Ever wonder if you could make real money teaching online classes? Do you feel like you’ve got something to share but don’t know where to start?
I’m interviewing Cynthia Samanian from Hidden Rhythm. Cynthia teaches culinary professionals how to teach online cooking classes, but her strategies work for any niche.
She breaks down her framework into four key components — how to zero in on your expertise, how to engage with your target audience, how to sell to them, and ultimately how to teaching them.
If you’ve ever thought teaching online classes could be a new and lucrative income stream for you, don’t miss this episode!
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Welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Blogger Genius Podcast. I’m your host, Jillian Leslie. I am a serial entrepreneur founder of Catch My Party and MiloTree.
I’m a business coach, and a business translator. I take what is working in online business, break it down so you can use this your self.
Before I get started, I want to announce that we are launching our newest product called MiloTree Easy Payments. And this is for those of you who want to set up a membership or subscription business and you can do it in a snap.
All you do is take one of our pre-designed sales pages, put it on your blog, and it’s got a money button on it where people can sign up or that money button is also a link. And you can just give it to people to your customers to sign up.
Here’s the beauty part, post your membership wherever you’d like. MiloTree Easy Payments integrates with all major email service providers. So, you have those people’s email addresses.
You can host your membership in a private Facebook group just through email, you could make a private podcast, you could do it on your blog. You do not have to learn another complicated platform. And those platforms are really expensive.
Our goal is easy, you can manage your entire business in our dashboard. So, if this resonates with you. You want to learn more; you want to be one of our beta testers. Please head to milotree.com/betatester and I will reach out directly to you.
Again milotree.com/betatester. And as you can tell, I’m really excited about launching this because this could be a fantastic way for you to make money.
For today’s episode, I have Cynthia Samanian on the show. She is the founder and CEO of Hidden Rhythm. And what she does is she helps culinary professionals teach online cooking classes. You can tell this business came out of the pandemic.
But if you are thinking of teaching something live to an audience and making money. This is the episode for you. Cynthia shares her whole framework. I hope this episode gets your wheels turning.
So, without further delay, here is my interview with Cynthia Samanian. Cynthia, welcome to the show.
Cynthia Samanian 2:56
Thank you so much for having me, Jillian.
Jillian Leslie 2:58
I was saying before I press record that all I know about you is what I have read on your website and the little bit of talking we’ve done about having daughters.
So, I want to ask you about your entrepreneurial journey and how you built your company and where you are today and how COVID fit into all this?
Cynthia Samanian 3:18
Absolutely, COVID played a very big role in it. But I’ll take you back a little bit. I actually worked in a few different traditional jobs. So, while I’m in the culinary world now, I didn’t go to culinary school. I’m not a chef. But I always had a passion for food.
Growing Up With a Love of Food
One thing to know about me is I grew up in a Persian family, my parents were immigrants here in the US. And so, for us food is a huge part of our culture. And growing up, I was always the one setting the table for these dinner parties.
And of course, when you’re 8, 9, 10 years old, you’re not thinking about it like, “Oh, one day this will come in handy.” You’re just resenting the fact that you’re having to do this.
But long story short, really, that ingrained this nature of hospitality in me. And recognizing the importance of food and connecting our family to others who had no idea what Persian culture and the country of Iran were all about.
So, it’s hard for me to skip that part because that is such a core fundamental piece of what I do today, which I’ll dive into. I went to college, studied finance, worked in finance, worked in tech.
Like you, I have my MBA, really followed those traditional path, those traditional jobs and knowing though that food was always that one thing that I kept wanting to work in. I’m the type of person I’m sure your listeners can relate to this.
I love to be immersed in my work. There is no black and white. It’s just one big gray area for me. So, I knew that for me to be fulfilled in my career I needed to be in a space that I truly cared about and excited me and that that was food.
So, eventually, I left tech in 2015. Left that all behind to start my entrepreneurial journey. And you know, it was a windy path. But ultimately I started hitting rhythm, which is my culinary marketing agency that I run today.
