’s a work in progress. You have to take the leap, get in there, and hear what people’s opinions and thoughts really are. You have to be willing to learn, to tinker with things, and to adjust.
I thought the Chromatical Club was going to be one thing, based on what I thought my members wanted. But now it’s something else. There’s a lot more in there now that helps people, because that’s what they actually want. And the community is better for it.”
3 key takeaways from Chromatical Club’s Story of Awesome
- Guide your members to where you want them to go. Trish’s onboarding materials ensure that new members know A. how to navigate the Chromatical Club, and B. where to get started. It’s an easy way to introduce new members into your community, put them at ease, and point them in the right direction to start reaping value from their membership.
- Exclusivity works. Members want to feel like they’re part of something special. And it shows: When Trish closed her membership, it gave prospective members the incentive to join the group before it was too late.
- Member feedback and experimenting go hand in hand. Trish has relied heavily on her members’ ideas and feedback to experiment with the structure of the Chromatical Club. And that’s enabled her to create a really high-value experience. Listen to your members, and don’t be afraid to try new things.