Jillian Leslie 5:23
What is a culinary marketing agent?
Starting a Culinary Marketing Agency
Cynthia Samanian 5:28
So, what I do is I help food businesses of all sizes. So, brands like Bob’s Red Mill to chef entrepreneurs, I help them create great experiences for their audiences. Now, before COVID, I did a lot of that through in person experiences.
So, working with brands on pop up events, really immersive, engaging events that would help them connect with their target audience. Well, with COVID, coming into the picture in 2020, nearly all of my events were completely wiped out.
And I had to reinvent my business and think about who I really wanted to serve, and how I could help them through what I had learned with digital marketing, my entrepreneurial journey, and so on.
So, I did make that pivot in 2020. It was a really interesting one to say the least and haven’t looked back.
Jillian Leslie 6:22
So, mostly you were working with brands, how about restaurants? How about celebrity chefs, those people?
Cynthia Samanian 6:30
Primarily brands and influencers. So, I worked a lot with food bloggers and content creators who were seeking to work with brands. So, there’s this relationship that I’m sure you and your listeners know, very, very intimately.
And so, for example, when a company would hire me to help them create this pop-up experience, one example is, I worked with Bear snacks, and we built an indoor apple orchard, a block off of Venice Beach in September.
And it was this immersive indoor experience that helped bring the season of fall to the beaches of LA. Well, part of that experience involved workshops. And so, I did a lot of outreach with content creators and bloggers in the food space.
So, they could come in teach workshops, get paid of course, and help really build, their brand, but also the relationship with the sponsoring brand. So, I did a lot of that not so much restaurants, and celebrity chefs.
It was really focused on the natural food and wellness space. So, most of the brands that you see on the shelves at Whole Foods,
Jillian Leslie 7:38
So, COVID hits while your events go away, and what do you think? Oh, no.
Cynthia Samanian 7:45
And, of course, 2020 was going to be my biggest year yet, I had really hit my stride in my business, it takes a few years, to get the ball rolling. And I was in that place, Jillian, where I was like, this is going to be the year.
And then COVID hit and I was getting phone call after phone call from my clients who had events lined up for the summer and the fall. And they were asking for their deposit checks back.
And we’re talking $20,000 deposit checks that I was counting on to pay the bills. Not to mention, I was six months pregnant at the time with my first daughter. And so, it was a really stressful time, very stressful.
We didn’t really know, of course, how long this would last. But the one thing that I can say and what I am so grateful for is that I had always in my head, known that I wanted to build an online business.
And I had taken courses, I had invested money and time for years leading up to that moment in 2020 for the day that I would be ready to do it. We always have that idea that one day, I’ll launch that online program.
And I was planning to do it in September of that year. Well, of course, after having a baby and being on maternity leave, I thought, “Oh yeah, I’ll definitely get an online course out the door.” Which looking back that was crazy to think.
Pre-Selling Your Course Before Creating It
So, with my pipeline gone for the rest of the year, events basically, on hold indefinitely. I decided now was the time to hunker down, and I pre-sold my course. So, I put it out there. Before I had created it I had a concept.
And eventually it became what is now Cooking Class Business School, which is my signature program that provides content and coaching to culinary pros who want to grow their online culinary business.
So, that includes chefs, food bloggers, cookbook writers. We have such a diverse group of professionals who want to teach online and I’m helping them do that.
Jillian Leslie 9:47
Awesome. So, I love that you identify who your ideal customer is. So, let’s say I’m a food blogger, and I’m working with sponsors and I’m creating recipes and I’m doing those things I’m trying to grow my audience. I’m monetizing via display ads.
And I think there’s something more. In fact, we have a coaching group and somebody in the coaching group, we have a variety of different verticals, niches represented. And one of our coaches, is a food blogger.
And she has said, “I want to start teaching, cooking.” Now that there’s zoom, and we all kind of get zoom, what do I do? Explain how this whole thing works?
Cynthia Samanian 10:31
So, online cooking classes had existed before COVID. But of course, with COVID, what we’ve seen not only in the food industry, but across healthcare and education, is that people were basically forced in a way to experiment with things online that they normally would have dismissed.
So, the market, of course, grew very quickly in 2020. But even as things start to open up as we move out of COVID. What’s really interesting is that the fundamentals haven’t changed.
Why Food Bloggers Should Consider Teaching Online
There are so many reasons why a food blogger should consider teaching online. One of the things is that they can reach anyone in the world with their content. A lot of the people who come into my program have taught in person, whether they’ve done events locally.
I know food bloggers who will do workshops in their hometown, and that’s great. But think about the reach you have when you truly can go online and anyone in the world, anyone can take your class. So, that to me is just so impressive.
And one of the other benefits too, is that you can even move into other audiences, for example, corporate classes are a huge business right now.
Jillian Leslie 11:50
I never thought of that. Okay.
Cynthia Samanian 11:52
Yes, that’s where we’re seeing a lot of students in my program, get that quick cash injection, because if you think about it, companies have had remote workforces for years, this isn’t just a COVID trend. But of course, it was accelerated with the pandemic.
People Are Looking for Online Experiences
And these teams are looking for experiences that bring them together. So, especially if you have a niche that is really interesting and unique, whether it’s having a sushi making or Peruvian cuisine.
The more unique, the more interested, a lot of these companies are in using your class as a medium to bring their teams together.
And the great thing about corporate events is that you sell one person, that decision-maker, and you can get 20, 30, even more people at that class.
And some companies have budgets of upwards of $100 per person per quarter. So, that can be really lucrative.
Pivoting to Online Experiences
Jillian Leslie 12:50
In fact, our first site that we started is called Catch My Party. And we still run it and it’s still growing and all of that and what we did for us in the pandemic as well, it was like, we went, “Oh, no, there go parties.” That’s our bread and butter.
We watched our traffic dropped 60% in a week. And I was freaking out. My husband is my partner. He’s mellower than I am, but I was going, “Oh my God, we’re going be out of business.”
And then what we started doing was pivoting to how can people throw parties virtually, what are ideas?
And so, we scoured the internet, we found all these cool things like have a sommelier come in with your girlfriends on a Zoom call and do like a wine tasting or do some sort of experience like what you’re talking about.
And by the way, those blog posts blew up, people were like, “Hey, I hadn’t thought about this idea.” So, it’s like now, I feel like people understand that you can have an experience online, and it can be really rich.
Cynthia Samanian 13:57
Absolutely. And one of the other use cases is, thinking about families who are distanced. If you have a college student who’s studying abroad, or if you have a group of friends, and life has just led you to live in different cities.
This is just how things happen in life. We would have never thought before, I think, oh, let’s grab our girlfriends together and do an online cooking class as a fun way to gather. Yeah, we’ll still take that trip together, maybe one day.
This has opened up a whole new set of use cases, that before the pandemic existed, but I don’t think people really thought of online cooking classes as an option.
Jillian Leslie 14:39
And I have to say, just even beyond that, like, some of the ideas that we were promoting is have somebody come in and do a meditation session or do crafting or whatever. You can take what you’re teaching and expand it out because anything that people would want to learn now they can.
Cynthia Samanian 14:57
Jillian Leslie 14:58
So, let’s talk about I’m a food blogger. And I say, “Cynthia, I want to teach online.” So, let’s assume that I don’t have a huge community. I don’t have a ton of followers on Instagram. But I’m really passionate about, let’s say something specific.
Okay, let’s say sushi, because I love sushi. And that makes me hungry. So, let’s say I can create really cool sushi, and I want to teach that to people. What do I do? Tell me, how do I even think about starting this?
Cynthia Samanian 15:32
I’m so glad you asked this question. Because when I think about online cooking classes, I teach how to build a profitable online cooking class of business, not just how to go and teach online.
And that’s the distinction that I think is really important, because to that person, they could do a Google search and figure out what camera to buy, hop on Zoom, create a graphic on Canva, and throw it out there for their audience.
And that’s what I see a lot of people doing. Now, if you actually want it to be a real business, which I’m sure your listeners are of the mindset like, yes, let’s make this something that’s profitable and real. You have to approach it differently.
How to Create an Online Marketing Strategy
And what I do tell my students is that your online cooking class business needs an online marketing strategy. A lot of them come from the brick and mortar world.
So, they think that they can just do what worked to promote their local classes. But the online space is so different.
So, what I recommend is actually a four step framework. And that’s what I walk my students through, and I’ll just at a high level, explain it to you. So, the first thing that they need to do is zero in on a niche and their offer.
So, you are already ahead of the game Jillian, because you know that you want to teach how to make sushi, which is a great niche. It’s one that corporate clients are always asking for.
And I think people in general love the novelty of learning how to make something like sushi. But you’ve got to know your niche. And this is a huge challenge for people who are used to being a generalist in the kitchen and love doing it all.
So, this is the foundation of really understanding your niche, but also understanding your unique brand story. So, what makes your sushi class different than someone else’s?
Why Bloggers Love MiloTree
Jillian Leslie 17:22
Nicole, what do you think of MiloTree?
Nicole Carr 17:26
I absolutely love the Milotree app, I think it’s really cool. It was so easy to install for me. For someone who’s not a tech person it was click, copy, paste, boom, and it was on my WordPress blog, I have it set up for Pinterest.
But you could use it for email, signups or Instagram, it’s a great way to build your audience really inexpensively. And under $10 a month, I set it and forget it. And I just see Pinterest followers growing.
So, people that I’m sending from Pinterest to my site are then becoming followers and seeing more of my content. So, it’s a great way to take something that you’re already driving traffic to and to build social followings your email list
Jillian Leslie 18:04
That was Nicole Carr, from take it from Nicole, I always love hearing from our happy customers. And remember, MiloTree will never slow down your site.
Treat your Online Class Like An Experience
Cynthia Samanian 18:19
Your cooking class isn’t a commodity; it is an experience. And so much of that is tied to you as a person, the stories you tell, your sense of humor, your ability to entertain. So, you’ve got to really hone in on that.
And I think so many people skip that and just move straight to the transactional details. Like how much should I charge? What should I teach and what time should I have the class?
But that first step is so crucial in standing out especially in this crowded space that we’re seeing online cooking classes become.
Jillian Leslie 18:49
Cynthia Samanian 18:54
The first one.
Jillian Leslie 18:54
First one. Okay, zero in on your acronym story.
Strategy to Setting Up an Online Class
Cynthia Samanian 19:00
Exactly. I like a good acronym. So, I’ll just give you the acronym up front. It’s ZEST. Like, Z-E-S-T. So, “zero in.” The second is “engage.” So, what you want to do is spend some time to engage with your audience. Rather than rushing to the sale.
Rather than just posting everywhere, buy my class, sign up, register. Throwing discounts, because you are scared, no one’s going to sign up. Another step I see a lot of people miss is the actual investment in building a relationship with your audience.
I talk a lot about this concept of know, like and trust. People need to know who you are, like what you offer, and then they’ll eventually trust you enough to buy. And so, we can’t just rush to, like a relationship. We can’t rush to marriage.
Jillian Leslie 19:49
Cynthia Samanian 19:51
So, there are ways to do that.
Jillian Leslie 19:54
And what are your best strategies? Because again, let’s say I don’t have a big audience. Let’s say I haven’t been building my list and cultivating like going live on Facebook or whatever. How do I attract those people who want to make sushi with me?
Cynthia Samanian 20:11
I love that you asked that. Because, sure, if you have a huge audience on Instagram, it will be easier for you. But we’re not all there. And some of the most talented people haven’t spent the time to build an audience. And that’s totally fine.
So, you do though have to get serious about building your email list. I’m a firm believer in that I do believe it’s important. I believe in using something like a freebie or lead magnet to attract people give them a taste of what you offer.
But once again, it has to be related to your niche. Because it’s not about quantity. You don’t want as many downloads as possible for your freebie you want the right people to sign up. The people who are so excited to learn how to make sushi.
I also talk a lot about in my program, how to work with partners. I think when you’re small, and you don’t have a big audience, you have to be scrappy, and leverage partners, whether it’s other culinary instructors who have a related niche.
We’ve seen great success with culinary professionals working with non-profit organizations, especially in this last year. So, there are a lot of things that you can do to piggyback off of existing audiences that potential partners have built and so that’s ‘E’ engage.
How to Sell Your Online Classes
And then the next step is “sell,” which is actually converting your audience into students. And this is a little bit more tactical, because if you’ve done your work on zeroing in and engaging your audience, then the selling piece becomes easier.
People know who you are, what you’re about and the value you provide. So, this is more about how to set up your sales page what platforms to use, like the real tech nitty gritty of it, because that is where a lot of people can get hung up.
Jillian Leslie 21:59
So, first of all, let’s say though, how do I get my freebie out there. People say make a freebie and then you’ll get email signups. And it’s not that easy. So, what is your thought? I love your partnering idea.
But let’s say like, okay, I don’t have any friends who do what I do. Or maybe they’re in the same boat, I am, how do I get that stuff out in front of people? Do I pay?
Cynthia Samanian 22:22
You can, you can run Facebook ads, if you’d like. That’s one strategy. I don’t recommend it in the beginning. Because really, you are still trying to figure out what your audience wants.
So, if you start throwing money at it, maybe by running Facebook ads for your freebie, you could be attracting the wrong people. Or you could be using the wrong messaging. And at the end of the day, I feel like it’s going to be a very frustrating experience.
Jillian Leslie 22:48
And possibly it’s very expensive.
Cynthia Samanian 22:51
Very expensive. And so, I do have students who are like great, my freebies done. Let me do the Facebook ads piece now. And I’m like, no, no, no, no, do we know that this is what your audience wants?
So, in the beginning, it is slow. I will say it is slow. But what I do tell my students to do is talk about your freebie, more than you think you need to. This idea of being a broken record. If you feel like you’re a broken record, you’re doing it right.
Jillian Leslie 23:20
I like that.
Cynthia Samanian 23:21
We think people hear and read everything we put out there. But the truth is they don’t. I talk about Cooking Class Business School all the time on social and I still have people who asked me, “What is your program? You have a program?”
Jillian Leslie 23:34
I completely agree. And here’s my tip that I teach our students. If you are sending emails, and yes, you want to provide value, however, your solution, your paid solution is providing value.
It’s not like I provide all this value and then at the end in a PS, I mentioned that I sell something. No, no, no. You mentioned that multiple times you get that message out and you believe in what you’re doing. You’re not being salesy. This is your whole thing.
Yes, you’re going to make money, you’re in business to help people. So, it’s like switching your mindset of saying, “Go.” I love that you mentioned your products all the time.
Cynthia Samanian 24:21
And I love that you brought that up. It’s in service of your audience. If my students or if my potential students don’t know about my program, what will they do? They will waste time and money and bang their head against the wall trying to figure it out themselves.
What to Put in Your Freebie
So, yeah, I think that’s so true. And one thing to point out about the freebie, one tip that I share with my community is what you put in that freebie is really important. And oftentimes, food bloggers want to just put in their best recipes.
And I really advise against that. I think it’s fine to maybe put one recipe in there but what you’re trying to do with the freebie is bridge the gap from where your ideal student is now, and where they need to be to take your class.
So, what are their objections? What are they thinking when they see your class? And they’re like, “Huh, that’s not going to work for me because I don’t have the culinary skills or I am gluten free and this isn’t a possible.”
What are the things that they are telling themselves to talk them out of why your class won’t work for them? And how can your freebie overcome those objections rather than giving them a ton of free content, which overwhelms them?
And they’ll be like, “Oh, great, I don’t need her class. I have all this stuff in front of me.”
Jillian Leslie 25:39
Let’s go back to me sushi maker, and you’re coaching me on a freebie to make. So, I can say, “Hey, here’s my vegetarian sushi. That’s awesome. You can make it with the vegetables in your fridge.”
And that’s maybe my instinct, but what would you say to me? How do I address the gluten free people or the people who go this is too expensive or the people who say I don’t have good knives? What would you say to me?
Cynthia Samanian 26:07
Once again, you’re teaching sushi, but what’s your approach? So, within sushi, you are making sushi accessible for like vegan sushi. Let’s do vegan sushi, because that’s a fun one. So, people who love sushi, but they’re vegan.
So, for your freebie, one of the things that I would do is rather than have say, a step by step guide to making vegan sushi, that’s like the how, that’s what you will teach them in your class.
What you could instead put in your freebie are pantry items, like things to stock in your pantry to make the best vegan sushi. Or five utensils that you need to get your sushi game started.
So, the rolling mat and things like that isn’t so much about the how to do it, but it’s how to set them up for success. So, once they go through that guide, they are amped up and ready for your class also is good because it weeds out the people who don’t care.
So, if someone sees that guide, and they’re like, “Me, that’s not for me.” Then your class isn’t for them. And that’s great, that’s a good thing to rule them out early.
Jillian Leslie 27:22
I like that. And I like this idea like this is what I share is this idea of you want to be their best friend. Like you’re hooking them up. I had a friend who hooked me up on the baby stuff. She literally took me to the Babies R Us.
And we went around the store with me and was like you need this, you don’t need this. She’s that girlfriend. And I always think about her that when you’re that person, you’re not just the teacher, you’re the person hooking somebody up.
You have the friend who knows, like the new hip restaurant in town, and has already been there and tells you what to order, like, “Oh, when you go, you got to get the hummus.
And you’re like, “Oh, I’ll get the hummus.” You want to be that person who says here are the knives you need. And you don’t need this knife. You just need this knife and this knife. Don’t worry about this knife.
Cynthia Samanian 28:18
Absolutely. There’s a student of mine who does a great job with this. She focuses on Southeast Asian cuisine. And one of the things that she created for her freebie is basically demystifying the sauces you see at the Asian food market.
Most of the labels aren’t in English. So, she has a picture of the bottle and tells you go find this, this was really good for X,Y, Z dish. And she wasn’t teaching what to do with it.
But, like you said is that, best friend that hooks you up with exactly what you need when you are in that market and you are lost and confused and you don’t know what to do.
Jillian Leslie 28:56
I trust that person. I’m like, you’ve known. So, now that was three.
Cynthia Samanian 29:05
So, that was sell and the final one “T” is for “teach.”
Where to Host Your Online Class
Jillian Leslie 29:09
Okay, let’s talk about that. Do you recommend logistically, we’re going to do it on Zoom, and we’re going to do it at this time. It’s going to be recorded, you can watch it later.
Or we’re going to have five classes. I’m going to sell them as a bundle, what do you think is the best strategy?
Cynthia Samanian 29:26
That is a very hard question to answer because it really does depend on the earlier steps. So, for some audiences, a six class series is perfect for the instructor.
If you were teaching someone how to, decorate a cake, maybe week one you’re learning about the types of icing to use. Week two, you’re learning about tips. They build on each other.
Or if you are trying to get your students to get into habits, then yes, a six-week series for example, makes sense, because every week you’re checking with them. And they’re building on the previous week.
So, that is more part of defining your offer and figuring out what you are teaching in that first step of zero in. But you brought up a really good point around technology. And that’s really what this teach step is about, it’s figuring out what platforms to use.
And aside from the tech, how do you engage students online, because that is so different than teaching in person?
And if some of your listeners have never taught before, then just the idea of getting in front of the camera and teaching to a screen can be terrifying. And so, a lot of what I talk about my program is tips for confidence.
Teaching though, I’ll say from the tech perspective, Zoom is still pretty much the gold standard. There are some other platforms and technologies out there. But Zoom is great, because your students are now familiar with Zoom.
You want to use a tool that isn’t a huge hurdle for your students. And right now Zoom. My mom knows how to use Zoom. So, that says it all.
Jillian Leslie 31:14
And then do you recommend, are you recording it and then people can watch it later if they miss it live?
Cynthia Samanian 31:20
Yeah, absolutely. That’s one option. I think one of the things that I’ve noticed is that it’s always good to give that option. Some students of mine have said, “Oh, well, maybe I’ll just do recorded classes.”
And it’s really interesting, because what I’ve found, and what I’ve heard and learned is that people love the live classes. They love attending the live classes.
Because one thing to remember is that your experience isn’t just about teaching them how to make something, it’s about the connection that happens.
So, if you are watching a recorded class, frankly, you might as well just google something on YouTube. Different experience.
Jillian Leslie 32:02
Weirdly. So, since the pandemic, I’ve been doing yoga online, and my studio records some classes and has some live, and weirdly, I do better yoga, if it’s live. I turn my camera off, because I show up in my sweat pants and maybe I’m wearing a bra, maybe I’m not.
But it’s weird. I know, psychologically, if it is live, and I don’t know what it is because it doesn’t look any different than a recorded live class. Weirdly, if I know they’re doing it right now, in this moment, I show up differently.
Cynthia Samanian 32:41
Absolutely. And I think it’s the same with cooking. And it’s also just more fun and more engaging. So, I recommend all my students, unless they want to go down the membership model, and they want to do a library of classes.
Recommendation: Teach Your Classes Live
And that’s a little bit different, more advanced. If they’re starting out with live online cooking classes. I do recommend that they just stick to live, they can add that recorded option if people want the replay, which is totally fine.
But to move straight into record your classes. I think a lot gets lost in that element, because you’re just not having that engagement.
And for the instructors, it’s so important for them to bring the students into the experience. So, it’s not just broadcast, it truly is participatory.
Jillian Leslie 33:28
Can we talk about memberships briefly and what your thought is about whether you start off with a membership, whether you start off with a couple classes? And how do those businesses look similar? And how do they look different?
Cynthia Samanian 33:42
Absolutely. So, I think that memberships can sound very appealing and very sexy. Everyone loves the idea of recurring revenue. But generally, I think people underestimate the audience, you need to make the math work.
So, I recommend to my students that they consider a membership. Once they’ve taught a good number of a la carte classes or these one off classes. Maybe they’ve done a series, they feel really comfortable with their niche.
They know who they serve, what problems they solve, like the things we talked about with the freebie they have that dialed in. When they get to a place where that is running and they feel comfortable with that, then they can move into a membership.
Setting Up a Membership
Memberships are hard though, because if you think about conversion rates, you could have 1,000 people on your email list. And you could announce your membership and it could be exactly what they want.
But with memberships it just frankly doesn’t convert that high. You may be lucky to get 5% of your audience subscribe. Even if it’s focused on their niche, I think that the numbers are really important to consider.
Jillian Leslie 35:01
Would you say that’s because the commitment to somebody joining a membership and then having to show up and then it’s not just a one off thing that’s exciting. It’s like, “Oh my god, I got to show up every month and make sushi.”
But what if I don’t want to in July versus I really want to take that sushi class once learn some sushi have a good experience. What is your thought about?
Cynthia Samanian 35:25
Absolutely. I think commitments in general are just tough for us as humans, especially now that we’re coming out of the pandemic, we’re like, “Wait, I’m going to travel this summer, the kids are going to be in school.”
Commitments are hard. Netflix has figured it out, of course, a great subscription model. But for the most part, subscriptions are challenging to really gain traction. But once you do.
Once you have those people in, and you can find a way to keep them excited month after month. You have to keep creating new content, it can’t feel stale, or else they’ll start to cancel. I have seen people do really, really well with it.
I do think it does depend also on what you’re teaching. So, for example, meal prep does really well in the membership format, because once again, going back to the series example, it’s this habit forming thing.
And if you’re meal prepping in July, then you probably want to do that in August and September and so on. It’s a lifestyle change.
So, I think that type of content does really well in the membership format, because people want to hang out with you every month to improve their lives and to make things easier for them.
Jillian Leslie 36:39
Okay, I think that’s great. I think that is great advice. So, for people who are thinking, and then I’m just going to roll it into a membership, and then thousands of dollars are going to show up every month.
I like that you are more kind of realistic about it, like get teaching under your belt, develop those relationships. And I like what you just said, if you’re going to do a membership, it’s really because people want to hang out with you.
It’s not necessarily oh, they want to make sushi every month, and then they want to come together with a group of people with you as a leader, and have this group experience. And you’re making sushi.
Cynthia Samanian 37:19
Exactly. Hanging out together. You as the instructor, you’re facilitating that. But yeah, they’ll start to build relationships and bonds, and then they can’t wait to see each other the next month. And that’s absolutely yeah.
And so, I don’t want to necessarily be doom and gloom on memberships. I just know that from my experience, have launched a membership and closed it.
Because I realized, for me to do a membership, well, it needs to be something that I am putting out fresh content regularly and really stepping things up.
And if you treat it as this passive business. A lot of people talk about passive income. A membership model should not be passive income, because you truly do have to put in the effort to make it last.
Jillian Leslie 38:01
Absolutely. Cynthia, this is terrific. If people want to connect with you, learn more about what you offer. I’m sure lots of people in the audience are going like, “Oh my god, this is cool. I’m ready to go do this.” How can they reach out to you learn more about you?
Cynthia Samanian 38:20
Absolutely. I’m so, glad you asked that. I do offer a free masterclass where people can sign up to learn more about the framework that I shared. I also talked about common mistakes I see a lot of people make when they enter the online cooking class space.
And so, they can sign up by going to hiddenrhythm.com/masterclass. And then they can also find me on Instagram, I post quite a bit of content on there. It’s also just hiddenrhythm and it’s spelled how it should be so, no funky spelling’s there.
Jillian Leslie 38:50
Well, I just have to say, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Cynthia Samanian 38:55
Thank you for having me, Jillian. I’m so excited that we were able to talk about this.
Jillian Leslie 39:00
Okay, so what do you think? Do you think you have something to teach online that you could monetize, kind of interesting? I really liked Cynthia’s framework. It’s about putting one piece in front of the other, and boom, you’ve got yourself a business.
So, remember, this is my segue. If you want to start a membership, the easiest way possible, I want to talk to you head to milotree.com/betatester. Honestly, I can’t wait to see the memberships and subscriptions that you built.
And I will see you here again next week.
Other Blogger Genius Podcast episodes to listen to:
- How to Build a Seven-Figure Business Teaching Something You Already Know with Luisa Zhou
- How To Easily Profit From Your Niche with Tamara Bennett
- How to Get People to Want What You’re Selling with Spencer Lum
Imagine a world where growing your social media followers and email list was easy…
If you are looking for ways to grow your community whether that be email whether that be social media, right now head to Milotree.com install the MiloTree app on your blog and it will do the work for you. Let it do the heavy lifting for you.
Let it pop up in front of your visitors and ask them to follow you on Instagram Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, join your list, check out the exit intent but really get your community growing. And we’d love to help you with MiloTree. And I will see you here again next week.